Sustainability Challenge: Cleaner Cleaning Products

January ended after approximately 75,000 days but I managed to not use a single single-use plastic bag during that abnormally long month…and also managed to break Dry January only once! How did you do? I actually found it really easy since I was prepared ahead of time. I did forget my produce bags at the grocery store more than once and ended up just putting fruit and veggies directly into my shopping totes and having the person checking me out take them from the bag directly. I made sure to was them extra thoroughly when I got home but that felt like dedication!

I got a lot of messages from you guys that you succeeded too which makes me just jump for joy. So great work to everyone participating.

Before I get into the details of this month’s challenge I want to remind everyone of two very important rules here:

1. Cut yourself a break! If you mess up and need a plastic bag, use the damn bag. It will be ok. Just try harder the next day. These challenges aren’t about beating yourself up, they’re about trying to do better.

2. Don’t be an a$$hole to people who aren’t participating. I can’t tell you the number of times I ran into friends or readers out and about who were mortified to not be carrying their own shopping totes. They would apologize to me profusely. You guys, I’m not the plastic police, and you shouldn’t be either!

Encourage your friends and family to participate in these challenges with you, and explain why they should, but then leave it at that. There’s no need to guilt-trip anyone else. Our goal here is to create a positive change, not to make anyone else feel bad.

Ok? Ok… let’s move on.

February’s sustainability challenge is to clean up your cleaning products.

Years ago, I tried to use “cleaner” cleaning products but found that they didn’t always work and my tub was always covered in a layer of grime. So I gave up and went back to bleach. But here’s the thing: there are a lot of options out there and you have to find the ones that work for you.

The labels on cleaning products often don’t give us enough information about the ingredients inside to allow us to make informed decisions on what is safe and what is not which is why we have to do our own research here.

Some of you might want to be very strict on ingredient lists and some of you, like myself, might just want to do better. Some of you might want to use only organic ingredients, some of you might be more interested in sustainable packaging, and some of you might have no idea where to start.

Sure, maybe Method Bathroom Cleaner isn’t perfectly “clean” but it’s sure as hell better than Lysol. So instead of going through what I believe to be safe and not, I’ll let you make that decision for yourself (see the resource links below) and share the products that I can stand behind.

I want to note that for this challenge, I’m not encouraging you to throw away any unused product in your home. That would be a waste. Instead, finish what you already have and then replace products the next time you need something new.

The Cleaner Cleaning Products I Use

Laundry detergent: Ecos Hypoallergenic Laundry Detergent (in magnolia and lily)

Dish soap: Ecos Dishmate Dish Liquid (I refill a Mrs. Meyers container with this because I like the way it looks on the counter!)

Dishwasher pods: Seventh Generation fragrance-free dishwasher detergent packs or Brandless dishwasher detergent packs

Dishrags (to replace paper towels): Boldfaced Swedish Dishcloths (pictured above) and reusable bamboo cloths (bleach-free)

Sponges: Norpro natural sponges

All-purpose cleaner: Seventh Generation and Everspring Lemon & Mint All-Purpose Cleaner (Everspring is Target’s new line of cleaning products)

Glass spray: Brandless Cucumber-Mint Refillable Glass Spray

Toilet bowl cleaner: Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Pet stain remover: Nature’s Miracle is truly a miracle product.

Wood floor cleaner: Method Squirt & Mop Floor Cleaner

Bathroom cleaner: Method Foaming Bathroom Cleaner

Note: I haven’t tried Blueland yet but have heard great things about the brand and plan to try their starter kit when I run out of the products I’m currently using.

More resources

Think Dirty – Shop Clean app: If I had a dollar for every time someone recommended this app… I tell ya. I finally downloaded it and see what the buzz is all about. It’s a user-friendly way to learn about what’s in your products from beauty to home to food. According to the app, they have a database of over 1.5 million products to search from. You can scan the barcode if you’re in the store or simply search for a specific product or category. The app gives you details on each ingredient found in that product and then offers up cleaner options. It’s where I discovered some of the products listed above!

@just.ingredients is a great follow on Instagram. She rates products by category and offers better solutions for products that contain toxic ingredients. She also has a helpful blog that you can search if you’re looking for something specific.

Grove Collaborative is a great online resource for buying eco-friendly home essentials like household cleaning products, personal care products, baby products, and even things for your pet. I’ve bought everything from tampons to dish soap to baby wipes to dog treats on the site. And I just love their mission statement (copied from their website):

Doing no harm: As a Certified B Corporation, we are recognized as a business doing good for people, animals, communities, and the planet. Learn more in our 2018 Annual Impact Report.

Treating the planet with care: We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Planting tomorrow’s forest: Your shipment will help Grove in its partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the United States. We’re aiming to plant one million new trees over the next three years.

6 All-Natural Cleaning Products You Can Make at Home (Food52). If you’re into DIY, it’s actually pretty simple to make your own cleaning products at home from everyday ingredients like apple cider vinegar, lemon, and baking soda.

The Best Natural Cleaning Products, According to Experts (New York Magazine). I always like to see what other people recommend, and this article asked a bunch of experts for their favorite products.

