Various substances from cleaning agents get into the environment via the wastewater and pollute the ecosystems – tips for environmentally friendly spring cleaning from UBA expert (UBA = Federal Environment Agency) Marcus Gast.
What do I absolutely need for my spring cleaning?
No special cleaning agents are needed for the annual spring cleaning either. The classics such as all-purpose cleaners, washing-up liquid, bathroom cleaners and kitchen cleaners, including scouring milk, are completely sufficient to remove dirt from all wipe- and scrub-resistant surfaces. It is best to use special textiles made of microfiber. These act like a fine brush and support the cleaning process.
Why? Is this harmful to the environment or to health?
The use of disinfectants is normally not necessary. Cleaning the surfaces with a normal cleaning agent is usually sufficient to sufficiently remove any microorganisms present. Despite Corona*, nothing has changed about that. Disinfectant cleaners contain active ingredients to kill microorganisms. If these active ingredients, some of which are poorly biodegradable, get into the waste water, which is usually the case after cleaning, this places an unnecessary burden on the sewage treatment plants. Studies also show that allergies occurred more frequently in households in which disinfectants are used more frequently.
Products with strong, inorganic acids or alkalis work faster. However, the risk of chemical burns is also higher here. Sensitive surfaces may also be attacked by these aggressive cleaners. In any case, the following applies: As a precaution, read the instructions for use for all cleaners and observe any safety instructions.
How can I tell which ingredients are included? And what is that anyway?
Manufacturers must publish a list of all ingredients in a cleaning agent on the Internet. This list on the Internet is similar to the information on the ingredients of cosmetic products on the packaging. Here you can see which substances are listed as components. If they are high up in the list, then this is an indication of a relatively high concentration in the product.
A strong inorganic acid is, for example, hydrochloric acid, a strong inorganic base, for example, caustic soda. These aggressive substances are classified as “corrosive”. Important information about the ingredients is also given on the packaging. There you can find information on the preservatives and fragrances contained, for example.
Which seals and labels should I look out for, which ones are recommended?
Official environmental labels offer orientation and provide information on environmental and health protection. Detergents with the Blue Angel or the EU eco-label “Euro flower” are particularly recommended. All-purpose cleaners, washing-up liquid, bathroom cleaners and kitchen cleaners are available from various suppliers with such an eco-label. Compared to conventional products, these are particularly environmentally friendly and also have good cleaning performance. Incidentally, this is checked by an independent body.
But even with less environmentally harmful cleaning agents with eco-labels, you should pay attention to the dosage – because they are only actually more environmentally friendly than other products if the dosage is correct. The same applies here: less is more.
And how environmentally friendly are cleaning products that you make yourself, for example with baking soda, soda, lemon or vinegar? Is that an alternative?
“Do it yourself” (DIY) is in vogue. However, making your own cleaning product is no guarantee that the cleaning product will also be environmentally friendly. Baking soda or soda is a common ingredient in all-purpose or kitchen cleaners. Cleaners with acetic acid are also available. However, a combination of environmental impact, biodegradability and the amount used is decisive for the wastewater load. In the absence of clear dosing specifications, it is usually not possible to determine the waste water load of DIY cleaners.
With vinegar there is also the problem that the acetic acid it contains is a volatile organic acid and therefore a so-called VOC substance, which pollutes the indoor air. Cleaning agents with an eco-label therefore usually contain citric acid, because citric acid is non-volatile and also less aggressive.
Side notes, sources and further information:
*Regarding hygiene in connection with the corona virus, the UBA on the advice of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR):
General information on hygiene can also be found under hygiene in the private sector in our biocide portal.
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