Cleaning products give homes a toxin-free sparkle

It's fitting that Lori, owner of Healthy Haven home cleaning company, should have the last name she has: Green.

"Yeah, I guess that is pretty ironic," she said.

Green is part of a growing trend on the home-cleaning front - using all-natural cleaning products rather than chemical-laden cleansers.

Environmentally friendly cleaning products have become a hot commodity in the cleaning industry, and they're now more widely available than ever.

Top-selling brands Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day and Caldrea offer green versions of everything from all-purpose cleaners and window sprays to toilet bowl cleaners. Products made by these companies rely on all-natural ingredients rather than the harmful chemicals commonly found in conventional cleaning supplies. The end result is a product that's not only better for the Earth, it's safer for the consumer.

"There is no question that these Earth-friendly products are becoming more popular," said Monica Nassif, owner of Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer's. "Consumers are more educated about their own health and leaving the carbon footprint on the planet. Our consumers are sophisticated, savvy shoppers."

After working as a house cleaner in Gwinnett, Barrow, Jackson and Hall counties for the last 10 years, Green has seen, and felt, the effects of traditional cleaners. She started making a gradual switch to all-natural products about five years ago, and she's noticed a drastic difference in how she feels since. Her breathing is easier, her eyes are less aggravated and, overall, she just feels healthier.

"Breathing in all those chemicals all day, it wasn't good for me," Green said. "I was having real respiratory problems and my eyes were feeling irritated all the time. My skin was always dry. Since I've started using all-natural products, though, I feel a lot better and those problems have just gone away."

Green's customers haven't noticed a difference in the level of cleaning, supporting claims that all-natural products clean just as well as traditional products.

"No one has complained to me that their home is less clean," she said. "If anything, I've had people say their homes smell cleaner and fresher. I mean, without all those chemicals in the air, that would make sense."

While terms like "organic," "all-natural" and "Earth-friendly" in cleaning products aren't regulated by the government, companies must back up their claims, and claims must be truthful, sustainable and not misleading, said Jackie Didzul, spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The best way to decipher if a product is eco-friendly is to read the label, said Martin Wolf, director of product and environmental technology for Seventh Generation. It's also a good idea to avoid products that are heavily scented.

"The most important thing to look for is an ingredient list so he or she can decide if the product truly represents one that is eco-friendly," Wolf said. "Be particularly careful of products that offer fragrances that sound natural, but are not specifically identified as such."

Also avoid products that claim to be eco-friendly but don't list all their ingredients, he said.

Price wise, eco-friendly products tend to be slightly more expensive than traditional products. This, Wolf said, is mainly because the vegetable-based ingredients used to make the products generally cost more.

However, for consumers like Green, trading a few dollars for peace of mind seems worth it.

"I've had a lot of mothers call me, people with allergies or those who are environmentally conscious, all concerned about the chemicals in cleaning products, because they don't want the toxins around their child or in their home. These are people who are OK with spending a little bit more on all-natural products," she said. "My own home is all-natural. I'd rather spend a little bit more money for better health."