In this age of "green" technology and environmental concerns, more and more people are researching alternatives to the standard toxic household cleaners that you find an most store shelves. These alternatives include "natural" soap products that are becoming easier to locate, especially through use of the Internet. A quick Google search will bring up thousands of web sites discussing or selling these products and telling us that they are completely safe to use.
But, if you are looking to replace existing toxic products how do you know how safe the alternatives really are? Let me give you five ideas.
First, the colloidal micelle products are made from natural organic ingredients. In some cases there may be man made chemicals added in very minute proportions in order to satisfy customer needs. For example, a few drops of tea tree oil may be added to add disinfectant properties to the cleaner. But, these additives must be named in the list of ingredients found in the MSDS form created by the manufacturer. We will look at this MSDS in depth later.
Second, tests have shown that natural ingredients are always more effective and safer than their manmade counterparts. For example, a detergent is defined as "a synthetic (manmade) washing agent that helps to remove dirt and oil" while soap is defined as "a cleansing agent made from the salts of vegetable or animal fats". The synthetics mentioned in the first definition consist of materials such as solvents, abrasives, corrosives, caustics, combustibles, and a host of other pollutants that degrade our water and air. The ingredients found in soap include items such as animal or vegetable oils (fatty acids), vegetable and plant-based enzymes and minerals (surfactants), organic alcohol, coconut oil, and purified water. Which product sounds safer to you...detergent, or soap?
Third, a common measurement of safety is a warning label known as the HMIS (Hazardous Materials Identification Method) Diamond label. It must be shown by law on any product that contains even small amounts of hazardous material. This label consists of 4 diamond shaped boxes that are titled Health, Fire, Reactive, and Other. A number is placed in each box to display how severely the product affects that titled property. The numbers run from 0 for No Effect to 4 for Severe Effect. If you see this label on a product it will give you an indication of safety. If there are "0"'s in every box that indicates the product is completely safe. Most commerical cleaners have at least a "1" shown in the Health box and a "2" shown in the Reactive and Fire boxes. Truly natural cleaners will have a "0" in every box.
Fourth, there is a form known as the MSDS, which stands for Material Safety Data Sheet, that you can request for any cleaner you wish to use. It may not be readily available because many cleaner manufacturers don't want you to see it. If you cannot even get one for a specific cleaner you wish to use, or can't find it shown on their website, you are probably better off not using that cleaner. The MSDS form has a lot of information in it but the most important data are those which list ingredients. The law requires that ANY hazardous material be shown by it's chemical name and percentage of use. It must also provide information on the 4 risk factors mentioned in the HMIS paragraph above. And, it will tell whether or not you must wear protective clothing to use the product. All of these factors together will give you an idea of whether or not you wish to use that product in your home.
Fifth, and finally, look at the label. You will find that most commercial cleaners will have a warning to "Keep out of the reach of children". That alone should indicate that there must be some real safety concerns if your children can't be in close proximity to the product. Most of the truly natural colloidal micelle cleaners will not have that warning on them because they are completely safe for adults, children, pets, plants and wild animals. Those are the cleaning products you should consider using if personal safety and environmental factors concern you.
(For more information please contact the author at the website shown below)
Dr. Douglas Bryce
Material Sciences Manager