How to make your spring clean go green
The straight talk on what all those labels really mean
We love everything about spring. Yes … even spring cleaning. De-cluttering and toppling the paper mountain can be arduous, and nothing puts a damper on the sweet smell of lily and hyacinth like bleach and ammonia. But giving your house its annual scrub-down doesn’t have to cause sneezing, watery eyes and itchy skin.
Natural cleaning products improve the air quality inside your home, which means that you — and your kids, grandkids and pets — can be around them without worrying about what you’re breathing in.
Even better? Many natural cleaners use essentials oils as scent, you can deep-clean your home and smell the flowers.
Making the switch to natural cleaning products can happen either via off-the-shelf natural products or truly DIY, homemade concoctions. In this blog post, we’re focusing on helping you make the best choice for store-bought cleaners, but stay tuned for a future blog post on DIYing your own all-natural cleaning products.
Store-Bought Natural Cleaners: What to Look For
If you’re like most of us, you spend a bit of time online looking up DIY cleaning solutions … then head to the store to find their already-put-together equivalents. But the cleaning products aisle isn’t easy to figure out. Product packages can feel like they’re practically screaming at you with claims of GREEN! ECO-FRIENDLY! NATURAL! They claim to be non-toxic and come with seals of approvals, but are they legit?
To find the products that are best for you, go beyond the marketing and take a peek at the label to understand what’s really in the products you’re buying. Here’s what to look for:
Chemical-free: The truth is, nothing is truly chemical-free — baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, vinegar is acetic acid, even plain old water is H2O, after all. It’s likely that what the claim really means is toxic-chemical free, or synthetic-chemical free, or free from any chemical compounds that can cause ill effects. To get a clearer picture of whether ingredients are harmful, look for the words danger (the highest level of warning), warning, or caution (the lowest.) If you don’t see any of these words on the label, it’s a good sign.
Green: This claim is telling you the product is better not only for inside your home, but the environment as well. Most commonly this means that it’s made with natural ingredients or free from chemicals that can harm the environment, packaged in recycled materials, biodegradable, or all of the above. Green is one of those buzzwords that can show up anywhere, but a good rule of thumb is to, again, read the label. The truly environmentally friendly products are more likely to come with a complete ingredient list.
Natural: Here’s more marketing jargon that’s not government regulated. And let’s be real, some “natural” elements are highly dangerous (arsenic and mercury, to name a few.). If a product calls itself natural, look for other clues to back that claim, such as the USDA Organic label, fragrance-free (although essential oils are great!), dye-free, preservative-free, or made with ingredients you can understand.
Non-toxic: This is a tricky one, because some products may play a bit of a name game in order to make this claim. The common belief is that non-toxic means that a product is not poisonous, but in reality, non-toxic only means that it doesn’t include any ingredients that are toxic. This means it might actually be non-toxic, or it might just squeak in under the threshold for being considered toxic. If a product claims to be non-toxic, take a closer look. Do you see danger or warning labels? If so, you may consider a different product.
Now that you’re armed with the basics, it’s time to get shopping. Here are some of the experts’ top-recommended products. You can find the entire list here.
Better Life All-Purpose Cleaner: A plant-based cleaner that comes in a stainless-steel version, too.
Bon Ami: For scrubbing, but stronger than baking soda.
Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap: Clean your floor, your dishes, and your body.
Ecover Zero Dish Soap: Plant-based dish soap made in “clean, green factories”
White House Foods Cleaning Vinegar: Scented with lavender to take the edge off.
What are your favorite products or go-to home cleaning remedies? Share them in the comments!