We don’t often stop to think about cancer and other potential bodily harm when we’re out shopping for household items, and if we do have any reservations about purchasing a non-green chemical product, our inner dialogue goes something like this: “I barely use this anyway;” “just this once;” and, “I wear gloves so I’m protected.” Besides, those green and “all-natural” versions are expensive, and they don’t even work as well. Right? The more expensive part may sometimes be true (although worth it in the long run), but the latter is a common misconception. Eco-friendly products are more gentle than their caustic counterparts, so in some cases they may require more use, but there are tons of alternatives to the corrosive chemicals we use around the house that work just as well, if not better. Such as white vinegar – the most amazing all-purpose cleaner with absolutely no harmful qualities.
These things we tell ourselves when purchasing mainstream household products from brand names we deem authoritative, like “I barely use this so it won’t hurt!”, could be dangerous self-talk. Our minds are conditioned by a lifetime of advertising to buy products based on the lowest price and the biggest brands. Logic does not play an immediate role in a snap-decision. Elements such as wording, color, even font, are factors in how and why you are drawn to specific products. “Voted #1 Stain Remover” appeals to our consumer mind much more than a higher priced alternative claiming to be “natural” or “eco-friendly”, which for some reason makes us think it won’t work as well. But we don’t consider the long-term consequences of the harsh products we use at home. And if we stop to rethink our “I barely use this!” excuse, we realize how many products we really do use in actuality, even if many of them are on occasion. Our skepticism on eco-friendly products could very well be the death of us.
On the bright side, more and more people are starting to shop for green products, and more and more companies are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon. You don’t necessarily have to go to Whole Foods to find natural products anymore, as even mainstream grocery stores and drugstores are starting to carry them. And big name brands are coming out with more and more green and eco-friendly products. Recently while shopping, I came across one of those new “green” products by a big name brand. It was an eco-friendly water and stain repellent, called Hydro-Lok by Rainguard. I’d never seen it before, and I was curious about its eco-friendly label and whether it really worked. I decided to put this “eco-friendly products are safer and work just as well as any other product” claim I’m making to the test, and single out this product as an example. So, being the detective-at-heart that I am, I tried it out for myself, and researched whether it really lived up to its leaf-decorated “100% Eco-Friendly” label.
With some research, I found out that Hydro-Lok is a single component nano-based superhydrophobic treatment. This basically just means that it’s a water repellent made of fluoropolymers. Fluoropolymers are also known as “super plastics”, which given their name, led me to do some research on them and their safety concerns. What I discovered was that there have been decades of research done on fluoropolymers, and they have been identified as safe by US and international regulatory agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority. Some concerns over PFOA have been raised, which is a chemical used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, but I found out that it is removed in the final stages of production and studies show that PFOA is non-detectable in products containing fluoropolymers. So it does in fact look as if Hydro-Lok lives up to it’s claim of not containing any harmful solvents. It is also a non-flammable product, and it is breathable. Rather than coming in a pressurized aerosol can as many water and stain repellents do–which have been proven to negatively impact the environment, are dangerous to human health and create hazardous waste–Hydro-Lok comes in a spray bottle. The product page on Rainguard.com states:
“At Rainguard, we have long adopted strict environmental standards in all the products we make as well as in our everyday operations. None of our products produce volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) that exceed the strictest air emission standards in the country – the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Further, we strive to manufacture products which do not contain any known cancer causing chemicals or hazardous by-products. Our products will not harm children or pets, and do not require the use of painting safety equipment or respirators. Over the past year we have moved aggressively to ensure our products meet LEED credit requirements.”
Good to know. So now that I trust the safety of the product, I decided to test its dependability. Hydro-Lok recommends its usage on materials and items such as leather, canvas, metal surfaces, patio furniture, wood, boots, gloves, tents and more. After some research I also found out that people have even used it successfully on UGG boots. So I went ahead and tried it on my own UGG boots, a pair of white shoes, a cushion, and a white (faux) leather jacket. Water beaded off and did not stain as promised, and I even tested out ketchup on the white shoes and jacket, which wiped off without a stain. The only item I tried it out on that I wouldn’t personally recommend is cotton clothing. I tested an old sweatshirt–both coats of the product took a very long time to dry, and the ketchup left a stain, although very faint.
Overall, it was easy to use and worked just as well as other non-eco water and stain repellents I’ve used in the past, most of which came in an aerosol can. Even though aerosol cans are harmful, we often think they work the best because of the fine mist they produce during application, whereas a spray bottle will likely saturate an item and leaves droplets. This was initially worrisome when I thought about the fact this product came in a spray bottle, but in this case saturation was a necessary step in application, and the droplets left behind could be wiped away after drying for 30 minutes. So does this product compare to non-eco-friendly products in terms of dependability? Yes. Is it more expensive than many of its predecessors–yes a little–but was it worth it due to the safety and environmentally-friendly factors? Yes. And the same goes for all of the green and natural products I use at home, such as laundry detergent, dish detergent, disinfectants, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc. Some of them are by green brands like Seventh Generation, others natural or eco-friendly products by big name brands. Even CVS brand sells organic cotton balls and such! I sure do pay a little more for these products most of the time, but my health and the environment are worth it.
I make sure I stay aware of the health concerns of anything I buy that will come in contact with my skin or be breathed in, and I’m usually careful not to purchase products that are known to be harmful to the environment. But I don’t think this way a hundred percent of the time. I sometimes catch myself reverting back to old products when the store I’m at doesn’t have a green or natural alternative, or to save money. But as of today I’m going to take a stand and only buy eco-friendly and health-conscious products from now on. Just think if everyone did this–it would be a giant step in the movement towards better health and a greener Earth. And it all starts with one small step–ourselves.
Featured photo credit: 53/365+1 Mopping/Dave Crosby via flic.kr