Being allergic to dust and having lived mostly in small apartments, I have had to be very careful with the cleaning products I use.
Being allergic to dust and living in small apartments, I want to minimize my exposure to harsh chemicals. Not only for my own health and wellbeing, but for the planet's—switching to green cleaning products lessens everyone's exposure to harmful chemicals. I have even tried to make my own natural cleaning agents using baking soda and vinegar, but I prefer the convenience of store-bought green cleaning supplies. After 10 years of using natural cleaning products, I've tried and compared them all.
Here's my list of favorites.
Which Green Dish Detergent Works Best?
Even though I've always had dishwashers, I prefer to hand-wash dishes (being single, it takes a long time to fill up the dishwasher to run a full load). So I tested both types: for hand-washing and use in a dishwasher.
Which Dish Soap Is Best?
Between Method, Mrs. Meyer's, and Seventh Generation, I keep returning to Method. My favorite is Method's Dish Soap, which is biodegradable and contains no dyes and only naturally derived ingredients. Since it is concentrated, a little goes a long way. The 18 fl oz pump can be replenished from a 36 oz refill sack. This helps me save money and it's better for the environment.
Which Dishwasher Detergent Works Best?
Seventh Generation Auto Dish Packs, Free and Clear. I do keep dishwasher detergent on hand, and this one works well. Other products left residue or a white film, which ruined several of my favorite glasses, but I've experienced no problems with Seventh Generation.
Which Are the Best Green Household Cleaning Products?
Having tried Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and Method brands, I prefer the Method products. They have better results (i.e., no streaks, removed dirt/stains, etc.). When I used Seventh Generation, oftentimes I would have to go over the same area with a Method product to remove the film and streaks. I prefer to clean only once!
- Glass/Mirrors: Method Best In Glass (mint scented). Works best on mirrors and glass shower doors when using a newspaper (absolutely no streaks).
- Countertops/General Cleaning: Method Multi-Surface (free of dyes and perfumes). Cleans surface stains and leaves no streaks or film.
- Granite Countertops: Method Daily Granite. While the Method Multi-Surface cleans my granite countertops just fine, the Daily Granite cleaner leaves them shiny. If you are planning to entertain or have guests over and want your kitchen to sparkle, this product will do the trick.
- Stainless Steel: Method Stainless Steel. Similar to the granite cleaner, this stainless steel cleaner leaves my sink and appliances sparkling.
Which Green Cleansers Work Best in the Bathroom?
While I use several different brands in the washroom, Method beat Seventh Generation in the bathroom-cleaning contest. In addition to the Best In Glass (for mirrors) and Multi-Surface cleaners (for countertops and the exterior of the toilet bowl), I use the following:
- Toilet Bowl: I love Method's antibacterial toilet bowl cleaner. Instead of harsh chemicals, it uses citric acid to eliminate bacteria and dirt. The bottle is easy to hold and pour/squirt, it covers the sides of the bowl better, and I don't have to scrub as hard to remove stains or dirt.
- Shower/Tub Scrub: Ecover Cream Scrub. I first bought this product ten years ago at Whole Foods and always return to it. Absolutely my favorite soft scrub: it's tough on stains and doesn't harm the tub. My only complaint is that if I use this on a sponge, my hands can feel dry and gritty afterwards, so I use gloves.
- Daily Shower Cleaner: To keep my bathtub/shower area clean, I spray after each use with Method's Daily Shower Cleaner (especially on the shower doors, this helps reduce soap scum and film).
- Hand Soap: I have a tie in this category and keep both of these products on hand: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap (in lavender) and Method Hand Wash, Free of Dyes + Perfumes. The best part is that once you buy the bottles, you can purchase larger quantities in plastic pouches and just refill the existing bottles.
Which Green Laundry Detergents Work Best?
I've tried many green laundry detergents, but I always return to these when possible (not available at all Whole Foods stores). Added bonus: Ecover advertises that it does not test on animals.
