Conventional cleaners: Eco-toxicity and Substitutions

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The motivation behind purchasing a cleaning product is only cleanliness regardless its constitutional components whether they are safe or hazardous. Our health is getting secondary priority in our overburdened, busy and haphazard life. Glitter of material things like drains, toilets, floor, furniture, window screen, electronic appliances, carpets, automobiles plastic goods is given more importance without caring their dark and ugly shadows on the environment. Different kinds of cleaning products such as polishes, specific toilet cleaners, bleach, bleaching agents, detergents and disinfectant chemicals are being used around the clock in our daily life. These products contain a variety of toxic chemicals which pose serious risk to environment. The household cleaners contains such as sodium bisulfate, oxalic acid, 5- Dimethyldantoin, hydrochloric acid, phenol, potassium hydroxide (KOH), sodium hydroxide (NaOH), ammonia, sulfuric acid (H2SO4), ethylene glycol and wiper fluid, cationic and non-ionic chemicals etc. A careful handling is needed, if we use these chronic cleaners. The chemicals comes in contact to humans and animals by accidental exposure, direct ingestion, oral exposure, skin contact, eyes splash, mix with animal feeds etc.  When these chemicals are touched, inhaled or ingested cause chronic diseases in humans as well as in other animals. In 2000, U.S reported that cleaning products contribute toxicity in the environment about 10%. Children are more prone to these chemicals.

Some of the chemicals have short term effects like skin irritation or irritation in respiratory track and watery eyes while other of them have long term effects which may even cause cancer, asthma, chest infection, kidney damage and blindness etc. For example toilet bowel cleaner contains a verity of toxic compounds such as sodium bisulfate, oxalic acid, 5- Dimethyldantoin, hydrochloric acid and phenol. Sodium bisulfate produces sulfuric acid which is corrosive and causes skin burn. Oxalic acid causes kidney and liver damage, irritation in eyes and respiratory tract and also corrodes stomach and mouth. 5- Dimethyldantoin forms hypochlorite in water which is highly corrosive for skin and mucous membrane. Fumes of hydrochloric acid are extremely corrosive and cause skin burn. Phenol can cause depression in central nervous system, sever infection in circulatory system and also cause skin damage. Phenol also causes cancer in humans. Lye (consisting of either potassium hydroxide KOH or sodium hydroxide NaOH) presents in oven cleaners which are highly corrosive strongly causes skin and eye burning, if accidently swallowed may be cause of fatal diseases. In windows and glass cleaners, ammonia is present, which is a cause of irritation in respiratory system and mucus membrane if inhaled. It can also cause skin burns and rashes. When it is mixed with chlorinated compounds produces chloramine gas which is highly toxic. In drain cleaner lye (sulfuric acid H2SO4 or sodium hydroxide NaOH) is present which is capable for seriously skin burn. If this chemical comes in contact with eyes cause blindness. The use of bleaching is very common for washing clothes. In household bleach sodium hypochlorite present which is responsible for irritation and damaging respiratory system and skin if spilled or inhaled. It is recommended that never bleach mix with ammonia or drain cleaner otherwise dangerous and deadly fumes may be produced. A variety of cationic and non-ionic chemicals are present in laundry detergents, ingestion of cationic chemicals cause vomiting, nausea, convulsion or coma whereas nonionic detergent cause irritation. Windshield contains very toxic chemicals such as ethylene glycol and wiper fluid which are very toxic to touch. Swallowing of ethylene glycol cause heart, brain and kidney damage or even death occurs. Inhalation may cause dizziness. Similarly other cleaners which are used for different cleaning purposes contain toxic chemicals in them.

Telling about hazardous effects of these chemicals does not mean that we should not be clean our goods, rather we are in the favor of cleanliness. As cleanliness is the part of our faith also. Islam emphasizes us to be clean. We may clean our homes by using simple means of cleaning. We should use those substitute of toxic chemicals which are Eco friendly and can be easily prepared at our homes. For example, for window cleaning take ½ teaspoon of liquid soap, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 cups of water. Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle and use as a cleaner.  It is also able to remove wax residues from windows. Oven cleaner can be prepared by using following method. Take 1 cup or more baking soda, a squirt or two of liquid soap and water. Now sprinkle the water over bottom of the oven cover the surface with baking soda so that it seems totally white. Sprinkle some amount of water again and let it set over night. In the next morning wipe up the baking soda and remaining residues can be removed by using a bit of liquid soap. For toilet cleaning, take 1 cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda. Mix these ingredients and pour them into the basin and wait for a few minutes, scrub residues with brush. Similarly for drain cleaning, use ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of vinegar and pour them in to the drain. After 15-20 minutes, pour some boiling water to remove the residue. To remove carpets strains, take equal amounts of water and vinegar in spray bottle. Sprinkle directly on carpet, wait for 20-30 minutes and clean with sponge or brush along with warm soapy water. For grease spots, corn starch should be used. Furniture polish can be prepared by using ¼ cup of vinegar and ½ teaspoon olive oil. Mix them in glass jar properly, and dip a piece of soft cloth into the solution and wipe it onto surface of wood. This mixture may be stored for next time use.

The cost of eco-friendly cleaners is much lower in comparison to market cleaners. The health hazards relating to house making cleaners is up to zero. By using these Eco-friendly cleaners we can remove toxic chemicals from our homes and make the environment clean.

This article is collectively authored by Hafsa Kiran1, Muhammad Irfan2*, Zahoor Ahmad3
1Department of Pharmacy, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan
2School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, PR China
3Department of Life Sciences (Botany), The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan


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