So are you in? Do you have any other tips or favorite products? Let me know!

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  1. Kristin Kiefer said:

    Love this post! Branch Basics is another company with great products and a fantastic mission.

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      A lot of people are telling me about this company so it’s on my list to try. Thank you so much!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  2. Becky E said:

    My goal this year is to use a cleaning concentrate to replace all my cleaners! All I have left to use up are the toilet bowl cleaners I currently have. In the past I’ve found that cleaners don’t effectively clean as much as I need them to in the bathroom, but it seems like they’ve come a long way!

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Great goal!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  3. Emily said:

    I recently tried Blue Land and I think the products work well, and I like that it’s about re-using the bottle and only buying cleaning tabs. I think if someone really wanted to, they could just buy the tabs and use them in a plastic bottle that they already own, but the Blue Land bottles do seem like they’re made to last.

    I’m not sure how “sustainable” they are, but I like using mr. clean erasers for a lot of cleaning, especially bathroom, because you don’t need to use cleaner with it, just water, and I find they’re more effective at anything that needs to be scrubbed, like a bathtub, better than a cleaner.

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Blue Land keeps popping up everywhere. I’m going to test them myself and report back.

      I LOVE Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Especially for scratches and marks on the wall. I use them on my sneakers too!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  4. Kristin said:

    I feel like this challenge is a lot easier to commit to. We use “mostly” green products. Something I never thought I would do is the vinegar and baking soda cleaning method. I use straight white vinegar (in an old Lysol squirt bottle….) for all of my windows. If you’re sensitive to vinegar smell, this is a good place to start as you don’t need a lot for windows and the smell will dissipate fairly quickly.

    For my glass shower I make a goopy paste of baking soda and water. I cover and scrub the inside of the glass a bit then spray with the white vinegar. It begins to foam up and then you can scrub some more to really remove the film. You can actually feel the film dissolving which is kind of gross of but also satisfying to scrub away. Just rinse clean, squeegee to remove drop marks and it looks amazing.

    Also a tip from someone I know who cleans professionally – don’t ever use straight glass cleaner on the inside of your glass shower door. Most glass panels have some sort of treatment on the inside and harsh cleaners can remove this and make the film 100x worse. I had never heard that before but our new glass shower doors still look like new 4+ years on after never putting a chemical on them.

    2.4.20 · Reply
  5. I love Grove! I use their cleaning concentrates and they are just soo good. Ecloths are also a great way to just use water when cleaning.

    2.4.20 · Reply
  6. Anne said:

    Great tips.. thank you for sharing your ideas. I have been trying to use less plastic and bring reusable bags with me to the grocery store. My cleaning products are also non toxic.. just need to work on the bottled water

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      It’s a good goal! Let us know how we can support you!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  7. Gaby said:

    I am an avid Method user, however just a tip to anyone buying bathroom cleaner!! They have regular foaming bath cleaner, and ANTIBAC bathroom cleaner. I once used the latter not realizing it was different and it completely ate away at the marble in our bathroom and it had to be completely sanded down and refinished So just be sure to read the bottle and check the surfaces you use it on to avoid a disaster! Haha

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Ok wow good to know. Good looking out!

      2.6.20 · Reply
    • Kira said:

      I used to use Method’s bathroom cleaner, but then found out it’s rated as a “D” by EWG! So I switched to Lysol’s Power & Free bathroom cleaner w/hydrogen peroxide – which sounds like it would have worse ingredients, but it’s actually rated an “A,” and it works really well. Surprisingly, there are quite a few Method products (and Mrs. Meyers, too) that have terrible EWG ratings. But pretty much anything from ECOS, Branch Basics, and Puracy (except for their stain remover), are safe bets!

      2.7.20 · Reply
  8. Lauren said:

    Amazing job Julia! Just wanted to add one more product if you have time to look into, which is Branch Basics. It’s nontoxic and it actually cleans. I live in Hawaii so humidity and mold are always issues when cleaning and with a little scrub all the mold and grime cams off my bathroom. Ajax and other chemical cleaners didn’t do as well before. I was actually impressed. Doesn’t take a lot, reusable bottles etc. check them out!

    2.4.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      This is the most recommended product I’m hearing! I just ordered the starter kit but it’s on backorder. Excited to try it.

      2.6.20 · Reply
  9. Rachel said:

    Have you tried Norwex products?!? I don’t sell them – just a satisfied customer. I like that with the envirocloth you use just water and it cleans so well…also the window cloth! I sometimes still feel like I need a cleaning “product” now and then but I think that’s just habit/old mindset. They have a veggie cleaning cloth – love that thing! Might be worth checking out…

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I haven’t but it sounds like it would be right up my alley so going to check it out. Thanks!

      2.6.20 · Reply
  10. Kate said:

    You need to try the Norwex envirocloth and window cloth. Truly the best microfiber towels out there! Not a rep for Norwex, just a satisfied customer who was skeptical when I first ordered their stuff, but I’m a convert!

    2.6.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Many people saying this. I had never even heard of it!

      2.7.20 · Reply