Category Archives: Green Cleaning

The Need for Cat-Friendly Cleaning

Hey, I’m happy and excited to report that I got published in Feline Wellness magazine.  I submitted an article on cat-friendly green cleaning options and they published it in the Spring edition of their magazine, which just came out.

http://www.felinewellness.com/

While researching the article, I discovered that citrus oils are extremely toxic to cats.  This was quite alarming since I used a bunch of eco-friendly cleaners that contained citrus oils.  In the article, I did not mention specific products, but I did discover that Seventh Generation makes a line of products called “Free & Clear” and these don’t contain essential oils.  Also, I use a lot of Wowgreen products since I signed up to be one of their independent distributors.  Their products are enzyme-based as opposed to using citrus oils to clean.

I bought two copies of the magazine at Whole Foods.  Yeah, I know it’s not eco-friendly to buy two.  I’m keeping one and mailing the other one to my Mom.

A Chemist’s Perspective on Chemicals

In a recent post, I was checking out whether Wee Cleaner was really non-toxic and discovered that although I was under the impression that it was all natural, it did indeed contain a number of chemical ingredients.  Then I segued into looking up ingredients with the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.

One of my readers wrote in to share some more insights about the chemical ingredients.  She works as a chemist in a lab, so it was great to gain her perspective.  There’s a radio station I listen to where the morning DJ’s always proclaim that they have the smartest listeners in the world.  I’m thinking I have some of the smartest blog readers!  Anyway, here’s what she had to say:

“It’s true that all chemical suppliers, and labs for that matter, are required to have MSDS’s on file for chemicals but while the idea is well meaning: to have anyone interested in safety be able to find information on a chemical, most MSDS’s now days are packed with legalese and meaningless warnings. In effort not to be sued, manufacturers have put every possible thing down for even the most harmless substances so that you really couldn’t tell apart something harmless from something that you need to watch out for even if you tried. If you would like an example read the MSDS on table salt (sodium chloride), or sea sand. You should apparently run screaming from the kitchen and the beach for fear of being exposed to such harmful substances. No one takes MSDS’s seriously, and they are pretty near useless, except for the lawyers.

About the issue of hydrogen peroxide, it’s actually a great and very safe cleaner! The reason why you have this contradictory information about it is because hydrogen peroxide is not very stable. When you buy Hydrogen peroxide from the supermarket it has a very short shelf life. It will spontaneously degrade into oxygen and water on standing, air and light just speed up the process. So while, yes, you should probably not drink hydrogen peroxide from the bottle, if you apply a little bit to your carpet, by the time it’s dry there won’t be any hydrogen peroxide there to get into contact with. Most of it probably reacts with (oxidizes) whatever stinky stuff your cat left behind to make less stinky stuff and the rest just turns into water and oxygen. Sounds great to me!

I think that’s why you should take these chemical safety scales with some skepticism. What does “safe” really mean?

Sodium laureth sulfate I’m not so sure about, I’ve seen it on my shampoo bottle so it’s probably not that bad, I’d be worried about my kitty eating some though, I would ask what percent composition it is before deciding to put it on my carpet. Maybe at this point I would just go out and buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to see if that works just as well as the cleaner.

Sorry for the rant, but there is always a lot of misleading information and witch hunts about how bad “chemicals” are. Even though everything is a chemical: water, air, or cyanide, weather or not it’s harmful just depends on how it acts around the environment and your body. Not how “natural” it is.”

Thanks for the insights Anastasia!

I didn’t know that there were MSDS sheets specific to each chemical and it was illuminating to learn that they list every possible risk to avoid litigation. I noticed the EWG Cosmetic Database also listed things such as tea tree oil in a way that made them sound hazardous.

I still do find that MSDS docs for cleaning products contain some interesting gems.  For example, Simple Green is labelled as “non-toxic”, but the MSDS lists butyl cellosolve, also known as 2-butoxyethanol, as one of the ingredients.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0070.html, symptoms of exposure include irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; hemolysis, hematuria (blood in the urine); central nervous system depression, headache; vomiting” and target organs include: “Eyes, skin, respiratory system, central nervous system, hematopoietic system, blood, kidneys, liver, lymphoid system”.

I think I’ll pass on hemolysis (premature destruction of red blood cells) or the hematuria, even if the risk is low.  We bought some “Simple Green” thinking it was green, but now that bottle is sitting in the garage.

