Does green mean clean? Volatile organic emissions from regular versus green cleaning products

Ellen Harding-Smith*, David R. Shaw, Marvin Shaw, Terry J. Dillon, Nicola Carslaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cleaning products emit a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some which are hazardous or can undergo chemical transformations to generate harmful secondary pollutants. In recent years, “green” cleaners have become increasingly popular, with an implicit assumption that these are better for our health and/or the environment. However, there is no strong evidence to suggest that they are better for indoor air quality compared to regular products. In this study, the VOC composition of 10 regular and 13 green cleaners was examined by headspace analysis. Monoterpenes were the most prevalent VOCs, with average total monoterpene concentrations of 8.6 and 25.0 mg L-1 for regular and green cleaners, respectively. Speciated monoterpene emissions were applied to a detailed chemical model to investigate the indoor air chemistry following a typical cleaning event. Green cleaners generally emitted more monoterpenes than regular cleaners, resulting in larger increases in harmful secondary pollutant concentrations following use, such as formaldehyde (up to 7%) and PAN species (up to 6%). However, emissions of the most reactive monoterpenes (a-terpinene, terpinolene and a-phellandrene), were observed more frequently from regular cleaners, resulting in a disproportionately large impact on the concentrations of radical species and secondary pollutants that were formed after cleaning occurred.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science: Processes and Impacts
Early online date23 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge EPSRC who funded this work under grant numbers EP/T014474/1 and EP/T518025/1. The development of INCHEM-Py has been funded by grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation COMMODIAC (G-2018-10083). Conclusions reached or positions taken by researchers or other grantees represent the views of the grantees themselves and not those of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation or its trustees, officers, or staff. The authors acknowledge the provision of cleaning products from Tincture London and Which? Ltd, the latter under the contractual agreement ”Natural Cleaning Products/27471”. The authors thank Amber Yeoman for their help with interpreting SIFT-MS data, and Martyn Ward for their technical help with GC-TOF-MS.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

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