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Green Cleaning: Cleaning Products Safe

Brian Sansoni, vice-president of communications for the Soap and Detergent Association, said creating lists of supposed “bad” chemicals isn’t helpful for consumers. “The most important information on the label is the product safety and usage information.  Real problems arise really only when these products are improperly used or improperly stored.”

Sansoni said that companies do a lot of research before developing products to make sure they are safe. “These products are formulated to be safe when used as directed,” he said.

He added that consumers should be wary of terms such as “green” and “natural” because they are marketing, and not scientific terms. “When they hear all the green marketing information, we recommend that they look closely at it. Is it a brand you trust?  If you have questions, call the company.  Go to the website.  We don’t believe that some unscientific interpretation of what is green and what is not helps consumers all that much,” Sansoni said.

Green Cleaning Products: What to Look For

So what is safe? And is natural always better?

"Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's good for your health," Weissman says. "Arsenic is a natural element, but you don't want to have that much around you. You have to look at each individual ingredient and its whole profile -- not just where it was derived from."

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers -- yet.

Anne Maczulak, PhD, author of The Five Second Rule and Other Myths About Germs: What Everyone Should Know About Bacteria, Viruses, Mold, and Mildew, says that although chemical disinfectants are registered with the FDA, green ones are not, which means their effectiveness can be an issue.

"Green disinfectants do kill some germs, but probably not as many and not as fast," she adds. "I wish I could say that they were, but they're not quite as good."

Last year, the New York Times reported on the quest for green cleaning products by environmentally conscious restaurateurs. Their consensus? Quality green cleaning products are out there, but you may well end up with a closet full of them before finally finding what works best.

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