Why Antibacterial is Anti-Cat and Anti-Human

I was recently reading the latest newsletter from the David Suzuki Foundation.  If you’re Canadian, you know who he is.  If you’re not, David Suzuki is like the Al Gore of Canada, only he’s been in the public eye supporting the environment since the 70′s and no one questions the science he presents because it’s always sound.  Anyway, the newsletter had a great article which sums up why most antibacterial soaps and cleaners are harmful.

With the H1N1 scare going around, I’ve noticed people are going overboard with the hand sanitizer.  Also, with a new baby, I keep seeing ads advising people to wipe all sorts of surfaces that your baby comes into contact with (eg., toys) with a certain brand of antibacterial wipe.

Personally, I never use the stuff because I feel that they’re worse than the bugs going around.  And, if you’ve got a cat, antibacterial cleaners really make no sense to me.  Your cats rub up against you, you pat them with your “sanitized” hands and they lick the stuff off of your hands. I could never give an adequate, scientific explanation to people why they should stop using antibacterial cleaners, other than the increased resistance of bacteria to these products and a general feeling that any sort of chemical you rub into your hands is not a good idea.

However, thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation, I now have a better explanation other than my gut tells me it’s wrong.  Here it is:

“Triclosan is one of the most common antibacterial agents in household cleaners and personal-care products. It creates a known carcinogen, dioxin, as a by-product. Dioxin causes skin disorders and liver problems, and impairs reproductive functions and the immune system (to name a few effects).”

Notice the reference to impairing the immune system.  This is important to note because I read a friend of a friend’s Facebook post saying that they used antibacterial cleaners because they had a compromised immune system and didn’t want to catch anyone’s cold.  The David Suzuki Foundation article also mentioned that studies show that hand sanitizers aren’t any more effective than washing your hands with soap and water.

Here’s where to read more and get recipes on making your own hand sanitizer:

http://beta.davidsuzuki.org/library/finding-solutions/web/get-off-the-antibacterial-crazy-train/

There’s Joy in Green Cleaning Your Floors :)

Having just written about the best natural and eco-friendly hardwood flooring for cat households, it seems only fitting to follow up with a post on how to green clean your green floors.  Although I’ve been green cleaning since the late 80s, I sheepishly have to admit that I’m lazy when it comes to floors, so I never really got into finding the best eco-friendly cleaning option for floors.  I would just use whatever green brand happened to be available and didn’t care too much about the results.  With the new baby arriving soon, I’m going to have to get on this as not only is my cat lying around on the floor, my baby will be crawling on it too.

For green clean floors, I thought it best to consult with Leslie Reichert, the “green” cleaning coach.  Leslie’s  mission is to teach and encourage others in the “art” of homekeeping and green cleaning.  She is the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, which is the first cookbook for green cleaning. It contains a collection of simple, yet proven green recipes to help you green your cleaning. Leslie was kind enough to send us a copy of her book and I’m eager to try out a few new recipes. I talked to Leslie about green cleaning and here’s what she had to say.

ME: What inspired you to begin green cleaning?

LESLIE: I had a huge cleaning service years ago and we all saw the effects of using really harsh cleaners in our health. I’m now very susceptible to different viruses and when I get sick – I get very sick. I personally think the chemicals affected my immune system. So after years of using “traditional” cleaners, I started looking for alternatives. I found that the green cleaners actually worked better than the commercial cleaners and they were cheaper!!

ME: Why is it so important that people with pets use green cleaning solutions for their floors?

LESLIE: We need to remember that since our pets are smaller than us, so are their processing functions for removing different chemicals from their blood stream. Their kidneys have to work overtime to remove the chemicals that enter their blood.

We also need to remember that their paws pick up chemicals off the floor and then enter their blood stream. This is why we need to make sure the cleaners on our floors are very green.

ME: That’s definitely a concern, especially with cats since they are constantly licking and grooming themselves.  What do you recommend for cleaning hardwood floors such as bamboo?

LESLIE: I have found that the best way to know what is in your cleaning products is to make them yourself. The hardwood floor cleaner in my book, The Joy of Green Cleaning, uses white distilled vinegar and just a touch of dish soap to clean the floors. Also if you don’t want the smell of vinegar in your home, you can put a few drops of essential oils into the vinegar before adding it to the other ingredients. This will make cleaning more like aromatherapy and you may actually enjoy cleaning! Two other tools that work really well for bamboo floors are a microfiber mop with washable covers and an Eco sponge that will remove the black scuff marks without using any chemicals. Both of these are available at www.shopgreencleaning.com.

