Eco-friendly Cleaning

The topic of cleaning was covered in the story Mostly for You.

We asked a health scientist and microbiologist Dr Sandra Wilks to highlight the most common misconceptions that can lead to over-cleaning or over-use of quite toxic products. The key point was that bacteria need to be distinguished from viruses and most bacteria are protective of our health, therefore over-use of products that misleadingly claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria, if true would not be good for our health.

Over -cleaning, as well as being problematic in health terms, is also bad for the environment, as it often results in using harsh chemicals and too much hot water which has a high carbon footprint. Our goal is to encourage readers to use more natural cleaning products (bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, probiotic cleaners) which are cheap and effective alternatives, and wash clothes, hair and skin at lower temperatures and only when needed.

Scientists are increasingly realising that our body and skin is protected by our own healthy bacteria which fights off germs and viruses. Therefore if we wash too long with too many chemicals, not only are we washing off unwanted bacteria, we are washing off our skin’s natural protective bacteria. Similarly, many household cleaning products kill the very bacteria that fight ‘bad’ bacteria.

Many people are switching to probiotic cleaning products which have been proven in tests to work for much longer than conventional anti-bacterial cleaning products for just that reason – a recent study showed that probiotic cleaners and soap were more effective at dealing with harmful bacteria than detergent.

READ academic article on probiotic cleaners vs detergents

Guide to sustainable cleaning products

Just as overuse of antibiotics can destroy your body’s ‘good’ gut bacteria, many cleaning products, shampoos, shower gels, detergents etc. that include ammonia and/or bleach are toxic and release volatile organic compounds that can be bad for our health. In tests, simple baking powder and white vinegar are almost always at least as effective as the harsh detergents, and much cheaper and less toxic to our health and the environment.

READ Times article on adverse effects of shampoo and cleaning products