Thursday, February 19, 2009

Snowed In and Hangin' out with the VOC's

There is a ridiculous winter storm happening here in Halifax and our yoga Karma class was cancelled. Boo, and I was so ready to sweat! In any case, since my early arrival home from work we have been holed up in our apartment, sealed up like little hibernating animals. I actually love hearing the crazy gusts of 70km/hr winds whipping through our leaky windows and trying to get through the plastic wrapping we put up.

We think of our homes as a safe, clean haven that shouldn't have any of the pollution or smog that you can inhale walking down a busy city street. Indoor air pollution can be anywhere from two to 100 times higher than outdoor air pollution (Adria Vasil, Ecoholic 2007). Really?? Take a look around; the furniture, the rugs, your MDF bookcase and the ridiculous amount of cleaning products you have stashed in the kitchen and bathroom. They all contribute to a myriad of toxic chemicals that leak into the air, mingle, have a party, make some babies and stroll into your body. Off-gassing, a term I crudely giggled at when I first read it, which quickly turned to a bunch of "Holy Crap!"s the more I read. Guess that "new furniture/rug/car" smell is actually Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) that are making their Magic School Bus way into our lungs and blood streams. Great.

Well- I for one am a neat freak. Yes I will gladly admit it publicly- I have a cleaning problem. I just like to have my space sparkly and smelling nice. Re: not like vinegar. I tried the water and vinegar/essential oil deal and it just didn't cut it for me. Really, I have a problem! I also practice yoga a LOT at home, due to having past horrible studio experiences and budget issues. I would prefer that my Ujjayi did not simultaneously suck in VOC's while keeping my focus.

So it was an easy thing for us to slowly switch over our cleaning products to companies that won't contribute to the pollution in our waterways or my lungs. For example: some surfactants (what makes the product sudsy and spread well) used in degreasers, disinfectants and general cleaners break down into hormone-disrupting agents and nearly 70% of American waterways tested positive. Finally, toilet bowl cleaners have corrosive ingredients that can burn your eyes, lungs and skin along with chlorine which is considered a hazardous air pollutant. Wearing a mask while cleaning the bathroom really isn't a joke when you think of all the nasty chemicals were breathing in just to clean the pooper (Adria Vasil, Ecoholic 2007). 

We (ok, ok, I the cleaning MACHINE) have spent the past two years trying out different companies that are more environmentally friendly and would like to share with you my favourites- cuz some definitely did NOT actually clean as well as the bad non-eco stuff.

1. Seventh Generation products: Their cleaning agents smell nice, they list all their ingredients on their products and have question/answer boards on their site. This honesty goes a long way in the hoards of "greenwashing" (i.e. Clorox's "Green Works"). I have found that their toilet bowl cleaners and dishwashing fluids work really well. I'm not really a fan of their tub scrubbing cleaner and trying baking soda to help scrub didn't really seem to help. Hah, after reading that it looks like maybe I hadn't cleaned my tub in a while and it was UBER dirty... LOL. No worries, I clean the bathroom every other day... like I said- I'm anal.

2. Attitude: Now THIS product actually cleaned my tub to the sparkling blindness that I like (I know I am strange). The company is Canadian-based (WOOT) and they list their ingredients right on the product as well. They also have a certified "eco-logo" which is a Federal Government Program. They use essential oils to scent their products and no SLS's or petroleum based products. Their hand soaps smell delicious! These companies are typically more pricey than the regular cleaners, and as much as I hate to plug them on this blog- but as a recovering student I must say... ahem... you can get it for cheap at wal-mart.  (shhh! I didn't say that!)

There were some stumbles along the cleaner-mission way. Ecover being one of them. Now this company has some pretty strong cleaner type smelling products, which strikes me as weird for a green product. They do list all their ingredients right on their labels and websites but a quick look and we find ingredients like: perfume, SLS and phenoxyethanol. Hmm. The other products didn't have those and can still be effective so why can't they?

There are some other companies that seem great but that I haven't tried yet- Soleado being one of them. A few tips to remember while trying to sift through all the "green" claims for cleaning agents: 

-Check for a complete ingredient list- any company that claims special ownership of ingredients or requires "special" requests for you to receive them doesn't deserve your time. If it can affect your health you deserve to know. 
- Look for third party certification of biodegradability (even though that can mean a zillion different things, it's a step).
- Look for not tested on animals.
- Check to see if you can recycle the bottle.

Hope my need for clean has been informative for some other yogi/ni's out there. I know I have felt better taking some small steps in supporting greener and environmentally safer products in order to have a clean and healthy home.


  1. Finally someone who has put the products to a real test!!! Thanks for this...I have been struggling trying to find good cleaners too. Being a student I will go and find the cheaper alternative...I will keep your secret though. ;)

    Thanks for all the info!

  2. "I actually love hearing the crazy gusts of 70km/hr winds whipping through our leaky windows and trying to get through the plastic wrapping we put up."

    ME TOO!!!! All I hear all day is a MMMMMMMMMM sound.
    I have a feeling, you're like me... power clean everything, and probably love to watch How Clean is Your House.
    I have a few tips that I got from them and actually do once or twice a week:

    • Use a banana peel to dust plants; the dust clings to the skin and the juice nourishes the leaves

    • Leave laundry detergent to soak in your bathtub overnight-the tub will gleam in the morning (no scrubbing required)

    • To loosen dirt and grease inside the microwave, put a few slices of lemon in an uncovered bowl of water and cook on high for 3 minutes. *This one is my favorite, because a certain someone, NEVER covers their food while it is in the microwave

  3. awesome awesome awesome..
    the entry, the comment too. i really want to go dust a plant with a banana peel now!

    YOU ROCK!!


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