"Natural" Seems To Have Many Meanings 

Arriving At a Realistic Green Cleaning Policy:  Part 5

Natural cleaning products are fine, but sometimes the definition depends upon an agenda.


Chemical compounds used in “natural” cleaning solutions may be derived from organic sources rather than petroleum, which is more common.  Whatever the source, the chemical structure is the same.  “Natural” cleaning products may have the same chemical compounds as non-natural products with man-made ingredients.


It is a myth, then, to consider “natural” cleaners safer than commercial products if both have the same chemical compounds.  If a natural cleaner does not have essential compounds, the quality of cleaning and elimination of dangerous microorganisms may be compromised.


While a great deal can be said for lemons, vinegar, baking soda, and homemade recipes, overall they lack the strength to readily remove soiled surfaces, especially to the degree necessary to prohibit quick attraction of insects, bugs, and to discourage rapid re-growth of microorganisms. Certainly homemade cleaning solutions lack the antibacterial properties that kill or maintain germs at a safe level. 


As for the safety of natural and plant-based cleaners, White Glove has studied many such products.  All have warnings against abuse and ingesting the solution. Many contain surfactants, solvents, and other chemicals. Most have warnings about misuse and first-aid instructions.


We feel that a “green” cleaning product that advertises one or two natural ingredients, but does not mention its chemical ingredients is just as deceptive as those who say that chemical-based cleaners should be avoided because one or two ingredients are “toxic” if used irresponsibly not according to directions.

"It's Not Natural Unless It's Found in Nature."  These Ingredients Are Not.

As we have said, unless a cleaning agent is a pure plant or mineral, it has chemical compounds.  A great deal of what is said to be "natural" is not.

The following are ingredients in a general-purpose cleaner that is part of a line of natural cleaning products approved by one of the most respected organizations that oversees and certifies green cleaning materials.  Research these ingredients; we have given a brief summary of what is commonly said about these ingredients by sources that we cannot certify as credible.


  • PEG cocomonium chloride—this is a Polymer derivative that is known to affect the development of cancer, reproduction and fertility, birth or development, and has  organ system toxicity.


  • Laureth-6—Polyoxyethers of lauryl alcohol are indicated with a number that indicates the average number of units of ethylene oxide in the molecule. This is a surfactant that some are concerned due to skin irritation properties.  When absorbed into the body, it mimics the hormone Oestogen.  At elevated levels this hormone can cause a variety of health problems from PMS and severe menopausal symptoms and breast cancer in females to decreased fertility in males.


  • Potassium carbonate—Drugs.com lists as a poison that can cause severe abdominal pain, a drop in blood pressure, breathing difficulties due to swelling of the throat, collapse, diarrhea, and severe mouth and throat pain.


  • Potassium hydroxide–Commonly called “caustic potash,” this is a caustic compound of strong alkaline chemicals. Potassium hydroxide along with sodium hydroxide (lye) are considered the two most important caustics; both has similar properties and applications.  Potassium hydroxide is used in the manufacture of various chemicals, fertilizers, phosphates, alkaline batteries and dyes.  It has an NFPA health rating of “3,” a corrosive or toxic warning including advice to avoid skin contact or inhalation.


  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate—A surfactant that some consider a poison that is moderately toxic by ingestion and a human skin irritant.  It is known to produce allergic reactions.


With all these questionable chemical ingredients, why has the cleaner been given a green “seal of approval?”  In our chemical-saturated society, chemical compounds have enhanced almost everything.  As we have said, the ingredients are not in lethal amounts, and when used responsibly, the product will pose no harm. 

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