As much as I hate cleaning (it just seems so pointless since you have to do it over and over again), springtime does bring on the urge to purify ones home a bit more thoroughly than usual. The sun finds all those little areas you managed to ignore all winter long, and the windows… sigh.
Since, according to the EPA, indoor air is many times more polluted that outdoor air, using as few harmful products as possible around the house, not just for cleaning, is essential. For the past few years, I’ve been on a personal mission to replace all my harmful cleaners and products with non-toxic ones, and after trying lots of them, I’ve found some that really work and you can use without holding your breath and squeezing your eyes closed while cleaning.
But watch out even when buying “natural” cleaning products – as with body care products, many that appear to be non-toxic do in fact contain harmful ingredients. Always read the label! Avoid anything that contains ammonia, MEA, TEA, DEA, glycol ethers (often listed as 2-butoxyethanol), APE, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, chlorine, dichloromethane, formaldehyde, naptha, and synthetic fragrances. Read more about these in my “10 Toxic Cleaning Product Ingredients And How They May Harm You” post.
I also always look for the leaping bunny symbol, which means that the company does not use animal testing in any stage of creating the product, nor do they buy ingredients from companies that use animal testing. However, there are cruelty-free companies without the leaping bunny logo, such as Method (which is vegan and not tested on animals), so it’s worth it to check each company’s website to find out what their animal testing policy is.
One easy way to cut down on indoor pollution is to do like the Swedes: take your shoes off at the door and never wear outdoor shoes inside (and ask your visitors to do the same). Think about what you could be depositing on your floor: pesticides, fertilizers, oil, anything else you walked across that day. This is especially important if you have small children or pets. As a bonus, you won’t have to clean as often, and your floors and rugs will have longer lives.
Below is a list of some of my favorite household products, and you will see that Method is prominently featured in many categories. Their products really do a fabulous job, BUT they do contain a few ingredients I’m not so sure I’m entirely happy about: SLS (coconut derived, but anyway) and synthetic fragrance (blended with natural). On the upside, you can avoid the fragrance issue by using their unscented products, and none contain other terrible ingredients like phthalates (not even the packaging) or animal by-products.
For cleaning anything in the kitchen, I use a little bit of Method’s Go Naked dish soap in some hot water and scrub with a sponge or sponge cloth.
Method also makes the best automatic dishwasher detergent I’ve tried. We tested many others but the Method Go Naked Smarty Dish is by far the best one. Some of the others left lipstick stains on glasses, and one brand did such a poor job that we thought it was time to get a new dishwasher. They used to carry this at Whole Foods, but I haven’t seen it there for quite some time now. We get ours from drugstore.com
Paper Towels. I always rinse lettuce and herbs when I get home from the store and wrap them up in paper towels so they’re ready to use whenever (thanks for that tip, Rachael Ray!), so the last thing I want is toxic chemicals in my paper.
Not only is non-recycled paper made from valuable wood pulp resources, but when white paper products are bleached using chlorine, tons of toxins (such as dioxins, lead, arsenic, mercury) are released into the environment.
A much better choice is paper bleached using a non-chlorine process, but best of all are unbleached products. My favorite is Seventh Generation 100% recycled unwhitened (brown) paper towels. The unwhitened can sometimes be hard to find, and when I can’t, I get their white ones, which are whitened without chemicals.
Napkins: Again, Seventh Generation 100% recycled unwhitened is my top choice. Not super fun and colorful, sure, but they will come in contact with your mouth and possibly your food…
After years of trying green bathroom cleaning products, we declared Method a clear winner. We use their Tub n’ tile bathroom cleaner (spray), le scrub (for the sink and tub), and lil’ bowl blue (toilet cleaner).
We have battled blocked drains for years in our home (turns out the pipes that were installed when the place was built are too narrow) and tried many natural brands with varying degrees of disappointing results. Finally, we found one that does the job beautifully without poisoning us: Earth Enzymes Drain Opener. We used it overnight on a totally clogged bathroom sink full of standing water, and it worked like a dream. I will never go near Liquid Plumber ever again.
We like 365 Everyday Value (Whole Food’s brand). They are 100% recycled (80% post-consumer) and non-chlorine bleached.
Again, look for recycled, non-bleached (or non-chlorine bleached) products. We like 365 Everyday Value double rolls. They’re 100% recycled (80-95% post-consumer), and non-chlorine bleached. Another good option is Trader Joes’, also 100% recycled (80% post-consumer) and non-chlorine bleached.
Q-Tips and Cotton Balls
Don’t forget about these – many are bleached using chlorine. We use Whole Food’s 365 brand products which are made with organic cotton and bleached using hydrogen peroxide.
In part II of this mini-series, I’ll share more of my favorite non-toxic household products (laundry, glass, air freshening, etc.).