Green Cleaning- Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products, Tools, and Organizers

by - Thursday, January 14, 2016




Ugh, cleaning. Isn’t it bad enough that we have to clean? Much less spend money on the supplies? Just the worst. Still, as you prepare for your spring cleaning, you can definitely have a positive impact on the environment and your world just from the kinds of products you buy. First step? Make a plan! No one ever did a job better blindfolded with no idea what they were doing. Time to look into your cleaning supplies and get going.

A month or so ago, an expert on green cleaning came and spoke to The Bub’s preschool class to teach us about what kinds of chemicals we put in our house and how they can have profound negative effects on kids' mental development. Something simple that we all have in our house can really hurt a little one! And it goes into our water supply, our grass, our environment. So why not just clean a different way where you can? Make a cleaner world while you clean house!

To make the most of your Spring Cleaning Shopping, take these FOUR steps:

1. Use what you Have- This isn’t true for every case, but you are generally better off using what you already own for cleaning before bringing more into your house. We all know where our all-purpose cleaner and windex are, but take a good look at the back of those cupboards. Other things you need might be there, and if you aren’t going to use it now, really when are you? Time to donate it or offer it up on Buy Nothing.

2. Get it Used or Make Your Own- This seems like a crazy place to use someone else’s, but things like Carpet cleaners can be shared or rented and you might be able to pick up a bucket or mop somewhere. Everyone either has tons of buckets or no buckets at all. There is no in between. Let’s make one- if you are a bucket haver, help one of us poor have-nots out!

On the cleaners end, lots of the things we use can be replaced with a simple combination of water and white vinegar. You can find oodles of recipes for cleaners, window wash, laundry soap, and more. Making it yourself and using old spray bottles minimizes plastic waste, allows WAY fewer sometimes toxic chemicals into your home, and is just generally a good idea.

3. Buy Recycled, American, or Eco-Friendly- Don’t have time to make your own? I get that. Life can be freaking busy, and even if you can’t make your own soaps and churn your own butter, you can still do better by the environment. I have a juicy long list of recycled, local, and chemical-light options for you after the jump.

4. Do Research on Recycling and Re-Use- Being kind to the environment, in this case, is as much about how you get rid of things as how you get them. It can be easy to just toss things, but think about whether you could donate them or (VERY IMPORTANT) dispose of them safely. There are often specific ways that your local government might want you to dispose of old cleaning bottles and supplies so that business doesn’t contaminate your community’s water. If you have children (or just children you like nearby), you should try to avoid pesticides like Round-Up (it is so bad for their brain development), but you might know someone who could use it more safely. At the same time, you might be able to re-use some of those bottles, so be sure to check out information on how to best get that stuff out of your house.


Tools

Brooms and Dustpans- So, why would you buy brooms NOT made of recycled material? Why make waste while cleaning up waste? O-Cedar has caught on, and it sells a broom with 80% recycled bristles. Libman sells one made of recycled fiber as well. We will be getting this when our broom bites the dust! This broom and this one with a bamboo handle (even better) are made in Lancaster, PA! Greener Clean sells dustpans made out of Ecoflex material, blending wood pulp and recycled plastic. Full Circle sells a dustpan with a bamboo brush and recycled plastic bristles.

Buckets- I would never think about buying buckets, until we have been caught without one more than one time. BLERG! Then, you are stuck getting one mid-project, and you can only find run of the mill junky ones. If you don't get some in the course of cursed grown-uphood, think about registering for this one, which is made out of 100% recycled plastic. Leaktite and  Dynamic also makes recycled 5 gallon buckets.

Cleaning Gloves- Here are some green cleaning gloves from If You Care.

Clothespins- If you are getting more hardcore about your footprint as a couple, you might decide that you will start line drying your clothes (or at least some? We aren't doing this, so no judgement here). To line dry, you will need clothespins. These ones are made here in the US!

Compost Bin- We have green waste in Seattle, so we don't compost ourselves, but I do think that we would if it wasn't available, because a banana peel can decompose in days, but in a landfill, it may never decompose. Never. Using a compost bin like this can save the world from so much waste and get you great soil to grow things! I love this.If you live in a place where green waste isn't available,  a bin like this one might be one of the most important additions to your home.

Whether you compost yourself or give your greenwaste to someone else, I highly recommend a counter food scraps can like the one we have. It cuts down on trips outside, keeps our cutting area clean, and keeps smells (and bugs) out.

And since most people who compost are already environmentally conscious, most outdoor compost bins are made of recycled plastic! Good Ideas' compost bin is 90+ post-industrial plastic. Yimby is based out of Canada and makes a spinny version out of recycled plastic. This Spinbin looks like the most fun. Mantis also sells a pretty wide variety of compost bins, so you can find one that fits your needs and start making your own soil! It's so easy! You can also get these tall shelf ones or this version from Nature's Footprint, but I can't recommend it, because I don't understand how they work (worms? Something with worms. I know it sounds gross, but if you have a yard, you already have worms too).

