Anyone else flustered over trying to balance eco-friendly and effective cleaning habits? Maybe it’s a me thing. But I can’t help but wonder if my highly effective Clorox wipes are harmful in ways that go beyond their single-use nature. When it comes to making a transition to planet-friendly living, it starts at home! Tweaking our day-to-day routine is infinitely easier than making big life changes (ie. buying a new car).
While I can’t in good conscious tell you to get rid of your Clorox wipes (because wow, those things are miracle workers), I have done some digging and am happy to present you with a list of 5 ways you can make your cleaning habits better for the environment. It could mean using more natural ingredients, avoiding plastic packaging, or buying longer-lasting products. Whatever you choose to do, there are plenty of ways you can make your around-the-house products more eco-friendly.
1) Seek out Eco-Friendly Brands
As environmentalism and the push for organic materials becomes more and more culturally pervasive (especially in California. It’s a lot), products made with natural materials via a sustainable process are increasing in number. These companies also typically pride themselves on using recycled materials for packaging.
The companies I’ve listed below are all ones I personally use. However, there are plenty of other options available in this growing market (longer list linked in “Sources” below). Be sure to share your favorites in the comments below!
Product of Choice: Dish soap
Cost: $3.99 for 25 oz.
Recycled Packaging? Yes
I L O V E this dish soap. A little goes a long way. It goes farther than other soaps I’ve used, and it always leaves my dishes looking AND feeling clean. I never use gloves (because I’m lazy and because I don’t like them), and their dish soap isn’t harsh on my fingertips, which are prone to cracking. Highly recommend.
Overall, however, this brand gets a lot of mixed reviews. They sell many different products, ranging from dish soap and laundry detergent to diapers and feminine hygiene products. According to multiple users, their dish washing detergent doesn’t do a great job, so for larger families, Seventh Generation may not be the way to go. But if you’re still washing dishes by hand, I 10/10 recommend their dish soap.
Product of Choice: Hand soap, multi-surface cleaner
Cost: Soap: $3.99 / 12.5 oz. || Cleaner: $3.99 / 16 oz.
Recycled Packaging? Yes
Not gonna lie, I feel like hand soap is hand soap. If it comes in pleasant scents and doesn’t leave weird residue on my hands, I’m happy. Mrs. Meyer’s hand soaps come in over a dozen different fragrances, and you can find the product online and in stores. There are even subscription services you can sign up for, where these and other sustainable products are delivered straight to your door on a regular basis. These services typically come with a discount, thus saving you both hassle and money.
As for the multi-surface cleaner: I know lots of people who use it, so that suggests it does a decent job. I use it in both the kitchen and bathroom, so I love that it comes in a variety of scents, because that means my apartment doesn’t stink of chemical after cleaning.
For tougher jobs, like cleaning a stove top, I find that baking soda sprinkled over the surface combined with a generous spritzing of Mrs. Meyers does the job. That said, for potential stains and discoloration, I have to go with something a bit more chemical, and I break out the Clorox wipes.
Product of Choice: All-purpose cleaner; pet cleaners
Cost: All-purpose $4.61 / 22 oz. || Pet stain + odor remover $20.27 / 2x 32 oz.
Recycled Packaging? Yes
Bonus: Carbon neutral!
Though I don’t use Ecos at home, the office I work in uses Ecos dish soap, and several of my co-workers have cited Ecos as their cleaning brand of choice. Additionally, I love that their pet-specific products have received great online reviews, because as anyone who has ever owned an indoor pet knows, they’re a mess, and you can’t afford to settle for a product that half works.
Ecos is extra fantastic because their plants use 100% renewable energy, and their company is carbon neutral. So not only are the products you’re using natural, their production process is highly eco-friendly.
2) Opt for Bamboo
Do you hand wash your dishes? Substitute a bamboo cleaning brush or two for those disposable sponges. In our kitchen, we keep both a pot brush and a dish brush on hand, so we’re able to tackle whatever grime gets thrown our way. These products start for as low as $5.00 online.
Almost any product with plastic handles likely comes in a bamboo version. Have a plastic brush for tough stains on your floor? Once that one dies, replace it with a bamboo one! They even make bamboo brooms for both indoor and outdoor use.
