There is a term within the cleaning industry known as ‘green washing’ and it explains the now common way that manufacturers fool people into thinking that their cleaning product is natural and therefore, safe and non-toxic. The big companies understand that the public have a pre-conceived notion of what is not only better for the environment, but also better in terms of health and safety. For this reason, they market their cleaning products in a way that make them seem to be natural. This is called green washing and is detrimental to the cleaning industry, because it takes away the authenticity and saturates all the hard work that the more ethical companies are putting in to their own cleaning product.
It also makes life confusing for the consumer because so many products now say the same thing and give off the same messages, but can they all be telling the truth? Well, the truth is that many are misinforming the public and therefore undermining the industry as a whole.
There are many other myths sold to the public consumer that may surprise you, some more than others.
The first being that chemicals are substances that pose a great danger to your health. The truth is that there are chemicals in all of us and all around the world in every crack and corner. There are trillions of chemical reactions happening all about us, but it seems strange that we should hone in on cleaning equipment as being harmful. Some substances that are artificial are harmful of course and should carry warnings, but there are harmful substances in natural products and elsewhere too which sometimes go unnoticed.
Another myth is that anything that carries the label ‘natural’ means that it is therefore safe. This is a falsehood however, and indeed, a chemical is a chemical, be it natural or artificial. The fact that something is natural does not classify it as being safe. There are numerous highly toxic natural chemicals. You only have to witness the poison that certain venomous animals contain, as well as some plants and minerals too. There are elements naturally found that are significantly dangerous to us, so the notion that natural substances are safe is something of a misnomer.
Furthermore, natural cleaning chemicals are no less safe for the environment than those made from non-natural sources. Also, natural chemicals may mean that they have had to have been part of a deforestation process to acquire them, and so are not always great for the environment too.
A further myth is that fragrances are irritants that can be harmful. The truth is that it is very uncommon that a fragrance acts as a strong irritant. This is because the actual fragrance is concentrated at extremely low concentration, just enough to be able to detect the smell. If someone is irritated by them, then it is probably due to an allergic reaction, and not because of any danger that the fragrance offers.
A big myth is that phosphates are a big danger to the environment. Even the word phosphate carries negative connotations, possibly due to certain high profile leaks into lakes and rivers that are picked up in the media and preyed upon. The truth is that phosphates help millions of farmers to grow their crops every year, and therefore help every one of us in the world. They can be harmful, but only in rare cases when concentration levels are higher than usual. For the most part, they are a fundamental part of helping our food chain.
Another myth is that dirt can travel through a floor and onto any given surface. This is an easy myth to debunk, and indeed it is not that the dirt can migrate vertically. It’s a simple reality that regular cleaning, even daily cannot ensure the cleanliness of a floor. Sometimes dirt can find a way onto your surfaces through missing a bit, or not using the best quality cleaning products, through abnormal air flow in one particular space, or other external factors.
The penultimate myth is that any amount of ingredient that is corrosive makes the entire product corrosive and therefore hazardous. This is not a true statement, as some corrosives at a low concentration will not be poisonous, so a thorough checking of the product is first required to judge it on its own merits.
Lastly is the myth that all germs can be eliminated by anti-bacterial products. Similar in vein to the green washing term, this is a simple tale of misinformation and savvy marketing to the public. By labeling a product as disinfectant or anti-bacterial, the makers need only to have a certain amount of the active anti-bacterial ingredient. Strangely, there is no set amount, so a product could have far less than another product and therefore not be doing what it suggests on the label. Yes, it will kill germs, but not all germs.