The more I look into the ingredients of everyday products, the more I realise the chemicals we use to clean our homes are doing us and the environment damage. At worst they are toxic, cancer inducing, environment poisoning concoctions (if you are a catastrophiser perhaps). At best they are an irritant and quite probably impact the already polluted waterways and air. Before this audit, I would grab whatever “green” cleaning product the supermarket was proffering and believe I was doing my bit for the environment, but even these have their share of not so environmentally friendly chemicals (check out my Greenwashing Index and Glossary for more info).
More recently I have started to use homemade recipes like bi-carb and vinegar for the loo and a washing soda based multi-purpose spray. This week I rounded up all of the cleaning products in the house to see what I can swap for a more environmental approach. The idea here is to use products that are less toxic to us and the environment, with the least greenwashing by the manufacturer and minimal ingredients.
All of the store bought cleaning products in the house.
But why make the change? First of all, most cleaning products are unnecessary and can be replaced with a handful of single ingredient products, many of which are found in your kitchen pantry. I look at it this way… if I can eat it then surely that is going to be non-toxic and in turn, better for the environment?! Not only this, many of the commercial cleaners cost far more than homemade recipes.
Over the years we’ve been duped into believing we need to kill every germ and microbe that enters our home for fear they will bring back the plague or whatever disease is floating around that particular season. This is completely false, in fact, germs can be good for us. We are already crawling with microbes and germs, they help us to stay healthy and fight diseases and infections! I learnt this after reading Let Them Eat Dirt by B. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta. This is not to say we should give up on cleaning altogether but we definitely don’t need a different cleaning product for each room of the house let alone every individual appliance we own.
Environmentally speaking, most cleaners don’t state the entire ingredients list, making it difficult to know exactly what harm they are causing to the environment. Many of them are not naturally occurring, rather they are synthesised in a lab creating excess emissions and toxic waste. A lot of products use ingredients that may be toxic to aquatic life and bioaccumulate, meaning organisms accumulate these substances quicker than they can excrete them. Even if I’m the one being the catastrophiser here, I’m not willing to potentially add more pollutants than I already do. At the very least I’ll be saving a few bucks by making some simple switches.
Room for Improvement:
- Purchasing “green” products without researching the credentials
- Knowing some of the more simple alternatives and not applying them
Where we did well:
- Using home recipes for multi-purpose spray and toilet cleaner
Making the Switch
Rinse aid can be swapped for straight vinegar. I rarely fill the rinse aid anymore as we hardly use glasses but this may change down the track once Peanut is over the ‘throwing objects phase’.
This one I made from the back of the washing soda packet. It includes: water, vinegar, dishwashing liquid, eucalyptus oil and washing soda (see product swap for recipe). I use it on the benches, the toilet and the bathroom.
For this I’ll dilute about 2 tablespoons per 500mL. I have been using this recipe for a few years but the spray bottle I was using broke, so instead of buying an empty spray bottle I bought one with stuff in it for about the same price with the intention of reusing it once it was all gone. Seemed logical at the time.
I realised how ridiculous individually wrapped dishwashing tablets were when I audited our soft plastics. I had the ingredients in the cupboard to make DIY dishwashing tablets (washing soda, baking soda, salt and lemon essence) so Igave them a crack. They didn’t quite work out as tablets but they still do the trick! Recipe link in product swap.
According to my handy little book; green clean by L&K Designs, you can get rid of pretty much any clothing stain using vinegar, baking powder and bi-carb soda. I’m willing to give it a go!
All the floor needs is a bucket of hot water, a dash of vinegar and a few drops of eucalyptus (this is really just because I like the smell) and bobs your uncle!
Usually I just use a multi-purpose cleaner for the bathroom, however, when we renovated our bathroom we decided to keep the shower doors. I had quite a lot of trouble removing the decades of soap scum. I started to doubt the cleaning abilities of ‘eco’ products as there were slight traces left after scrubbing and rinsing with a power hose so I went for the “pro” version instead. It actually made no difference, so I have reverted back to multi-purpose spray and I have leant to live with slightly ‘frosted’ glass.
- At this point I’m not changing our laundry liquid (I had a long battle with leaking nappies which had to do with my wash routine)
- I’m on the hunt for a replacement dishwashing soap (let me know if you have a DIY recipe!)
- Last year we purchased a carpet cleaner and with it what appears to be a lifetimes supply of cleaner, I’ll check-in in 2030 when I run out of this one
- The washing machine tablets are another one of those silly purchases where we’re led to believe each individual appliance needs its own cleaning agent. Turns out my machine has its own cleaning cycle and it’s smart enough to remind me when to do it!
- The bleach and the borax were purchased to strip and sanitise our cloth nappies (nappy post coming soon), these won’t be replaced at this stage as I hope I won’t need to repeat the process!
- The laundry booster was purchased to make my whites whiter… it didn’t work so I’ve given up on wearing white instead
Last but not least;
- When the time comes to replacing the scrubbing brushes I will ensure to do my homework on products that will cause the least amount of landfill (I’m hoping this is years away yet!)
- Old towels make great dish rags, which can eventually be composted (as long as they’re made from natural fibers)
- Old toothbrushes are handy for hard to reach places (inside bottles, yoghurt pouches, around taps and grout)
- I’ve had the stainless steel scourer for around 4 years and it’s still going strong! I’m hoping this will last many more, when the time comes it can be recycled
- Unfortunately the silver and gold scourers and the pink sponge are destined for landfill. I’ll need to find a replacement for these that won’t end up in landfill (any ideas?)
- The colour scourer in an ecoscrubby, they’re cotton but they do have a coating on them so I’m not sure it can be composted
Essentially I’ll be replacing all the cleaning products in our house for a select few items found in the pantry.
Let me know what recipes you’ve tried at home!