Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Like oil and water
The dirty side of cleaning
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

I'm not sure what I thought household cleaning products were made of, but when I discovered that most are 95% water, I was steamed.

Water is heavy (10 lbs. per imperial gallon, or roughly 1 kilogram per litre if you speak metric).

That adds up to a lot of weight loaded onto trucks and trains to ship across the country. And those vehicles burn a lot of our most popular non-renewable resource: oil.

And here's the irony: many traditional cleaning products contain “volatile organic compounds” and/or “petrochemical distillates” – a fancy way of saying “oil.”

Even the bottles containing the cleaners are made from – you guessed it – oil. (It takes one gallon of crude oil to make 29 plastic bottles). And most of them (78%) end up in our waterways and landfills – more than a billion bottles a year.

So what exactly is it costing us to keep our houses clean? A huge amount of oil, for one thing.

By the time you add up all those costs, you’re looking at rather dirty cleaning products.

But that’s about to change, I hope.

Squeaky green

Planet People, a Canadian company based in Toronto, has introduced iQ cleaning products, VOC-free plant-based formulas in clear bottles that you only buy ONCE.

After you use up the contents, add tap water to the bottle and insert a tiny vial filled with concentrated surfactants – instantly turning your tap water into an effective cleaner.

“What took us so long?” you may wonder.

Other manufacturers have attempted to sell concentrated cleaner refills, but the technology was messy and consumers didn't pick up on it. Consumers do want to use greener products but not at the expense of performance or convenience, so Planet People came up with a mess-free system that offers “superior” cleaning and a dramatic 80% reduction in plastic waste.

How superior are iQ cleaners? I got excellent results, although I’m not an expert. Our cleaning lady, on the other hand, is an expert. She adores the iQ formulations and won't use anything else.

The best part is that the Earth-friendly ingredients don’t set off an allergic reaction for my husband Daniel, who’s been chemical-sensitive since his days as an art conservator at the Smithsonian, where he inhaled more toluene than his olfactory bulb could handle. For years the only disinfectant he could tolerate was vinegar, so on cleaning days our house always smelled like Harvey’s.

In third-party tests, iQ cleaners were found to perform as well or better than the leading traditional cleaners in the category. They don’t streak; they cut through grime fast; they take one application instead of several to clean thoroughly.

The active ingredients in iQ's four formulations (All-Purpose, Glass, Bathroom, Floor) are corn- and coconut-derived surfactants, sugar-based acids and baking soda. The light dyes and fragrances are non-toxic, non-irritating and are not tested on animals.

The starter kit ($6.49) includes your first (and only!) spray bottle already full of solution, plus your first refill cartridge. Further replacement cartridges are $2.79.

iQ cleaners are now available at health food stores (visit the website for retailer info), and I'm really hoping that mainstream retailers pick up on the trend – and that the whole cleaning product industry does a little recalculation on the cost of “clean.”

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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