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Greener You

Why Green Cleaning Matters: Breaking Down the Importance of Eco-Friendly, Plant-Based Cleaning Products

It’s time to put down those chemical-based cleaning solutions and start using greener, cleaner formulas that are better for the environment and your own health.

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Do you have an array of chemical cleaning products hanging out under your kitchen sink and in your bathroom? You aren’t alone; by large, chemical cleaners are the most popular variety. After all, they’re effective at battling everything from bacteria and viruses to sticky messes and stubborn stains. But here’s the thing: While chemical cleaning products might be highly effective, they’re also so potent that they can have harmful long-term effects on your health and the health of the environment.

Just spritz a little of a chemical cleaning product on your kitchen countertop or your shower floor, and you’ll immediately smell just how strong those chemicals are. And all of the powerful cleansing agents used in chemical-based cleaners are still pretty unknown in terms of their health effects. 

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), while government agencies have closely followed the chemicals that may cause cancer, they aren’t evaluating those that might be toxic in other ways – like to your brain or nervous system. This means that the full range of risks of cleaning products isn’t yet known.  And there’s little in the way of federal regulations requiring safety tests or assessments on the potential long-term health consequences of chronic exposure to the chemicals in your cleaning products. 

But with the rise of cleaner, greener household goods, it’s becoming a whole lot easier to switch from these chemical-based products to plant-based alternatives. Unfortunately, plant-based cleaning products kind of have a bad rap – many people believe they’re less effective and expensive.

So, we decided to ask some experts whether these perceptions are true and why it’s so important to make the switch from traditional, chemical-filled cleaning products to greener, cleaner alternatives. Clean Eating connected with the founders of Therapy Clean, Anne Ruozzi and James Dudra, who have created a line of effective plant-based cleaning products for every inch of your home. 

Here’s what they had to say about the perks of plant-based cleaning solutions, both for you and the environment.

Chemical-filled cleaning products aren’t just common – a lot of people assume they’re more potent and effective. How do plant-based cleaning products like Therapy Clean measure up?

Unfortunately, the first generation of “green” cleaning products had a poor reputation, and rightly so. However, over the past decade there have been numerous innovations coming from manufacturers to improve overall efficacy while remaining plant-based. Our philosophy at Therapy Clean is that the performance needs to meet or exceed conventional products. Otherwise, what’s the point of making it, right? In addition to that we rely on several key properties to ensure that consumers will be satisfied with with the end product:

Soil removal

In other words, how easily can surface grime be removed with the least amount of effort. In order to accomplish this, we rely on plant-based surfactants (a fancy word for soap) that derive from bio-renewable sources such as corn, coconut and soy. These tiny little workers are what essentially loosen and lift away debris before you go in for the wipe. The surfactants many times can work in tandem with other materials that enhance their cleaning power. For example, we can use natural minerals such as sodium carbonate or citric acid to adjust the pH of a product and make it more potent for the specific surface it needs to clean.

Ease of use

Here, we rely on the “one wipe” methodology. No one likes to sit there endlessly scrubbing a pot, pan or appliance. So, what we do is ensure that consumers only have to wipe once to get the desired result.

Fragrance

Smell is such a critical component to any cleaning product. It can elevate your mood and even change the way you feel when you walk into a clean room. 

There exist two types of fragrances: synthetic and natural. Sometimes the two can be combined into a “hybrid”, but at Therapy Clean we rely on 100% natural essential oils. In fact, we’ve taken it a step further and incorporated fMRI data, which shows that our products evoke positive emotional states when using Therapy Clean because of the fragrance.

Shine

Lastly, many modern homes today have advanced surfaces that can shimmer and shine when they are clean. This includes glass cooktops, stainless steel refrigerators, and wooden cabinets. Traditionally, manufacturers would rely on petroleum solvents to bring out gloss. We’ve taken a different approach by incorporating natural coconut oil into many of our products, which has just as much (if not more) gloss after application. 

Let’s not be fooled, plant-based ingredients can be as powerful as harsher petroleum derivatives. Have you ever put vinegar on a small cut? Just because a formula is plant-based does not mean it is less powerful than traditional, non-plant-based cleaners. 

When looking at the composition of a plant-based formula, we still use surfactants; we still use solvents; we still use fragrances; we still use emulsifying agents… the difference is, that instead of using ingredients that are petroleum-derived, we opt for equally powerful ingredients that are percolated from organic, renewable sources, such as soy, corn, coconut oils, ethyl alcohols, or essential oils. But beyond the obvious benefits of having formulas made with renewable ingredients, at Therapy Clean we go above and beyond by choosing ingredients that benefit  and enhance your well-being, such as our new line of “mood-enhancing” everyday cleaners. 

Can plant-based cleaning products tackle household cleaning concerns like bacteria and viruses?

