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Common Misconceptions of Green Cleaning Highlights

Myth vs. Fact

MYTH: Green cleaners cost more than traditional cleaning products.

FACT: Making your own green cleaners cost pennies compared to their equivalent in purchased products. For example, Leslie Reichart a green cleaning expert for thedailygreen.com did the following simple calculation. A gallon of white vinegar costing about $3, and a gallon of distilled water costing $1 (or use tap water instead and save a dollar) combined makes two gallons of a multipurpose cleaner. A bottle of your favorite essential oil, to give your cleaner a scent of your choice, costs around $4 and will last a year or more since only a few drops are required for each batch of cleaner. So together, it costs less than $4 to make two gallons of cleaner.

Now compare that to a name brand pine cleaner costing around $3 for a 12-ounce bottle. With 128 ounces in a gallon, multiply the cost ($3) by 10 to get the cost of one gallon. Total cost of one gallon of name brand pine cleaner equals $30. Cost of one gallon homemade cleaner equals $2-- a savings of about $28 on just one product.

FACT: Purchasing name brand green cleaning products may appear more expensive, however, most of the green cleaning products on the market actually require less product per application to effectively get the job done. In addition, many green cleaners serve more than one purpose, requiring only one cleaner for multiple uses, rather than a separate product for each job. Also, many green cleaning products have lowered their prices and offer other coupons and incentives to get consumers to try their product.

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MYTH: Green cleaners do not clean as well as traditional cleaning products.

FACT: For normal household cleaning they most often do work just as well. According to an article from Slate magazine by Nina Shen Rastogi and a follow-up article by Elaine Peabody of examiner.com, there are a few things you should understand about natural cleaning products. Many natural substances used in both commercially manufactured green cleaning products and homemade green cleaners do kill germs, but they are not disinfectants. In other words, most of these products will not kill some of the more troubling bacteria like staph, salmonella and E-coli. For a product to be termed a disinfectant, it must be tested rigorously and meet EPA standards. Currently, none of the big name green products are registered as disinfectants, but Rastogi says some of the smaller companies, like Benefect, do produce an EPA registered disinfectant, and are environmentally friendly.

You shouldn't be wary about using natural cleaners. It is not necessary to actually disinfect every surface in your house. Use the natural stuff more, practice good hand washing and reserve the traditional disinfectants for surfaces that have come in contact with someone who is ill, raw meat or items that cannot go into your sink or dishwasher -- like electronics, refrigerator handles, door knobs and countertops. In general, natural cleaning products are a good choice for everyday use, can be used in many ways throughout your home and don't build up a resistance to germs, as some claim anti-bacterial products do. However, if circumstances in your life require that being vigilant about disinfecting your home, consult a professional about which cleaning products are safest for you.

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MYTH: Green cleaners really are not better for the environment; it is just a ploy to get people to buy the product.

FACT: Many products on the market are actually better for the environment, but you need to beware of greenwashing. Greenwashing is when products or companies claim to be green, but cannot or do not back up that claim. During a time when it is popular to be environmentally conscious, companies may spin their message to make their product seem environmentally friendly. Unfortunately this pretense is a reality and it is important to educate yourself before you buy. Read 'How to Spot a Green Cleaner' to avoid becoming a victim.

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MYTH: These products are too new and have not been properly tested.

FACT: Vinegar, baking soda and water have been used for generations as the most common household cleaners.

As for store bought cleaners, many green cleaning products have been around for more than 20 years. For example, Simple Green began 30 years ago, Seventh Generation is 20 years old and Earth Friendly Products has been around for more than 15 years. Green Seal and Ecolabel (the European Green Certification program) have been certifying products for nearly 20 years, assuring that any product seeking certification for being green meets a minimum set of specified criteria and are thoroughly tested. Not all products claiming to be green seek out certification, so it is important to do research on a product and learn 'How to Spot a Green Cleaner'.

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Last updated: September 11, 2009

  Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 49   Tallahassee, Florida 32399  
850-245-2118 (phone) / 850-245-2159 (fax) 
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