Author’s note: This post was written by Elyas Bakhtiari, a freelance writer we’re happy to have under contract at sustainablog.
Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “I want these floors so clean you can eat off them?” Before taking them up on the offer, you might want to ask what cleaning products they used.
Most hard-surface floors and stained carpets are cleaned with conventional chemical cleaners that can be toxic and incredibly bad for the environment. Cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures, especially for small children, and are largely the reason that the air inside a typical home is 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside. A 2002 U.S. Geological Survey found that 69% of U.S. streams contained persistent detergent metabolites and 66% contained disinfectants. Our efforts to keep our homes clean are ironically making our air, water, and general environment dirtier.
Steam cleaners are a growing green alternative to conventional chemical cleaners. Instead of the nearly 63 synthetic chemical products found in the average American household, steam cleaners rely on just two ingredients–heat and water–to deep-clean surfaces without sacrificing the pathogen-killing effectiveness of chemical cleaners.
Is there an environmental trade-off with steam floor cleaners?
There are certainly environmental consequences associated with the manufacturing of commercial steam cleaners (as with any product). And the average model consumes quite a bit of electricity: it takes between 1,200 and 1,500 watts to heat up water to cleaning temperature.
They also aren’t cheap. A multi-functional model, like the Eureka Enviro Steamer, is nearly $225. Handheld and portable steam cleaners are available for much less, but their utility is limited.
But when you consider the hidden economic costs of conventional cleaners, you’re getting a deal. In addition to polluting our shared air and water, chemical cleaners are associated with long-term health risks as well, including asthma. These risks aren’t priced into the cost of chemical cleaners, but they should be.
Steam cleaners won’t be the right tool for every cleaning job; however, a combination of steam cleaning and environmentally-friendly cleaning products (which are made from natural ingredients) can virtually eliminate the need for synthetic chemicals.
If you plan on eating off your floors anytime soon–or more importantly, if you have small children who already do–it might be time to make the switch.
Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance writer currently working with long-running blog and green shopping site sustainablog.