The Truth Behind ‘Natural’ Cleaners

Most of us have, at some point or other, looked at the ingredients on a bottle of a cleaning product and wondered whether there is a better way of cleaning than the application of harmful-sounding chemicals with alarming warnings attached to them. The market for natural cleaners has grown substantially in recent years, and they’re more accessible than ever. But do they really work, and when might we have to use more traditional cleaning solutions? After all, hygiene is important, and it’s not something over which we can cut corners. 

What is Green Cleaning?

What we mean when we talk about ‘green cleaning’ could differ from person to person, but broadly speaking what we mean in this context is cleaning in a way that’s not just safe for people and safe for the environment, but that’s also sustainable for the planet in the long term.

Natural Cleaners vs Chemical Cleaners: Understanding the Difference

The difference between natural cleaners and chemical cleaners boils down to the ingredients they contain. Natural cleaners tend to be defined by both what they contain and what they don’t contain. Chemical cleaners contain synthetic chemicals which are known to be harmful to the environment, in particular – but not limited to – phosphates and chlorine. These chemicals are not only bad for the environment. They can be bad for you, too. There’s a reason why so many of them have warnings on the side of their containers. 

The efficacy of natural cleaners can vary, depending on what it is that you’re trying to clean. There are times when only chemical cleaners will work, and with the addition of warm water. This is because they’ve been specifically to produce enzymes which will break down the elements that make up substances at a molecular level. 

But this efficacy debate isn’t a one-way street. Natural cleaners tend to last longer than chemical cleaners, and are usually more gentle on the surface that you’re cleaning. For example, chemical cleaners can damage the transparency of glass, or decrease the shine or durability of a surface. 

And natural cleaning materials can do some heavy lifting. The best natural disinfectants include alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, hot water, and some essential oils. Evidence suggests that in some cases, many of these natural disinfectants can be as effective at killing germs as chemical cleaners like bleach.

The Limitations of Natural Cleaning Products

Although innovation is narrowing the gap, it remains the case that natural cleaning products can have limitations. Green cleaning materials can be less effective in removing dirt, grime, and stains compared to traditional cleaning methods. They can be less potent than traditional products, and this can lead to unsatisfactory results. This can be particularly problematic for commercial cleaning businesses that need to maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

A 2015 study by the Journal of Applied Microbiology has confirmed the efficacy of environmentally preferable cleaning materials by comparing the disinfectant effectiveness of three products – conventional bleach, environmentally preferable (EP) products, and do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions of distilled white vinegar, club soda, and tea tree oil – for cleaning effectiveness on two common household surfaces against two common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. 

They concluded that, “EP is an effective alternative to bleach. DIY may be an adequate alternative for cleaning ceramic and for household use, where complete elimination of microorganisms is unnecessary; however, it must be freshly prepared each day.”

Common Natural Cleaning Myths Debunked

There are many myths concerning natural cleaning, which act as arguments both for and against them. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths surrounding them and establish what the facts are. 

Myth: Green Cleaning Products Are Ineffective

One common misconception is that green cleaning products are not as effective as their conventional counterparts. People often worry that eco-friendly cleaners won’t get the job done when it comes to removing dirt, grime, and germs.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many green cleaning products are formulated to meet or even exceed the cleaning power of traditional cleaners. They contain active ingredients that are specifically designed to break down dirt and bacteria without causing harm to the environment or your health. Some green cleaning solutions can be just as effective in removing tough stains and disinfecting surfaces.

