As we become more “eco-conscious” and aware of the damage we are causing our planet, we have become keen to explore more ways to be more environmentally responsible, such as through recycling and re-using materials and reducing waste. Now there is a new focus on how we clean and what we use to clean with. Not only is this important for the environment but many of our own activities involve close proximity with the floor and our children, especially, may spend a lot of time playing on the floor and may therefore be more susceptible to any toxic chemicals or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) left by cleaning products used on the floor.
Tips for Eco-Friendly Floor Cleaning
- First, look under your kitchen sink and do an inventory of your cleaning products and check to see how many contain potentially toxic and harmful agents. Any product that displays the words “caution”, “poison”, “warning” , “corrosive” or “danger” is suspect. Even if you do not use them regularly, minute amounts may leak from the bottles and then fumes may disperse around the kitchen and through the house. They are also extremely hazardous to the environment if not disposed of appropriately. Round all the dangerous products and place them in a sealed bag or ideally a locked cupboard, to wait for the next Household Hazardous Materials collection.
- Now, replace all the dangerous products with safer versions. Look for plant-based, non-toxic, biodegradable substitutes. Supermarkets and hardware stores now stock a wide range of eco-friendly cleaners. Again, avoid anything which has the words “caution”, “poison”, “warning”, “danger” or “corrosive” on the label.
- Try to avoid anything which contains strong disinfectants, such as chlorine bleach. These leave harsh, polluting chemicals in the waterways and they are also suspected to be carcinogenic. Visit your local natural food or organic store and ask for alternatives to chlorine bleach disinfectants.
- When considering your cleaning equipment, make sure you opt for natural, renewable products made from sustainable sources. Instead of commercial cloths impregnated with harmful disinfectants, re-use old towels or clothes. Choose re-usable instead of disposable mops.Try to avoid using paper towels and use cloth rags instead, to save trees. If you must use paper towels, try to buy those made from recycled, unbleached paper. Whatever equipment you are considering restocking, whether it is a bucket or a mop, keep the environmental impact in mind.
- Be aware of the kind of water you have – is it soft or hard? This will have implications on the kind of cleaning product you need to be effective – for example, if you have hard water, you may need to use detergent-type products as opposed to soap as the latter will leave a soap scum.
- Try to conserve water as much as possible during cleaning processes. For example, use a bucket instead of free-running water from a tap and use the minimum amount you need to be effective. Dry sweep or vacuum if possible instead of wet mopping.
- In many cases, it is not necessary to buy a commercially produced cleaner as many household basics and kitchen cupboard ingredients can do the same job very effectively and with minimal damage to your health or the environment. And you’ll be saving money too. Bicarbonate soda is a fantastic all-round product which produces an alkaline solution when it is mixed with water. This solution is a powerful cleaner which cuts through grease and dissolves dirt. It can be used as a paste on stubborn stains and marks on surfaces and even works on carpets. Lemon juice and vinegar are two other great stain removers.
- One recommended “natural” cleaner for hard floors is a mixture of 1 tbsp liquid soap, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup washing soda in 3 litres of hot water. This should be mixed in a bucket and then used to clean floors, followed by a thorough rinse with clean water. Note, however, that as this contains washing soda (sodium bicarbonate), which can be caustic on the skin, make sure that you wear gloves when using this solution and do not use it on timber flooring.