I Gave Away All My Toxic Cleaning Products—Here Are the Eco-Friendly Products I Got Instead
Swapping harmful and wasteful cleaning products with eco-friendly alternatives is pretty easy. Here's what to buy to help the planet and stay clean.
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Why use non-toxic or eco-friendly cleaning products?
When I moved out of my apartment last year, I saw a golden opportunity. Instead of boxing up and moving half-used cleaning products to a new home, I gave them all away. The blue toilet cleaner, the unused plastic dish sponges, and heavily scented floor cleaner all found new homes.
And instead of rushing out to replace them with more toxic cleaning products that use too much plastic and are bad for my health (and my dog’s health), I have time to thoughtfully purchase eco-friendly products to clean my new home, like some of these green cleaning products professional housekeepers trust most.
I’m trying to be more thoughtful in my consumer choices and reduce my plastic consumption overall. I also want to keep my home clean (and smelling good) while reducing exposure to industrial-strength chemicals and toxins. As reported by the Environmental Working Group, disinfectants that contain ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma and fertility issues; soaps with triclosan may affect thyroid function and cleaners made from ammonia or chlorine beach are harmful to the environment and air you breathe. Eek!
And, I have a dog. So I’m concerned about keeping him healthy and safe. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a list of household products that are dangerous for pets, including fabric softener sheets and carpet fresheners.
Reducing plastic use is another key issue. In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that landfills received over 27 million tons of plastic. I know I’m contributing to that number every time I toss out a cleaning product bottle that can’t be recycled or wasn’t made from recycled materials in the first place.
In an effort to more safely and effectively clean my home, I did some research using the EWG’s guide to healthy cleaning and found eco-friendly cleaning products that deliver good cleaning results, without using as much plastic. Here’s my list of non-toxic cleaning products.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
ThreeMain Household Cleaning Starter Kit
$27 for three products and refillable bottles
Driving to the store to buy plastic bottles of water-based cleaning products is so 2020. ThreeMain formulated their cleaning products with pets, people, and the environment in mind. This starter kit features a multi-surface cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and liquid dish soap in pretty blue aluminum bottles. The cleaners are formulated with the CDC’s recommended amount of hydrogen peroxide (plus baking soda), so they kill bacteria and viruses. You can sign up for a refill subscription service to keep your bottles full and your home clean. Oh, and the cleaning products smell like lemons. (But if essential oils are irritating to you, skip these.) Here are 30 things you should clean in the next 30 days.
Wool Dryer Balls
$9 for six balls
Laundry dryer sheets are single-use, loaded with chemicals, and don’t actually do much to soften fabrics or extend the life of your clothes. While a dryer sheet can only be used once, a set of wool dryer balls lasts for years. Instead of just imitating chemicals to imitate softness, the dryer balls actually rub and gently beat the fabric to mechanically soften fibers. They bounce around in the dryer to separate the clothing, which helps the heat to circulate evenly and prevents the buildup of friction and static. I especially love using wool dryer balls to quickly dry heavy items like down comforters and pillows. Pro tip: I put a little lavender oil on the balls before I throw them in with my sheets. Find out some of the things that should never end up in your dryer.
Silicone Toilet Brush
I hate to admit this: I used to buy a cheap plastic toilet brush from IKEA and then throw it out every six months. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to actually clean the plastic bristles, and I was grossed out by the toilet water that dripped and pooled in the storage container. When I found this Holikme toilet brush on Amazon, I was relieved. For one thing, the shape of the brush is designed to reach under the toilet rim so it does a substantially better job of actually cleaning the toilet. Second, the silicone bristles are washable and they dry fast—no more puddle of dirty toilet water to contend with. Steal these clever cleaning hacks from the pros.
Cellulose Sponge Cloths
$20 for 10
Not only do cellulose sponge cloths work better than their disposable paper towel counterparts, but they also save money. A 10 pack of cellulose sponge cloths costs $20, and each sponge can be dishwasher or machine washed over 50 times. Plus, they work hard. The sponges absorb 20 times their weight in water and can be used for everything from washing dishes to cleaning up spills to wiping down the counter. They wring out fast and are quick drying so they’re ready for the next use and the next one and the next one. Learn how to clean tricky household objects.
Lemon Scented Vinegar
$10 for 64 ounces
It turns out, vinegar is a powerful and all-natural cleaner that can be used to clean everything from windows to toilets. Vinegar’s acidity is what makes it such an effective cleaner, but the smell isn’t ideal. This lemon-scented vinegar still has a slight vinegar odor but the lemon does provide a more pleasant citrus note. Buy it in the 64-ounce container to cut down on packaging waste. And, be sure to dilute the vinegar with water to make a cleaning solution that won’t destroy fabrics. Another bonus? Vinegar is really cheap. Here are almost 100 vinegar uses you never knew about.
Cleancult Laundry Detergent
Cleancult made me rethink my regular jug of laundry detergent. Some laundry detergents are filled with phosphates, which can deplete oxygen in the water table over time. Not good. Instead, Cleancult sells biodegradable laundry detergent in paper cartons that are completely recyclable—right down to the plant-based cap. One box provides enough laundry soap for 64 loads, and there’s a subscription service available. Cleancult laundry detergent is available in an unscented version or three fragrant scents like sweet honeysuckle. Take a look at some of the safest laundry detergents while you’re at it.
Clean Sweep Essential Oil
I love the ritual of lighting a scented candle after a deep house clean. But did you know that researchers found regular burning of some scented paraffin candles can release toxic chemicals in the air, and trigger migraines and asthma? Eek! I love the scent of candles, but I don’t want to put my health in harm’s way or have lingering smoke in my home. A better alternative is to put high-quality essential oils in a diffuser. Clean Sweep is blended with pine, lemon, and clove—it smells like a clean house without any of the work (or toxins). Now, find out the best cleaning tips to cut your cleaning time in half.
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- Environmental Working Group: Home Guide, Cleaners and Air Fresheners
- ASPCA: Poisonous Household Products
- EPA: Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling
- Environmental Working Group: Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- South Carolina State University: Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals