Mean and Green

By Rembert, Tracey C. | E Magazine, January 2001 | Go to article overview

Mean and Green


Rembert, Tracey C., E Magazine


Natural Cleaners that Wage Serious War on Dirt

One thing's for certain about modern-day housecleaning--everybody's got a different definition of clean. Some like antiseptic smells, blue-dyed solutions and "new chemical breakthroughs." Others prefer the aroma of natural fruits and spices, and the simplicity of lemon juice and baking soda.

There are products that appeal to every sense and sensibility. Now add to this already over-crowded supermarket aisle over 700 products laden with antibacterial agents, which a germ-anxious public has recently sent flying off the shelves. Even the conservative American Medical Association has expressed concern that these agents may contribute to the spread of newer and stronger forms of dangerous bacteria-born disease, like Salmonella and E. coli.

"Conventional household cleaners also contain a host of irritating or toxic agents," adds Todd Larsen of Co-op America, a national nonprofit that encourages eco-friendly business and purchasing. "These include agents like propylene glycol, whiteners, colorants, perfumes and surfactants that don't easily biodegrade in soil and water." Such chemicals can also be triggers for developing Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a debilitating blow to the immune system that leaves its victims unable to venture out into many manmade environments. "And then there's the fact that many conventional cleansers are made with petrochemicals that damage ecosystems," Larsen says.

It's no wonder concerned shoppers are turning to eco-friendly cleansers in order to safeguard their health and the environment, According to the Illinois-based Earth Friendly Products, the nontoxic household cleaners industry has topped $5.5 billion and continues to flourish. For battles with cat urine and compost slime, magic marker and grease, rest assured there's cleaning arsenal you can count on when the going gets dirty.

General Cleaning Solutions

The simplest way to capture your reflection in glass is with good old vinegar and water. Though not as fragrant as other options, vinegar and newspaper gives the squeakiest clean to mirrors, shower doors, windows and countertops. It can even go in your car's washer fluid reservoir. But for really smeared stains like lipstick, grease or hairspray, orange-based cleaning sprays like Citra-Solv Cleaner and Degreaser work exceptionally well. A multi-purpose solution, Citra-Solv tackles food, scuff marks and soap scum with relative ease, is not tested on animals, uses natural citrus extracts and is biodegradable with recyclable packaging ($2.49).

For super scummy spots, tough grease stains and tall windows, Citrus Magic's Focus Liquid Cleaning Gel ($3.69) is a safe bet. Not runny whatsoever, the gel stays in place when you spray it and is great for wall and wallpaper grime, crayon marks and grease. Plant-derived, the gel contains no phosphates, no animal testing, is biodegradable, made from renewable resources, and wrapped in # 3 plastic packaging (only recyclable in some areas). It is, however, dyed bright yellow.

Dishwashing Zen

To tackle tough jobs from the college cafeteria to Thanksgiving dinner, you'll want a product that cuts washing time and doesn't leave hands raw from the scrubbing. Though there's many a pleasant lemony product on the market, a consistently top performer is Sun and Earth's Hypoallergenic Dishwashing Liquid. Made with citrus and coconut oil blends and very competitively priced, it forms tough suds that dispatch grease and food debris with equal effectiveness. It's free of perfumes and dyes, has recyclable packaging and is appropriate for the chemically sensitive. A sampler pack of Sun and Earth products available via its website ($14.99) includes, an all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent and liquid soap.

For food-smeared sinks and countertops that need a bit more abrasive action, Earth Friendly Products Cream Cleanser ($3. …

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