Sunday, April 6, 2014

BonAmi Powder Cleanser

I found this product while hunting for a clean alternative to harsh powder cleaners like Comet and Ajax for bathroom cleaning needs: sink, tub, shower, etc. I bought it on amazon for about $5.00 as an add on item with Prime. 

There were really 2 things I wanted in a powder cleaner (or just bathroom cleaner in general)

- Free of harmful toxins
- Effective cleaning agent

Not to much to ask, in my opinion. 

As far as the ingredients of this product go, I'm pretty satisfied. No fragrances of any sort (the fresh citrusy scent may not be there, but at least you don't have to hold your breath when it is in the air)

On the website, these are all the ingredients listed for BonAmi Powder Cleanser:
Limestone- calcium carbonate
Biodegradable cleaning agents - alkyl polyglucoside 
Soda ash- sodium carbonate
Baking soda- sodium bicarbonate

Limestone was the one ingredient I wasn't sure about. There was some crontraversy on the health implications ( as there seems to be with many ingredients in cleaning products-frustrating). 

The gist of it is, if you get it into your eyes, it could irritate them.  You shouldn't eat it. Leaving it on your skin for long periods of time could irritate it.  Anytime I'm cleaning, regardless of the chemical makeup of the products, I wear elbow-high rubber gloves. When I'm cleaning the shower I usually wear a little mask just because it is such an enclosed space with nowhere to ventilate. 

Regardless, calcium carbonate does not appear to have any short or long term health effects and is natural. 

Quick science lesson for those interested: 
Many of a the ingredients I've seen in cleaning products are "something-carbonate or bicarbonate." I didn't know what that was, so I had a hard time deciding how I felt about it. Basically, carbonate means it is a salt found in carbonic acid. Usually it is created when carbon dioxide is mixed with a base of some sort. (Sodium carbonate is sodium mixed with carbon dioxide, etc). Carbonate means it is an ion surrounded by 1 carbon and 3 oxygen atoms. 

Bicarbonate means it has had the protons removed. So bicarbonate is 1 carbon and 3 oxygen but one of the oxygens has a hydrogen attached to it. (i.e. Sodium bicarbonate is also called sodium hydrogen carbonate) When a positively charged atom attaches to a negatively charged oxygen atom in carbonate, bicarbonate is formed.  Bicarbonates are greatly needed in our body because when they combine with several other components, they act like a buffering system to balance out the acids that form and would otherwise effect our central nervous system and other vital systems. 

Calcium carbonate, in its crystal form, is one of the main structures making up limestone- to bring this science lesson full circle. That is why we are even talking about this in the first place. 
When calcium in hard water reacts with carbonate, calcium carbonate is formed.  For awhile, it was taken as a dietary supplement, but has been proven as unhelpful and perhaps harmful when taken that way, so - don't eat it, but you can clean with it. That is my opinion, after all that I've read. It is not a byproduct of any harmful chemical combinations, it is found in nature and harmless in the limitited exposure that would be caused from regular cleaning habits.

 Ok, science lesson over. 

Did it clean well? 

It has a dull, virtually nonexistent scent; Almost like flour.  It didn't irritate my skin, throat, eyes or nose.  

I cleaned my bathtub and shower, bathroom counter and sink.  I used it to remove the water stains, soap scum and any icky build up that creeps into those spaces.  I used a bristle scrubber with water to work in and remove the cleaner.  I am happy with the results and am satisfied, with my current knowledge base, that is a safe cleaner for my home and family. 

So, if you like powder cleaners, I would recommend BonAmi powder cleanser to you. 


One thing that has been difficult for me to keep in mind on my search for cleaning product recipies is that DIY is not the same as clean (at least in the natural sense-lots of toxic products do a great job cleaning). 

 One ingredient that kept showing up in my searches is 20 Mule Team Borax.  Since the whole point of making my own products is to avoid using ingredients I don't know anything about (and it is usually cheaper), it defeats the purpose to make my own cleaning products with stuff I don't know anything about.  SO, I wanted to figure out how I felt about Borax. 
The first thing I learned is, it isn't a product concocted from several ingredients to be an efficient cleaning agent. (I thought it was like the Bisquick of the cleaning world) It is just itself: borax.  More specifically, a naturally found substance made up of, sodium, boron, oxygen, and water.  Basically, an evaporate from boron. Very natural, very simplistic; straight from the earths crust. 

Buuuut, natural doesn't always mean safe.  Lots of things found in nature should not be eaten or put on your body. 

Borax has many many cleaning uses: from laundry detergent to automatic dishwasher detergent.  It is thought of by many as quite a miracle ingredient, and can be found in many DIY and even "green" cleaning recipies.  But I'm just not convinced. 

For one, the environmental working group (EWG) actually recommends NOT putting borax in your green cleaning products. 
 Borax has a few aliases to be aware of - lots of ingredients are sneaky like that: 
Sodium Borate, Sodium Tetraborate, or Disodium Tetraborate. 
Normally these are the names I've seen listed on cleaning products, rather than it being called "Borax".    Now, to be clear, borax and boric acid are NOT the same thing, but they are "close cousins" as a helpful article posted by the EWG states. 

Found here:

 So,  here is why I don't like the stuff. 

It has short and long term negative effects. Always a valid cause for concern. 

 Short term, it can be an eye and skin irritant, (like almost everything, it seems) but, particularly in small children and toddlers, it can have much harsher effects as a skin and eye irritant, and if ingested, it can cause respiratory irritation as well.
 Crearly none of that is good news, but the biggest kicker for me, and the reason I will be keeping it out of my DIY products and purchased products (if possible) is that it is a hormone disruptant.  Men are much more susceptible to a reaction from Borax than women, as it can cause decreased sperm count and libedo, 
but women are not in the clear
 Overtime, exposure to Borax has shown to decrease ovulation and fertility.  In our house, Simon is a huge help with all things home: laundry, house work, cooking, etc, but I am still the one primarily using our cleaning products, especially when tackling the deep cleaning. 
 I enjoy cleaning and there is something very satisfying about the whole thing for me. And, while Simon often helps with cleaning, I'm the primary deep cleaner.   So, despite which gender is more suceptible to the effects, avoiding hormone disruption is kind of a no-brainer for me to keep it out if possible.  Especially when there are lots of equally effective, green alternatives to it! 

   Now, none of this is to say what I manage to keep all hazerdous, harmful, etc. cleaning ingredients out of our home. I don't even know what all of them are yet!! But I'm trying, and after taking some time to form my opinions and conclusions, this is where I am. 
Happy cleaning :)

Here is a post I found giving a list of some of the borax alternatives I talked about