ME: Please tell me more about The Joy of Green Cleaning. Why did you write it? What are the benefits of green cleaning?

LESLIE: I wrote the book to answer the questions people constantly are asking. After speaking, I am always swamped with people wanting the recipes to different cleaning products they can make themselves. The book is a collection of over 70 pages of green cleaners, set up by rooms and items you may want to clean.

There are 3 real reasons to green your cleaning:

  1. The most important reason is for yourself.  Since you are the one using the chemicals, you want to make sure that they are safe and won’t hurt you. The fumes from different chemicals can lead to asthma and allergies along with all sorts of funky reactions.
  2. The second reason is for your family and pets. We want to make our homes a safe haven for the ones we love, not a chemical cocktail.
  3. The third reason is for the environment. We have to be careful about what we pour down the drain. You never know if you may be drinking it someday. And we want to use renewable resources instead of petroleum based products. These are all great green reasons to try green cleaning.

ME: How can people get a copy of the The Joy of Green Cleaning?

LESLIE: You can buy the book on amazon.com and my book site which is www.thejoyofgreencleaning.com.  It is also available as a downloadable e-book for $10 on the book site – how green is that!

ME: Thanks Leslie!

Here’s Leslie’s recipe for hardwood floors:

HARDWOOD FLOOR CLEANER

  • 1 tsp dish soap
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 16 oz hot water

Mix all ingredients and place in a spray bottle.  use a dry microfiber mop after vacuuming the hardwood floor.  Spray the floor with cleaner and wipe with the dry microfiber mop.  This mixture will leave the floor clean without a waxy buildup.

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Day 17: Reviews of Green Household Cleaning Products — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

seventh-generation-cleanerThe other day, Furball followed me into the bathroom and after I flushed the toilet, he immediately ran up to the bowl and peered inside. I simply shook my head and left him watching the toilet bowl. A few minutes later, I found him with all four paws carefully balanced on the toilet seat. As Furball gawkily looked into the bowl, I realized the inspiration for Day 17 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge had just presented itself to me.

At first, you may wonder why I’m doing a post on green cleaning products for your home, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you’re not looking, your cat is probably peeking into your toilet bowl, traipsing along your counters, lounging in the bathtub or grabbing a sip from the sink. Not to mention, your cat must spend at least 80% of his or her life in really close contact to your floor. Thus, Kitty is being exposed to whatever household products you use to clean your home. Doesn’t it make sense to use products that don’t contain harmful chemicals or fumes — not just for Kitty, but for you and your family as well?

I’ve been using green and natural cleaners since the late 80s, so I can share with you what works and what doesn’t. I think I became really serious about green cleaning in university when we had a really obnoxious student who had an internship at Procter and Gamble. Every class, we’d hear about how superior P&G was in all of their business practices. Then, I read Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble and was enlightened enough to vow never to purchase another Procter & Gamble product again. I can proudly state that I have not owned a single P&G product since I made that vow over 15 years ago. Once you start getting something as pervasive of P&G out of your home, it’s not too much of a stretch to move to eco-friendly cleaning alternatives.

Since this post started with the potty, the green cleaning product reviews will start with the potty :).

ECO-FRIENDLY TOILET BOWL CLEANERS

1. Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener
I tried 2 or 3 eco-friendly toilet bowl cleaners before I found this one. Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener is a natural cedar oil based product and was heads and shoulders above the competition. However, that was about 7 years ago, so maybe the ones that didn’t work so well (eg. Ecover) have since reformulated their green cleaning products. The only con about this earth friendly toilet bowl cleaner is that it’s not that common to find it in stores.

2. Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This green emerald cypress and fir household cleaner is much more commonly available in stores . Hence, when I ran out of Earth Friendly Toilet Kleener and couldn’t find any at my regular store, I tried the Seventh Generation product. I was quite pleased with the results. They add xanthan gum to the cleaner which helps it adhere to the sides of the toilet bowl. It’s quite effective for dealing with light mineral build-up.

3. Baking Soda

For general maintenance and deodorizing, baking soda works surprisingly well. It’s also inexpensive and probably uses the least amount of packaging, especially if you can buy it at a bulk store. Just sprinkle it on the sides of the bowl and on the brush, then dip it in and scrub. Pouring it directly in the water dilutes it too much. Baking soda has a gentle abrasive action which works really well as long as your toilet is not too dirty.

