Make Your Toilet Cleaning Eco Friendly.
We’ve had a little look at the chemicals to avoid in conventional cleaners. If we want to make our cleaning Eco friendly we need to do more than assume a simple green cleaner is a safe cleaning product. Do we have a safe detergent or a toxic accident waiting to happen? We need to get label savvy and find out what are the non toxic chemicals to look out for to see how environmentally friendly our green cleaning product alternative is.
I thought it would be good to start at he bottom (so to speak). Toilet cleaner is probably the most toxic, regularly used conventional cleaner in many homes. Oh sure, drain cleaner is worse but we don’t usually clean our drains every day! Toilet cleaner and bleach are very regular additions to our toilet bowls, making their ingredients very regular additions to our waste water, and their fumes regular additions to our household air. Ensuring you use safe household cleaners in the bathroom is the first place you should be thinking about switching to Eco cleaners. How you clean your bathroom and toilet will have the biggest immediate impact on your health and the environmental damage done by your household.
Conventional Toilet Cleaner
Conventional toilet cleaners are regularly flushed into our water treatment systems or septic tanks. They contain a wide range of harmful chemicals including; Ammonia, Bleach, Hydrochloric Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide (Lye), Naphthaline and Sulfuric Acid. Many of these ingredients are irritants to us and highly corrosive. They all pose a threat environmentally as it takes so much water to dilute them to a safe level.
It is extremely dangerous to mix bleach with ammonia or any acids. The results are highly toxic chloramine and chlorine gases. So if you do use any form of conventional toilet cleaner (green or otherwise) do not mix it with anything else to ensure you do not put your health at risk.
Bleach and ammonia kill the bacteria we need to break down our sewage. So by using these chemicals to clean our toilet, we actually make it harder to clean up all the waste we flush down the toilet every day. We really are passing on a worse problem to the sewage treatment plant, and ultimately the sea, just to ensure that small area of porcelain sparkles with no effort on our part.
Much better I think, to keep our bathrooms clean in a way that doesn’t just give more work to the planet and waste treatment agencies. Using something a little more gentle such as the wide range of Eco cleaners, doesn’t mean we end up with a dirty toilet either. The crazy thing is most toilets, given a gentle regular clean will actually be one of the cleanest parts of your home. If you think about it, all the really dirty stuff already gets washed away by vast quantities of clean water. There isn’t a lot left, apart from minerals from that water (limescale) for you to actually clean!
Your chopping board is likely to harbour far more bacteria than your toilet seat ever does! So, don’t believe you need something tough and toxic. Making your toilet cleaning Eco friendly will not leave you with dirty facilities!
Safe & Green Toilet Cleaner
So, if we aren’t going to use all those toxic chemicals to clean the toilet, what do we use? Well I’ve had a look at some of the most well respected commercial green cleaning product brands to see what kind of ingredients they include in effective green toilet cleaners.
Coceth 4 & 7 (Carboxylic Acid)
- Lauryl Polyglucose
- Polyethylene Glycol (peg-15 cocomonium chloride)
And, what does all that mean? Well most of that lot isn’t really anything to do with cleaning the toilet at all. Most of the ingredients are just the bits to make a green cleaning product have the consistency, look and smell of a toilet cleaner, that’s all. There are a few surfactants and foamers, the bits that make a cleaner remove stains and give you some bubbles, and even the odd bit of acidity to help get rid of limescale build up. Lets have a look at all those weird sounding chemicals in our safe Eco cleaners for the toilet bowl.
That will be the water (purified of course) used to deliver all the other ingredients to your toilet bowl.
This is the water soluble natural acid found in citric fruits. It poses no risk to the environment and very few people show any allergic reaction or sensitivity to it. Citric acid bonds with other minerals acting as a water softener in all sorts of green cleaning products.
Coceth 4 & 7 (Carboxylic Acid)
A Polyglucose derivative of coconut used as a surfactant and emulsifier. Safe but acidic so an irritant in concentration.
A naturally occurring acid, created by fermentation of bacteria on organic matter. Lactic Acid is widely used for descaling. It is anti-bacterial so common in green disinfectants.
