Household cleaners are sold for a purpose; they get whites whiter, remove stains, degrease, disinfect surfaces, or leave glass sparkling. While most of the products on the market cannot be faulted for effectiveness, in order to perform their advertised functions the vast majority contain chemicals that can have dire effects on our water supplies and air quality.
The main culprits are nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia, and a group of chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Nitrogen is commonly found in floor, glass, and surface cleaners. Phosphorus is the main ingredient in most chemical dishwasher detergents – accounting for around 30% - 40% of their overall make up. Ammonia and VOCs are the most widespread chemicals, found in cleaning products used to degrease dishes and ovens, sanitize, remove allergens, whiten clothes, and disinfect surfaces.
Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are all chemicals that naturally occur in the environment. For this reason, many people are not aware of the dangers they pose to the environment and our health. The problem is caused by the volume in which these chemicals are now being released into our water systems. Water processing plants remove many unwanted or dangerous compounds from the water that washes down our drains, but nitrogen, phosphorus, and ammonia all slip though the filters and run out into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. These chemicals can be used as fertilisers, and the increased amounts of them in the water supply leads to the expedited growth of certain water plants. This in turn causes clogging of waterways by the dense vegetation, crowding out aquatic animals and other plants. Worse still, when the plants that have experienced accelerated growth die, they do so en mass. This means that oxygen levels in the water are depleted, causing algae to grow and fresh water species to die off. The high levels of decay mean the water is no longer suitable to be used for drinking, bathing, cooking, or washing.
VOCs do not contribute in the same way to the contamination of our water ways, but they are a major source of air pollution. These chemicals build up inside the home when we are cleaning, which in itself can be hazardous to our heath. Opening windows to ventilate rooms helps on an individual scale, but this just means the chemicals drift outside adding to overall air pollution. VOCs are large contributors to smog in built up areas.
The good news is – there is a way to stop this damaging cycle and help to save the environment. The answer comes in the form of eco-cleaning: using natural products to clean the home, instead of these dangerous chemicals. There are many natural products that can be used to clean, disinfect, degrease and whiten – from lemon juice to bi-carbonate of soda – and best of all, they do just as good a job as most chemical products. Opting for eco-friendly cleaning supplies will have a positive effect on your health and the environment. As a general rule, brands that provide the most information on their packaging have the least to hide. The best professional cleaning services will use these eco-friendly products, and they will have the training and experience to get the best results.