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Make-It-Yourself Cleaning Products Promoted as More Eco-Friendly

Reports suggest that commercial home cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that could affect human health and the environment. An advocacy group that has sought better regulation and greater disclosure about cleaning products is promoting a way to help consumers create their own eco-friendly cleaners. It is called the Green Cleaning Party.

Homemade cleaning products

On a Sunday afternoon, a dozen friends of Lauren Ratner gather around her dining table in her Washington, DC home. On the table are natural ingredients: castile soap, vegetable glycerin, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar. They measure and mix equal amounts of distilled white vinegar with water. And add a few drops of essential oil, a concentrated oil from plant material.

Host Lauren Ratner says she is interested in the environmental impact. "I was looking online and I came across the Website. The women and environment website had information on green products and recipes and all the frequently asked questions. I just went through the Website, and I decided that I wanted to do it myself," Ratner said.

An environment-friendly party

The Green Cleaning Party was launched about a year ago by Women's Voices for the Earth, WVE [weave], a group in the western state of Montana. The group says about 4,500 people have participated in parties across the nation. WVE released a report called Household Hazard in 2007. Lisa Woll is president of the board.

"Household Hazard looked at five different chemicals that have an effect on asthma, infertility and birth defects," Woll said. "That was a sort of beginning of a lot of our work around getting toxics out of household cleaning products."

Full disclosure on cleaning product labels

Product labels also do not tell consumers which ingredients are in the cleaners, the group says.

"The reality is that if you go into any store, you pick up your average cleaning products. And if you look at the back, you will see no information on what is contained in that product," Woll adds. "So you have no way to evaluate whether what is in there is something that would cause your concern."

Current law does not require full disclosure on the labels of cleaning products. WVE encourages consumers to message the manufacturers and ask them to disclose their ingredients.

Woll says a few companies have begun to list ingredients on their Websites. "Just this last week, SC Johnson has come out with probably the broadest labeling proposal of any manufacturer of household cleaning products, she said. "We consider this a massive win."

Home made cleaning products, eco-friendly

At the party, the friends try out their home-made product. They say the eco-friendly cleaners are also good for their wallets.

"The home made products can cost about 83 cents, less than a dollar, whereas you are going to pay anywhere from $3.00 - $8.00 per commercial product," Ratner said.

Laura Hopman is enthusiastic about the party. "During this type of environment with your friends, and having a good time chatting, and really seeing just how easy it can be. I think it is a great way to expose people to this great initiative," she said.

The participants say it makes them feel good that the products they are going to use are not harmful to their health or the environment.