Green cleaning is the use of environmentally friendly ingredients that are also less harmful to humans and pets. They are low toxicity, noncarcinogenic, and do not bio-accumulate. Commonly used dangerous cleaners like ammonia and bleach can cause skin irritation, burns, and respiratory issues; fragrance chemicals can cause headaches, allergic reactions, and watery eyes; and some chemicals in cleaners can even be neurotoxic, hormone-disrupting, and cancer causing (Organic Consumer Association, 2016). There are much less toxic choices that are effective in cleaning and are often lower cost. First, essential oils have demonstrated in research to have strong antimicrobial capabilities, can deter pests like insects and rodents, and have the ability to enhance mood. Combined in recipes (see Appendix) with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, witch hazel, and baking soda, healthier household cleaners can easily be made.
Essential oils can provide pleasant aromatherapy while having powerful cleaning and antimicrobial properties.
E. globulus (eucalyptus) is a disinfectant, stain remover, sanitizer, deodorizer, pesticide, antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial anti-fungal, and de-greaser (Petersen, 2015). As a pesticide, Batish, Singh, Kohli, & Kaur, (2008) discuss it for use in environmentally friendly pest control against bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes, and mites. It has also been researched in use against house dust mites and allergens (Tovey, & McDonald, 1997). Further, there has been much research to demonstrate the antimicrobial benefits of eucalyptus essential oil. It was found both antibacterial and antiviral against respiratory microbes (Cermelli, Fabio, Fabio, & Quaglio, 2008 and Salari, et al 2006). The plant demonstrated antifungal capabilities via its 1,8-cineol constituent (Vilela et al, 2009). It had strong antibacterial capabilities against multidrug resistant bacteria via constituents of terpenoids aromadendrene and 1, 8-cineole (Mulyaningsih, Sporer, Zimmermann, Reichling, & Wink, 2010, and Cimanga et al, 2002). Petersen (2015) suggests that it is an effective sanitizer and deodorizer, and a stain remover that can dissolve sticky remnants.
Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) is antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, bactericidal, and insecticidal, and is especially good for fighting mold and mildew (Petersen, 2015). As a strong antimicrobial, its constituents of 1,8-cineole, terpinen-4-ol, and α-terpineol have been shown to compromise the cytoplasmic membrane to destroy pathogens (Carson, Mee, and Riley, 2002). Further, it was found powerful against multiple pathogenic fungi in vitro (Nenoff, Haustein, & Brandt, 1996). Petersen (2015) recommends using it as a powerful antiseptic in the laundry by adding ½ teaspoon to the wash.
Citrus Limonum (lemon) can be used to clean silver jewelry (Petersen, 2015). It can also cut through grease stains, and is antimicrobial and antiseptic. As an antibacterial at has been effective against Staph. aureus, Staph. albus, E. coli, Ps. aeruginosa, Aerobacter aerogenes, Proteus vlugaris, and B. subtilis (Kivanc & Akgul,1986). It showed anti-fungal ability against Epidermophyton floccosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Microsporum gypseum via its C. limonum constituent (Misra, Batra, & Mishra, 1988). It also had insect repellent capabilities (Pavella et al, 2005). In addition, the lemon aroma is a known mood enhancer, shown to stimulate and improve focus (Ogeturk et al, 2010) and reduce depression (Komori, 2009).
Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary) has scientifically demonstrated antimicrobial powers; it fights bacteria, mold and acts as a bug repellent. It is a stimulant, whose aroma is invigorating to the mind. It was shown to be antimicrobial against multiple species of bacteria and fungi (Kivanc & Akgul, 1986, Montes, Wilkomirsky, & Bellow, 1998, Svoboda & Deans, 1995, and Hill, Evans, & Veness, 1997). Another study showed it was anti-fungal against 37 species of fungi (Benhilali, Tantaoui-Elarki, Ismaili-Alaoui, & Ayadi, 1986). As a stimulant, inhalation improved cognitive ability by increasing alertness (Diego et al, 1998). It also reduced anxiety after inhalation (Burnett, Solterbeck, & Strapp, 2004). Rosemary could be used as both a room deodorizer and mood enhancer by adding a few drops in a diffuser (Petersen, 2015).
Cinnamom zeylanicum (cinnamon) is a strong antimicrobial and freshens the air with a stimulating smell. In a study by Deans & Ritchie (1987), 50 essential oils where tested and cinnamon came out third strongest against 25 bacteria. As an antibacterial, its cinnamaldehyde constituent has proven effective (Shan, Cai, Brooks, & Corke, 2007, Prabuseenivasan, Jayakumar, & Ignacimuthu, 2006, and Deans & Ritchie, 1987). It can also be used as an antifungal (Wang, Chen, & Chang, 2005, and Quale et al, 1996). Common aromatherapy blends for air purification will often include cinnamon.
Syzygium aromaticum (clove bud) is antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, and insecticidal. Deans and Ritchie (1987) identified it as the most effective out of 50 essential oils in fighting 25 varieties of bacteria. It is also a powerful antifungal (Azzouz, & Bullerman, 1982). Additional studies have found it to be anti-microbial (Dorman, & Deans, 2000, and Cai, & Wu, 1996). It may also be an effective mosquito repellent (Trongtokit, et al, 2005).