Myth: Natural cleaning products are always safe

The idea that natural ingredients are inherently safe is a widespread misconception. People tend to assume that if a product is labelled as “natural” or “organic,” it must be harmless. But this isn’t the case. While many natural ingredients are safe for cleaning, some can be toxic or irritating. It’s essential to read product labels carefully and research the ingredients used. Some natural substances, when combined or used improperly, can pose health risks. Always prioritise products that have been certified by reputable organisations before using them.

cleaning detergent being sprayed on a door handle

Myth: Green cleaning products are more expensive

It remains the case that some believe that choosing green cleaning products are always considerably more expensive and come with a price tag that they can’t afford. While it’s true that some green cleaning products may be more expensive than their conventional counterparts, it’s also important to consider the long-term savings and benefits. Many green cleaning solutions are concentrated, meaning you can use less product for the same results. You can often find affordable and effective DIY green cleaning recipes using common household items like baking soda and vinegar.

Myth: All cleaning products labelled as ‘eco-friendly’ are equally so 

There are numerous eco-labels and certifications on cleaning products, and it can be confusing to decipher their meanings. Worse still, the unfortunate truth is that ‘greenwashing’ (the practice of inflating the environmental credentials of products to give the impression that they’re more eco-conscious than they actually are) remains all too real. Not all eco-labels hold the same weight. Some certifications have strict criteria for evaluating a product’s environmental impact and safety, while others may be less rigorous. To make informed choices, familiarise yourself with reputable eco-labels. 

Myth: You can’t disinfect effectively with natural products

A common misconception is that green cleaning products can’t effectively disinfect surfaces, especially during times when sanitation is crucial. Many green cleaning products contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide or citric acid that have disinfecting properties. When used correctly, these products can effectively kill bacteria and viruses, providing a safe and eco-friendly way to maintain a clean and sanitary environment.

Why the Effectiveness of Natural Cleaners Varies

There are several different factors which can affect the effectiveness of natural cleaning products: 

  • Elbow grease: When cleaning materials have milder ingredients, they may need more effort on your part to achieve the same results as harsher chemicals. 
  • Regularity of cleaning: different substances require different levels of regularity of cleaning. How effective any natural cleaner works will in part depend on how often you use it, though it should be remembered that natural cleaning products tend be effective for longer than chemical-based ones. 
  • How deep do you want your clean?: The likelihood is that deep cleaning will require chemicals of one sort or another. Bear that in mind, when deciding whether to use natural cleaners or not. They are better suited for mild cleans than deep, sanitising cleans.
woman in hashtag clean uniform wiping a kitchen counter clean

How to Make an Informed Decision About Cleaning Products

There are different factors that you should take into account when choosing which cleaning products to use. You’ll need to consider what it is that you’re cleaning and how deep you want that clean to be. In this respect, it’s important to give consideration to both natural and chemical based cleaning products. 

It’s also important to be mindful of issues relating to health. Chemical based cleaning products may clean quicker, but this can come at a cost. You don’t have to drink liquid cleaners to ingest them. Fumes from some cleaning materials have been proven to be able to cause asthma attacks. The most common form of ingestion can be accidental, for example breathing in the mist that comes from a spray bottle. 

If you have pets or children, you’ll need to be more careful still. Not only should any chemical cleaners always be stored well out of the reach of children, but you should also bear in mind that even if you don’t get irritated by some cleaning products, others around you might be. 

And cost can be a factor that you should take into account. Natural cleaning materials aren’t always more expensive than chemical-based ones, but what matters is getting the right material for the job that you need to perform, and not the most expensive one. Overspending on anything is seldom a good idea. 

While there are many benefits to using eco-friendly cleaning products, there are times when these products are not the ideal option for the type of clean needed. For mild cleans in household and workplaces green cleaning products are often the perfect choice. But if a more in depth clean is needed for a property with a high footfall standard cleaning products are the best option. Cost matters. Safety is absolutely crucial, too. But the most important thing to remember here is that reaching an acceptable level of hygiene for the job that you’re doing has to take as much of a priority as anything else. 

And if you do need a deep clean, we may be able to help. We have been offering bespoke services that meet the varying and wide ranging needs of businesses, both for their own workspaces and their property portfolios, since 2014, and if you think that this is what you need, whether it’s end of tenancy or office cleaning, contact us today and we’ll get you a quote. 

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