Books for Better Living is shutting down. Learn more.

A Guide to Cruelty-Free Spring Cleaning

Earth and animal-friendly cleaning products, DIY recipes, and tools to tackle those warmer weather chores.

I love those first few warm days after a long winter when you can finally open the windows and let out all the dust and stale air that’s been gathering for six months. That infusion of freshness inspires me to get out the duster and the mop, and while I don’t always love spring cleaning while I’m doing it, I do love how refreshed my home feels afterwards. However, I’ve always found it a bit ironic that so many of us choose to refresh our homes with chemical-laden products that leave behind harmful toxins in the air and water. In fact, prolonged exposure to traditional cleansers can cause everything from respiratory and skin irritation to cancer—the last thing we want when dusting off those cobwebs.

In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing my favorite cleaning tips, cruelty-free products, and DIY recipes that will deep clean your home without harming you, animals, or the planet we call home. After all—there is no Planet B!

Sign up to receive inspiring, expert advice on living your best life from Books for Better Living and Penguin Random House.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Tools and Earth-Saving Swaps

When it comes to eco-friendly cleaning, you want to focus on two things: non-toxic, effective ingredients, and minimizing waste. Better options include disposables made of recycled materials, such as paper towels and garbage bags, from companies like Seventh Generation. Best options include washable, reusable, and repurposed products. Some sustainable trade-ups include:

  • Using cotton bar mops in lieu of paper towels and sponges. Not only are these eco-friendlier, but you’ll save a TON of money not buying as many paper towels.
  • E-Cloth makes a fantastic 8-piece microfiber set, each cloth is designed for a different purpose and guaranteed for 300 washes!
  • Swap out cleaning tools with disposable pads, dusters, etc. for those that use easy-care microfiber and other washable options.
  • Instead of disposable dish/cleaning gloves, why not choose a pair that will last much, much longer? I love my True Blues Ultimate Household Gloves—they’re insanely durable and machine washable.

DIY Cleaning Staples and Simple Recipes

When it comes to the cleanest, greenest cleaning products, there’s no better option than homemade. By keeping just a few staples on hand, you can easily whip up simple cleaning solutions in just a few minutes. But if you’d rather have someone else make it (nothing wrong with that), feel free to skip down for a comprehensive guide to sustainable store-bought choices.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is mildly abrasive, making it the perfect antidote to tough stains and mildew. Rinse with water or white vinegar to wash away the white residue it leaves behind.

Castile Soap

Castile soap is a vegan’s dream as it’s made from 100 percent plant oils instead of animal fat. You can use it to clean virtually anything—including yourself! The popular Dr. Bronner’s brand is Leaping Bunny-certified and comes in a variety of scents.

Essential Oils

Essential oils not only cut the smell of vinegar, but they can boost your green cleaning solution’s effectiveness. Consider keeping antimicrobial lavender, disinfecting grapefruit, and antifungal tea tree oil on hand for added cleaning power. (Aura Cacia and EO Products are both great cruelty-free options.)

Lemon Juice

Not only does lemon smell great, but it’s a powerful degreaser, mold and mildew killer, and even shines hard surfaces, like countertops and linoleum.

White Vinegar

Vinegar is the prime ingredient in almost every natural cleaning recipe because it packs a punch without being harsh. It’s 90 percent effective against mold and mildew and 99.9% effective against bacteria. (If you doubt its effectiveness, consider this: we use it to safely clean rabbit crates at the rescue where I volunteer. If you know bunnies, you know they’re messy!)

Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner: 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup distilled water, a few drops of essential oil if desired

Baking Soda Scouring Deodorizer: Apply baking soda directly to a damp sponge (or toothbrush for small spaces), or make a paste with water and let stand on tough stains before scrubbing and rinsing off (great for sinks, toilet bowls, tile, and grout)

Natural Glass Cleaner: 2 cups distilled or filtered water, 2 tablespoons vinegar, a few drops of castile soap, 10 drops favorite essential oil

Lemon Hardwood Floor Cleaner: ½ cup white vinegar, 1-gallon warm water, a few drops of lemon essential oil

Making the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Work for You

When sourcing cruelty-free and green cleaning products, a little research and technology can go a long way. The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that rates a variety of consumer products, including cleaning, personal care, and cosmetics. To simplify shopping ethically and sustainably, use the EWG Healthy Living app in conjunction with the Leaping Bunny app. Keep in mind—not all cruelty-free is ecologically sound and not all eco-friendly products are cruelty-free. However, because both principals go together like PB&J, you’ll find lots more sustainable cruelty-free products than conventional ones.