Lavendula angustifolia (lavender) is an antiseptic, bactericidal, and fungicidal agent that is also an antidepressant and can help you sleep. Multiple research studies have demonstrated its use for depression and insomnia (Guillemain, Rousseau, & Delaveau, 1988, Hardy, Kirk-Smith, & Stretch, 1995, Goel, Kim, & Lao, 2005 Hirokawa, Nishimoto, & Taniguchi, 2012, Lewith, Godfrey, & Prescott, 2005, Chang, 2008, Akhondzadeh, et al, 2003, and Morris, 2002). Further, lavender has shown antibacterial and antifungal capability (Prabuseenivasan, Jayakumar, & Ignacimuthu, 2006).
Mentha piperita (peppermint) is an antiseptic and antimicrobial that is an aroma stimulant for fighting mental fatigue (Varney & Buckle, 2013) and reducing stress (Park, & Lee, 2004). It has been shown to be an insecticidal against mosquitoes (Barnard et al, 1999, and Ansari et al, 2000). It is also a powerful antimicrobial in the following ways:
Pinus sylvestris (pine) can be used as an aromatic disinfectant, and is anti-bacterial, antimicrobial, and insect repelling (Petersen, 2015). As an antibacterial it has shown strength against Staphylococcus aureus (Bastide et al, 1987), and against bacteria like Proteus, Staph. aureus, and Strep. pyogenes (Bardeau, 1976). It proved antimicrobial against Klebsiella pneumoniae and Candida albicans (Chalchat et al, 1989), and was more effective than antibiotics in vitro against Staph. aureus, Escherichia coli, Proteusmirabilis, Staph. faecalis, and C. albicans (Valnet, Duraffourd, Duraffourd, & Lapraz, 1978). In another study, it was strong against Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus agalactiae, Acinetobacter spp. and Streptococcus pyogenes (Karapandzova et al, 2011). In addition, it was fungicidal, improving indoor air quality (Motiejūnaitė, & Dalia 2004).
Vinegar (acetic acid) is very acidic, creating a chemical reaction to break down grease and kill germs. It is also biodegradable (The Vinegar Institute, n.d.), and very commonly used to replace toxic window cleaners. In research, it has been found to be anti-microbial (Siddiqui & Ali, 2006, and Rutala, et al, 2000).), and effective against food-borne pathogenic bacteria like E. coli (Entani et al, 1998). It also showed antimicrobial activity for use in home disinfectants against human pathogens (Rutala et al, 2000).
Hydrogen peroxide is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-mold as well as non-toxic (Using Hydrogen Peroxide, n.d.). It can replace bleach in cleaning (Bright, 1983). Otter et al, 2009, discussed using hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate rooms in busy hospitals. Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), is a natural astringent steamed from the leaves and twigs of this North American shrub. It also shows antimicrobial activity related to its tannin content (Djipa, Delmée, & Quetin-Leclercq, 2000). Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is an abrasive that scrubs away stains and absorbs smells (Arm and Hammer, n.d.). Yam, et al (1996) identified it as a powerful abrasive cleaning agent that is not harmful to the environment and is water soluble. It is also an antimicrobial to be used as a home disinfectants against potential human pathogens (Rutala et al, 2000).
Serious health issues have been linked to the use of cleaning chemicals. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted by some cleaners in high levels, and have been assessed to cause throat, nose, and eye irritation, nausea, headaches, liver and kidney damage, nervous system issues, and cancer (EPA, 2016). The EPA also indicates that the indoor home has 2-5 times more dangerous pollutants in the air than outside, largely related to house cleaners (Worldwatch Institute, 2004). A 1995 study by Kumar et al, demonstrated a link between perfume scents and asthmatic symptoms. VOC chemicals to watch out for include formaldehyde, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, perchloroethylene, and butane (Cassingham, 2009). Further, the Canadian Lung Associated notates a link between cleaning chemicals and asthma (2012). According to the USA Poison Control Center, 10 percent of toxic exposures reported were caused by cleaning products (Worldwatch Institute, 2004). The Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network reports that 6 percent of professional janitors are injured by cleaning chemicals each year related to eye and skin burns or breathing in toxic fumes (n.d.). Below is a list of chemicals to avoid in house cleaners:
Green cleaning with less toxic household ingredients and essential oils can be as effective, but much less harmful than using synthetic cleaners. Essential oils have demonstrated antimicrobial, dirt busting, pesticidal, and mood enhancing capabilities. In combination with natural ingredients like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and witch hazel, simple household cleaning recipes can be made that are low cost and capable of cleaning without the health hazards of chemical cleaners. The harsh ingredients in some store bought cleaners have been shown to cause asthma, skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer. Organizations have formed to promote environmentally friendly and less toxic cleaning practices. Hospitals, hotels, schools, and other government buildings are seeing the benefits of improved health in using greener cleaning choices. An increase in the use of natural products to clean will likely happen as people become more aware that they are as effective, less dangerous to our health and the environment, and cost effective.
Recipe for All Purpose Green Cleaning Cleaner
Green Cleaning – Daily Shower Cleaner
Green Cleaning – Lemon Lavender Carpet Freshener
Green Cleaning – Laundry Stain Pretreating
Green Cleaning – Home-made Toilet Bowl Freshener
Green Cleaning – Sweet Floral Car Freshener
Green Cleaning References
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