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Are Green Household Products More Effective Than Conventional Household Products?

written by: Sandi Johnson•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/11/2011

While definitely better for the environment and not as toxic, are green household products more effective than conventional? The answer may surprise you. Discover how you can protect the environment while still maintaining your home.

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    Measured Effectiveness

    Before you can answer a question like are green household products more effective than conventional, you have to ask some important qualifying questions. By what standard do you plan to measure effectiveness? For example, do you mean effective as in you can spray a spot and simply wipe it clean? On the other hand, do you mean overall effectiveness, such as how well a method performs when removing tough stains from countertops or clothing?

    Likewise, when you say green household products, are you referencing green alternatives in general, or store-bought cleaners sold as green or environmentally friendly? To what kind of household products are you referring? Cleaners? Bug repellents? Some green household products are nothing more than old, familiar homemade recipes with common natural ingredients. Others, such as those sold ready-made in stores, are similar to homemade recipes, just in a different chemical form. Understanding exactly how you measure effectiveness goes a long ways toward gaining the answers you seek.

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    Overall Effectiveness, an Example

    green household products To illustrate an example of how answers to are green household products more effective than conventional vary, we can look at scouring powders. These powders are commonly used for bathroom tile, tough stains on kitchen counters, and other cleaning jobs that require scrubbing. Conventional products normally contain some form of bleach for stain removal and antibacterial properties, as well as a granular consistency intended to aid scrubbing. Unfortunately, they are often toxic, can discolor some surfaces, and possibly scratch others.

    There are green products, both ready-made and homemade that are just as, and in some cases more. effective. For example, there are tub and tile cleaners from companies such as Seventh Generation and Simple Green that users report work wonders. Some of these products are simply sprayed on, allowed to soak, and wiped away. Others require a little elbow grease to scrub away stains.

    However, the most effective scouring powder is a simple homemade recipe of baking soda, water, and other common kitchen ingredients like a dab of eco-friendly dish washing liquid. You can also opt for a splash of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (peppermint or lavender) for both scent and antibacterial properties. Baking soda-based scouring powders do not easily scratch sensitive surfaces like ceramic, glass, or plastic because the granules are so small. They are also non-toxic.

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    No Absolute, Blanket Answers

    When you ask a blanket question, such as are green household products more effective than conventional, it is difficult to provide an absolute answer. However, this much is true. Green household products, especially those receiving the EPA’s DfE designation, are safer for the environment. They pose less risk to human or animal health because fewer chemicals and other toxins are used in their formulations. The EPA and other government agencies, such as Amherst, Massachusetts' city government, provide information on their websites for various homemade green cleaning recipes. If you cannot find a commercially produced green product to meet your needs, you may find an effective recipe for a homemade product.

    Remember, effectiveness is a relative term in cases such as these. People have different ways of determining effectiveness, as well as differing opinions on what clean or effective means to them. Some green household products are more effective than their conventional counterparts are. Others are as effective, but require a little more time to soak in or perhaps a little more elbow grease. Most green products fall in these first two categories with regard to their effectiveness. However, as with any class of products, there are also some that do little, if anything, to clean surfaces or repel pests. Before buying an environmentally friendly or green product, check for reviews from other users. Read the label and look for the EPA's DfE or other well known green agency's recognized seal.

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    References and Resources

    Amherst, Massachusetts Government, Safer Alternatives to Household Products http://www.amherstma.gov/index.aspx?NID=722

    EPA Green Home http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes/index.htm

    US Department of Health and Human Services, Household Products Database http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm

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