We’re finally into spring in the Northern hemisphere and autumn down in the southern parts of the world. The change in seasons is the perfect excuse to give your living space a deep clean. But beware of the toxic chemicals and environmental damage that lie within many conventional cleaning products.
The cleaning product industry is also a huge contributor of non-recyclable disposable plastics that end up in landfill, or worse, natural environments and the ocean. Not only can these products negatively impact the planet, but they’re expensive to keep re-purchasing.
Here are 5 of my best eco-friendly spring cleaning tips:
Click here to get your FREE CONCENTR8ED bathroom eco bar
What you should look for in eco-friendly cleaning products
My eco-friendly criteria for cleaning products is a pretty tall order for brands to match. In fact, I created my own eco-friendly cleaning products because I couldn’t find anything that measured up for an affordable price. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
When looking for cleaning products, I want them to be plastic-free, palm oil-free, vegan, no animal testing for the product or it’s ingredients and a low percentage of water in the formulation. As you’ve probably heard me say before, liquid cleaning products are often 60-95% water with a tiny smidge of active ingredients. This is terrible for the environment because it usually means the product is packaged in plastic to stop it from leaking and has high transport emissions due to being heavy. And it makes no sense at all to be buying a cleaning product that is mostly water when many of us are privileged enough to have water running from our taps.
So to sum it all up, I look for cleaning product concentrates so I can add the water and home. That’s where my business idea CONCENTR8ED came from. I sell active ingredient eco bars that provide just the ingredients you need and you can add the water at home. If you’re keen to give them a go, I’ll leave a link below where you can try the bathroom cleaning eco bar for free.
There are also lots of options for tablets and pods that you can dissolve in spray bottles filled with water too. These are a similar concept to my eco bars… adding the water at home instead of shipping it around and using plastic bottles to do so. It makes so much more sense, right? And you heard it here first, I may be working on some of these for CONCENTR8ED, but let’s keep that between us!
What you should avoid in cleaning products
I could easily make a whole episode just on what to avoid in cleaning products because there is some pretty nasty stuff out there. Most of us are so desensitized to it, but the warning labels on the back of cleaning products are downright frightening.
I live in the UK and luckily we have pretty strict labelling laws, which means manufacturers have to disclose some of the effects of their products on human health and the environment. Many countries don’t have this so people are unaware of the true cost of their cleaning products. In fact, the non-profit Environmental Working Group has found 53 percent of cleaning products that they reviewed contained lung-harming ingredients while just 7 percent of cleaning products adequately disclosed their contents.
I took a stroll down the cleaning product aisle in the supermarket the other day – something I hadn’t done for quite a few years since making the switch to more natural alternatives. Not only does the smell of all synthetic fragrances in the aisle turn my stomach and bring on an instant headache, but some of the labels I read were shocking. Common warnings included, “harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects” – “Do not breath spray” – “Causes serious eye damage” – “Avoid release to the environment.” Not really sure I can make sure of that from my bathroom – “Use in well-ventilated areas”
And that’s just to name a few. It’s pretty scary stuff. I have sensitive skin and have many memories of skin irritation that lasted literally for days after coming into contact with some of these products. Meanwhile, I’m sure we’ve all had the urge to instinctively hold our breath while cleaning with certain products, as the chemical cocktail smell can be overwhelming and in many cases has been proven to be harmful to our health.
The best realisation I’ve had about eco-friendly cleaning is that one of the most effective cleaning products you already have is elbow grease. And I don’t mean the cleaning product brand, I mean manual labour. Most of these chemical cleaning concoctions are formulated to make cleaning easier by chemically cleaning and removing build-up. In my experience, they rarely work the way they claim to and the majority of the cleaning effort comes from physically applying force while cleaning to work the product into build-up and remove it. Weekly cleaning will help to stop limescale and soap scum from building up, making it even easier to maintain.
READ NEXT: Why glass is BAD for the environment
DIY homemade cleaning product ideas
DIY cleaning products have made a huge comeback as eco people look for alternatives to the plastic-bottled, chemical cocktails that are the norm. Common natural ingredients include baking soda, vinegar, lemons, liquid castile soap and essential oils. These can be great alternatives to toxic chemical-filled cleaners and can easily be prepared fresh at home.
I started my eco-friendly journey with homemade DIY cleaning products. I really like using leftover lemon and orange rinds to infuse in vinegar for two weeks to make citrus cleaning spray. Baking soda can be used for just about everything from cleaning bathroom surfaces to removing laundry stains.
But there’s a lot I don’t like about homemade cleaners – and this is just my personal opinion. I didn’t last long with the vinegar spray because the smell would linger in my bathroom for 2-3 days. I love vinegar on a salad but not so much when I’m doing my skincare routine. Baking soda is very corrosive and I noticed it really started to take a toll on the grout between my bathroom tiles after a few months of using just a small amount to clean with.
Also, I love love loved the idea of using half a lemon dipped in baking soda to clean surfaces when I found it on Pinterest. By the way, if you’re a fellow pinner like me, connect with me on Pinterest because I have a whole lot of good eco-friendly stuff there. But my problem with using lemon to clean with was that it felt kind of wasteful to use a whole lemon each week just for cleaning when I could use a better formulated eco-friendly cleaning product with a reusable cloth or sponge instead. But like I said, that’s just my personal preference and I know some people absolutely love their DIY cleaning products. So just find whatever works for you, eco-friend!
Upcycling cleaning tools
One thing that makes me downright furious when it comes to conventional cleaning products is the excessive use of plastic and disposable style items. It just shows how little regard these companies have for the environment, especially when most of these plastic-based items will be sitting on our planet for the next 500+ years. Always opt for reusable cleaning tools that you can use, rinse, wash and repeat for a long long time.
While investing in specialised reusable cleaning items such as washable clothes and sponges is a much better option than disposables, there are also so many ways to upcycle items that are destined for landfill into cleaning tools. Worn out clothes and bedding can be cut up to make cleaning rags that won’t cost you anything. Meanwhile, threadbare towels can be cut up to fit Swiffer-style mops for wood floors. Plastic dusters essentially just move dust just around, so swap these for damp clothes instead. There are endless possibilities.
Make a fresh air habit
I’m lucky that my mum always thought air fresheners and sprays were a complete waste of money and resources, so I never grew up around excessive amounts of synthetic fragrances. But there are plenty of people who can’t seem to survive without them. Synthetic smells do not mean a clean space. In fact, they usually cover up mould and damp smells that do need attention.
The US’s Environmental Protection Agency has found that the air inside our homes is on average 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. Much of this is to do with airborne pollutants from cooking, heating, plastic items, furniture, technology and of course, cleaning products. One of the best things you can do for your health is to open your windows to regularly let fresh air in each and every day.
Eco Action Step
Your eco-friendly action step for this week, well actually for right now, is to open your windows and let some fresh air in! If it’s a bit chilly, just do it for a few minutes when you’re out of the room. It’s the easiest way to remove pollutants and refresh your space, just in time for the new season. Come and say hi on Instagram and let me know your favourite eco-friendly cleaning hack.