June 23, 2009

Green cleaning or laundry time?

“Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub?” Does that nursery rhyme bring a vivid mental image to mind—of a hard-to-clean ring around the tub?

But which green products really work? Terms like natural, nontoxic, eco-safe, and environmentally friendly are largely unregulated.

Companies launched more than 500 eco-friendly products so far this year. If that trend continues there will be 1,570 new green products on our store shelves this year, triple the amount in 2008.

Seventh Generation and Simple Green products have been around the longest and do a good job. The Route 5 Farm Fresh has an eye-catching display of Seventh Generation products. Farm Fresh VP, Janie Ceclic, says, “We have the full selection of Seventh Generation., and consumers are getting more choices every day.” I've tried Seventh Generation's laundry products and they work! Check out http://www.seventhgeneration.com/ for coupons.

Read the label — Although detergent companies are not required to list the ingredients. You’ll see vague terms such as surfactant or washing soda or brightener. You might learn more from what they say their products do NOT contain.

Phosphates are the worst since they cause algae blooms, but they still show up on many labels, especially on dishwasher products. Other non-green ingredients to avoid are bleach, triclosan, petroleum, and the surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate or NPE (an endocrine disruptor).

If a strong perfume odor lingers after you clean, it’s a good sign that your home’s air could be irritating your lungs. Look for detergents that are "free and clear" of dyes and perfumes.
Baking soda/sodium bicarbonate, vinegar, lemon juice, and good ole 20 Mule Team Borax are usually sufficient to get the job done—especially with a little elbow grease. Much cheaper too.

Is it good for you?
Here's another new website, http://www.goodguide.com/, that evaluates googads of products to help consumers find out what's really good for them. It's still in beta testing, but it's already a great tool. You can see ratings for foods, household cleaners, toys, and personal care products. Check out the surprising information about dishwashers too. GoodGuide has 12 full-time and 12 part-time employees, half scientists and half engineers. They have scored 75,000 products with data from nearly 200 sources, including government databases, studies by nonprofits and academics, and the research by scientists on the GoodGuide staff. There's also an iPhone app.