In an era where sustainability and environmental responsibility are paramount, embracing eco-friendly cleaning practices is an essential step towards a greener and healthier future. Not only do eco-friendly cleaning methods contribute to a cleaner home, but they also minimize the negative impact on the environment. Join us as we explore the world of eco-friendly cleaning and how you can effortlessly transition to a more sustainable and eco-conscious cleaning routine.
Understand the Importance of Eco-Friendly Cleaning
Traditional cleaning products often contain harmful substances that can have adverse effects on both our health and the environment. Eco-friendly cleaning, on the other hand, utilizes non-toxic ingredients that are safe for your family, pets, and the ecosystem. That doesn’t mean that everything “natural” is good and that “chemicals” are bad (for example, arsenic is natural and water is a chemical), but being aware of what ingredients can harm your health and the environment can help you make informed choices about what products are best for you.
Essential Eco-Friendly Household Ingredients
While there are many great eco-friendly products on the market, there are also some great ingredients that you likely have in your pantry that can do the same job. With a few basics, you can have a cleaning product for nearly everything in your home!
WARNING! When making your own products, it’s EXTREMELY important to be aware of what chemical reactions you’re creating. Several common household ingredients will make VERY HARMFUL substances when mixed, especially most things mixed with bleach. We’re not fans of bleach, so we avoid using it altogether, but if you want to use it for cleaning, just dilute it with water and don’t add anything else.
- Baking Soda – Acts as a gentle abrasive and deodorizer. Keep a box in the fridge to absorb odors, and make your own carpet or fabric refresher by using it straight or adding essential oils and sprinkling it on carpets or furniture for 30-60 minutes before vacuuming. Baking Soda is on the basic end of the pH scale and will work great on greasy substances, so use it in place of scouring powder for sinks and bathtubs to help get rid of the greasy grime that can build up from food and body oils.
- Vinegar – An excellent and efficient cleaner in the bathroom! It will dissolve mineral deposits easily because of how acidic it is, but be careful using it on any stone surfaces, rubber (don’t use it in your dishwasher), and waxed wood surfaces for the same reason. Despite what you may have heard, mixing baking soda with vinegar will create some cool bubbles, but will just create saltwater and Carbon Dioxide as the substances neutralize each other, and what you’re left with won’t be very effective. DO NOT mix with bleach because it will create dangerous chlorine gas. When mixed with water, this gas turns into hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids. The gas and acids are both VERY dangerous.
- Lemon – Another acid that will work great in the bathroom and smells a lot more pleasant! Use half a lemon to scrub your shower doors to get them sparkling, and for extra cleaning power, sprinkle Cream of Tartar (an acidic abrasive) onto the lemon before scrubbing. Lemons are also great for helping to remove stains, and using half of a lemon or making lemon juice and cream of tartar paste to clean your cutting boards and plastic containers will help get them bright and clear again. Note that mixing Lemon or Cream of Tartar with Baking Soda will render the solution ineffective as well.
- Castile Soap/Dish Soap – Versatile and biodegradable, castile soap and dish soap are great for various cleaning purposes. Many dish soaps are eco-friendly already, but castile soap can be a good choice if you prefer plant-based products. Soap is a surfactant so adding it to water will make a very cheap and effective general-purpose cleaner as it will help loosen and lift dirt from surfaces. There seems to be mixed information about dish soap containing amines (an organic form of ammonia) and possibly creating a toxic gas when mixed, so we’re going to issue a word of caution to just not mix bleach with any other cleaning product. If you want to use bleach, clean with soap and water first, rinse, then use bleach.
- Essential Oils – We don’t recommend using essential oils as cleaning agents, but they’re great for adding to other cleaning products to make them smell pleasant. We love using essential oils to make our home smell great and use them in our glass cleaning solution to cover the vinegar smell. Be careful with getting them on your skin, as some oils like lemon or cinnamon can be very irritating, and repeated exposure can develop into a sensitivity.
- Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol) & Hydrogen Peroxide – Both are very effective eco-friendly disinfectants. We prefer Isopropyl Alcohol as it has a 30-second dwell time compared to Hydrogen Peroxide which has to sit and remain wet on a surface for 10 minutes, but either product will kill germs and viruses around your home. Isopropyl Alcohol is gentler on your skin, but Hydrogen Peroxide is also more versatile as a household substance as it can be used in laundry and to kill fungus gnats in house plants. What you choose to use depends on what your cleaning needs are. Again, DO NOT MIX EITHER OF THESE SUBSTANCES WITH BLEACH! Mixing with Isopropyl Alcohol will create a toxic gas, and mixing with Hydrogen Peroxide will create an extremely volatile substance.
Safe DIY Cleaning Recipes
- All-Purpose Cleaner – This one isn’t much of a recipe, but is all you need for most cleaning! Add a squirt of dish or castile soap to a spray bottle with water, or add a bigger squeeze of soap to a bucket of water. Cold or warm water works fine, but for sticky substances like honey or greasy fingerprints, using hot water will help soften them up to remove them more effectively.
- Disinfectant – After cleaning, surfaces can be disinfected with Isopropyl Alcohol or Hydrogen Perodixe. The recommended solution for Isopropyl Alcohol is a 70% alcohol mix (ex; if filling a 100 mL container, 70 mL would be 100% alcohol and 30 mL would be water), while most Hydrogen Peroxide is sold at a 3% concentration which is ready to use as-is. Put whatever solution you’re using into a spray bottle (Hydrogen Peroxide sometimes comes in its’ own spray bottle), spray the surface, and let it sit for the dwell time required before drying with a clean cloth.
- Window Cleaner – This is the recipe we use for our glass cleaner, and we mix it for a 4L container: in an empty jug or container, pour 1 bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol, then fill the same bottle with vinegar and pour in. Add a small squirt of dish soap and a few drops of any essential oil you like, then mix to combine.
Reduce Plastic Waste
By using reusable and eco-friendly cleaning tools, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner environment. Microfiber cloths, for instance, are great alternatives to paper towels because they are durable, washable, and can be used over and over again. Bamboo scrub brushes are also a good option because they are made from sustainable materials and can be used for a long time. Instead of using disposable mop pads, consider using washable ones that you can clean and use again. And finally, don’t throw away old t-shirts or towels – you can repurpose them as cleaning rags and reduce waste even further. By making these simple changes, you can make a big difference in the health of our planet.
Mindful Water Usage
Conserve water by turning off the tap while you’re scrubbing or soaking. Use a bucket when mopping to control water usage and avoid excess wastage. In addition to this, you can also install low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce the amount of water used during showers and handwashing. Another way to conserve water is by fixing any leaks in your pipes or faucets as soon as possible. Even small leaks can waste a significant amount of water over time, and leaks under your sink or around your toilet can cause damage as well that you won’t be able to clean.
Opt for Recycled and Recyclable Packaging
Choose cleaning products that come in recycled or recyclable packaging. Look for brands committed to reducing their environmental footprint through sustainable packaging practices. Many companies now manufacture concentrated cleaning chemicals that drasticly reduce the amount of packaging compared to traditional products. There are options for all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, disinfectant, tub cleaner, etc. that come in small dissolvable pods that just need to be popped into a bottle with water to be used. As well, some companies make dissolvable laundry detergent strips which are just thin, foam-like sheets that take the place of liquids or powders.
Practice Energy Efficiency
Utilizing energy-efficient appliances and lighting can help reduce your carbon footprint and lower your monthly bills. By replacing your old, inefficient appliances with newer models that meet energy efficiency standards, you can save a significant amount of energy and reduce your overall consumption. Newer Energy Star washing mashines for example, have sensors to detect how much water to use for each load. Additionally, using LED or CFL light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs can also help reduce your energy consumption.
Compost Your Waste
Compost organic waste such as fruit peels and vegetable scraps to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills. Compost enriches the soil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. One of the problems with blue bin recycling is that paper products like used tissues, napkins, and paper coffee cups can’t be recycled because of the food on them. A benefit of composting is that you can throw those products in your compost pile, and it can even be extra helpful to add paper products if you tend to throw in a lot of food scraps, as the dry materials will help keep the moisture level balanced.
Embracing eco-friendly cleaning practices is a small change that yields significant positive impacts on both your home and the environment. By making conscious choices and adopting sustainable cleaning habits, you can contribute to a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable future. Let’s strive together to keep our homes and the Earth clean, safe, and thriving.