Here is my interview with Scott Kelly from Gentle Earth cleaning products. We discuss cleaning product labelling, microfiber cloths and how using toxic cleaning chemical can be damaging for our health.
I am Helen from Green Wheel Cleaners. We are a non-toxic office cleaning company in Victoria BC and I am interviewing Scott Kelly from Gentle Earth Cleaning Products. We have been using his cleaning products for about 7 years for our office cleaning. I wanted to get together and ask him a couple of questions about his products and the importance of non-toxic cleaning.
My first question is; why is it so important that cleaning products are labelled for their ingredients?
In regards to product labelling, we have laws in Canada, that protect the consumer from the poisons that are present in some products. Some of the laws cover product labelling. For food products and skin care products, you will find that the manufactures have to disclose the ingredients; there are fines and product recalls if they don’t. Unfortunately, with the cleaning industry, there has been a lot of lobbying by chemical giants that don’t want you to know what is in their products. This is mainly because cleaning products are designed to clean and to disinfect, and so the question is; what is being used in the products to kill the bacteria? And those agents they are using, can they also harm you with prolonged exposure? To avoid being sued for causing cancer, if you don’t know what is on those products, you can’t turn around and sue SC Johnson Company for the Mr. Clean you have been using for the last 7 years to clean your kitchen.
We have a skin care line called Island Essentials, and both the Gentle Earth Cleaning line, and the skin care line have full disclosure of the ingredients. We have done the research to make sure we are using the greenest soaps, the greenest disinfectants and the greenest ingredients as possible, that also do a great job of cleaning, leave no trace and do no harm. That is really the mission of Gentle Earth. We started Gentle Earth Products in Victoria due to my concern for what goes down the drain, right through the sewage system, and into the ocean. We are slowly killing our oceans, so the products need to be safe for human use, to protect the health of the home, but also safe to protect the general environment.
When you don’t disclose the ingredients, what are you hiding? So many of these companies hide behind trade mark secrets, but the reality is that, when you use a cleaning product, you are directly exposed to it. If you have employees, you are responsible as an employer to try to keep your employees safe.
Then there is the aftermath; after you have cleaned with a product, it is going to leave a residue; it is going to off-gas. The product does not just disappear; it hangs out in the airspace in sealed offices. So the problem with cleaning products in particular is, if you are using toxic cleaning products and you are in a sealed environment, in order to be energy efficient; where there is not a lot of air exchange, then the chemical off-gases hang around in that space. Chemical A is hanging out in the air, and it combines in the air with chemical B. Do we know what Chemical A and B does once we breathe it into our system and it goes into our blood stream? That is where it gets really scary.
I believe that the government, at some point, is going to get backlash from consumers, because of the skyrocketing chemical sensitivities, asthmas and cancers that are definitely toxic product exposure related. Unfortunately cleaning products are some of the most toxic out there.
There is something that the industry does do, which is a MSDS sheets. These are produced through the manufactures best ability to conduct their own research. But they are not in the health and safety business; they are in the product selling business. The problem is, you are relying on a company to say “yes, this product is safe for your employees”, but they are the company that is producing it. I don’t buy anything that I don’t know what is in it. I think this precautionary principle is something that we need to be more aware of, and more demanding about, as we are stewards of our land, our bodies, our families and our employees’ health. People with chemical sensitivities are the canary in a coal mine. You may not be reacting to the chemicals that were used the night before in your workplace, but Nancy, may be sufferings silently.
And you also don’t know over time what effect it is having. You may not feel it the next day, but perhaps after a number of years in the same business and building, your body builds up high levels of toxins.
Yes, so we need to find companies that are using green products and support them, as we only have one planet and we are running out of time. It is really important to choose companies that are committed to environmental stewardship and to health stewardship. I have seen way to many illnesses through dealing with companies, hotels and institutions where people develop these strange diseases. They are often just let go from the workplace because they are sick, and that needs to change.
I know for myself, my employees are always surprised that they don’t have the reactions or symptoms they had in their previous employment, where they had been using toxic chemicals.
Most of the time, you don’t have to use an Easy Off oven cleaner to clean an oven. Most of the time you can use something like our Soft Scrub, that is baking soda based, with a microfiber scrubby pad, and a good degreaser like our Citrus Solution. The Citrus Solution is a combination of orange oil and decyl glucoside, which is an eco-cert soap. We blend the soap with the orange oil d-limonene, which is the active ingredient. That stuff will remove permanent marker. I find that sometimes the customers will pull out the concentrate bottle of Citrus Solution and use some of the concentrate when something is really stubborn. It is amazing what you can do with a combination of cleaners and microfiber cloths. These special microfiber cloths lock in all of the germs, bacteria, pathogen load and the dirt into the cloth. You can use them with just water or some benign cleaners and achieve the results that you would normally have with a toxic cleaner. That is where the technology of green has really advanced in the past 10 years.
I also find microfiber is more time efficient. Microfiber saves a whole lot of time. It is very effective and efficient.
Green cleaning these days is not about sacrificing. I converted Royal Roads University to Green Cleaning 10 years ago, and we were able to cut their cleaning time by 23%. We used microfiber and gentle soap cleaner over cotton and bleach. The results were much better with microfiber. We cleaned a public washroom for 6 months and then did a bacteria load test on it. We had better results than we did with cotton and bleach. The reason is that the chemical industries have certain frameworks for their disinfection criteria. You spray a surface and that surface should be saturated and sit for anywhere for 2 to 10 minutes to achieve the 99% disinfection rate. But normally what happens, due to time restraints, and laziness and poor technique is, you spray and you wipe. That is why we now have the problem of “super bugs”. That also goes for things like Triclosan. When you read “antibacterial soap” most of the time they are talking about this insidious antibacterial called Triclosan. Triclosan does not break down in our water streams and it develops resistance. It is horrible for our bodies, the environment, and the ocean; it continues to wreak havoc. If we can use natural soap products and technologies like microfiber to clean, then we don’t need to use these antibacterial products. In doing so, our own bodies’ protective mantels are maintained, whereas, if we strip all of the protective oils out of our skin, we compromise our systems and open ourselves up to a higher degree of exposure.
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