Health-based cleaning is far bigger than cleaners we use, whether homemade recipes or store bought. And bigger than microfiber and HEPA vacuums. Based on my years in the health-based cleaning industry, I’m here to fill in some gaps. And share what’s often worked on the job.
A holistic approach to health-based cleaning
Health-based cleaning protects our health— short and long-term— with the least impact on the environment. Following are a few key elements to start with.
- Use the simplest, least-toxic cleaners and tools that work.
- Keep germs under control by keeping surfaces clean and dry. Then disinfect selectively.
- Work efficiently.
- Practice preventive measures.
- Handle and store any toxic products safely.
- Reduce indoor air pollution by ventilating, and gradually reducing sources.
- Reduce waste.
Use the simplest, least-toxic cleaners that work
Widely-available products we field-tested
- Here’s a short list of products we field-tested on the job. And a few specs I’ve screened for. We went with widely-available products, for educational purposes. And from locally-owned retailers. Disclaimer: Results may vary depending on your tools, techniques and surface types.
Eco-label products we haven’t tested
Look into eco-labelled products with 3rd-party certifications. Such certifications help brands develop and market healthier and greener formulas. Following are a few excellent certifications.
Choose products that have been certified through trusted third-party ecolabels: Green Seal, EcoLogo, Safer Choice (US Environmental Protection Agency). Try safer cleaning products recommended for City purchasing at SF Approved.San Francisco Dept. of the Environment
- For respiratory conditions, also check out SCS Global’s statement on the Allergy and Asthma Friendly Certified standard. SCS Global has long been a pioneering leader leader in third-party environmental and sustainability certification.
Use the simplest tools that work.
- To reduce costly waste, go with multi-purpose vs specialized tools, and non-disposables, when possible. So many cool new products I’ll be writing about! Between projects. 🙂
- Be on the lookout for chemical additives. Tools, like cleaners, can sometimes contain antibacterial ingredients that may not be proven to work. Or synthetic fragrances that can cause respiratory irritants, and may contain hidden ingredients. That’s just for starters— there may be more.
- Use cotton, linen cloths, or machine-washable bamboo wipes, when they work. They often do, and are simple to launder. And unlike microfiber, made with renewable materials.
- Use microfiber only when cotton, linen or bamboo doesn’t work. Follow the special laundering instructions on the package. Incorrect laundering damages microfiber. Permanently. Most consumers launder them incorrectly, by my observations. And keep in mind that laundering microfiber generates microplastics in waterways.
Safely keep germs under control
- Keep separate sets of supplies for your kitchen, bathroom and other rooms to prevent cross-contamination. Colorizing helps.
- Control germs and pests by keeping surfaces clean and dry. This creates conditions hostile to germs. Wipe up any standing water around sink areas, floors etc.
- Disinfect selectively. For example, if you’ve spilled raw meat juice, take care of that immediately. If someone in your home has an infectious disease— or you’re not sure— hit high-touch spots too, like light switches and faucets.
- Be aware of airborne infectious particles (next section).
Handle and store any toxic products safely
- Handle and store any toxic products safely. Then gradually replace unnecessarily-toxic products with least-toxic alternatives. You’ll be protecting everyone in your home— any hired help too. Learn how to spot toxic products from San Franciso Dept. of the Environment.
Reduce your exposure to indoor air pollution
- Ventilate. I’ve always opened windows on arrival at the job, to reduce airborne dust. When we can’t have windows open, air purifiers are running.
[2021/07/17 Update:]University of Colorado Boulder
- If you have a respiratory condition, have others clean whenever possible.
- Wear N95 respirators when you can find them, when not reserved for health care workers. Be sure you can fit them properly, and breathe in them easily. KN95 is the next best. When none of the above are available, try Baggu cloth masks that are very tightly woven, and have a nose wire. In my experience, so comfy!
- Do your “dry” cleaning before your “wet”. And clean from high to low. Airborne particles stirred up by dry cleaning settle onto lower surfaces. Wet cleaning takes it from there.
- Dust with a damp cloth vs dry duster. And a vacuum vs broom. When buying a new vacuum, go with true HEPA and sealed dust compartments.
- Learn more about indoor air contaminants.
Practice preventive measures.
- For example, use entry mats to stop tracked-in dirt; and leave shoes at the door.
- Clear out clutter to streamline cleaning. And to help prevent dust buildup and pests.
- In the kitchen “clean as you go”, because spills are easiest to wipe when fresh.
Don’t forget any furry friends.
Sophie, my feline Supervisor, assessed all new products I brought into her house. Including this pine-based litter brand I had her try, to help with her symptoms of Feline Asthma.
Accepted! Sophie’s asthma symptoms improved. Of course, other factors could have been at work.