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As a cleaning company owner I have a lot of concerns about the cleaning products on the market today. There has been lots of research and media attention over recent years about the detrimental effects that conventional toxic cleaners have on the environment. However, there has been less attention given to the effects these toxic cleaners have on our own health and wellbeing.

Studies have linked exposure to conventional cleaning products to asthma, cancer, fertility and reproduction issues, damage to red blood cells, damage to the liver, kidneys, lymphoid systems and the central nervous system. For more information about these studies and the harmful chemicals found in conventional cleaners.

So which household cleaning products are the safest to use? If buying a cleaning product from the store, look out for third party eco-certification labels like EcoLogo, EcoCert or Green Seal. You should also try to choose products that voluntarily disclose their ingredients.

Another option is to make your own cleaning products. Some of the main ingredients of homemade cleaners are distilled white vinegar, baking soda, castile soap and essential oils. One of the most amazing of these ingredients is vinegar. Not only is vinegar a very effective cleaner, it is non-toxic, biodegradable, readily available and CHEAP! What more could you ask for!

Vinegar as a household cleanerDistilled white vinegar brought in most stores is 5% acetic acid. Heniz produces a white vinegar they market specifically for cleaning.Heinz cleaning vinegaris 6% acetic acid and can be used for the tougher cleaning jobs. These vinegars are really cheap to buy, and for most of your cleaning needs it is best to dilute with water. This makes vinegar even more cost effective.

Why vinegar makes a good household cleaner

The antimicrobial properties of vinegar are associated with their acetic acid content.(1)Acetic acid is an organic acid that is able to cross the cell membrane of bacteria causing the cell to die.(1)  Acetic acid works best against Gram-negative bacteria, such as Shigella sonnei, Salmonella spp., E. coli, P. aeruginosa, and Yersinia enterocolitia.(1),(2),(3) These bacteria cause numerous illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis and food poisoning. Bacteria is also one of the main causes of bad odors. This means that the antibacterial properties of acetic acid make vinegar a very effective deodoriser. Although vinegar can have a smell of its own, the odor quickly dissipates. If you do not like in initial smell of vinegar, you can always add some essential oil, for 
example lemon or orange oil.  These oils not only leave a natural pleasant smell, but they have antimicrobial properties of their own.

Being an acid, vinegar works really well on alkaline based grime and buildup. For example vinegar is great at removing hard water marks, mineral deposits and soap scum.

DO’S and DON’TS of Cleaning with Vinegar

DO NOT – Mix vinegar with bleach. The combination produces chlorine gas, which is toxic.

DO – Use vinegar to clean your coffee maker. Use a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water and run it through your coffee maker. This will help remove any mineral deposits.

DO NOT – Use vinegar to clean stone counter tops such as granite or marble. Over time the acidic nature of the vinegar can degrade the countertop sealer and damage the stone.

DO – Use vinegar to deodorize: spray your toilet bowl liberally with of white vinegar. Leave for 15 minutes and then flush.

DO NOT – Use vinegar to clean hardwood floors, varnished or waxed surfaces. The acid will start damaging the finish with repeated use. It will dull the finish over time, and if it gets onto the wood will damage and discolor it.

DO –  Use vinegar to polish glass and stainless steel. Use a 1:4 solution of vinegar to water in a spray bottle. Polish with a microfiber cloth.

DO – Use vinegar to remove hard-water deposits on faucets and glass shower doors. Liberally spray white vinegar on hard-water stains or deposits. Leave for 15-20 minutes then wipe away. For heavy build-ups try warming the vinegar first and repeating the process.

If the purpose of cleaning is to create a healthier more pleasant environment in our homes and workplaces, then we have to ask ourselves why we would want to clean with products that harm our health. To learn more about green cleaning, contact Green Wheel Cleaners today!

1. Yang H, Kendall PA, Medeiros L, Sofos JN. Inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Salmonella typhimurium with compounds available in households. J Food Prot. 2009

2. Bjornsdottir K, Breidt F, Jr., McFeeters RF. Protective effects of organic acids on survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in acidic environments. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jan;72(1):660-4.

3. McKee LH, Neish L, Pottenger A, Flores N, Weinbrenner K, Remmenga M. Evaluation of consumable 
household products for decontaminating retail skinless, boneless chicken breasts. J Food Prot. 2005;68(3):534-7.

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