Yes, there are some unique plant-derived cleaning agents that can kill bacteria and viruses. One example of this would be the essential oil known as Thymol. Derived from thyme, this potent material can be found in several natural cleaning products which act as disinfectants. Thymol effectively disrupts the cell walls and membranes, causing the cell contents to eventually die.

Other similar raw materials which derive from plant sources  and act as powerful disinfectants include citric acid and ethanol. 

It should be noted that any cleaning products (plant-based or conventional) claiming to “kill” bacteria and viruses must be registered with the EPA. 

We know plant-based eating is good for the environment at large – but how do plant-based cleaners benefit the environment?

There are a few key benefits to using plant-based cleaners, including renewability, biodegradability and safety. 

By now, we all know that petroleum is a limited resource – yet many cleaning products continue to rely on it within their ingredient profile. However, plant-based cleaning products rely on renewables such as coconut, corn, and soy. When harvested responsibly, these are significantly better alternatives for the future. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because it’s “plant-based” it must be better. But, you have to take it a step further and look at the larger supply chain. Many companies will work with vendors who have committed to sourcing their plant-based products sustainability. For example, one such organization that exists is the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), which is an organization that focuses on the sustainable use of palm oil products. 

Secondly, plant-based cleaning products have a greater biodegradability profile than their conventional counterparts. Let’s take, for example, your average dish soap. Once it goes down the drain, it will either enter a waste-water processing plant or septic system. In either case, having raw materials that rapidly biodegrade puts less strain on the environment and the organisms they come in contact with.

Lastly is, of course, human safety. When we use cleaning products in our homes, we are essentially releasing various chemicals into our own mini-environment. Traditional solvent-based products can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which degrade indoor air quality and can lead to respiratory problems. In addition, many chemicals have been linked as carcinogens with long-term use. Alternatively, plant-based cleaners carry significantly less health-related concerns because of their inherent composition, which more closely mimics the natural world. 

What are, in your opinion, the biggest benefits of choosing and using plant-based cleaning products?

I would say there are several benefits to using plant-based cleaning products. First and foremost is the fact that our planet is in a perilous position if we don’t change the way we interact with it. That includes choosing what materials we are using in the products we buy. The fact that plant-based cleaning products are on-par performance-wise with conventional cleaners means that consumers no longer have to make the choice of picking something that works versus picking something that makes me feel better about the environment. 

Second, making a decision about what chemicals come into your home is more important than ever. Cleaning products interact with our bodies more than many of us realize. They interface with the air we breathe, the food we eat and the surfaces we touch. Consumers today can quite literally open an app on their phone to learn more about what’s inside the products they buy. Purchasing plant-based products ensures that potentially harmful chemicals stay outside of the home for good.

What are some of the key ingredients that we should look for in a quality plant-based cleaning solution?

  • Decyl glucoside: A workhorse surfactant (or soap) that is used in many hard surface cleaners.
  • Vegetable glycerin. Has natural moisturizing properties for products that need to re-nourish surfaces.
  • Citric acid: Naturally found in citrus fruits such as lemons/limes. Used to help adjust pH
  • Sodium carbonate: This naturally-occurring mineral helps boost cleaning power. 
  • Vinegar: A natural solvent, which can enhance cleaning power. 
  • Essential oils: Can be used to enhance the cleaning experience and evoke positive emotions.
  • Coconut oil: A natural gloss agent in polishes.

Alternatively, what are some of the biggest offenders (or not-at-all-clean) ingredients in traditional chemical-based cleaners that are problematic or worrisome?

  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Formaldehyde
  • Glycol-ethers
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Phosphates
  • Petroleum solvents
  • Synthetic fragrances

What sets Therapy Clean apart from other plant-based or “clean” cleaning products?

There is no doubt that COVID and the ongoing aftermath have had an impact on our wellbeing. As post-pandemic trends evolve, consumers are actively looking for ways to bring joy and positivity into their daily routines – including cleaning.

With that in mind, Therapy Clean is releasing the first line of wellness-inspired cleaning products that have been scientifically proven to improve consumer moods while cleaning. Backed by a groundbreaking fMRI study from the University of Geneva’s Brain + Behavior Laboratory, it was revealed that the same parts of the brain associated with positive emotions could also become activated with specific fragrance notes. Going beyond traditional aromatherapy, our products use “functional fragrances” that interface directly with the limbic system to evoke powerful shifts in emotional wellbeing. 

Therapy Clean is opening an entirely new category within cleaning by incorporating this ground-breaking fragrance technology within our new product range for 2022. Products include all-purpose cleaner, dish soap and glass cleaner.

[And] Therapy Clean is proudly woman-minority owned, USDA certified, Cruelty Free and Made in the USA. 

For more green cleaning ideas, keep reading: