Hi- Green Hygiene

Maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

The wellness industry has, after all, as its very essence, the promotion of practices that will prevent our guests from becoming unwell or sick in the first place.

As we know, hygienic and sanitation treatment of spa equipment, instruments, sheets, towels etc. are carried out to remove dirt, dust and other substances that may harbour bacteria and organisms from proliferating and causing disease. Cleaning may be performed manually through the mechanical action of removing dirt and by using detergents to act chemically to bind greasy substances with water and to disinfect and eliminate harmful micro-organisms. These processes are appreciated and applied diligently.

The question is, “are the chemicals that are employed to disinfect and clean not causing more harm both to our guests and the environment than the good that they are intended to produce?”

The fear of disease outbreak has caused manufacturers to include anti-bacterials into a wide range of products that did not used to have them. Many of these ingredients are harsh chemicals that introduce toxic substances to our skin through contact, our respiratory system through inhalation and our environment through chemically laden water run-off. In addition, the anti-bacterials in detergents and other cleaning products contribute to the proliferation of super-bugs and anti-biotic resistant germs.

Green cleaning involves the use of substances that are safe in the long run and also effective in maintaining the high standards that a spa should subscribe to. See the schedule below for ingredients in detergents that should be avoided as far as possible.

The transition from harsh cleaning chemicals to natural solutions is probably one of the most challenging to do successfully.

While most of the green cleaning preparations do not contain petrochemicals or sulphates, parabens or phosphates, many are designed for conventional domestic use and are therefore not always formulated to deal with the particular demands of the spa industry. The extensive use of vegetable oils and plant materials may cause stains on linen, towels or other fabrics used during the therapy process. These stains are notoriously difficult to remove.

Nevertheless, there are many green cleaning and laundry solutions (even locally manufactured) to choose from, ranging from a variety of formulations that include plant ingredients to mechanical washballs, ceramic balls and magnets. Other cleaning preparations, such as natural window and surface cleaning solutions are also fairly widely available and these are generally effective. The added benefits of green cleaning products are that they are often bio-degradable and reduce waste.

Spas have to go through a period of actual testing of different solutions depending on the peculiar situation and products used. Often by employing simple traditional cleaning techniques, the best results are found. Diluted vinegar cleans windows just as effectively as many branded window cleaners. Use lemons to shine chrome taps and remove carpet stains caused by wine or grass. Soda water is effective in removing coffee stains. It is also well known that slices of lemon, celery or vinegar removes bad odours. A mixture of one cup of water and one teaspoon of tea tree oil removes musty smells by spraying affected areas. There are many similar examples to explore.

Choose products that are:

  • bio-degradable,
  • fragrance free,
  • low-suds (there is less foam and consequently a reduction in energy and water use),
  • plant based,
  • concentrated (because smaller amounts are required, there is less packaging and consequently less waste) and
  •  sustainably packaged.

Also look out for products that can be refilled.

Start by making a list of all the cleaning products used in your spa business and then create green cleaning kits for all the cleaning staff, who will themselves stand to benefit much from the safer products.

The “dirty dozen” in cleaning ingredients.

This list consists of 4 main categories: anti-bacterials; products absorbed by skin; products that give off fumes/compounds; and those that are toxic to the environment.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).

These chemicals can break down into toxic substances that can act as hormone disrupters, potentially threatening the reproductive capacity of fish, birds, and mammals. Found in many cleaning products, especially detergents, stain removers, citrus cleaners, and disinfectants.


Some antibacterial ingredients may cause skin and eye irritation, and certain types, such as triclosan, may contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibacterial household cleaners won’t keep you safe. Most infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Found in a variety of household cleaners; many products that carry the “antibacterial” label are actually disinfectants (see disinfectants below).


Poisonous when swallowed, extremely irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled; can burn skin on contact. Found in floor, bathroom, tile, and glass cleaners.

Butyl cellosolve (also known as butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl).

Poisonous when swallowed and a lung tissue irritant. Found in glass cleaners and all-purpose cleaners.

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite).

Extremely irritating to the lungs and eyes. Sold by itself and found in a variety of household cleaners.


Can irritate the skin. Found in air fresheners.

Diethanolamine (DEA) & triethanolamine (TEA).

These ingredients can produce carcinogenic compounds. Found in sudsing products, including detergents and cleaners.


This is a catchall term for a variety of active ingredients, including chlorine bleach, alcohol, quaternary compounds, and pine oil and ethyl alcohol. They are regulated by the EPA as pesticides and all have some health effects. Most can also cause problems in waterways by killing helpful bacteria. Found in a variety of household cleaners; many products that carry the “antibacterial” label are also disinfectants.


May cause water eyes and respiratory tract irritation. Found in a variety of cleaners and air fresheners.

Hydrochloric acid.

Can severely burn skin, irritate eyes and respiratory tract. Found in toilet bowl cleaners.


Can cause headaches, nausea, and central-nervous-system symptoms with overexposure. Found in furniture and floor polish and glass cleaners.

Petroleum-based ingredients.

Many ingredients are derived from petroleum, including some of those above such as naptha, and they’re commonly found in many cleaning products as surfactants. Other toxic ingredients derived from petroleum, including formaldehyde, can also be present at trace levels in cleaning products. Found in a variety of household cleaners.


Can reach waterways and contribute to the overgrowth of algae and aquatic weeds, which can kill off fish populations and other aquatic life. Found in automatic dishwasher detergents and some laundry detergents.

Sodium hydroxide (lye).

Corrosive and extremely irritating to eyes, nose, and throat and can burn those tissues on contact. Found in drain, metal, and oven cleaners.

Sodium lauryl sulfate.

Used in most detergent products that foam, a common skin irritant. Animals exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and even death.

Sulfuric acid.

Can severely damage eyes, lungs, and skin. Found in drain cleaners.

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