Cleaning Without Chemicals: Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Learn about environmentally friendly cleaning products without harmful acids and pollutants from the author of Clean House, Clean Planet.
By Lisa Degliantoni
June/July 1997
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Clean House, Clean Planet, published by Simon & Schuster, provides recipes and research for ways to avoid dangerous chemicals found in most household cleaning products.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF


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Eco-friendly company puts environment before profit. The author of the author of Clean House, Clean Planet shares information on cleaning without chemicals using environmentally friendly cleaning products. 

Karen Logan has decided to clean up cleaning, specifically cleaning (house. She wants you to throw out your cleaning products and make your own. "Life on the Planet," which sells and packages eco-friendly, non-toxic environmentally friendly cleaning products and a new book, Clean House, Clean Planet, published by Simon & Schuster, provides recipes and research for ways to avoid dangerous chemicals found in most household cleaning products.

Environment Before Profit

Logan's previous research and volunteer work at Fred Segal ecology research center in Los Angeles has exposed her to frightening information about chemicals, especially the chemicals in cleaning products:

  • Extremely dangerous hydrofluoric acid, which can penetrate right through flesh to the bone without any warning signs of pain, is a completely legal chemical to include in a commercially sold rust remover.
  • Companies are not required to list all the ingredients or their concentrations on the labels.
  • In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to the conclusion that indoor air carries a higher risk for personal exposure to toxic chemicals than outdoor air. Many of these "unfriendly chemicals" are coming from cleaning products.

According to Logan, these "unfriendly chemicals" and "cleaning products" can be found in many major brandname products such as Pine-Sol, Tilex, X-14, Endust, Raid, Black Flag, Old English Wood Polish, Comet, Bon Ami, Lysol Disinfectant Spray, Spic and Span, and Soft Scrub. Cleansers may contain anything from a mere bit of bleach to large doses of ethanol. Side effects can vary from nausea and vomiting to chemical pneumonia.

New-found information and a baby on the way helped Logan decide to make her own cleaning products out of nontoxic ingredients such as club soda, olive oil, liquid soap, and baking soda. She then decided to store these eco-friendly products in recycled plastic containers with personally designed labels that list ingredients and an effectiveness rating. It took exactly six months for this project to turn into a company and a new book. Logan hopes the public will be as responsive as her publishers.

Clean House, Clean Planet

Clean House, Clean Planet is full of scientific research outlining which cleaning products are harmful and why we should worry about the cleaning agents we use.

Does this mean that all cleaning agents are dangerous? Not necessarily, but, Clean House, Clean Planet warns, "Many chemicals have been registered with the EPA based on falsified research. Companies are often motivated by profit and not by a concern for public health. It is easy to make a study say what you want it to say—and nobody can tell the difference." For example, Logan says that two major chemical testing laboratories—Industrial Bio-Test (in 1983) and Craven Labs (in 1992)—have been found guilty of falsifying research used to support the registration of chemicals with the EPA.

Dangers of Challenging Chemical Companies

Since she is not only offering the public reasons to stop using popular cleaning products but also offering recipes for alternative cleaners, Logan is anxious to see how chemical companies will react. She remembers the trouble that David Steinmen, author and science writer, got into when he published Diet for a Poisoned Planet (Harmony Books, 1990).

In the December 12, 1995 issue of the Village Voice, Steinman claims that Ketchum PR, one of the world' s largest public relations firms, tried to head off the publication of his book. According to the article, Ketchum "had a legal firm write letters to Steinman and his publisher threatening the book:" After those attempts failed Ketchum "obtained the itinerary of Steinman' s publicity appearances, and tried to knock him off talk shows."Steinman' s book showed how pervasive pesticide residues, chemical contaminants and other toxins are in the environment. Although Clean House, Clean Planet focuses mainly on solutions and recipes for nontoxic cleaning, scientific research throughout the book illustrates the dangers of cleaning chemicals and the companies that push them into household products. Logan wonders if she will find herself in the same boat as Steinmen when her book hits the market.

Developing Logan' s mission statement "loving the environment" was perfectly simple, but changing the way people treat the environment will prove to be far more difficult. Over the years, Logan has organized neighborhood clean-ups and tree-planting programs, yet nothing major has ever come to fruition. She expects the new company and book to be her most influential projects, considering their popularity so far.

Sample kits of her nontoxic cleaning products can be purchased in recycled and reusable plastic bottles (already labeled with directions for making the product) or you can pick up the book and assemble the ingredients yourself.

Breaking the habit of reaching toward shelves for products as simple as glass and countertop cleaners will be difficult, particularly when billions of dollars have been spent convincing us to do just that, but common sense has a remarkable way of re-surfacing—and in this case it's not a moment too soon.


Dangerous Chemicals Prevalent in Household Cleaners
AlcoholNaphthalene
AmmoniaPDCBs
Bleach
(paradichlorobenzenes)
Butyl
cellosolvePerchloroethylene
CresoIPetroleum distillates
DyePhenol
EtlianolPshosphoric Acid
FormaldehyclePropellants
GlycosSulfuric acid
Hydrochloric acidTCE
(trichlorothylene)
Hydrofluoric acid
Lye


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Post a comment below.

 

Diana_21
6/12/2009 1:54:13 PM
Jan - I have the book, and looked at the recipe you are referring to. It does not go in a "spray" bottle, but rather a "squirt" bottle, kind of like the one you'd see for dish washing liquid, Dawn or the like. (See p.22 for an explanatory picture.) As far as consistency, I would suggest adding a bit more water, or a tiny bit more vinegar. Either of those should thin it out a little bit. Keep in mind, you want it kind of thick, so it will stick to the sides of the bowl like the commercial ones do. Hope that helps at all. Good Luck! - Diana

Jan Kooistra
5/13/2009 11:41:59 AM
Like Robbin, I've been trying to locate Karen Logan or her company, to no avail. I just made a batch of her toilet cleaner (from her book), and it has the consistency of cake frosting. I can't even get it through a funnel into the spray bottle, and can't imagine how, if I ever get it into the bottle, I'll ever spray it out, given it's more like cake batter than a liquid cleaner. Is this woman bogus, or what? Thanks, Jan

Robbin_1
12/19/2008 9:36:54 PM
I've been trying to contact Life on the Planet to get the bottles and some more information. The number listed in the book and the one you list here are no longer in service. Do you know if Karen Logan is still in business? Regards, Robbin








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