If you’re a stickler for cleanliness, you know there’s no better feeling than coming home to a spotlessly clean house: gleaming tiles, dirt-free floors, grime-free bathroom, and a kitchen that smells like oranges and lemons. Ahhh, heaven.
However, for the eco-conscious, keeping house comes with a dilemma: Is there a better way to clean other than using conventional cleaners that are made of questionable ingredients, are probably irresponsibly manufactured, and are harmful not only to your health but also to the environment?
Conventional Cleaners: Why You Should Avoid Them
Each time you reach out for your favourite brand of toilet or sink cleaner, you could be inhaling a cocktail of harmful toxic chemicals. (Hello, bleach and ammonia!) And when that product goes down the drain, you’re also releasing poison into the environment.
What toxins could be lurking behind the bottles, aerosol cans, and jugs inside your cabinet, you ask? Here’s the dirt we’ve dug up so far on conventional cleaning products:
1. Synthetic fragrances
Found in: air fresheners, laundry detergent, and most household cleaners
Why you should avoid it: Most cleaners contain synthetic fragrances such as phthalate, a probable carcinogen known to cause reproductive and developmental problems not only in humans but in other animal species as well.
2. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Found in: dishwashing soap, floor cleaners, and a variety of household cleaners—even those labelled “green”
Why it’s bad: Healthwise, VOCs (which include ammonia, phosphorous, and nitrogen) contribute to indoor air pollution, and long-term exposure has been shown to cause respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer. In the environment, VOCs accumulate in waterways where they can negatively affect animals and plant life.
3. Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs)
Found in: dryer sheets and cleaning products
Why it’s bad: Notorious for being an allergen and skin irritant, studies also link QACs to cancer and reproductive health disorders. QACs are also toxic to a host of aquatic life, including fish, algae, and dolphins.
Found in: Most antibacterial products including hand soap, laundry detergent, and toilet disinfectants
Why it’s bad: This antimicrobial agent is effective at killing moulds and mildew, but it also kills algae (which are important bioindicators and are food to a variety of marine life) in rivers, lakes, and seas. Health experts also warn against using triclosan-based products as it can contribute to antimicrobial drug resistance.
And that’s not even half of the list. If you have a look at any cleaner you have at home, chances are it comes with poison or hazard warning due to the presence of numerous potentially harmful chemicals.
This also does not factor in the environmental cost of making these cleaners, such as transportation energy and fossil fuel use. That, and the fact that most cleaning products come with excessive packaging and are probably made by manufacturers that test on animals, should make you wary about that aerosol can or bottle of cleaner.
Green Cleaning Products: Our Favourite Brands
The good news is, there are plenty of natural, eco-friendly cleaning alternatives that work just as well—if not better—than regular cleaning products. Here’s a list of wholesome cleaning products that will not only leave your home looking and smelling good, but are certified safe for the environment too.
1. Bio-D: Vegan, Cruelty-Free Cleaning Made Affordable
This UK-based family brand has our thumbs-up for being a vegan, cruelty-free maker of all-natural, plant-derived home cleaning products. To reduce their environmental footprint, Bio-D sanitisers and cleaners come in either post-consumer recycled plastic or paper. The brand also sells refills and in bulk to save on packaging and transportation costs.
2. Blueland: A Clean Home for a Clean Planet
Household cleaning startup Blueland is the brainchild of Sarah Paiji, who had the epiphany for Blueland when she realised the staggering amount of single-use plastics she was sending to landfills with each cleaning product she used.
Enter Blueland’s innovative nontoxic cleaning products: glass and mirror, bathroom, dish, and multisurface cleaners that the company delivers to your doorstep in tablet form, which drastically cuts down on packaging waste. Just plop one tablet in water (in the refillable containers Blueland provides) and you’re good to go for several cleaning sessions.
3. Cleancult: Cleaning Made Better
Fancy a dish soap that comes in a milk carton?
Cleancult has earned a cult following among the eco-conscious for its zero-waste, plastic-free packaging and all-natural, coconut-based cleaners.
How does it work? First, the company delivers your starter kit bundle (composed of a bottle each of dish soap, hand soap, all-purpose cleaner, wool dryer balls, bar soap, and a silicone funnel). When you run low, you can reorder a refill kit, which this time comes in recyclable, paper-based packaging.
If you’re worried about the environmental cost of shipping, don’t worry—Cleancult ships carbon-neutral via its partner, carbonfund.org.
4. Dr. Bronner: Pure Cleaning in a Bottle
You’ve probably heard about how pure castile soap works wonders for your skin, but did you know this plant-based, all-natural soap can also be used to clean your home?
Fair Trade and organic body and home care brand Dr. Bronner makes some of the purest soaps on earth—with no synthetic preservatives, thickeners, detergents, dyes, or foaming agents. Its 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap promises to deliver no less than the purest clean, with certified organic coconut, palm kernel, olive, hemp, and jojoba oils. It comes in a dilutable formula (there’s even a helpful dilution cheat sheet), so each bottle will go a long way.
Apart from being certified Fair Trade and organic, Dr. Bronner also uses 100% post-consumer packaging. Fans of the brand include A-list luminaries Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore, and makeup maven Bobbi Brown.
5. ECOS: Plant-Powered Cleaning Products for the Home
If you’ve got babies and kids at home, you know how easily those curious little hands can reach into cabinets and cupboards for hazardous cleaning products. One of our bets for baby- and kid-friendly cleaners is Safer Choice–certified cleaning brand ECOS.
ECOS has been making “plant-powered cleaning products” since 1967 and offers a wide variety of cleaning products for each corner of your home. Best of all, each product is made of plant-based ingredients, with no synthetic fragrances, and comes with a hypoallergenic option too.
ECOS is a carbon-neutral company, with all four facilities running on 100% renewable energy, an effort which keeps 53 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere yearly.
6. Greenscents: Ethical Cleaning
Another brand worth checking out is Greenscents. From the organic, plant-based, vegan ingredients to its plastic-free, sugarcane-based packaging, everything about this brand screams sustainable and ethical. As a matter of fact, In 2017, Ethical Consumer awarded it “most ethical brand” among all UK cleaning and laundry brands.
The next time you head out for the cleaning products aisle, consider the environmental impact of the consumer choices you make. If you care not only about the state of your home but of the planet as well, these products should make you look forward to scrubbing and scouring away without the guilt.
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