Are Baking Soda, Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar Truly Green Cleaning Products?

Over the last few weeks, I have been evaluating how different terms are used by those with an interest in green living.  Today’s post will focus on the use of “green” as it pertains to three “home-brews” often touted as green cleaning products.  These environmentally or Earth friendly household products are baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.

The real question is … are baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar truly green or Earth friendly when used as cleaning products?

There is little doubt these common household staples are relatively safe and when used in the condition (diluted to a few percent in the case of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar) and flushed down the drain they pose little harm to the environment (or water treatment facility).

This is the basis most people claiming these are viable as green cleaning products use to formulate the conclusion they are indeed green or Earth friendly.

So it must be true then … baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar can be used as green cleaning products right?

But … where do these common household products come from (besides Good Golly Miss Jolly World )?

Definitely an interesting question ….. Let’s take a look at each product:

  • Baking Soda – historically baking soda was produced via a synthetic industrial chemical method called the Solvay process, a switch to the use of a natural resource, the mineral trona, occurred during the 1980s. Here in the U.S. most of the trona deposits were formed from evaporation of large inland lakes ~ 50 million years ago in western Colorado and Wyoming. The trona deposits are now mined from several hundred feet below ground surface them brought to the surface to be processed to extract both sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium carbonate (soda wash).  This does raise another question …. I wonder how many truly green or environmentally friendly mines there are in the World?  Hmmmmmm …..
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – though hydrogen peroxide exists in many organisms, virtually all hydrogen peroxide is produced from another synthetic industrial chemical process (Autoxidation) involving organic chemicals such as anthraquinone, a hydrocarbon-based carrier solvent, natural gas and a metallic catalyst (nickel or palladium).  The organic chemicals involved are typically derived from petrochemical feed stocks.  As I look over the process and chemicals involved I have to wonder where the “green” part comes into play …..
  • Vinegar (acetic acid) – Much of the food grade vinegar we have around the house is assumed to be derived from the fermentation of ethanol derived from vegetation.  When the label states “apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, etc. that may almost be a safe assumption, especially if you read the “ingredients label” and it clearly states vegetation as primary ingredients.  If you use biologically derived vinegar to make your own household cleaning solution you are likely being truly green.  However, if you by a commercial product labeled as containing vinegar it is likely the source was from synthetic sources of ethanol (including petroleum) since only 10% of all acetic acid produced comes directly from biologic sources (vegetation) and mass production of the synthetic form is much cheaper to produce.

So in the final analysis how does each of these highly touted “green cleaning products” stand up to the scrutiny?

  1. Baking soda-derived from processing of a mined Earth resource – NOT GREEN!
  2. Hydrogen Peroxide – derived from industrial chemical synthesis – NOT GREEN!
  3. Vinegar – if derived from a clearly labeled plant source – LIKELY GREEN!
    1. if an ingredient in commercial “green” cleaner – NOT LIKELY GREEN!

Let me know how you feel about baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar as green cleaning products by commenting below!