Why bamboo, you ask? I’ve given you a few bullet points below, and I’ve linked a couple of articles about bamboo in the sources section at the post’s end.
- A bamboo grove produces 35% more oxygen than a tree stand of the same size
- Grows super fast, meaning it’s readily renewable (3-5 year harvest time, as opposed to 10-20 years for soft wood)
- Requires next to no agriculture chemicals
- Minimal waste. Almost all parts of the plant get used after harvesting
- Reduces soil erosion
- Farming of bamboo provides employment in economically struggling areas
3) Swap Paper Products for Cloth
Do I use paper towels? Almost every day. Let’s be real. They’re stupidly convenient. But do I opt for clothe when possible? You know it.
I keep paper towels around in part because they’re great for spills. However, if I’m drying my hands off? I use a kitchen towel. Drying dishes? Dish towel. Paper towels are also commonly used as napkins (as are paper napkins, obviously). While that’s convenient, it’s also wasteful.
I grew up in a home with clothe napkins, all hand-made by various kin or friends of my grandmother’s. My friends thought it was weirdly pretentious, but it’s what I grew up with, so I didn’t know any different. As I met more and more people who used paper napkins, I was struck by the waste – even at the age of ten. Opting for clothe napkins for everyday use will greatly reduce your paper product consumption. They can be used for multiple meals, so don’t get too intimidated by the laundry aspect.
When it comes to cleaning, using rags instead of paper towels is another way to cut waste. Keep a few different cloths handy under the sink, in your linen closet, etc. for use with cleaning sprays. Cutting up old t-shirts or pillow cases to use as rags is doubly-sustainable, as it gives your old clothes and linens a second life.
4) Purchase an Energy-Efficient Vacuum
When it comes to plugging in, we ideally want to use “as little” power as possible. I use quotation marks here because of course you don’t want to sacrifice effectiveness in the name of lower wattage. No one wants to vacuum their entire living room only to put the vacuum away and realize there’s still cat hair all over the rug. Same goes for human hair in the bedroom. Residual grime on the floor is a big no no.
That said, with a little extra digging, you can make sure the next vacuum you purchase is effective and efficient.
Personally, I use a Dirt Devil. Our apartment is small, and we don’t have any pets, so I was able to opt for something small and don’t need a high-power vacuum. The Dirt Devil I have costs less than $50, and it’s made from recycled materials.
Other brands for vacuums on a budget include:
This article offers a more comprehensive overview of eco-friendly vacuum cleaners.
5) Make Your Own Air Freshener
The clutter has been removed, the shelves are organized, the counters scrubbed and the floors cleaned. Now you want it all to smell nice.
There are plenty of artificial air fresheners on the market, of course, but how many of those emulate scents found in nature? Why spray rose-scented chemicals in the air when you can use rose petal potpourri? I’ve linked a straight-forward article on creating your own potpourri here, but of course, you can also purchase it.
For an immediate, stronger scent, you can boil herbs and spices. Cinnamon is a common one, but cloves or any other favorite you might have will work as well!
In addition to sparing your air of artificial chemicals, creating your own fragrances will help eliminate the waste of all those empty Fabreeze containers. We need to remember that, at the end of the day, sustainability is not just reusing and recycling, it’s also reducing! Any time we can avoid purchasing a single-use container, we do the earth a favor.
I hope these suggestions are useful! I tried to limit DIY or homemade suggestions, as I aim to keep my articles budget- and time-sensitive. Do you have any tried and true cleaning methods to share? DIY or otherwise, I would love to hear back from you!
“Top 10 Reasons Bamboo Can Save the Planet” https://www.bamboogrove.com/why-bamboo-save-planet.html
“Top 13 Eco-Friendly Vacuum Cleaners” https://www.citrussleep.com/eco-friendly-living/top-eco-friendly-vacuum-cleaners
“Why Bamboo?” https://lewisbamboo.com/why-bamboo-green-solution/
“11 Natural and Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products” https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/natural-eco-friendly-cleaning-products-for-the-conscious-home
“18 Simmering Potpourri Recipes” https://www.diyncrafts.com/31281/home/18-simmering-potpourri-recipes-to-make-your-home-smell-heavenly