Cleaning Up the Greenwash

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

Back in July, I moved back to Arizona and I’m now newest member of the my Econista friend’s household. With the move came a shift of my lifestyle to the greener side of things, one of them being greener household cleaners. Basically the only things we use are vinegar, baking soda, and thieves all purpose cleaner.

More people are using natural cleaning methods because most cleaning products on the market contain chemicals and toxins that create indoor air pollution and can lead to health side effects such as lung damage.

Because there is no industry certification for what is “natural” or “eco-friendly” or “healthy,” household cleaner manufacturers can get away with greenwashing their products. So the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched their “Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning” a few weeks ago, to let consumers have a better idea of what’s in their products and what effects these products might have on their consumers. Unlike food and cosmetics, it is not required that cleaning products list all of their ingredients, so EWG had to do some real digging to determine the full ingredient lists.

Like EWG’s Skin Deep Database, the Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning really surprised me with the items that got a bad grade. Here’s an example: When I think toxic cleaners for some reason the first thing that popped into my head was Windex. So I typed in Windex, expecting to have a bad grade come up, which it did. Windex Original Glass Cleaner got the grade of D, so did Windex Nature’s Source Glass Cleaner and Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar Cleaner. So I wanted to try a more eco brand, thinking for sure the eco brand would get a better score. I looked at Seventh Generation’s window cleaner, Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner, Free & Clear, the score was better, but not by much, with a C grade, mainly because of the ingredient methylisothiazolinone. Frustrated, I clicked on the category “Glass/ Window Cleaner” to see who could best the C grade. Turns out of the 49 glass cleaners out there, 4 received an A: Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care, Rosemary Mint; Whole Foods Market glass cleaner, unscented; Green Shield Organic Glass Cleaner, Fresh; and Citra-Solv Citra Clear Window & Glass Cleaner.

For the record, there are simple homemade DIY recipes out there, including pure vinegar; you can check them out here. Or try our Four Thieves Vinegar or All-Purpose Cleaner recipes! Happy Non-toxic cleaning everyone! Have any favorites?

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Natural Crunchy Hair Solutions

Image copyright iVillage

Image copyright iVillage

The last couple of hairstylists I’ve visited have said that my hair is coated with minerals, most likely due to hard water — water high in calcium, magnesium and/or iron. I had noticed that my hair had been feeling very “crunchy” and kept conditioning every day in order to try and soften the feel. Both stylists said that conditioner doesn’t help, that I actually need to strip the minerals from my hair. One of them suggested a Bumble & Bumble product that is specially designed to eliminate build-up, but it can only be used once a week. I was happy to see that the product does not contain parabens, but I wanted something more natural, gentle, that I could use more often as my hair seems to be getting crunchier.

I came across the following suggestions:
1) Baking soda rinse (add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 cup warm water, pour this solution over hair and massage into hair for about 1 minute, rinse and shampoo as normal)
2) Aspirin rinse (crush several aspirins and follow directions for Baking Soda rinse)
3) Vinegar rinse (add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 1 cup of water and pour over your hair as a final rinse after shampooing)

It seems that these treatments can strip the hair, so it is recommended that you follow with a conditioning treatment. I found an olive oil and egg treatment that looks interesting, along with several other natural hair care ideas.

In reading about high mineral content in water, I found that it can also dry out your skin, and because it makes it harder for soap to sud, leaves your laundry less clean. A commonly noted solution to this is to get a household water softening unit. I had noticed a “minerally” taste to our water, and had been considering a purifier. It seems like it’s definitely worth looking into a water softening/purifying system since it can address so many different issues.

Recommended Reading:
The Organic Consumers Association report on research linking parabens to breast cancer
Environmental Protection Agency’s list of non-toxic alternatives to household and personal care products

 

 

[NOTE: When I originally wrote this, I neglected to add another excellent source for finding non-toxic hair care and body care products, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database of Cosmetics

This article originally appeared in my other blog, Becoming Your StellarSelf.