4. Baking Soda and Vinegar for Scaly Deposits

I tried this and it DOES NOT WORK, even when I added boiling water and let it sit as directed. I was very liberal with the use of vinegar and baking soda and it bubbled up nicely, but it wasn’t enough to loosen the mineral build-up. I even tried letting it soak for hours. My advice is that you’ll have to suck it up, buy rubber gloves and something to scour with and use good old fashioned elbow grease.

ENVIRO-FRIENDLY FLOOR CLEANER

1. Ecover Floor Soap

Ecover’s eco-friendly floor cleaner contains natural linseed oil, which gives it that certain floor cleaner smell that you remember as a child, but without the harsh chemicals. I find this green floor cleaner works well on your typical linoleum or tiles without the need to rinse. I think I’ve used 1 or 2 other products, but they were not particularly memorable.

GREEN ALL PURPOSE CLEANER FOR COUNTERS, SURFACES, ETC.

1. Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner

Hands down, this is one of the best eco-friendly all purpose spray cleaner that I have used. It’s great for the kitchen and the bathroom, cuts through grease and leaves your counters sparkling clean. The only con about Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner is that their spray bottles don’t work that well, so when the bottle gets to about 1/4 full, you have a hard time spraying. As well, this product is not good for glass or mirrors as it leaves streaks and “fog”.

2. wowgreen All Purpose Cleaner

Full Disclosure: I’m a wowgreen Independent Distributor.  I thought Seventh Gen was as good as it gets until I tried the wowgreen All Purpose Cleaner.  It was partly because of the effectiveness of this product that caused me to become an independent distributor.  It works as well as Seventh Gen.  The kicker is that their spray bottles are reusable and that they sell concentrated packets of their cleaners.  You simply pour the refill into the bottle and add water.  With Seventh Gen, I was amassing a huge collection of spray bottles, and let’s face it, even the greenest of us can only come up with so many ways to use a spray bottle.  BTW, the wowgreen spray bottles work really well.

NATURAL GLASS CLEANERS

1. Half Vinegar with Half Water

I used to work at a fast food joint in the 80s (yes, I’m atoning for my sins now) and they used a mixture of half vinegar and half water to wash the windows. This works really well and is especially effective for scaly build-up like you would find on a glass shower door. The only con is that it smells bad.

2. Earth Friendly Window Kleener

This is my favourite green window cleaner. I even like it better than Seventh Generation’s Natural Glass and Surface Cleaner. This natural cleaner cleans without leaving streaks and makes cleaning windows as effortless as is possible to make cleaning windows :).

2. wowgreen Glass and Stainless Cleaner

Full Disclosure: I’m a wowgreen Independent Distributor. Since I raved about the wowgreen All Purpose cleaner, I’ll keep this one simple.  It works well on mirrors and glass.  I found it was ok, but not the greatest for stainless steel.  For steel, you really need to use as directed (spray and leave for 60 seconds), whereas it was much more flexible for glass/mirrors.  It also comes in reusable spray bottles with concentrated refills.

ECO-FRIENDLY CARPET STAIN AND SPOT REMOVER

1. Seventh Generation Carpet Spot and Stain Remover

As I mentioned in my review of natural pet odor removers, this is probably a product that your cat doesn’t need, but your “friend’s” cat might. If your “friend’s” cat is a little hasty in doing his number two and leaves a little feces in the carpet, this product is good for some spot cleaning, or so I’ve heard.

SINKS AND TUBS

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is like a miracle cleaner and I find it to be almost as good as those very harsh scouring products (you know the powders that make your nose tingle because they’re so strong and they have the corrosive symbol on the front of the package). Pour about a half cup of baking soda in a pile by the sink. Take a lightly moistened cloth or sponge, dip it in the baking soda and then scrub. It will take that layer of grime right off. You’ll be amazed. You just need to rinse the sink really well afterwards.

You can also use baking powder to polish pots and pans or remove burnt food crusted on them. A small dab can also remove tarnish from silver.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • This review of green and natural household cleaners has just saved you a lot of time and money trying out different eco-friendly products to find one that works. So, if you’re still using chemical cleaners, pick one or more household cleaning product and replace with an eco-friendly alternative.
  • Have a friend or family member interested in using green cleaning products?  Share this post with them by clicking the “Share This” link below to email this blog entry or post it to your favourite social networking site.

