We’ve been slowly ditching toxic cleaning methods in our home. A bonus is that our cleaning methods have become more environmentally-friendly as well! We aren’t completely where I’d like to be yet, but I can see us being there soon! With that in mind, here is a list of ten tips to help clean in a more earth friendly way to inspire those who also want a less toxic home.
1. Bins are great for organizing things, but plastic is the traditional material for these. Instead of plastic bins, use shoe boxes or bamboo baskets. You can even get creative with these and wrap and decorate them! If you can sew, consider creating cloth bags out of the fabric of old clothes for hanging things. It’s also a great way to re-purpose that old t-shirt you have a sentimental attachment to but don’t wear anymore.
2. When wiping down and cleaning up a paper towel is very convenient, but you can scrub just as well with rags from old t-shirts or towels. If you cloth diapered your children in the past and no longer have kids in diapers, you can use your old cloth diapers and wipes even. Or buy some beautiful unpaper towels!
3. Most of the actual tools we use to clean are not environmentally friendly even if they are reusable. Consider investing in some green cleaning tools like Skoy Cloths instead of sponges and a coir toilet brush made from coconut fibers.
4. Paint – Painting is a great way to freshen up a room but there’s nothing fresh about all of those chemical odors floating through the air. VOC’s, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals that form vapors at room temperature. The ones found in most paints contribute to smog and indoor air pollution and can cause all sorts of health problems. There are many great alternatives labled zero VOC, no VOC or low VOC you can use instead and say goodbye to those noxious paint fumes. Check out these brands for instance: Eco-Spec, by Benjamin Moore; Clarity, by Dutch Boy; Enviro-Pure, by MAB Paint; American Pride Paint; and BioShield Milk Paint. They are better for the environment and your family members.
5. De-cluttering can feel great but don’t just trash everything. First, go through and see if any of those items could serve a purpose you haven’t thought of before: Do you have enough books to stack up and use as a side table? Can you take the frames off those ugly paintings and use them elsewhere? Of course, if you still see no use for your old things, consider offering it on freecycle.
6. Is the house stuffy from being closed up all summer to keep out the heat? Go get some houseplants! These are some great choices for their air-cleaning abilities: Spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies. You’ll need 15 to 18 medium-sized (6 to 8-inch diameter container) houseplants for the average 1,800 square foot house. That me seem like a lot but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Think of the room(s) that are most used by your family and put some of these plants in those rooms (and check out tip 8 for those other rooms.)
7. Mothballs can help to keep moths from eating your clothes but they aren’t the only choice you have. Try these natural alternatives instead. Try cheesecloth-wrapped cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, or whole cloves.
8. Something as simply as opening the windows and doors can get dirty, stale air moving out and fresh air moving in. A screened door will let that wonderful breeze in.
9. Air fresheners are not a good idea. Chemical fresheners can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation and aerosol air fresheners are not any better. Those air-borne particles can damage nerves and lodge in your lungs. Yuck! Try something beautiful and fragrant instead – fresh flowers! For a cheaper alternative, simply open a box of baking soda or get some cedar blocks. Dried flowers also add natural fragrance to the room and last a lot longer than fresh.
10. Most conventional cleaning products are full of chemicals that are bad for our earth and our families. Thankfully you can safely clean with a few non-toxic ingredients: vinegar (it’s anti-bacterial), baking soda, water, a HEPA vacuum, microfiber mops and cloths — and some elbow grease! You can even make your own laundry soap!
To see more great tips, take a look at the sites I used to compile this list:
What are your great eco-friendly tips for cleaning and organizing? I know there are a lot more things we could add to this list!
This post has been edited from a previous version published as a guest post at The Curious Case of Mommyhood.