Greening the Office Cleaners

Office_people Busy offices can pose a threat of debilitating germs and viral infections, particularly during flu season. As a result, many offices ramp up cleaning and disinfecting during these times. What most people fail to consider is that their cleaners and disinfectants often come laden with toxins and harmful chemicals.

In fact, the U.S. EPA has found that the air inside our homes is, on average, two to five times more polluted than the air outside. Furthermore, Earth911 notes that common cleaners contain neurotoxins that can depress the nervous system and “threaten the healthy function of the liver and kidneys.”

Traditional cleaners can also wreak havoc on the environment. As Earth911 points out, these chemicals can make their way into our drinking water by seeping from landfills into groundwater. Chemicals dumped down the drain can also end up in our water, and others can escape into the air.

CleanerThe environmental result:

  • Toxins in our water systems activate metals that cause algae blooms and penetrate the fatty tissues of wildlife, which can infect their endocrine systems, hindering their ability to reproduce.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) escape into the air, lending themselves to air pollution, smog, asthma and restriction of plant growth.


Cleaning culprits, according to EarthShare member organization Environmental Defense Fund, include:

  • Butane and pentane, VOCs that come from air deodorizing sprays
  • Chlorine, used to bleach clothes and clean surfaces, which can kill or poison fish
  • Phosphates, a water pollutant found in detergents
  • Petroleum, a solvent in most cleaners which emit unhealthy fumes


So how can you get rid of office germs without risking the health of the team and the environment?

According to the EPA, you can reduce exposure to harmful chemicals by choosing cleaning products with “positive environmental attributes,” including:

  • Package and contents biodegradability
  • Low toxicity
  • Low VOC content
  • Reduced packaging
  • Reduced fragrance


Household cleaning items with positive environmental attributes—which can be used to clean common areas, desks, phones, door knobs and kitchens at the office—include brands like Clorox Green Works, Seventh Generation, Method and Mrs. Meyers.

When it comes to larger jobs requiring industrial types of cleaners (such as those used by your janitorial services staff to clean toilets, walls, carpets and tile), don’t hesitate to make recommendations to your HR team or building manager. In fact, the Green Cleaning Pollution Prevention Calculator was developed by the EPA to quantify the project environmental benefits of using green janitorial products.

New lines of green, industrial-strength cleansers, such as those developed by Simple Green can also pack a stronger germ-killing punch without coming at the expense of the environment.

While cold and flu bugs may be as constant as the seasons themselves, you no longer have to choose between being clean and being green. For more on organic cleaning, take a look at the resources below.

Have a green cleaning tip you’d like to share? Post a comment!

More resources:



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