Day 7: Natural Pet Odor RemoversThe 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

There may come a time in your pet’s life when you might need a natural pet stain and odor remover product. Of course, it’s hard to broach this subject with friends, “Hey, has your cat ever peed in your house? I thought I smelled something funny in the basement.” And if you do bring up the topic, what are you really going to say? “Well, uh, my cat peed on the carpet that your baby crawls on. Is there any natural pet cleaner you recommend that works really well? Like, good enough that you’ll let your kid crawl on my floor again?” That’s why there’s this post in the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge.

And, everyone knows you can’t ever get rid of the smell of cat urine. Or, can you?

Of course, MY cat has never needed a natural pet odor remover and I’m sure yours won’t either, but if you have a “friend” who has a problem, read on. Your “friend” might be interested in learning that there are alternatives to chemical cleaners for getting rid of the smell of cat urine. In fact, you can tell your “friend” that some natural pet odor remover products work really well, not that we would know from experience.

Most pet stain and odor removers work in one of three ways:

  1. Chemicals are used to break down the odor-causing molecules.
  2. Enzymes are used to “digest” the odor-causing proteins
  3. Fragrances, natural and/or chemical, are used to cover up the smell.

Since we all know that you can’t ever cover up the smell of cat urine and that we’d prefer to avoid chemicals, let’s take a look at products containing enzymes and other natural pet odor removers.

1) Simple Solution Natural Pet Stain and Odor Remover

  • Simple Solution has a pretty extensive line of traditional pet stain and odor removers, but they recently introduced a natural pet odor remover. They describe it as an “eco-sensitive stain and odor remover that combines renewable corn-based ethanol, plant-based cleansers and natural bio-cultures to remove tough stains and odors.” The line about renewable corn-based ethanol is stretching the natural claim slightly and is also somewhat insulting to your intelligence, but people rave about this product. Simple Solution Natural Pet Stain and Odor Remover is reported to work when all other natural pet cleansers failed. The after-smell is also supposed to be fairly pleasant.
  • Simple Solution website

2) Just for Cats by Nature’s Miracle

  • Nature’s Miracle is an enzyme based solution that works by “digesting” the protein found in cat urine. It’s one of the top-selling brands of stain and odor remover and gets heaps of accolades from cat owners. It works well, but usually requires more than one application to get rid of funky smells. However, a friend reported that the after-smell was itself a bit funky. They couldn’t tell if they were smelling cat urine or the cleaning product. The cat didn’t resoil the area, so it must have been the cleaning product. After several weeks, the smell from the odor remover finally dissipated.

3) wowgreen Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

  • Full Disclosure:  I’m an independent distributor for Wowgreen
  • wowgreen Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner uses enzymes to break down cat pee.  It’s non-toxic, all natural and comes in a reusable container.  What makes wowgreen unique is that they’ve figured out how to combine different enzymes together in one formula, whereas most enzyme cleaners only feature one enzyme.  A friend used the product on cat urine and said the smell was gone in about 15 minutes.  I’ve found it’s also very effective at removing stains  (of course, my cat doesn’t leave poop marks on the carpet, that’s someone else’s cat).  The product worked so well that I joined the company ;).  It also doesn’t have the funky cleaner smell that Nature’s Miracle has.
  • wowgreen website

4) Get Serious! Pet Stain, Odor and Pheromone Extractor

  • This is a non-enzyme based product that claims to be the only product that removes not just pet stains and odor, but also the pheromones that attract your pet back to the same spot. It’s biodegradable and its primary action is to “lift” the odor-causing materials out of your carpet. Reportedly, it leaves no detectable residue, even under a blacklight.
  • Get Serious! website

5) Natumate Pet Stain and Odor Remover

  • Made by Earth Friendly Products, Natumate uses “nature’s way” to remove pet stains and odors. The ingredients are pretty simple: coconut-based surfactant, purified water, enzymes, corn-derived alcohol and lemon oil. This product was also featured in the book, Green Clean by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin.
  • Earth Friendly Products website

6) Wee Cleaner Pet Urine Odor Remover

  • This product neutralizes urine, but contains no enzymes. It’s non-toxic, fragrance-free, dye-free, phosphate-free, and also biodegradable. What is unique about this product is that it claims to work even after you have tried other products such as enzymes or chemicals. Many of the enzyme-based products are reported to be less effective if you’ve already used a chemical cleaner, which “sets” the stain/odor. Wee Cleaner also leaves no fragrance. The main drawback is that it is for odor removal only, and you’ll need something else to remove the stain.
  • Wee Cleaner website

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  1. Share this post with your friends in case they ever have need of a solution for a private pet matter. Simply click the “Share” or “Share This” link at the end of this post.

Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.
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