Green cleaning products: Say good-bye to dirt, not your family's health!

8 years ago

natural cleaning productsSpring is nearly here, and women are blogging and tweeting their fingers off about cleaning.  Spring Cleaning!  Now, I don't know about you, but Spring has never reminded me of anything but the blessed end of winter.  Cleaning is something I do when my husband is too busy to get to it first.  But after a winter of flu that wouldn't quit and a flea season that stretched on and on, I decided it was time to give our apartment a thorough scrubbing.

Except instead of a scrub brush, I picked up the phone and called our local green cleaning service, Natural Home Cleaning Professionals Cooperative.  Their aim is to prove to clients that non-toxic cleaning products can leave your home as spotless as their more toxic cousins.  Starting with products as simple as vinegar and baking soda and moving up to Seventh Generation or Ecover, as the job requires, these ladies use as little product as possible to get the job done.

Here are a few tips from around the Blogosphere for greening your cleaning:

1)  Schedule an appointment.  For those like me who prefer to delegate, check out Green America's (formerly Co-op America) Green Pages for a comprehensive list of green cleaning companies in your area. 

2)  Do it yourself.  Prefer the DIY method?  The topic of this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted at Tiny Choices, is Green Spring Cleaning.  Posts range from Diane MacEachern's excellent rant about dirt (she doesn't mind it) to Mindful Momma's comprehensive list of the group's favorite cleaning products.  The consensus seems to be vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, Borax, and washing soda.

3)  Pick up a recipe book.  The Blogging Bookworm has reviewed Green Housekeeping, by Ellen Sandbeck, finding it a "breezy" yet very useful read.  The take-away message for the blog's author:  get rid of synthetic sponges, which are breeding grounds for germs with all their little nooks and crannies.  I think I'll have to get a copy for myself.  I don't mind reading about cleaning.

4)  Get yourself some Skoy cloths.  Unlike synthetic sponges and microfiber cloths, they are completely biodegradable (made from cottom and cellulose) and can take the place of 15 rolls of paper towels.  And unlike sponges, they dry out fast, eliminating funky odors and mildew.  Pop them in the microwave or dishwasher once a week to kill any germs.  Each Skoy cloth can last many, many months.

5)  Choose the best cleaner for the job.  When I do clean, I like to keep it simple: 

Baking soda is a great abrasive.  Use it like cleanser to scrub everything from baked-on food in pots and pans to the entire inside of your refrigerator.  Allie from Allie's Answers has a whole series of posts on uses for baking soda. 

Vinegar cleans and disinfects.  Use it, diluted with water, to wipe countertops and windows. 

Lemon juice works similarly with a smell more people prefer. 

Personally, I prefer vodka.  Really.  Check out 21 Uses for Vodka.  You'll be amazed.  Trouble is, it never lasts long enough for me to get around to cleaning with it.

6)  Think about packaging.  My priority is reducing my plastic waste, since plastic often contains toxic chemicals that can leach into the products it contains and lasts forever in the environment.  I prefer cleaning products that come in cardboard boxes (baking soda, washing soda, borax), glass bottles (Spectrum vinegar,  Smirnoff jugs), or none (fresh lemons, bulk baking soda).  What's the point of choosing least toxic products if the packaging itself could be toxic?

7)  Check the labels.  If you prefer commercial products, choose those with all their ingredients clearly stated on the label!  Currently, companies are not required to list all the ingredients in cleaning products.  And while some, like Clorox, have chosen to disclose most ingredients, they still fail to reveal the chemicals in fragrances (which can contain harmful phthalates), preservatives, and dyes, citing trade secrets.

Dr. Bronner's  products are all natural, their labels clearly identify the ingredients (mostly all organic and fair trade) in them, and their bottles are made from post-consumer recycled plastic.  My feeling is if you're gonna do plastic, this is the way to go.

Natural product company Seventh Generation also discloses all of the ingredients in its products.  Katy Farber from Non-Toxic Kids advises us to check the Organic Consumers Association's updated list of companies that have removed the chemical 1,4-dioxane from their products.  Seventh Gen is one of them.  Dr. Bronner's never had it in the first place.

8)  Get active! Once your home is spotless, head over to the Environmental Working Group's web site and learn about the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act and what you can do to help get it through congress.  The act would require safety testing for many, many more chemicals than are currently tested.  Aren't you, your family, and pets worth it?

Whew.  I can see you guys have your work cut out for you.  I'll leave you to it.  (Now, where did I leave my glass?)


Beth Terry writes about finding creative ways to reduce her plastic consumption and plastic waste at Fake Plastic Fish and encourages others to join the fun.  We only have one planet.  Why junk it up with plastic when we could be enjoying the place?



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