Cleaning supplies are nasty. There’s no doubt about it. Not only are they filled with toxic chemicals that cause a slew of health problems—try eye irritation, rashes, coughing, and headaches (and those are the friendlier ones)—but they wreak havoc on the environment too. Who wants to breathe in toxins, let alone spread the love through the country’s waterways?
OK. I’ll get off my nontoxic soapbox long enough to give you some ideas for what to do if you’re ready to make the change from your chemical-laden cleaning supplies to some that will keep your countertops and sinks sparkling without damaging you, your children, or the environment. But click here if you want to learn more about the problems associated with household cleaners.
Plenty of wonderful companies are out there manufacturing green cleaning supplies for everything in your home—kitchens, bathrooms, wood furniture, flooring, windows, you name it. Right now, my cleaning bucket includes Ecover toilet bowl cleaner, Method glass and floor cleaners, and Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent.
These are only a few of the many brands available. Take care to look at labels though—any cleaning product can claim to be “natural” because it’s an undefined and unregulated term. In general, products that are nontoxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (NOT petroleum) are best. Learn more about the labels and what to look for at the Consumer Union’s Eco-Labels website.
Oh, and whatever you do, don’t throw those standard cleaning products in the garbage or dump them down the drain when you’re ready to make the switch—they’ll just end up seeping in the soil in landfills or trickling into the water supply . Instead, check to see if your community holds a toxics and electronics recycling day. Or just use them up and buy green cleaners when it’s time to purchase more.
If you really want to go green, you won’t buy cleaning supplies at all. (I didn’t just say you won’t clean at all, mind you. Just that you won’t buy cleaning supplies.) Instead, make your own. That way you know you’re not using toxic products—plus you’ll save money! Learn about safe substitutes for standard cleaning supplies or even make your own nontoxic cleaning kit. Here are some other DIY ideas… or check out Rhonda Jean’s recipes for almost everything you’d need to clean green.
I barely scratched the surface of green cleaning here. If you want to know more, check out TreeHugger’s Green Cleaning Guide or visit Grist for comprehensive info on common environmental and health problems caused by household cleaners, plus alternatives for cleaning everything from dishes and clothing to toilet bowls and furniture.
The Home Know-It-All
P.S. One more thing: Use cloth rags or even an old t-shirt with your green cleaning supplies. It’s awfully silly to wipe up those natural products with paper towels you’re going to toss in the garbage!