I’ve gotten a lot of questions about where to begin with getting rid of toxic household chemicals and replacing them with green cleaning products. It can definitely feel overwhelming. The great thing about cleaners is that it’s not going to cost you a ton of money to detox your home and may even save you money.
What is green cleaning?
It’s learning to clean your entire home without toxic chemicals. That means no bleach, no antibacterial soap, no aerosol air fresheners, and no ammonia.
So, how do I get my house clean?
Homemade cleaners and non-toxic plant based cleaners. And, yes, they do work, just, maybe not quite like chemical cleaners do.
Vinegar and peroxide are natural disinfectants that can replace bleach. They may not get everything as white and sterile looking as bleach does but everything will be clean (I promise). I don’t really mind it either. I’d rather have a toxin free home than sparkling toilet seats, just sayin’.
Why green cleaning?
Conventional cleaners contain harmful chemicals, some of which are carcinogens or suspected carcinogens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins. Yeah, basically any standard household cleaner you find in the grocery store has the potential to cause health issues from asthma and respiratory issues to skin burns and cancer. Gross. (source)
And we haven’t even talked about the environment.
Some chemicals can wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. For example, phosphorus, often found in dishwasher detergent, quickly makes its way into the waterways. There it acts as a fertilizer for algae. Yes, phosphorus is natural but the amount that is entering the waterways is not. That means algae starts growing out of control, using up all of the oxygen in the water, leaving none for other wildlife like fish. (source)
Where can I start?
Getting rid of toxic household cleaners is actually pretty simple because baking soda and vinegar will cover just about any cleaning job. So you can toss them (or, really, properly dispose of them, since they are so harmful) and replace with a gallon of vinegar, an extra large box of baking soda, and tea tree or lavender essential oils (I buy mine here).
If you want to learn how to use these basic ingredients to clean your whole home I have a free guide full of great homemade cleaner recipes that you will get when you sign up for my mailing list. It comes with free printables too!
Until you get a chance to read it, a quick all purpose cleaning recipe is 1 part water, 1 part vinegar, and a tiny squeeze of dish soap. This recipe can clean your whole house, for real!
What if I don’t want to make Cleaners?
If you don’t want to or can’t make your own green cleaning products, plant based cleaners are the best alternative. However, you have to be careful when buying “green” products because “green” and “all natural” are marketing terms, so they mean, essentially, nothing. Instead, you have to look closely at the labels.
If the label reads “DANGER,” “CAUTION,” “TOXIC,” “CORROSIVE,” “WARNING,” “FLAMMABLE,” or “POISON” you can be sure that it’s not safe.
Manufacturers are not obligated to disclose their ingredients but if you do see these ingredients on the label stay away.
- Chlorinated phenols
- Diethylene glycol
- Nonylphenol ethoxylate
- Petroleum solvents
- Butyl cellosolve
And finally, check the EWG’s website for a list of the safest household cleaners.
My favorite cleaners based on how well they work, price and safety (yep, they’re on the EWG’s list!) are:
All purpose cleaner: Sun and Earth.
Dishwasher detergent: Seventh Generation POWDERED detergent. The gel detergent is not so good, in fact it received an F. The only gel detergents that seem ok to use are Earth Friendly Products Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel, Whole Foods Market green MISSION Organic Dishwasher Gel, and The Honest Co. honest auto dishwasher gel, none of which I have ever used so I don’t know how well they work.
Laundry detergent: Sun and Earth and Rockin Green. Rockin Green isn’t on the EWG’s list but as far as I can tell it’s safe and eco friendly. It’s a bit expensive but we only use it for cloth diapers so it lasts.
That’s about all I use. For the rest of the house (when I, ahem, get to it) I use homemade cleaners.