Spring cleaning naturally
Journalist Lucy Bode from realestate.com asked Bondi Wash CEO Belinda Everingham about natural cleaning, which ingredients to avoid, why it's important to switch and where to start. Read the full interview below:
1.) Why is it so important to opt for natural products when cleaning?
The problem with many conventional cleaning products is the ingredients in them. They won’t be listed on the bottle, making them hard to avoid. But most of us can smell how bad they are—and what’s behind the smell is the real issue. The research is building that these ingredients cause damaging health and environmental issues. Companies will continue to use them until they bow to consumer pressure or the ingredients are outlawed. The science required to prove the link between the ingredient and the health or environmental effect can be slow to prove conclusively—so companies continue to use them until the science and then the law catches up. Some of these ingredients have already been banned or restricted overseas with Australian regulations lagging behind.
2.) Which ingredients should consumers specifically aim to avoid and why?
Here are some of the worst offenders you’ll find in many traditional cleaning products:
- Synthetic surfactants are the ‘soaps’ in the products like dish washing liquid, laundry liquid, cleaning sprays. They are extremely common and can cause damage to lungs. They typically don’t degrade so affect aquatic life and the environment downstream.
- Phosphates make water softer but go through to the oceans and starve fish of oxygen, also creating algal blooms and contributing to greenhouse gases. Look for phosphate free dishwasher and laundry powder if possible.
- Triclosan and QATS are ingredients found in ‘antibacterial’ products and should be avoided as they each don’t degrade causing downstream environmental damage and are helping create antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Chlorine is found in toilet bowl cleaners, mould removers, laundry whiteners. It is toxic if inhaled with potential long-term health consequences including cancer.
- Ammonia is found in glass cleaners and can cause burning of the nose, throat and lungs.
- Phthalates is another one you won’t see listed but it’s found in synthetic fragrance which is the scent in most cleaning products and is a known hormone disruptor.
- Preservatives that are known to be toxic include methylisothiazolinone (MIT/CMIT) which caused the death of 100 people in Korea 5 years ago through its use in a humidifier cleaner. It’s now outlawed in Korea in spray products, but not Australia.
We have a journal article which details the ones we avoid: https://bondiwash.com.au/blogs/news/the-hidden-toxins-in-the-home.
3.) Your products contain natural botanicals, can you tell us a little more about these?
All of our products are 99-100% derived from nature. Ingredients include soaps derived from plants like coconut, alcohol derived from sugar, essential oils including Australian native oils and nourishing ingredients like aloe vera and vitamin E. The <1% synthetic are preservatives that are gentle enough to eat (food grade).
4.) How can consumers best incorporate essential oils into their cleaning routine?
Essential oils have great properties on their own. I use any of the citrusy oils to remove permanent marker or ink stains for example. Mixed with soap and alcohol as they are in our Bench Sprays for example, they are extremely effective at removing stains, killing germs and keeping things fresh.
Another great property of some essential oils – especially the Australian natives - is they repel insects. We have had feedback that since using our products people have fewer cockroaches and ants inside the home. The Lemon Tea Tree & Mandarin scent is especially good for this.
5.) Do plant-based cleaning products work just as well as chemical-based alternatives?
We certainly get feedback from customers that they do work just as well, but people don’t expect them to. You simply do not need the chemicals that most commercial cleaning products contain. You can get the same if not better results naturally. Our Bench Sprays for example have been independent lab tested and meet the standard ‘kills 99.99% of germs’. This means they are removing the nasty bacteria like ecoli and staph.
Before I started Bondi Wash I did try some of the supermarket natural products and found them less effective. It is possibly because the natural ingredients are actually many times more expensive than synthetic. So to make them at supermarket prices they are perhaps very diluted – so they didn’t work so well.
6.) What are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to natural cleaning products?
Many of the ‘natural’ alternatives in the supermarket are not so natural unfortunately. Without legislation requiring ingredients lists it is hard to know exactly what’s in them. California has just this week proposed a law (http://www.ewg.org/release/california-cleaning-products-come-clean-ingredients#.WbsXMNMjHUr) for cleaning products to have ingredients lists so people can check what’s in them. This would be a great step towards greater transparency enabling customers to avoid the most toxic ingredients out there.
7.) What small steps can we as consumers take to ensure we are doing the right thing by the planet?
Avoiding toxic chemicals in household products is quite an easy step to take actually. If you can’t afford to change to everything natural, try and eliminate the worst offenders like the surface sprays, oven cleaners, the blue window cleaners, the anti-bacterial products, the chemical-laden bathroom cleaners and the phosphate-derived washing powders.
Once you start researching ingredients you start avoiding a lot of things. I have stopped wearing perfume (other than natural oils), don’t burn scented candles, don’t get the house sprayed for insects, don’t get the furniture or carpets steam cleaned (we just use our floor wash diluted instead), don’t use drycleaners, try to avoid polyester clothes….it can actually save you some money.
8.) What are your favourite Bondi Wash cleaning products?
The Bench Spray is our best seller and one of my favourites, which we use all over the house and even on the kids. But I also love the Dish Wash and the Laundry Wash – for the whiffs of natural scent you get while doing chores that are not so much fun.