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!
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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 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 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 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.)
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.
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
|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