Do Cleaning Products Have Dirty Secrets?
How damaging to the environment are Scotch Brite pads and their ilk?
—Robbyn, in Novato, California
It all depends on which ilk of pad from which company. 3M’s Scotch Brite has joined the green parade by developing a line of environmentally friendly products such as its “Greener Clean” scouring pad. It’s made from natural agave fibers, unlike those composed of plastic and unspecified mineral substances, or metal pads infused with chemicals of unspecified provenance. Whether processing and transporting agave fibers has greater or lesser total environmental impact than making conventional pads is impossible to determine. I do fervently hope that such a use of agave, the source of tequila, is not diminishing the supply of this divine beverage.
If they give an item an “A” or a “B,” you can be reasonably sure that it won't harm you or the environment. Lower grades should, of course, be shunned. Scotch-Brite’s toilet bowl scrubbers, for example, garnered an “F,” as have a shocking number of many other brands. For instance, more than half of the 213 bathroom products flunked because of “potentially significant hazards to health or the environment—or poor ingredient disclosure.” So, aside from the known dangers, we can’t even find out what’s in a lot of the stuff we spritz, waft, spray, sprinkle, rub, daub, and dump in our homes and businesses. The same secrecy dominates cosmetics and personal care products, so it may be safer just to smell and be smelled than seek protection from mystery molecules cooked up in corporate laboratories.
Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!
Illustration by Little Friends of Printmaking.