What are bio-based cleaning products?
Most of our cleaning products are still based on ingredients made from fossil resources. However, more and more products are at least partially bio-based. In bio-based cleaning products, producers replace fossil based ingredients with bio-based ingredients such as plant oil or enzymes. Plant oil can be used for surfactants (compounds lowering the surface tension). Enzymes improve washing results in laundry detergents.
How do I know that a cleaning product is bio-based?
Some labels (Blue Angel, ECOCERT and Ecogarantie) guarantee that at least a certain percentage of the cleaning product is bio-based. But also cleaning products without these labels can be bio-based.
Are bio-based cleaning products better for the environment?
Using any cleaning product means accepting a certain environmental impact. Bio-based cleaning products are not automatically more environmentally friendly, but product labels help you to find a product which is more environmentally friendly than the average conventional product. Environmental labels strongly restrict or ban the use of certain substances harmful to health and environment. In addition, only products that use less and more environmentally friendly packaging can get a label. Using these certified products and using the prescribed dosage helps minimizing environmental impacts.
A very good example of how bio-based ingredients can help the environment are enzymes. Enzymes can help reducing the environmental impact of washing and cleaning products and are commonly used in laundry detergents. Lower temperature, energy and water are needed to ensure the same cleaning results. Enzymes used in cleaning products are highly effective in smallest amounts and completely biodegradable. Other washing detergent substances can be reduced. 30% less electricity is used in laundry by getting clothes clean at 30°C instead of 40°C. The quantity of detergent needed has been reduced significantly within the last 25 years. Today for 5 kg laundry 75 gram washing powder is necessary. It used to be 220 gram.
Are bio-based cleaning products healthier?
There is no general answer. Certified products restrict or ban the use of certain substances harmful to health and environment. These substances are defined by labels. Allergic reaction can be caused by natural and fossil-based ingredients alike. It is important to check the ingredients in case of a known allergy.
Do bio-based cleaning products clean just as well as conventional ones?
Yes, bio-based cleaning products can clean just as well as conventional ones. The cleaning properties depend on the properties of every product no matter whether it is bio-based or fossil-based.
Are bio-based cleaning products more expensive than conventional ones?
There is no general answer. Retailers offer a broad variety of different bio-based and conventional cleaning products. Some can be more expensive; some can have the same price or even be cheaper.
Many laundry detergents are made with enzymes. Enzymes reduce the temperature, water and energy needed to get your clothes clean. That even helps saving your money.
Where can I buy bio-based cleaning products?
Bio-based cleaning products are available at most big retailers. So just check out your supermarket. All of our everyday cleaning products such as laundry detergent, all-purpose-cleaners, dishwashing liquid or bathroom cleaners can be bio-based. In case you are looking for a specific bio-based product one of the following databases might be helpful:
- Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (German)
- InnProBio bio-based products database and supporting tools for public procurement
- United States Department of Agriculture BioPreferred Catalog
How do I know that the raw materials used are sourced in a sustainable way?
Bio-based cleaning products are not automatically more sustainable. Sourcing of renewable resources is a key factor for sustainability and a positive impact on our climate and environment. Especially the use of palm and coconut oil, both important ingredients – is criticized. The world’s largest producers of palm oil are in Indonesia and Malaysia. Around 20 percent of the annual worldwide palm oil production qualifies as sustainable. Initiatives like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil advocate the increased use of certified and sustainable palm oil.
The following labels require sustainably sourced raw materials: Blue Angel, EU-Ecolabel, ECOCERT, Ecogarantie.
Photo credits: Felix Prado