Choosing the Best Store-Bought Products

It’d be great if there were a simple list of earth-safe brands that you could choose from, but because degrees of earth-friendliness can vary from product to product within a single brand, there isn’t exactly a “one-size-fits-all” solution. However, some popular cruelty-free brands, like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, run at a pretty consistent “B” rating. While I haven’t included any of those products in this round-up, it’s still a consistent, easy-to-find earth-friendly option.
To help get you started, I’ve broken down all the Leaping Bunny-certified “A” rated options from EWG by use category. In a few places, I’ve included “B” rated products where no “A” rated cruelty-free options were available. If there’s a cruelty-free product you love but don’t see on this list, simply do a search for it on the EWG website or mobile app. Each product listing breaks down the reasons for their rating, so you can make an educated decision about whether you want to continue using it. A “B” rated product is still a great option!

EWG Top-Rated Cruelty-Free Cleaning Products by Type

All-Purpose Dishwashing
AspenClean All-Purpose Cleaner Hand dishwashing:
AspenClean All-in-One Concentrate Aspen Clean Dish Soap
AspenClean SuperScrub Powder Fit Organic Dish Liquid, Free & Clear
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap Fit Organic Dish Liquid, Fresh Citrus (“B”)
Citra-Solv Window & Glass Cleaner Dishwasher Gels & Powders:
Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus All Purpose Everyday Cleaner Earth Friendly Products Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel, Free & Clear or Lavender
Seventh Generation Multi-Surface Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Packs or Powder, Free & Clear
Bathroom biokleen Automatic Dish Gel
General Cleaners: Eco-Me Dish Soap, Suzy
Seventh Generation Tub & Tile Natural Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir Fit Organic Dishwasher Gel, Free & Clear or Fresh Citrus
AspenClean Bathroom Cleaner Dishwasher Rinse Aid:
Earth Friendly Products Shower Cleaner Ecover Rinse Aid
Fit Organic Lime, Calcium & Rust Remover Seventh Generation Rinse Aid, Free & Clear
GreenShield Organic Bathroom Cleaner  Floorcare
Drain Cleaner: Carpet Cleaner/Refresher:
Earth Friendly Products Earth Enzymes Drain Opener Earth Friendly Products Concentrated Carpet  Shampoo with Bergamot and Sage
Toilet Bowl Cleaners:  Eco-Me Carpet Freshener, Matt
Earth Friendly Products Toilet Cleaner, Natural Cedar Scent  Hard Floor Cleaners                                               Ecover Floor Soap (“B”)                   
GreenShield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner  Earth Friendly Products Floor Cleaner (“B”)
MamaSuds Toilet Bombs  Eco-Me Floor Cleaner, Dave (“B”)
Seventh Generation Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir  Stain Remover:                                                         Fit Organic Laundry & Carpet Stain Remover
 Furniture  Wood Floor Cleaner/Polish: 
Fabric/Upholstery Deodorizer:  Eco-Me Wood Polish, Kate
Earth Friendly Products Everyday Stain & Odor Remover  Citra-Solv Citra Wood Natural Wood &   Furniture Polish, Valencia Orange (“B”)
 biokleen Bac-Out Fresh, Natural Lavender or Natural Lemon Thyme (“B”)  Kitchen                                                         General Cleaners/Degreasers:
 Wood Furniture Polish:  AspenClean Kitchen Cleaner
 Citra-Solv Citra Wood Natural Wood & Furniture Polish, Valencia Orange (“B”)  Earth Friendly Products Stone Countertop   Cleaner, Natural Parsley (rated “B”)
 Fit Organic Cleaner and Degreaser
 Green Shield Organic All-Purpose Cleaner   Degreaser, Fresh



Photo by Volha Flaxeco/Unsplash


Share this Post