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Using eco-friendly cleaning products sounds like a great idea, but not all of them can get the job done — so today we’re sharing tips on green cleaning products that actually work, whether you’re integrating them into your own routines for keeping a clean house or you’re asking your cleaning service to use green cleaning products.
(We’ve talked about the hiring a cleaning professional and discussed our general cleaning systems, and we recently shared the busy woman’s guide to last-minute cleaning, but we’ve never specifically looked at green cleaners. Over at CorporetteMoms we’ve looked at when working moms should hire a cleaning service.)
One product I really like is Method Bathroom Cleaner. It’s not the most effective bathroom cleaner in the world, but it doesn’t irritate my lungs like harsh cleaners do, and it’s safer for my skin. Kat is a fellow fan of Method products — though at her house, it’s Method Daily Shower Spray Cleaner — and she also likes ChemFree Toilet Cleaner (which uses “mineral magnets”) and the Zip-It drain cleaning tool as an alternative to Drano [affiliate links].
To get some more tips on green cleaning products that actually work, I talked to a few professional women who do varying amounts of their housecleaning with green products. One of those is Holly S. of Fairfax, VA, who started using green cleaners more often when her first child reached toddler age. “I’ve read a lot about the chemicals in many mainstream cleaners,” she says. “There are skin irritants, chemicals linked to asthma, carcinogens, not to mention the fact that many are bad for the environment. So I wanted to start using cleaners made from all natural cleaners that would be healthier all the way around.”
Psst: some of our favorite books on cleaning:
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DIY Green Cleaning Products That Actually Work
Holly gets her “recipes” for green cleaners from books, such as The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss [affiliate link], and parenting/natural living blogs, such as Mommypotamus. “A few have been trial and error after reading ideas about how best to clean certain areas and objects, and then I’ve experimented with different ingredients,” she says. Holly makes her own all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner (used with a Swiffer-style wet mop), toilet cleaner, and others. “My favorite is a simple all-purpose cleaner, which is made of water, Castile soap, and essential oils,” she says. “It leaves no residue, the citrus oils cut through grease as effectively as any other cleaner I’ve ever used, and certain essential oils even have antimicrobial effects, so they leave my surfaces wonderfully clean.”
Pam Moore, who lives in Boulder, CO, makes cleaning spray with water, vinegar, essential oils (tea tree or peppermint or lemon), and ammonia — sometimes replacing ammonia with Dawn. (Remember to never mix ammonia with bleach.) For homemade laundry detergent, she mixes Borax, washing soda, soap, and water. When she mops the floor with a steam mop, Pam uses water with a few drops of essential oil for a nice scent. “I definitely think the kitchen counter spray and laundry soap work just as well as what I used to buy at the store,” she says.
Emily Farmer Popek of Oneonta, NY, has found green products to be effective, too. “Honestly, the homemade solutions — vinegar, baking soda — work just as well as literally any other cleaning product I’ve ever used, if not better! Especially for cleaning really terrible gunk — like ovens.”
“Recipes” for Green Cleaners:
- 10 All-Natural Homemade Cleaning Solutions to Scrub Every Inch of Your Home [Real Simple]
- 9 Homemade Cleaners You Can Make Yourself [Good Housekeeping]
- What Really Happens When You Mix Baking Soda with Vinegar? [The Kitchn]
- Clean Green: Natural Cleaning Products [Martha Stewart]
- 6 Things That Are Naturally Antibacterial to Safely Disinfect Your Home [Real Simple]
Store-Bought Green Cleaning Products That Actually Work
If you don’t have time to make your own green cleaning products (or just don’t feel like it — that would be me), you have plenty to choose from at the grocery store or Amazon, of course. But the FTC has caught many companies making misleading claims about green products, so how do you know whether to trust the manufacturers’ ads and labeling? Companies aren’t even required to give the complete list of a cleaning product’s ingredients on its label. A few helpful resources from this Washington Post article are the EPA’s Safer Choice label, Whole Foods’ Eco-Scale rating (only for products sold at their stores), and UL’s ECOLOGO Product Certification. Note that The Environmental Working Group may not be the best resource for this — the advocacy group has often been criticized for fear-mongering and incorrect claims.
In addition to her own mixtures, Pam uses store-bought products, such as Method peppermint cleaning spray for the bathroom, and Emily is yet another fan of Method’s offerings. “They make a squirt-and-mop cleaner for wood floors that I LOVE. I don’t like strong fragrances, so that’s a big plus for me,” she says. She has found, however, that green products don’t really cut it when it comes to toilets and tubs. “We have hard water, which leaves a residue on surfaces that’s just REALLY hard to bust up without some serious industrial strength cleansers — and/or a lot of elbow grease!” [affiliate link]
Lawyer/journalist and Corporette contributor Rebecca Berfanger often uses lavender Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, which can be used for all sorts of home tasks, such as cleaning the bathtub, and is part of this DIY laundry detergent recipe. (The description on the Dr. Bronner’s website recommends their Castile soap for “Face, body, hair & food, dishes, laundry, mopping, pets” — and it’s fair-trade, too.) Rebecca also likes a green laundry detergent called ECOS. She uses green cleaning products (such as these Green Works wipes) for cleaning things her cats will be in close contact with — and for household spot cleaning, she uses either the wipes or a green cleaning spray.
- The Best Natural Cleaning Products [The Strategist]
- 8 Green Cleaning Products [Real Simple]
- An expert’s choice for the best eco-friendly cleaning supplies [Today]
If you’re interested in making your own housecleaning a bit more environmentally-friendly, you don’t have to rush out and buy a lot of green products or start putting together elaborate concoctions in your kitchen. Emily has this advice: “I honestly would recommend starting off by seeing what you can do with, yes, vinegar and baking soda. It’s truly amazing how many cleaning products you can replace with just those two ingredients! And for me it was empowering to be able to start with something that was already right there in my cupboard.”
Note: For this post, we do recognize that anecdotes do not equal science (check out this article by Wirecutter’s science editor, who has a PhD in chemistry), but the cleaners used by the women we talked to clearly work for them! Also, note that the word “natural” doesn’t have an official meaning, and “green” can be vague, too — but they’re hard to avoid in a post like this.
Have you found green cleaning products that actually work? Have you hired a cleaning service that uses green cleaners? Why did you make the switch? (Are there certain chemicals you’re especially worried about?) Do you make your own or use store-bought? Which ones have you found that work really well, and which haven’t really been up to the task? Do you find yourself spending more or less money with environmentally-friendly cleaning?
Stock photo image via Deposit Photos / cunaplus.