Live Green and Earn Points


5 Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By Jen Uscher |
Want to lower your impact but keep your space pristine? Just in time for spring cleaning, here are five quick and easy ways to cut harsh chemicals from your cleaning routine, prevent waste, and even save money.
Originally Published: 09/14/09

At first, I was a little reluctant to give up my trusty old bleach and ammonia-containing cleaners, even though their fumes gave me a headache every time I scrubbed the bathroom. I wondered if green cleaners, made from seemingly gentle ingredients like coconut or soybean oils, could really cut through grime — but I made the switch to some eco-friendly cleaning brands, and I'm happy to report that they work great for my everyday cleaning tasks.

It's worth giving green cleaners a try because some ingredients in conventional cleaners can pose health or environmental risks — for example, chlorine bleach can irritate the eyes and respiratory tract.

Here are five inexpensive strategies to help you cut harsh chemicals from your cleaning routine, without sacrificing performance:

  1. Try Microfiber

    Cloths, dusters, and mops made from microfiber are so effective at trapping dirt that in many cases you can just use them dry (or dampen them with water) to clean surfaces — no cleaning chemicals are necessary. Also, they can be machine-washed and reused hundreds of times, eliminating the need for wasteful (and costly) disposable supplies like paper towels or wipes. Note that you should only wash them with other microfiber cloths or they'll lose their effectiveness.

  2. The University of California Davis Medical Center found that cleaning a surface with a traditional cotton loop mop reduced bacteria by 30 percent, while cleaning with a microfiber mop reduced bacteria by 99 percent.

  3. Choose Multipurpose Cleaners

    Look for gentle products that can clean lots of surfaces, like Dr. Bronner's liquid Castile Soap. It can be used to wash everything from dishes to lawn furniture to tile floors. Concentrated all-purpose cleaners like Clorox Green Works Natural Dilutable Cleaner can be diluted in a bucket for mopping floors or used in a spray for countertops. By using fewer products and opting for concentrated ones, you can cut down on packaging and the energy used for shipping. A bonus: You'll save storage space since you won't have so many specialized cleaners cluttering up your pantry.

  4. Read the Ingredients

    When you're shopping for cleaners, keep in mind that claims on labels — such as "natural", "eco-friendly", "organic", and "nontoxic" — may not be very meaningful on their own since they're not independently verified (unlike, say, the USDA organic label on foods). Manufacturers are not required by law to disclose all of the ingredients on the label, but it's a good sign if they voluntarily do so. Look for plant-based ingredients derived from coconut, soy, corn, or palm oil, and cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide, which is a safer substitute for chlorine bleach.

  5. Recycle the Packaging

    After you've used up a cleaner, rinse and recycle the empty plastic container. Most cleaners are sold in bottles made from plastic #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE); find out if these are accepted for recycling in your community. If a container — for example, a tube of powdered cleanser — contains both metal and cardboard parts, separate them and recycle them with the appropriate materials.

  6. Make Your Own

    It might take a little more time, but it's the greenest and thriftiest option of all. Check out these do-it-yourself recipes from green cleaning expert Annie B. Bond to create your own non-toxic cleaners using ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. With all the confusing labeling (and unpronounceable ingredients) these days, it's nice to know exactly what's in your cleaners.

Can you recommend any green cleaning products? What are your tried and true techniques? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Renay P. 1 year ago
    I use hydrogen peroxide and Simple Green for everything in the house. Lemons are the Swiss Army knives of household items too!
  • Karen R. 1 year ago
    For high Traffic Floors like Vinyl and Linoleum I use --1 Cup White Vinegar, 2 Tablespoons Hydrogen Peroxide, 2 Tablespoons Original Blue Dawn and 2 Cups of Hot Water. For the Toilet, I use White Vinegar and Baking Soda but be very careful adding the BakingSoda as it does bubble up when mixed with Vinegar like the Childhood Volcanos I used to make :).
  • Diana G. 2 years ago
    The best vinegar solution I've found for spray bottles is 3/4 water 1/4 vinegar and a big drop of dish soap. Works on windows, counters, and I've even used it on wood.
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    good to know.
  • DD P. 6 years ago
    if you have a tough stain on your counter tops, just sprinkle on baking soda and then squeeze lemon juice over the soda. You can use the lemon to help scrub. I use this to clean my mortar and pestle also
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