Whether or not you enjoy cleaning, it’s hard to deny the uplifting power of a clean home. There’s just something about washed dishes, fresh laundry and swept floors that speaks to the simpler luxuries of life.
While it feels good to have a clean home, many popular household cleaners contain harsh ingredients and toxic chemicals that can damage your body despite following cautionary instructions. Sprays make it easy to breathe in toxic particles, laundry detergent coats our clothes and dishwashing liquid remnants get into your food—all without us even noticing.
Cleaning chemicals can also add to indoor air pollution, which is often 10 times as polluted as outdoors air. Many household products emit volatile organic compounds that can cause cancer, as well as damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system. It’s common knowledge that bleach and ammonia make a noxious gas when mixed, but even solvents with citrus or pine bases may react with ozone in the air to make formaldehyde.
To put it frankly, this means that we’re often replacing good ol’ dirt and dander with other substances that can actually make us sicker.
Luckily, it’s very easy to do something about this problem. Specialized green cleaning products have become more and more popular and cost effective in the last few years. Even better, you can quickly and safely make your own cleaning solutions from ingredients you probably already own! And if you like, you can customize the scent to your aromatherapy needs. Sounds pretty great, right?
Put on your reusable rubber gloves because here are 14 simple alternatives to get you started on green cleaning.
- Plain old baking soda
The fine grain of this classic kitchen staple makes it perfect for scrubbing sinks, tubs and showers. It also makes an effective air freshener—place in a bowl in the fridge, sprinkle some in old shoes and dust on the carpet before vacuuming to banish unpleasant smells. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for scent.
- Take it up a notch with washing soda
Like baking soda’s older sibling, washing soda is a tougher version of this cleaning powder. Buy some or make your own, use like you would baking soda or add to a load of laundry so you can put in less detergent.
- White vinegar
Mix with equal parts water for a simple, nontoxic cleaning solution. This is particularly great for cleaning surfaces that come into contact with food, such as fridges and counters. It’s also safe to use onsinks, tubs, furniture and produce.
- Unscented laundry soap
This is a great alternative to big-brand detergents, which are chocked with toxic chemicals and harmful fragrances. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil if you miss the scent of clean laundry.
- Unscented dishwashing liquid
Again, it’s best to use unscented cleaners, especially if there’s a chance you might ingest residue left on your dishes.
- Dishwasher gel
Much safer than regular dishwashing gel, this version has no harmful chemicals. Or if you prefer tablets, there’s a version of that, too.
- All-purpose soap
This truly all-purpose soap has a cult following, and with good reason. It has a variety of uses, is safe to use on your skin and is non-toxic. Bonus: it comes in tons of great essential-oil-based scents, as well as unscented for sensitive noses
- Lemon essential oil
Mix 10-15 drops with ½ a cup of olive or almond oil for a great wood polish perfect for cutting boards, furniture and décor. You can also mix with this essential oil with equal parts water and vodka for a healthier disinfecting spray.
- Reusable washing cloths (ditch the paper towels)
Don’t throw away paper towels when you clean—use cloths instead! It’ll save you money in the end and spare some unsuspecting trees. If you’re really thrifty, save old dishcloths or towels for this.
- Refillable bottle for making your own solution
This spray bottle is perfect for mixing some of the solutions above, and is made out of glass instead of plastic, which can leach chemicals over time. Plus, you can reuse it over and over again—saving you money in the long run!
- Multi-surface natural scented spray
This brand has tons of great products, but their multi-surface sprays are truly exceptional. With a variety of safe aromatherapy scents, this spray is tough on dirt and grime, plus it makes the whole room smell nice. Use it all over on hard surfaces.
- Stain and odor fighting liquid
If you have kids or pets, than this liquid will definitely come in handy. Use it to remove stains and odors from carpets, furniture—whatever they manage to get messy, really.
- Wool dryer balls
These are a great alternative to dryer sheets, which are surprisingly chemical-laden. Toss them in the dryer to decrease drying time and get fluffier fabrics. Add a few drops of essential oil for added scent.
- Air freshener (and body spray!)
If you’re not so keen on homemade sprays, this is a great alternative. Best of all, this is safe to use on your home and yourself!