Have you ever taken a good look at the labels on your household cleaning products? They probably feature a long list of chemicals you don’t recognize as well as warnings to contact the Poison Control Center if the product is accidentally ingested or inhaled. Unless the packaging explicitly states otherwise, you can bet the products aren’t biodegradable, natural or renewable. Unfortunately, many chemicals used in standard soaps, detergents and other cleaners aren’t removed by standard water filtration systems. They end up back in our waterways and it’s unclear how they might affect our environment and ourselves. Environmentally friendly cleaning products appeal not only to environmentally conscious consumers, but also to people worried about exposure to toxins or about the accidental poisoning of pets and children.
Luckily, the market for environment-friendly cleaning products has exploded over the last few years. No longer available only at health food stores, these products have reached the shelves of mainstream supermarkets and home-supply stores. If you’re thinking about trying some “green” cleaning products, you may not have to look much further than the stores you already patronize.
Two of the most popular and widely available brands are Ecover and Seventh Generation. Both companies offer a wide range of cleaning products and personal care products, including all-purpose cleaners, recycled paper towels and chlorine-free diapers. These products are easy to find at environment- and health-centered markets like Wild Oats or Whole Foods. Marcal offers 100% recycled paper towels, toilet paper and other paper-based cleaning products and is widely available. However, many smaller eco-friendly brands may be available locally. If a product is biodegradable, renewable or all-natural, the packaging will clearly state this. If your local stores don’t offer natural cleaning products, speak to the manager and suggest the addition of some of these products. Consumer suggestions go a long way in determining product availability.
One of the most common complaints about all-natural cleaning products is the price. It’s true that many environmentally friendly products are more expensive. However, you can still have a clean apartment with a minimal impact on your wallet and the environment. Some of the least expensive items on your grocery store’s shelves are powerful, all-natural cleaning products. Baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and salt can meet many of your apartment cleaning needs. These are just some of the many all-natural household items you can use as cleaners.
Baking soda can remove stains from linen, act as a fabric softener, remove grease from pots and pans, eliminate odors from freezers and refrigerators and be used as a mildly abrasive cleaner for countertops, stoves and dishes. Check out this complete list of baking soda’s many uses.
Lemon juice is a deodorant and also can be used as a glass cleaner. A combination of lemon juice and sunlight acts as mild bleach and can be used to remove stains from aluminum and porcelain.
Vinegar is a mild acid that removes soap scum, grease, mildew and wax and is a major ingredient in natural, homemade carpet cleaners. For a more comprehensive list of household uses, visit the Vinegar Institute (yes, this actually exists).
Finally, salt can be used as an abrasive cleaner and stain remover. There is also a Salt Institute, which explains the many household uses for salt.
Rather than try to turn your apartment into an all-natural enclave overnight, introduce one or two new products at a time and see how well they work compared to the products you’ve been using. Experiment with different brands, products and household staples like lemon juice and baking soda to see what works best for you. If you use an apartment-cleaning service or housekeeper, ask them to begin making substitutions and let you know which products they prefer. Even a few small changes can have an impact on the environment and the overall safety of your apartment.
What are some environmentally friendly cleaning products that have worked well for you?