Sometimes it seems like there’s only two options, buy the not-so-eco-friendly cleaning supplies, or put a lot of time and effort into creating your own. I’ve never been one for meticulous grating bits of soap into a pot on the stove, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more ecological options out there. It’s a good idea to get used to using eco-friendly cleaning supplies and grey water safe soaps if you ever plan to switch to a grey-water system, or even if you are still on city water.
General Purpose Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies
The best all around the house cleaners are baking soda and a 50-50 mix of water and vinegar.
I use these two for almost all my around the house cleaning. Use baking soda sparingly in a grey water system so as to not create a build up of salts. It’s also energy intensive to manufacture and requires the use of ammonia and sodium chloride. It’s best for heavy duty cleaning such as ovens, soap scum in the bathroom, or toilet bowls.
Vinegar is also a good all around cleaner. Used full strength it disinfects, but you can cut it down with water for make it last longer. If the smell bothers you, fill a jar with orange peels and then top it with white vinegar. Let it sit for a few weeks and then strain off the orange peel vinegar for orange scented cleaning. Recently I have even started using home fermented apple cider vinegar instead of purchased white vinegar with good results. (Read More: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar)
You can use bar soap for shampoo, dish soap, and hand washing.
I prefer to use the bars because the wrapper is compostable and is thus waste free. Dr. Bronners is a brand I trust, or you can make your own soap. (Read More: How To Make Homemade Soap From Ashes). To use a bar soap as dish soap fill your dish tub with very hot water then let the silverware and the bar soak. I like to do that while I clear the table. My husband prefers to grate slivers of soap into the wash tub and then fill it with hot water. Both methods work well. Most grey-water systems can handle a small amount of soap. This is the bar soap that I like the best.
There is an easy and eco-friendly options for laundry.
I previously washed clothes with a homemade detergent using grated soap, washing soda, and borax, but I quit for several reasons. It caused build up on my cloth diapers and washing soda and borax are both too harsh for my sensitive daughter. Washing soda is a salt and will build up in the soil and borax will kill beneficial bacteria in a grey water system. Also, borax is most often mined with the open pit method, a highly destructive environmental practice and washing soda has the same manufacturing concerns as with baking soda. Not to mention it was a pain in the neck to make.
Soap nuts are grey water safe.
You could even grow your own. I have been using soap nuts for our laundry for several years now and I love them. Soap nuts are actually berries that have contain saponin in the outer layers. They are compostable, non-toxic, grey water safe, odorless, and non-irritating for my sensitive family. Soap nuts will work in both top and front loading washers. They work best in warm or hot washes, but I add a couple extra nuts into the cold washes with good results. Read more about soap nuts here.
Some people may be concerned by the slight odor soap nuts have when you open the package, but it does not linger in the clothes. Essential oils can be added into the wash if you like scents. Sometimes I’ll add lavender to our sheets, or tea tree oil with the diapers. I LOVE soap nuts and I am always very sad when I run out before I order more and have to use regular detergents until they arrive. If you order soap nuts from Green Virgin they are even zero waste, as the packaging is compostable. (I’m sure there are other companies that do that as well, but I have never purchased from them.)
What about stain remover?
I have found that I need to make sure to pretreat stains when using soap nuts. Rub a bit of full strength Dr. Bronners onto the dampened stain and let it sit for a few hours before washing. I do add hydrogen peroxide into our white loads occasionally because soap nuts do not contain all of the toxic additives that fill those roles in conventional detergents. Peroxide whitens and removes bad bacteria.
What about the super gross messes?
I will admit there are some things that I just don’t feel completely confident using just my homemade eco-friendly cleaning supplies on (diaper disasters! kitty hairball rampages! doggie puddles!), so I also keep Bac Out in the house. It is THE BEST cleaner for pet smells. It’s pricey, so I try to use it sparingly, but it really works amazingly well. I don’t use their all-purpose cleaner for day to day cleaning, but I have used it when we move in or out of a new home or have some really nasty things to clean. So occasionally it finds it’s way into my cleaning cupboard. You can check out more about Bac Out here.
Between green cleaners and a rag drawer it’s possible to have almost zero-waste cleaning! Not only do eco-friendly cleaning supplies reduce the bad effects of harsh cleaners, but it reduces your costs as well for very little effort.
How have you have greened your cleaning! Leave a comment and share!
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Thursday 10th of January 2013
We LOVE soap nuts! They have been the best laundry soap for our cloth diapers, rags... we use them for all of our laundry. I even use them for my hair and it seems to keep it balanced. We are however looking for a dish soap because we have been using the liquid soap from the co-op, but it seems so wasteful. Am considering the bar soap idea - thanks!
Friday 11th of January 2013
Oh, I've never tried them for shampoo, that would be cool. When I do dishes with bar soap, I either run very hot water while swishing the bar in the sink or I wrap my washcloth around the bar, it just depends on how soapy I want something. It doesn't suds up like conventional dish soap, but the dishes still get clean.
Thursday 20th of December 2012
Nice amazon links. good luck with it.