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Green Cleaning: The Basics

What, then, is green cleaning (or cleaning green)?

"It's a combination of products, equipment, and procedures," Bishop says. That means in addition to using products that are safe and environmentally friendly, we must also use non-polluting equipment and procedures.

When vacuuming, for example, he says that a good quality vacuum (which typically costs $250 to $300) together with a good filter will go a long way toward purifying the air and eliminating dust, soil, and residue.

Rathey says that steamed vapor cleaners are also an excellent investment. The best ones are expensive ($500 to $1,500), but they use one of the most effective cleaning products of all, hot water, and work on everything from dirty floors to greasy ovens. He also likes microfiber cloths and mops, which can remove high levels of soil and oil.

As for green cleaning procedures, Bishops emphasizes the importance of prevention. Following these steps, he says, will help keep dust, soil, and contaminants to a minimum and decrease the need for cleaning products:

  1. Use entry mats outside your home and always wipe shoes before entering. This will remove 83% of the abrasive soil that is tracked inside.
  2. Remove your shoes at the front door.
  3. Vacuum at least twice a week.
  4. Use a high-quality HVAC filter (not fiberglass) and change every month.
  5. Have your carpets professionally cleaned at least once a year by a qualified specialist.
  6. Get water leaks fixed immediately, to avoid mold.

Green Cleaning: Products

When it comes to products, there is no quick-and-easy formula for evaluating how green, or safe, they are. It all has to do with risk -- to ourselves and the environment -- Rathey says.

Arthur B. Weissman, PhD, is president and CEO of Green Seal Inc., a nonprofit organization considered to be the gold standard for "green certification." Green Seal awards their seal of approval to manufacturers who adhere to specific health and environmental standards -- a mark that many consumers have learned to look for when searching for green products.

Weissman says that "we should always try to use ingredients that are as harmless as possible," he says. "The less hazard overall, the less likely it is to have an adverse environmental or health effect."

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