How to Tell If a “Green” Cleaning Product Is Actually Green
While I wrote an article describing how to tell which green cleaning solutions are the best. That article mentioned things to look for on a non-technical level (such as making sure that cleaning products that advertise themselves as being environmentally friendly list the ingredients in their products and to make sure that the ingredients are all natural and don’t have scientific chemical hard to pronounce ingredients in them, as well as others). This article however, mentions how to know if a product is actually environmentally friendly by using scales and rating sheets. The following are statics and measurements to use so you know if a green cleaning product is actually environmentally friendly:
a) Look for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which is required for all consumable products. The MSDS is where companies have to tell the truth about their product. To find out what the information is about a certain cleaning solution, type the name of the product and the words MSDS into Google to find out how safe the materials in the products are.
b) Check the pH: The pH levels measure how much hydrogen ion concentration there is in a solution. A low pH means high hydrogen ion concentration and a high pH means that the substance has a low hydrogen ion concentration.
pH levels are measured from 0-14, which 7 (water) being neutral. If a substance when added to water increases the concentration of hydrogen ions, that means the pH level is lowered (this is substance is acidic) and if the substance decreases the concentration of hydrogen ions that means the pH level increases (the substance is an alkaline). So to simplify, a substance with a pH of 7 is neutral, a pH less than 7 is acidic and a pH level more than 7 is alkaline.
When looking for a cleaning product, don’t use products with a pH lower than 4 or higher than 10. Some examples of pH are: 0 is battery acid, 7 is the pH of water, and drain cleaner has a pH of 14. The MSDS should mention what the pH is (unless the cleaning manufacturer is trying to hide the pH of their product, in which case, you shouldn’t use consumable products where the company is hiding info. from you, such as the pH levels).
In case the MSDS doesn’t mention what the pH of a cleaning solution is, there are ways to find the pH yourself. You can tell the pH level of a substance based on the color. You can use Litmus paper; if the cleaning solution is acidic then the paper will turn red and if the cleaning product is alkaline then the paper will turn blue. Electronic pH meters are the best (and most accurate) way to determine pH levels. You can also use pH paper (and much like Litmus paper) the closer to the color blue the product is the lower the pH level and the more alkaline; and the more red the substance is the more acidic.
c) The last thing to look for is the Health Rating of the product. The MSDS will list the Health Hazard Rating of a product on a scale of 0 to 4 (0=safe, 4=bad). 0 to 2 is all you should use. If the MSDS has a list of numerous health risks then it’s recommended to not buy the product.