The individuals or organizations promoting “alternative” recipes should be able to support their recommendations. Consumers should be able to ask them, for example, whether the recipe has been tested under conditions where it will be mixed with the other “chemical” products used for cleaning; what treatment is advised if the mixture is accidentally splashed in the eye or swallowed; and whether the effect of the recipe on surfaces to be cleaned has been evaluated.
Things to Consider About Choosing a Mix-at-Home Cleaner
Has the recipe been tested for cleaning purposes?
Do you have complete directions for safe and effective use?
Are you aware of any safety precautions for mixing the recipe or combining with other products?
Do you know how to treat accidental exposures?
Are there any special instructions for safe disposal?
Is the recipe as cost effective as a commercially formulated cleaning product?
Q: How can I decide whether to use a homemade mixture or a commercially formulated cleaning product?
With mix-at-home recipes, responsibility for product label information falls on the person following the recipe. That means that the consumer should prepare a label that includes the names and amounts of ingredients; emergency treatment guidelines; safety procedures for mixing, combining with other products, usage, etc.; and complete directions for use. Poison control centres have extensive data on commercially formulated cleaning products, but may have difficulty handling accidental exposures to homemade mixtures unless they have information on the formula.
One final word on safety: Some recipes suggest that boiling water be used in combination with “alternative” ingredients. The practice of carrying quantities of boiling water from one location to another in a home, especially a home with young children, raises serious safety concerns.
Because “alternatives” are generally not as efficient as commercially formulated cleaning products, using them often requires extra effort. In addition to spending more time on cleaning, consumers may use more product and more hot water to get the job done, which can also mean extra costs; this is food for thought when figuring the ultimate costs of recipes.
Disinfectants are reviewed and approved by Health Canada. Any product labelled as a disinfectant has undergone extensive testing of its germicidal properties. These products are regulated and approved by Health Canada, and they display Drug Identification Numbers (DINs) on their labels.
Studies have shown that mix-at-home recipes that are suggested as alternatives to disinfectants are less effective than commercially formulated disinfectant cleaners, both in reducing microbial contamination and in removing soil. In fact, most mix-at-home recipes have no disinfectant properties at all. Particularly when there are health-related reasons for using a disinfectant, such as on a cutting board that might be contaminated with Salmonella or on a surface that has been in contact with someone who is sick, consumers should recognize that only disinfectants that have been approved by Health Canada and given a DIN have been tested for their ability to kill germs.
In areas vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, such as kitchens, bathrooms and children’s play areas, it’s especially important to disinfect properly. The use of an approved disinfectant according to the label instructions will ensure that germs are eliminated.