Dust Buster- If you want a small, hand-held vaccuum cleaner, Metro Vaccuum still makes their handheld vaccuum in the States.

Extension Cords- These Flexy extension cords are made in America, and the design seems pretty genius to me. Could be amazing! US Wire sells extension cords and cable as well!

Light Bulbs- Not technically a spring cleaning staple, but if you are trying to get your home and life in order, it might be something you need? Cree bulbs are LED light bulbs which are made in the US, dimmable, and maybe my new favorite? You can find a good variety of them to get what you need. Sylvania bulbs are made in the US as well.

If you are less attached to the LED aspect, you could try newcandescent lightbulbs, which are made in the US and seem to be much more energy efficient than the oldcandescent bulbs. If anyone tries these, let me know how they are!

Mop- If you are a mop kind of family Rubbermaid makes mop heads out of post-consumer recycled material here in the US. Unisan also makes mop heads out of 100% recycled materials. This mop handle is also made in the US.

Paper Towels- I wrote ALL about paper towel options (and how it is way more affordable than you think!) on my Greening the Basics blog. Check it out and help me end our culture's addiction to virgin tree paper goods (because your spill is not worth a tree).

Rags- You really don't have some old t-shirts of your own? If not, at least buy 100% recycled rags, because there is no sense in doing anything else. Buffalo Industries sells boxes of recycled t-shirts perfect for cleaning.

Sponges- We use a lot of sponges, so this is an area where I look forward to making a change. Scoth Brite sells "Greener Clean" sponges that are like a quarter recycled paper and completely recyclable. If you really want to step it up, Full Circle makes scrubbers out of bamboo and loofah, so they biodegrade completely. Peachy Clean sells a sillicon scrubber (no idea if this works or not) that is made in Georgia from American materials.

If you are more of a cloth family, Full Circle sells cloths out of 80% recycled material, and Skoy Cloths are made in Germany and are totally biodegradable.

Sponge Holder- We use a soap dish for this, but one that drains probably is way more sanitary. This one from Uncommon Goods is pretty. Probably easy enough to find these used.

Steamer- Honestly, I would let the shower do it, but The Boy loves it. Our steamer did come in handy for hangng curtains, but I also burned the crap out of myself with it (maybe my fault). Maybe not worth it to buy? Check with your Buy Nothing if someone will let you borrow yours for the two times a year you need it. If you love steamy clothes, the Jiffy Garment Steamer is still made in the United States, and you can check their website for personal and travel versions as well.

Sweeper- We all love our swiffers, but their one time use inserts and all fresh plastic bodies aren't exactly great for the environment. In fact, they may just be the worst. Depending on your surfaces, you could register for a Bissell green sweeper instead, which has recycled parts and doesn't have any wasteful disposable inserts.

Trash Bags- I did this research for my "newish Apartment" wishlist, and it is a tricky business. Looking for garbage bags, be sure to inspect reviews and what they really mean by "biodegradable." If it is plastic, it cannot and will not biodegrade. It just breaks into tiny pieces that will polute the water and cannot be cleaned up. I would recommend either biobags for green waste or recycled plastic trash bags. Because garbage bags never need to be made of fresh plastic.

My pick would probably be Webster Earthsense bags, which are made of 75% recycled material. If you want to gift something like this without doing tons of research, Seventh Generation is always a good place to start. You can also look at my Second List for Greening yourBasics to find more information and ideas (though I really warn against anything that claims to be "biodegradable" now.

Tubs- This tub, perfect for holding cleaning supplies, is made of 100% recycled (and non-toxic for those of you who are organic) materials. Perfect for a garage or basement organization?

Vacuum- Well, these turned out to be a bummer (most mainstream sweepers are no good, and Oreck used to make 2 versions in the US, but I can't find any evidence this is still the case), but Maytag makes all of their vacuums in the US.

Shop Vac has earned my loyalty by continuing to manufacture their (well-loved) sweepers in the United States! If you want to know about the history of vacuum cleaners, they also have their own museum, because America. It looks complicated, but you can figure it out! Metrovac also has my love for their Made in USA vacuum cleaners.

Suds

Before having a baby, new parents learn that their house is a death trap, and one of the scariest aspects of it are the nasty and destructive chemicals that live under all of our sinks. Right now, our cleaning stuff is up in a high shelf so my son can't get near them. But then why do I want that stuff coating all our surfaces and furniture? There is a better way, and you start to notice if a company cares to not make their product toxic (for your home, waste, and water), then they probably are a lot more thoughtful about other aspects of its making as well. 

This is a combination of the information I got from the presentation at our preschool and articles I found online- this one from O.com and Good Housekeeping, so we aren't talking about anything way out of the mainstream here. Just a few small changes can make your house healthier and better for the world around it. 

All Surface Cleaner- Bill by Eco Me All-Purpose Cleaner is made of all food-grade products, so your counters will literally be lickable when you finish cleaning. Perfect if, like me, you live with someone who loves to lick everything. One you can buy in bulk as well! We were gifted this Method lavender all-purpose cleaner by the speaker coming to inform us about removing unsafe chemicals from our home. That says volumes to me, and we are still finishing our other cleaner, but I will let you know how it works once I get there. 