This is a naturally derived cleaning agent which usually comes from palm kernel, corn or coconut oil. This is a surfactant, the bit that foams and does the cleaning. It is very mild with no reported risk to health.
Another fragrance, limonene is an oil extracted from orange peel. Limonene is also used as an orange flavouring in the food industry. It is an irritant in concentration, but use as a fragrance in cleaners should be perfectly safe for all but the very fragrance sensitive. This can be used as an effective pesticide.
A constituent of lavender oil, this is used primarily as a fragrance. Linalool can also be produced synthetically, so again check the green credentials of your toilet cleaner before assuming everything is ‘natural’.
The fragrance or perfume. Fragrances can come from the natural world (from plant and animal sources) or be made synthetically. So ‘parfum’ does not confirm the green credentials of the fragrance. You will need to check the rest of the label too. Often plant derived essential oils will be used in a green cleaning product but do not assume. The manufacturer will tell you if they are spending all that extra money on natural scents.
Polyethylene Glycol (peg-15 cocomonium chloride)
Another plant derived cleaning agent. Polyethylene is widely used in cosmetics too, but does have some health concerns. I would try to give this one a miss if at all possible. If it comes into contact with broken skin it is dangerous, and at least one study show it has neurological effects at moderate doses, in animal studies.
A natural carbohydrate or sugar used widely as a surfactant or ‘foaming agent’. Mild and safe.
This is a preservative with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Sodium Benzoate is more commonly found in the food industry, where it is used as a preservative in high acid foods (such as fizzy drinks and salad dressings). It is a relatively safe compound, though it can be of concern when mixed with citric acid and ingested as carcinogenic benzine. Even green toilet cleaner should not be eaten!
A salt of citric acid and sodium. Safe (also used as a food additive). This is used as a stain remover as it suspends the dirt and minerals freed during cleaning.
This is also called Corn Sugar Gum. It is made by bacteria fermenting carbohydrate. Xanthan Gum is used as a thickener and has no known toxicity.
How to Choose Eco Cleaners for the Toilet?
Firstly I think illustrating the full range of ingredients in a safe, non-toxic toilet cleaner proves the point that scary names do not necessarily indicate scary affects. That’s why it pays to check what the ingredients actually are on your conventional cleaners. Just because it sounds scary it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is a toxic cleaner.
That being said, as far as toilet cleaners go, conventional products are pretty unsafe for you and the environment. I would always opt for a green cleaning product in the bathroom.
But, as you can see, even an Eco-green cleaning product is full of scary sounding concoctions. But, with the exception of cocomonium chloride most are extremely mild. And, even with the worst case scenario of containing all the mild irritants and so on, a green cleaner for your toilet is much safer and kinder to the environment than a conventional one.
But the ingredients in all natural cleaning products are not necessarily safe for all. As we have seen, some items are still irritants or toxic if swallowed and so on. Some may affect people with allergies. But, on the whole the green cleaning product, is safer than the conventional alternative.
I think we have to employ a little common sense. Even green cleaners should be handled and stored with caution. They are not food, or toys and should not be treated as such.
Depending on what concerns you the most; allergies, danger of poisoning, long-term health issues, pollution, environmental concerns, ethical trading etc, will dictate how you choose your product to make cleaning Eco friendly. I feel if you are making the effort to look for a green alternative you should really get the best your can afford that does the job to your standards. So however rigorously you check the labels and find out what all those ingredient terms actually mean at least have a look at the top ingredients.
One thing I think is critical is that the green cleaner manufacturer you choose should be open about their ingredients. The labels do not legally have to tell us everything in a cleaning product, so check out their websites. Some companies are happy to tell us all the concoctions they use (and where they come from) while others are still very secretive. That makes me suspicious. If they are green they should be proud to prove it in every way they can.
To help you choose the perfect simple green cleaner for your toilet check those ingredients! There are a few links on the sidebar to help you decide if you like the look of the ingredients in your Eco cleaners. And, if you are still unsure use those customer numbers and websites to ask the manufacturers.