Why the need for a switch to natural cleaners?

September 8, 2020 by Gurpreet

The magical soapnuts and bio-enzymes

Only 1% of our freshwater is easily accessible. In essence, only 0.007% of the planet’s water is available to feed/fuel its global population of over 7 Bn people. Water pollution is a rising global crisis– Christina Nunez, National Geographic

How much are we contributing towards worsening this global crisis? Try having a look at the everyday household cleaners and personal care products in our cabinets.

The problem with synthetic chemical cleaners and products

It is well known that synthetic- chemical cleaning agents and personal care products often contain dyes, perfumes, phosphates, nitrates, ammonia and an array of harmful chemicals like phthalates, paraben, lead, triclosan and oxybenzone which adversely impacts our ecosystem.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (also containing parabens, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate etc.) are major pollutants that make their way into the environment by way of household drains. These chemicals persist through the water treatment process and end up discharged from water treatment plants back into surface and groundwater. — Kate Good, One Green Planet

Many laundry detergents contain approximately 35 percent to 75 percent phosphate salts. Phosphates can cause a variety of water pollution problems. For example, phosphate tends to inhibit the biodegradation of organic substances. Non-biodegradable substances cannot be eliminated by public or private wastewater treatment. In addition, some phosphate-based detergents can cause eutrophication

According to Enviroharvest Inc, “The detergents can contain suspected carcinogens, and ingredients that do not fully biodegrade.”

Pathogens from these toxic water bodies bring about diseases in human or animal hosts, which may be fatal. — Eric Bagai,

Be cautious about what you pour down the sink or have discharged from your drainage pipes at home, as it may find its way into the water bodies and hence the food chain which includes us- humans too.

It is known that phthalates disrupt the human endocrine system, while other chemicals such as parabens lead to hormonal imbalances. Various other compounds found in household detergents can lead to respiratory illnesses and affect the thyroid, while some are even known neurotoxinsR. Sharada, Technical Coordinator for the Nilgiris Natural History Society

We at an individual level can contribute towards decelerating this environmental crisis and help save ourselves and our planet.

The Miracle all-purpose cleaners to our rescue

Effective disinfectants and household cleaners can be easily made at home. Bio- enzymes are made from jaggery, fruit peels and water. Soapnuts and other eco-friendly alternatives can be used too. Using natural and eco-friendly ingredients for shampoos, body wash and soaps etc. is a great choice. By going this route, we need not visit the supermarket and buy new bottles every month thereby trashing our planet a lot less with the plastic bottles we otherwise would have disposed of from our homes eventually.

Bio-enzyme is an all-purpose cleaner and is extremely versatile. Not just that, it also has an amazing capacity to rejuvenate contaminated water. One litre of bio-enzyme can decontaminate about 1000 litres of water.

If every household uses bio-enzyme cleaners instead of the commercially available chemical-filled harsh shampoos and cleaners, our water bodies will be rejuvenated in no time! We no longer would have toxic lakes spewing methane and catching fire or polluting the air and water. Each time this miraculous solution is poured down the drain after cleaning the house, dishes, car or the laundry, we would have done such a good deed for a nearby pond, lake or a river and eventually our own ecosystem. And, guess what- it is also inexpensive!

Soapnuts is another amazing eco-friendly alternative to the chemical cleaners. Soapnuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap (saponin). They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree in the Himalayas as well as Sapinduc Trifoliatus in South India.

My experience

I got introduced to these natural cleaners about three months back via a seminar and there has been no looking back since. They are very effective and easy on the skin. Also, it is great for the environment. Apart from reducing the chemicals at my home and in the drainage outlets when discharged, it has reduced my plastic usage and hence waste considerably too.

These cleaners don’t produce as much lather as the commercially available ones which have inside SLS or harmful surfactants for that purpose. Yet the cleaning is very effective (and safe).

It does give a lot of satisfaction when we try and live sustainably.

These natural cleaners are now widely used across the globe (from US to New Zealand). There is a lot of material online on amazing cleaner recipes using simple ingredients at home.

Along with adults, the toddlers and the pets at home also breathe a sigh of relief when bio-enzyme and/or soapnut solution is used for floor mopping with water instead of the harsh chemical-based floor-cleaners.

In the kitchen, the dishes need much less water for rinsing off the bio-cleaner dish-wash solution.

The fishes and aquatic life also get to breathe and flourish in their homes when we opt for eco-friendly solutions for our daily home-cleaning and personal care needs.

To add to the list, bio-enzymes/soapnut solutions, when diluted adequately, also take care of my kitchen garden for they are loved by plants too (they make a great natural fertilizer and a pesticide, after all).

Aren’t they amazing!

It is all interconnected!

What many people don’t realize is much surface water was once groundwater. In some instances, what you see today as surface water may end up tomorrow as groundwater. All water is part of the hydrologic system- American Ground Water Trust

Groundwater, River and Lakes Are Connected

The drainage basin system-

Polluting one lake can cause the toxic contaminants to get into the soil and worsen the groundwater, which could travel and end up in a well near a village and used for irrigation for the vegetables we consume eventually. This water from the fields can further flow into a river or another lake too.

We all need to do our bit- starting with being aware. The surface water bodies, groundwater, lakes, rivers, wetlands, creeks …are our lifelines which are in acute danger due to our negligence. We must STOP choosing ultra short-term convenience over sustainability and good sense.

We all must evaluate our water footprint and its implications and take steps towards effective waste management. Using eco-friendly products and cleaners at our homes is a great step towards sustainability. And, it is extremely rewarding.

Written by Gurpreet Kaur (GK)

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