Bathroom Cleaner- The expert I spoke to swore by Bon Ami for cleaning bathrooms, and almost all of the lists and information I read agreed. Most say they expected much more elbow grease needed because of the healthier ingredients, but they were pleasantly surprised. You can do the old-fashioned powder or the liquid version, which comes in a 100% post-consumer recycled bottle! My dream soap! 

Carpet Stain Remover- GreenWorks Oxi Stain Remover has glowing reviews and gently, but effectively gets stains out of the carpets. Plus, you can buy it in bulk and probably never need to get it again! Yay!

Dish Soap- Method Dishwasher Detergent Tabs get high marks. Method has great (maybe too catchy?) ads, but they also are well-loved by environmentalists and chemical-concerned homes alike. I also love that they have refill bags for many of their products, so you don't have to buy quite as many plastic bottles which is always GOOD.  

Glass Cleaner- This one really makes me think about why we use the products we use. In our case, we pick something out once, or we pick the thing that sounds familiar/ our moms used, and we stick with it, because it seems to work fine. But Windex has ammonia in it, so we all might be better off with something like Mrs. Meyer's glass cleaner; you can read about it's much milder contents (better for your house and better to send off into the world in your garbage or green waste). 

Laundry Soap- You can get wonderful laundry soap on Etsy that feels like a splurge, but it turns out to be pretty affordable. You can find them in all sorts of areas of the US, so you can get it really local. This avoids the excessive plastic waste, and you can know exactly what you are putting into your clothes. If that isn't your deal, Greenworks laundry soap has great reviews. 

When in doubt, I also love almost everything made by Seventh Generation. Not only do they care about the environment, but they make their products here in the US and have a great reputation for how they treat their workers. If you aren't sure, you can always start here. 


Storage

I personally believe that the key to cleanliness is to have a place for each thing. If you have too many things or not enough places, you can’t have clean. So some of your cleaning this year might actually be breaking down and getting those bins you need to keep things organized. Let’s look at some options.

Cubes- Wish you could get some cloth cubes for those cube shelves you can get from Ikea or Closetmaid? Do you just love cubes? Or the word cubes? I found some on Etsy, like these or these! I also really love these burlap ones.

Plastic Bins- Looking into bins does my heart good, because Rubbermaid, Sterilite, and Iris are all made in the US.This one is so easy, there is no excuse to ever buy a plastic bin not made here! In fact, plastic bins are one of the items you are guaranteed to find Made in the USA at any Walmart or Target. I wish they were recycled plastic. I cannot think of one good reason why they wouldn't try to get ahead of the competition that way, but 

from Amish Baskets
Other Organizational Baskets- Not every organizational problem can be solved by a plastic bin, so sometimes you need to find something more aesthetically pleasing, like these perforated metal baskets. You might be surprised how many different options you can find on Etsy- recycled industrial wire baskets (maybe to finally get those tools organized?) to crotcheted baskets.  My favorite are these Amish Baskets stairs baskets, as we are constantly making stair piles while we clean. I also think these metal baskets look amazing. Plus, it is just beautiful and reminds me of Pennsylvania. If you like milk crates for your organizing, Farmplast sells milk crates made in the USA.

from Red House VT
Want some of those sturdy cloth baskets to hold blankets and toys? I love these waxed canvas ones from Red House VT.  You can also find those chicken coop toy storage shelves (which they sell much more expensive versions of at stores like Pottery Barn) from Creek Bend Designs.  

Places to Donate your Goodies and Dispose of Waste Properly


So you have started a donate pile- awesome! Keep at it. Eventually, you will feel like a weight has been lifted. Also, send me pictures, because we can all use some inspiration! But you also want to make sure you are getting things to where they need to go. If you want to keep your donations local, which is great, you will have to do a lot of the research yourself (or write me a message and I will help you look it up!). 

If you want more information, I also really loved this article on cleaning the home in more eco-friendly ways. I love the suggestion to keep an eye out for your water-usage! 

Hoo boy! Who knew that cleaning could require so much stuff?!?!? Get what you NEED, but as things come up or need replaced, consider either getting it used or investing in something that lasts a long, long time. If you want more shopping inspiration, check out my Giant List of Ethical and Eco-Friendly Shopping Lists

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3 comments

  1. Great article! You should check http://www.ostrianet.gr/ for the best cleaning products.

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  2. Most people don’t get the importance of maintaining the environment especially when it comes to cleaning. You may find used cleaning gloves and even used detergent bottles thrown all over with people not caring the effects that these non-biodegradable elements to the environment and the people around us. A small kid may suffer adverse health effects by picking a plastic bag that had detergent chemicals and starts licking it. I appreciate you trying to tell people of how to keep clean and at the same time maintain the environment.

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    Replies
    1. So true. I think all of these issues get lost because companies REALLY don't want us to talk about them. Important to keep bringing it up.

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