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Making Safer Choices for Your Home – What Does This Actually Mean?

Every Product Counts

Now, more than ever, consumers are more aware of the safety of the products they bring into their homes. From the materials used in their flooring and the paint on their walls to the foods in their kitchens and the cleaning products under the sink, people are making more thoughtful, safer choices. So much is at stake!

We are hearing more and more about the toxicity of many of the products we’ve been using on routine. Thanks to the influx of information, we are starting to ask plenty of questions. What ingredients are in these products and are they harmful to us, our families, our pets and our environment? Are there safer options?

Fortunately, yes! People can make safer choices and still get the same cleaning power as the more toxic formulas, and in some cases, even better. For every toxic product that you replace with a “better for you” product, you’re actively removing measurable risk from your home.

Home Sweet Home

According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, we spend nearly two hours of our time every day at home engaging in activities that require cleaning products, namely:

  • Food preparation and cleanup
  • Interior cleaning
  • Laundry

We are also in our homes more than ever, thanks to home offices. In 2019, a government report found 24 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home, up from 19 percent in 2003. When combined with sleep, meals, entertaining, and leisure activities, we spend a significant portion of our days inside our homes. Ensuring the air we breathe for all of those hours is as clean as possible may be more important than worrying about the outside air. Did you know that indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air?

The point of sharing these stats is to illustrate just how exposed we are to potentially harmful ingredients lurking in the products we regularly come into contact within our homes. Every time you wipe down your counters, wash your dishes, do a load of laundry or clean a shower, you’re being exposed to toxic chemicals from those cleaning products. Some of the most well-known brands have ingredients proven to cause asthma, skin irritation and rashes, hormone disruption and even cancer, just to name a few.

Removing those risks from our homes is as easy as making a safer choice. Today is a great time for consumers, with plenty of safer options readily available in most grocery, big box stores and online sources. In fact, many stores are devoting considerable shelf space for non-toxic cleaning products, products that contain safer ingredients like citric acid.

Do Safer Products Work as Well?

One of the biggest questions consumers have before they make the switch to non-toxic cleaners is if the safer choice options actually work. Nielsen reported that 61 percent of survey respondents said cleaning product efficacy is the most important factor in whether they buy a product. Clearly, these safer options have to perform similarly or better or consumers won’t buy and use them.

One of the most effective ingredients in non-toxic cleaners is citric acid. Citric acid is really effective at dissolving soap scum, calcium deposits, rust, and hard water stains, plus it makes the detergents in the cleaner work better. The citric extracts are completely natural and used in many products besides cleaning products. For cleaning purposes, citric acid is quite powerful. The extracts condition the water by binding up the hard minerals in water that inhibit cleaning and cloud glass and appliances. It also binds to grease and grime ions and breaks them down.

The EPA’s Safer Choice Label

It’s an interesting fact that our foods and beverages must reveal ingredients but our cleaning products do not. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) and the FDA require food manufacturers to label their products with nutrition information, including a list of ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight. These regulations frequently change and it is up to the manufacturer to be up to date with the legal requirements for food labeling.

Not so with household cleaning product manufacturers, at least not yet. It’s up to the consumer to know what’s in the products. This isn’t always as easy as reading the product label. With most traditional brands, in particular, ingredient lists are frequently non-existent. Few manufacturers choose to list their ingredients on their labels or on their product websites.

How are consumers supposed to make safer choices if they don’t know what ingredients are in their cleaning products? The EPA has stepped in to help.

The EPA established their SaferChoice labeling and database to, as they say, “help consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment.” The database enables users to browse the full product listing and safer chemical ingredient list of products they deem a safer choice. It’s an easy way for people to find non-toxic products they can use in place of more traditional brands. Their website covers products that span every type of cleaning need, including all-purpose cleaners, car care products, dish soaps, floor cleaners, laundry products, and tub and tile cleaners.

Going even further to help consumers, the EPA allows manufacturers who adhere to their non-toxic guidelines to use a SaferChoice-certified label on their packaging. The EPA’s intent is that consumers who see this label on a cleaning product will not need to take the time to search the database. Instead, they can quickly and confidently identify safer products while they shop.

Make The Safer Choice

Consumers are finally armed with knowledge. For many, it will be difficult to continue to purchase known toxic products when they understand the danger and the new availability of safer cleaning alternatives. Traditional brands may see their sales plummet over the coming years unless they either alter their formulas to remove toxic chemicals or continue to invest in safer brands to offer consumers a safer option.

Thankfully, consumers don’t have to wait for manufacturers to listen and make such changes. Non-toxic, highly rated cleaners are easy to find. Now, the challenge is to discover which non-toxic cleaners are the best. Just like with traditional brands, everyone will have their favorite, but it’s worth the time to do the research. Read labels to see if ingredients are listed, check those ingredients and the brands on the EPA’s SaferChoice website, and visit manufacturers’ websites. There you will find what company is behind each product.

For some, knowing a manufacturer makes both toxic and non-toxic products is disheartening. They want to support brands that care about their consumers, all of them and want only the best for their health. They want to get behind companies who are as conscious of their impact on their customers as they are their bottom line.

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