At Ecosparkle, we believe that clean just isn’t clean unless it’s good for the planet too!
This week, our Green Clean Team is sharing a little knowledge, as we explore some of the typical ingredients found within common ‘green cleaners’.
How Green is Green?
If you’re on this site, chances are good that you’ve had at least one encounter with a green cleaning product. Perhaps you even own some yourself. There’s no question that increasing numbers of Canadians are opting for naturally sourced cleaning agents. The last few years have seen explosive growth in the “green cleaning” category – with sales more than doubling between 2007-2011.
Yet, with so many of us reaching for ‘better’ alternatives than the synthetic chemical laden products common throughout the conventional cleaner market, few have stopped to ask just what exactly lies behind all of the marketing.
Terms such as ‘plant-based ingredients’ are ubiquitous across product packeging and general marketing efforts, yet few consumers are aware of what exactly these claims mean.
Many are left guessing as to whether the product they’ve picked really is ‘green’ at all.
Looking Beyond the Label
In any product category, you’ll find a wide range of brands, all touting the virtues of their own efforts – both in formulation, and ingredients. Green cleaners are no different.
The past several years have seen the entry of major brands, such as Clorox (with their ‘GreenWorks’ line of products – many of which score an ‘F’ on the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Guide to Green Cleaners’) and the creation of new household names, such as ‘Method’ – whose innovative packaging (such as the use of recycled, ocean reclaimed plastic) has helped fuel the brand’s meteoric rise into consumer consciousness (comparatively, many Method cleaners scored a ‘B’ on the same list).
At the same time, we’ve seen the emergence of new sub-categories, such as the ‘ultra-green’ products offered by brands such as local, family-run Effeclean, who go to great lengths to avoid the poorer quality or suspect ingredients found in many entry-level green products.
Yet, while much variation in quality, potency and environmental sensitivity exists between brands, many of them rely on similar base ingredients to power their cleaning prowess.
Below, you’ll find a few of those commonly found ingredients, and brief explainations of their source and how they work.
Alkyl Polyglucosides (also known as corn or coconut derived surfectants):
Mild surfectants with highly alkaline (basic – the opposite of acidic) properties, these ingredients help to dissolve dirt, oil and grease and provide disinfecting qualities. They may be sourced from natural raw materials, such as vegetable oils and starch.
Boric Acid (also known as ‘cleaning salt’):
A mainstay in many homes, boric acid provides stabilizing action for natural cleaning enzymes which are used to clean protein-based stains like grass.
Enzymes can be proteins produced by living organisms. The benefits of enzyme usage stems from their ability to easily biodegrade. They’re also strong-acting. They work by breaking down, or ‘digesting’ the proteins found in protein-based stains (such as blood).
Ethanol (or ‘Plant-Based Alcohols’):
Ethanol – the same Ethanol that is added to most fuels at the gas-station – is produced from corn. It has a drying effect, as it evaporates quickly and helps reduce streaking. Ethanol is a controversial ingredient (in both fuels and cleaners) as its production cuts into food production rates.
Essential Oils (or ‘Natural Fragrance’):
These ingredients are typically used for their fragrance enhancement (sweet orange, for instance) or for their potency against fungus, bacteria and mold (thyme oil, for instance). Essential oils are concentrated oils sourced from plants, such as the Tea Tree.
Glycerine is derived from fats or oils that originate, in this case, from plants. It can be used to help stabilize cleaners and help reduce the impact of cold temperatures. It also helps to reduce streaking. It is important to note that not all glycerine is created equal! Great quantities of glycerine are sourced from Palm Oil, the production of which is a major driver of deforestation (particularly of the rainforest in countries such as Indonesia). Whenever possible, look for glycerine from Organic sources.
Hydrogen Peroxide (or ‘Natural Bleaching Agent’):
Hydrogen peroxide is a high performing bleaching agent that helps to remove stains effectively.
This is a natural preservative derived from citric acid (from citrus fruits). It helps to regulate acidity, and reduce the degradation of cleaning products.
Potassium Hydrate (or Lye, or Potassium Hydroxide):
A caustic (basic, or alkaline) ingredient that is sourced from the ash of burned hardwood. It is typically found in natural soaps and cleansers.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or ‘Natural Foaming Agent’):
Another commonly found ingredient, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a lather producing agent (it creates a rich, foamy texture) that aids in cleaning. It can be sourced from coconut oil or palm kernal oil.
How Green is Your Cleaner?
That about wraps up our look at some commonly found green cleaning ingredients! We encourage you to take a look at some of the cleaners found in your home, and see how they stack up – remember, always look behind the label!
We explored the following sources while researching this article:
We’d love to help you discover the Green Clean difference in your home, office or retail space!
We’ve got 5 years of experience finding the perfect natural, eco-friendly antiviral solutions for our customers, and have been voted ‘Best Cleaning Company’ 5 years in a row in the ‘Era Banner Reader’s Choice Survey’ right here in the York Region and the Greater Toronto Area.