In recent decades, the idea that our homes need to be completely free from dust, mould, dirt and bacteria in order for us to enjoy good health has been widely propagated. Germs are deadly. At least, this is what most large commercial cleaning product manufacturers would have you believe. Clever marketing campaigns using exaggerated claims and pseudo-science aim to make us believe that exposure to bacteria for a fraction of a second is likely to result in sickness… or even death. Large corporations behind the production of household cleaning supplies use this kind of scaremongering to sell hundreds of different cleaners, bleaches and disinfectants to an increasingly paranoid public. They create terrifying issues in adverts telling you about exaggerated risks from germs and bacteria; then sell you the answer to your newly formed prayers in the form of germ killing sprays. But, what really is the risk? And do these sprays help or hinder matters? Read on to find the answers.
Most people would not have the faintest idea that deadly bacteria was lurking all around them if they had not read or watched the ads created by cleaning product manufacturers – and the reason for that is simply that they are not. In fact, the chemicals contained in the products we buy to clean our homes are far more dangerous to our health and the environment than any form of dirt, mould, mildew, grime, and most common strains of bacteria. What’s more – in using these chemical cleaning products to sterilise our homes, we effectively weaken our immune systems while at the same time increasing various bacteria’s resistance to disinfectants. It’s a double whammy: we become more susceptible to infections, as the germs that cause these infections become harder to kill. Ironically, the result is that the world portrayed in the commercials where we constantly have to worry about deadly bacteria is coming closer and closer to reality the more we use the products designed and marketed as the solution to disarm the threat.
In answer to the risks to the environment inherent in using chemical disinfectants and bleaches, some companies have begun to develop eco-friendly alternatives. Or… at least, that’s what they tell us. A whole host of ‘green’ cleaning products have been developed by various brands. Their claim is that they are preferable to chemical products because they contain natural ingredients. The sad truth is that only a handful of these products are genuinely better for the environment than the chemical products that came before them. Many contain high quantities of naturally occurring chemicals (natural ingredients) such as nitrogen and phosphates. As these swirl down our drains, they enter water-ways in much higher concentrations than they would naturally occur – with drastic effect. (For more info on these see our previous post). The effect these eco-cleaning products have on our health also leaves much to be desired.
The reason that these chemicals are added is the continued belief that we need to disinfect everything. The chemicals kill germs. As we have seen above though, this may not be for the best. In fact, the threat posed by unseen germs in a normal home is very low. Simply keeping surfaces cleaned down regularly; washing our hands after touching food, stroking animals or using the bathroom; and not leaving food to rot will prevent any danger to your health. The good news is that there are some eco-friendly cleaning products that really live up to the hype. These can be purchased at supermarkets and will keep your home clean and fresh, while posing a minimal risk to your health or the environment. To recognise these products, check the label for information about what they contain. If no specific details are provided, avoid buying the product; if the company had nothing to hide and were truly trying to make a difference they would let you know by listing what their product contained. As long as the product does not contain bleach, phosphates, peroxides, or VOCs it is likely to be a good choice. Many genuine eco-friendly products will contain essential oils such as tea tree or lemon.