Green Household Routines: Alternative Cleaning Products

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3 green_cleaningThe usual tips for greening up your life are recycle, upcycle, compost, turn down the thermostat, drive the speed limit, carpool, shop locally, grow your own food, refinish furniture instead of replacing it, pay bills online, repair leaky faucets and collect rainwater. I’ve written about all of these, but there are more I haven’t touched on.

Why green?

The more environmentally friendly your routine, the better it is for you and the planet. Your goal is to reap the smallest carbon footprint possible by reducing toxic ingredients, using as little energy as possible, and checking the supply chain of everything you buy. It just so happens that an eco lifestyle is synonymous with a frugal lifestyle! Live clean, live simply, save money.

Where to start? How about household cleaners!

Laundry soap

I bought laundry soap a couple weeks ago. I always put this off until the last minute, because it’s so expensive. I buy Seventh Generation fragrance free liquid, and I love it, except it’s about $10 for 50 oz. Yes, it lasts forever, and there are no nasty ingredients in it, but adding a $10 expense to a grocery list is a big hit. When the kids were little, I’d buy the gallon for about $16! I stocked up when it was on sale, but still…..

Last year, I made my own laundry soap to cut costs. It was insanely cheap for a gallon – pennies! Unfortunately, in my hard well water full of minerals, it wasn’t getting my clothes as clean as I liked. Other people swear by it, though, so I am offering it here as an option for you.

General purpose cleaning products

Traditional household cleaners do their work with chemicals, pesticides, artificial colors and fragrances, all of which are toxic. They cause air pollution in your home and allergies in your children. I wheeze when I smell these cleaners! I have to air out hotel rooms when I travel so I don’t get sick. Look for green hotels if you, too, are concerned about cleaning chemicals.

At home, start using white vinegar, baking soda, lemons and borax to do the work of every cleaner you can possibly buy. These items are natural, unscented, biodegradable, and cheap! Stock up when they are on sale, and you can clean your house in a healthy way for a small fraction of the cost of store bought cleaning products.

cleaning yellow glove wood surface

I wash my windows and mirrors with straight white vinegar in a spray bottle. I use rags of old t-shirts and flannel sheets instead of paper towels. I found that when I added water, the droplets would dry on the window, no matter how tiny they were. Straight vinegar doesn’t do that, and there are no streaks. Experiment with different concoctions to see what works for you. There is a wonderful page at eartheasy about making your own cleaners.

Cedar shavings instead of mothballs

Even though mothballs may remind you of your grandma or your elderly neighbor, they are Toxic with a capital T! They are merely little balls of pesticides that you keep in your drawer. My eyes water and I wheeze when I encounter someone who smells like mothballs. This is the time of year for those clothes to be coming out of the closet, too. If I smell mothballs, I go in the opposite direction!

I did run into a woman the other day whose sweater smelled like cedar shavings, a wonderful and natural alternative to toxic mothballs. Buy them at a pet supply store, and put them in small cloth sacks to keep tiny pieces from getting into your clothes. Stash the sacks in your drawers or boxes you put away. My parents had a cedar closet in the attic, but cedar trunks are effective for clothing storage, too.

You can also use aromatic herbs combined or not with cedar. Make sachets of rosemary, cloves, lavender, thyme, spearmint, cinnamon and/or eucalyptus. Gardenista has detailed instructions and great photos! Aside from being healthier, you will smell delicious, and I won’t run in the other direction!

Stay tuned for more!

I will keep posting ways to green up your home and lifestyle. It’s a big project made of small steps, so give these a try, and stay tuned for more!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.