Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | October 14, 2007

Putting “Green” Cleaners To The Test

 Many cleaning products claim they’re friendly to the environment, but there are no government standards to make them prove it.
So, Consumer Reports’ Shop Smart magazine took a closer look to see how “green” they really are — and how well they get stains out!
Consumer Reports senior editor Mandy Walker stopped by The Early Show Friday with the results.
Sales of green household cleaners grew to roughly $4.3 billion in 2005, the latest year for which such data is available, up 11 percent from 2004.
The number of green alternatives continues to rise, as more and more people choose them over non-green offerings.
Green home cleaning products are typically made from natural ingredients, designed to reduce consumers’ exposure to harsh chemicals, and are generally environmentally-friendly.
But buyer beware: Terms such as “natural” and “environmentally-friendly,” and other claims that appear on product labels, aren’t regulated or verified by Washington. In other words, there are no solid definitions to determining is and isn’t green.
You may remember when organic food was once the same way; it took some time for the government to decide what makes an apple or a chicken legitimately organic.
In its testing, Consumer Reports came across some cleaning products that aren’t as green as they might seem.
For example, Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Gel claims to break down in the environment, but Consumer Reports found that the product contains a petroleum-derived agent that doesn’t biodegrade easily.
So, how do you know you’re buying a truly green cleaning product? Check the label for the following:
  Plant-based ingredients: All green products should list their ingredients. Once you start looking for them, you’ll notice that most traditional cleaners don’t list their ingredients. When you read through the list, you should recognize most of the words; there shouldn’t be any chemicals, chlorine bleach or ammonia.
  Concentrated formulas: Many green products are highly-concentrated and suggest mixing with water before use. These formulas require less packaging and less fuel to ship.
  Multiple uses: You’ll also notice that green products seem to be able to tackle many more tasks than traditional, non-green cleansers. The reasoning here is that the more jobs a cleaner does, the fewer products you need to buy, which cuts waste.
Green products tend to cost more than non-green cleansers. According to Consumer Reports, the difference can be anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent.
 That may make you wonder: Is it worth paying more to clean green?
That, says Walker, is totally subjective. Many conventional cleaners contain toxic chemicals. Some people believe it’s better for their health, and particularly for their children’s health, to not be exposed to these chemicals. The chemicals can also be worrisome for those with asthma or breathing problems.
Other consumers are mainly concerned with the products’ impact on the environment, and feel it’s worthwhile to pay more for earth-friendly items.
Of course, nobody would want to use the products if they didn’t perform well.
Reviews on the effectiveness of green products compared to non-green are mixed. Some people feel they’re great, while others disagree.
Consumer Reports recently tested dishwashing powders and gels, and found four green products that matched or beat their conventional competition. Consumer Reports hasn’t released results on other home cleansers recently; the product category is growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up!
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