Next up in our series about the nitty-gritty of what our eco friendly 2018 changes look like on a day to day basis, and everything you need to know to get started making these kind of changes at home. Last week we talked hair, this week, cleaning products!
One quick but note before we get started: CHEMICALS ARE NOT BAD. Some are dangerous, many are not, and you should know the difference when you're bringing substances into your house. I see so many blog posts and videos proclaiming that we need to get chemicals out of our life. Literally everything is made of chemicals. You are made of chemicals. Water is a chemical. Baking soda is a chemical. What is important is knowing how different chemicals can impact you, your family, and the earth. Don't strive for "chemical free" living, strive for understanding of the chemicals you use. Google is your friend.
Switch #1, Bottled Soap: We had been using single use plastic bottled hand and dish soap. We got two foaming glass pump dispensers that allow us to use the bulk concentrated castile soap they have in dispensers in our local store, in a 8:1 water to soap ratio. The dispensers mix air with the soap solution, turning the otherwise very thin soap into a satisfying soap experience. We use the citrus scent for the kitchen and dishes, and almond scent for the bathroom. Castile soap is vegetable based, biodegradable, and safe to use even as a fruit and vegetable wash when diluted.
Switch #2, Comet: We have a stainless steel sink, and after years of working in kitchens, I assumed you needed to clean stainless steel sinks with Comet, since that what was always provided for me to use for the job. Well it turns out Comet is full of a lot of the bad kind of cleaning chemicals, including those that increase asthma symptoms, reproductive disorders, and cancer. Not to mention, it's far more expensive than the alternative, good old baking soda. I have been very pleasantly surprised at what a damp kitchen towel and some baking soda can accomplish, my sink is just as shiny as before.
Switch #3, Cleaning Spray: We at least were using the Seventh Generation version, so the environmental and health impact wasn't too bad (though there are some chemicals in it that aren't good to get washed into out beautiful lake,) but the cost and single use plastic bottles were not ideal. I primarily used this spray for cleaning our bathroom surfaces, stove top, and kitchen counters. The switch we made not only costs practically nothing, but it diverts food waste as well! We have switched to orange infused white vinegar, diluted in refillable glass spray bottles. You make this vinegar by filling a jar with discarded citrus peels, covering the peels with white vinegar, and letting them sit for 2 weeks. At the end of the two weeks the color is mostly bleached away from the peels, and you are left with a viscous liquid that is a powerful cleaning agent. You can use it undiluted to dissolve glue and labels. I use it in a 3:1 water to vinegar ratio in a spray bottle as my multi-surface household cleaner. For windows and glass I use plain white vinegar diluted in a 1:1 ratio with water in a spray bottle. I also use a splash of this vinegar in our mop bucket hot water. For an all natural toilet bowl cleaner I add 1/4 cup of the full strength vinegar to the toilet bowl, allow it to sit for 30 minutes, add a 1/2 cup of baking soda, and then scrub with our toilet brush.
Switch #4, Bottled Laundry Soap: We had been using Seventh Generation laundry soap as well, but we have switched to soap berries, which are just too cool, and working really well for us. What the heck are soap berries you ask? Also known as soap nuts, these little husks of dried berries come from the Sapindus shrub, which contain natural soap. You put them in a little cloth bag in with your laundry 6-7 at a time, and they last for about 10 washes before you need to change to fresh soap berries. The berries are compostable when they are used up. I have found our clothes, even our cloth diapers, have gotten really clean, and the are an HE washer compatible all natural laundry soap. There are a few brands out there, but we use EcoNuts, because they ethically source their soap berries, and use eco-friendly packaging. You get approximately 360 loads out of a box, and a box is $33, so each load with EcoNuts costs less than a penny.
What we were already doing: We have been using washable kitchen towels instead of paper towels for several years. I keep a small laundry basket in the kitchen for them, and the small size of the basket insures they get washed faster than they can mold or mildew. Another environmentally and budget friendly practice we already had in place was having invested in a good mop with detachable heads that we can launder. This actually makes sure I mop more often, because the gross non-launderable mop head had too great of an ick-factor for me to overcome it very often. We also use boiling water and a plunger or snake when needed to clear drains, as opposed to a harsh product like Draino.
That's it! That covers literally every cleaning product we use in our house, with the exception of the salt we use to scrub stuck on food out of our cast iron pans. Do you have a natural cleaning tip to share? I'd love to hear about it over on Facebook!
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