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Green cleaning

Green cleaning is a term that has been coined to describe a trend away from chemically-reactive and toxic cleaning products which contain various toxic chemicals some of which emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) causing respiratory and dermatological problems among other adverse effects. Green cleaning can also describe the way residential and industrial cleaning products are manufactured, packaged and distributed. If the manufacturing process is environmentally-friendly and the products are biodegradable, then the term 'green' or eco-friendly may apply.

Standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit human and environmental exposure to toxic chemicals but do not entirely eliminate them in general.[citation needed] Reading the small print on labels is the only way to verify the components of a product but manufacturing, packaging and distribution may all contribute to environmental degradation.

Green cleaning companies are held to higher standards in general than federal or state-mandated 'green' cleaning rules.[citation needed] The purpose of 'going green' is to address human illnesses that arise from exposure as well as damage to the environment (water, soil, air) from disposal of these products. The role chemical exposure has in creating allergic sensitivities, reducing immunity, and contributing to cancer and other diseases, is a long-respected field of research in medicine.[citation needed] For example, research on human and animal exposure to formaldehyde (formalin), benzene and other solvents has resulted in legislation to limit exposure but has not completely banned these products.[citation needed] [1]


Chemicals used

Harmful chemicals are prevalent not only in cleaning products but also in foods, cosmetics, home construction, clothing and many industries. Among the more common toxic ingredients are phosphates, chlorine bleach, napthas and mineral spirits, phthalates found in furniture polish, ether-type solvents, methylene chloride, butyl cellosolve and petroleum distillates found in oven cleaner, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide in drain cleaners, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) found in detergents and disinfectants are suspected hormone disruptors, ammonia which is poisonous when swallowed is extremely irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled and can burn the skin on contact, indiscriminate use of antibacterial cleansers containing triclosan may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs, butyl cellosolve ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is poisonous when swallowed and a lung-tissue irritant, chlorine bleach sodium hypochlorite can irritate the lungs and eyes and in waterways can become toxic organochlorines, diethanolamine DEA can combine with nitrosomes to produce carcinogenic nitrosamines that penetrate skin, fragrances may contain phthalates, chemicals linked to reproductive abnormalities and liver cancer in lab animals and to asthma in children, phosphates, water softeners for detergents, contribute to algae blooms which can kill off fish populations, sodium hydroxide, found in drain, metal and oven cleaners, extremely irritating to eyes, nose and throat and can burn tissues on contact, sodium lauryl sulfate, a common sudsing agent, can penetrate the skin and cause contact dermatitis.

More on green cleaning

Green cleaning, in a commercial/industrial setting, can mean a holistic approach to facility cleaning and maintenance that can provide health benefits, improved productivity, reduced liability, cost savings and improved community relations. Typically, green cleaning means products and processes that are not only as effective at cleaning as traditional products, but that are also more cost effective when evaluated over the length of the maintenance cycle. Recent advancements in chemical technology have made it possible to develop cleaning products that are as effective as traditional products, but that do not contain harsh ingredients.

Some of the benefits of a well-designed green cleaning program can include: • Improved productivity and morale of building occupants • Improved health of the cleaning staff and building occupants, helping to reducing sick days • Recognition in the community for reducing resource usage and pollution • Reduce liability from worker safety issues • Earn points towards LEED certification from US Green Building Council • Satisfaction from helping to make the facility and community a better place

A proper green cleaning program should consist of procedures that maximize cleaning results while protecting cleaning workers and facility occupants. Proper training of cleaning staff is also critical to a successful program. Finally, products that have a more environmentally-friendly profile compared to traditional products are necessary. Green products are now available in a number of product areas.

Cleaning chemicals

These products should be greatly concentrated to reduce the packaging used. Products that work with a commercial “dilution control system” help reduce waste and reduce chemical contact for improved worker safety. The formulation of the products can be certified by several different independent organizations such as Green Seal, the EcoLogo program or the US EPA’s Designed for the Environment program.

Paper Towels and Bath Tissue

Paper products should be made with a significant portion of recycled content and produced in a way that meets strict environmental standards. Products should be processed without chlorine and not contain any added pigments, inks, dyes or fragrances. Green Seal and others have established guidelines for paper products.

Hand soaps

Hand soaps should use environmentally responsible packaging and formulas with biodegradable ingredients. Green Seal also has guidelines for soap products.

Entranceway matting

Proper matting is a critical component of a successful green program. Entryway mats are designed to remove dirt and moisture from shoes – keeping it out of the building in the first place. Mats should be a minimum of 3 to 4 stride lengths, approximately 12 to 15 feet, for maximum effectiveness at capturing soil before it enters the building.

Microfiber mops and cloths

Compared to traditional mops, microfiber has a number of green cleaning advantages; microfiber material uses less cleaning chemicals and water, microfiber pads can be changed frequently to reduce cross-contamination and, when used dry, they do a better job of capturing dust that otherwise can affect the health of building occupants.


To maximize the effectiveness of a green cleaning program, equipment should meet the following criteria:

  • Burnishers with active vacuum attachments to capture dust
  • Extraction equipment that maximizes moisture removal and allows carpet to dry in 24 hours or less
  • Scrubbers that reduce water consumption
  • Vacuums that meet the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label indoor air quality program requirements for soil extraction and dust containment.

Automatic faucets, flush values and soap dispensers

Touch-free faucets significantly reduce water consumption as well as eliminating a major source of cross-contamination. Automatic flush values improve restroom hygiene and appearance, and touch-free soap dispensers help control usage.

See also

External links

  • Green Glossary
  • Cleaning for Health: Products and Practices for a Safer Indoor Environment
  • INFORM Inc's - Green Cleaning Toolkit for Schools (zip file)
  • Green is Cleaning Up: Eco friendly household cleaners
  • Give Your Home a Green Sweep excerpted from Green This!: Volume 1 Greening Your Cleaning by Deirdre Imus.
  • Using hydrogen peroxide for housecleaning - nontoxic and beneficial to plants/environment
  • Cleaning-Green.Net
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Green_cleaning". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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