by Wendy Gabriel
GREEN TIP: Detail the interior of your car yourself. You’ll save money and have a clean interior using safe, non-toxic and earth friendly products to protect your investment, your health and the environment.
The environment inside your car can impact your immediate and long-term health, as well as the world around us. Just as we have learned that the indoor air in our homes is polluted with off-gassing materials and the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in cleaning supplies, so is the air in our car interiors. This is important because the average American spends 400 hours or more a year here while commuting and running daily errands.
After a detailing at the local dealer, a car interior can be filled with chemical irritants from the carpet and upholstery cleaner, polishes, protectants, and perfumes used in the process. The promise of regaining that new car smell indicates the presence of these toxic chemicals. There are other ways to maintain the interior of your car and be health conscious. And staying on top of minor daily and weekly maintenance eliminates the need for the heavy cleaning artillery later.
With some help from Diane MacEachern, author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, here is a list of green options for maintaining your car’s interior:
- Clean your windows. Make your own window cleaner. The commercial cleaning products are loaded with toxic chemicals.
Recipe: Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with two cups water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of pulp-free lemon juice for fragrance (optional). Apply directly on a lint-free cotton cloth so the cleaner doesn’t spray all over the car. Once you wipe the windows clean, buff them with a micro-fiber cloth for extra shine.
- Take trash with you. Whenever you leave the car, take your trash with you avoiding the need to have an air freshener to mask any nasty smells from something that should’ve been taken out of the car.
- Open the windows for a few minutes while you’re driving to let fresh air circulate through the car.
- Use hot soapy water to wipe down interior doors, handles and vinyl seats.
- Rinse off floor mats. To clean really dirty mats, lay them on your driveway and pour white vinegar in them. Let sit. Rinse out vinegar and swipe clean. Avoid letting vinegar go into your grass, it will kill it. I poured my vinegar into the cracks in my driveway to eliminate the weeds that were growing there.
- At a car wash, don’t let them spray the interior with air freshener when they finish vacuuming. If they’ve done their job properly, the car should smell just fine without it.
- Use a whisk broom or hand-held vacuum to remove dirt and dust from the floors and seat cushions.
- Keep a cloth napkin within reach so you can wipe up spills when they occur.
- Dust surfaces with a damp cloth once a week to keep grime from building up.
- For spots on the steering wheel or console, sprinkle a little baking soda on a wet towel and gently rub. Wipe with a clean damp cloth.
Source: Big Green Purse
Ingredients to avoid in car care products from Eco Touch:
1. Synthetic fragrances/scents – used to mask the smell of the chemicals used in the product. Manufacturers typically opt for the synthetic version of a chemical because it is far less expensive than their natural counterpart. Essential oils are a much better alternative than synthetics.
2. Synthetic dyes/colorants – change the appearance of a formula so it is more pleasing for the consumer. The majority of dyes derive from coal tars or petroleum. Coal tar contains various toxins and carcinogens.
3. Teflons, Fluropolymers– used by car care manufacturers as a gloss/protective agent for car surfaces. Traditionally found in quick detailers, car waxes and car wash products. During the production of teflons and fluropolymers, a hazardous chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used. PFOA is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. In people, it has been linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates and changes to the immune system.
4. Kerosene– a synthetic distillate which is used as a grease cutter. Kerosene can damage lung tissues and dissolve the fatty tissue that surrounds nerve cells. Found in all purpose cleaners and degreasers. 
5. Methanol – a solvent derived from wood and petroleum. It is acutely toxic and can cause blindness. Found in window cleaners and windshield wash.
6. Sodium Hydroxide (lye, caustic soda, white caustic, soda lye) – extremely strong caustic substance that damages skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Blindness is reported in animals exposed to as little as 2% dilution for just one minute.
7. Ammonia – a corrosive substance which causes burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death. Boosts the nitrogen levels in soil and water which adversely affect marine and animal life.
8. Phosphates – phosphorus occurs naturally in rock formations in the earth’s crust, usually as phosphate. They are of high nutritive value to plants and animals at normal levels in the environment. However, phosphates are also used as detergent builders in some car care products, which causes aquatic plant life to flourish, thus decreasing oxygen levels for other organisms. Found in car wash soaps.
9. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)– Polyvinyl Chloride is recognized by the recycling symbol #3. PVC is highly toxic because during its production, it is mixed with softening chemicals known as plasticizers, the most common variety being phthalates. Exposure to PVC and plasticizers have been linked to an increased risk of the following: hormonal imbalance, reproductive problems, allergies in children, brain cancer and tumors. PVC is used in packaging for several major car care manufacturers. The sensible alternative would be to switch to #1 PET or #2 HDPE.
 – Healthy-Communications.com
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
This is the official site for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) Green Book. It is a unique consumer resource providing Green Scores rating the environmental friendliness of every vehicle on market. The site also includes green driving tips, news and resources.
Greenercars.org is part of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
ACEEE is a Washington, D.C.-based independent, non-profit research group dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy. Read more about the organization at its site.
Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.