- Powder Laundry Detergent: Ecover Zero Non-Bio Washing Powder. This powder will last a long time, and the package isn't plastic. No dyes or perfumes, gentle on clothes, doesn't fade colors (though I use cold wash/cold rinse and line dry most of my clothes), and removes dirt, odors, and stains.
- Liquid Fabric Softener: Ecover Fabric Softener. I choose the one with no artificial fragrances. This is concentrated, so a bottle lasts for many more washes than advertised (I tend to put in a little less than recommended, and my clothes are just as soft as when I put in the full recommended amounts).
- Dryer Sheets: While I drip-dry my clothes, I do dry bed sheets and towels in the dryer. And while I try to avoid any dyes, inks, or perfumes in my cleaning products, I make an exception for the dryer sheets since I want my bedding to smell good. My favorite natural dryer sheets remain Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Dryer Sheets in lavender. The bed sheets and towels smell so good (mild, not strong) and come out soft.
Which Green Floor Cleaner Works Best?
This is the one area where I do not purchase any cleaning supplies. I typically vacuum, then swiffer the hardwood floors and tiles and just vacuum the rugs and carpets. I don't use any special cleaners at all.
If you have hardwood floors, check the type of finish (wax or polyurethane) and research what types of cleaners are appropriate. When I have had to mop the hardwood floors, I used a vinegar and water mix (though this is not recommended for all types of finishes).
What Are Some Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies?
Here are some non-toxic materials you could use for cleaning.
Not only is it is antibacterial and antimicrobial, it also has a gritty texture that can be used as a gentle abrasive for scrubbing off tougher spills and stains.
Castile soap is made entirely of plant oils. One excellent, trustworthy brand is Dr. Bronner’s, which cleans like a wizard and cuts grease with ease.
Fresh Lemon Juice
Not only does lemon juice kill mildew and mold, cut through grease, and put a shine on hard surfaces, but it smells good, too!
Distilled White Vinegar
Its acidity makes vinegar an excellent grease-cutter, and it works well on soap scum, too.
Works on mold and acts as a natural whitening agent.
What Are Environmentally Friendly Alternatives to Bleach?
The following ingredients can be used to whiten and clean laundry and surfaces:
- distilled white vinegar (not the fancy kind you might use in salad dressing).
- lemon juice or citric acid (available in powdered form).
- hydrogen peroxide (3% should do the trick).
- baking soda (available in a 5 pound bag).
- most of the major green product lines include a non-chlorine bleach.
Can I Mix These Natural Detergents?
When mixed, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar form peracetic acid, which can be corrosive and irritating. It's okay to use them on the same surface, but don't mix them in the same container.
Mixing baking soda and vinegar won't hurt you, but it won't help, either. They both work great individually, but since baking soda is basic and vinegar is acidic, they cancel each other out when mixed.
All of the other ingredients on this list work well together and can be mixed.
Environmentally-Friendly DIY Cleaning Solutions
- Buy in Bulk. Amazon offers the best prices when purchasing green cleaning products in bulk. If you live alone or in a small dwelling, having too much could be problematic. You can always ask your friends, family, or neighbors if they are interested in splitting the purchase—that way, you receive (and split) the best price and don't have to worry about storage.
- Refill Your Bottles. You can save money and have less impact on the environment by purchasing the refill pouches and bottles. Again, the best prices are offered when purchasing in bulk, so don't forget to mention refills to your friends, family, and neighbors when making the initial bulk purchase.
- Use as Little of the Product as Possible. Especially if the product is concentrated, experiment to see how little you can use and still get a good result. Most products recommend the maximum amount per use, but you'll find that using less can be just as effective.
- Use a Scrubber Instead of a Sponge. Instead of using a soft sponge and hoping that your detergent will do all the work, use something that has more friction but won't scratch the surface, like a cellulose-based scrubber. You'll have to use a bit more elbow grease and work a bit harder, but the environment is worth it.
- Avoid plastic packaging. If possible, opt for paper or cardboard packaging, instead, and always recycle or reuse if you can.
- Use powders instead of liquids. Adding the water yourself means that the product you buy will weigh less which means it will require less energy to transport it. Also, powdered detergent are often available in cardboard boxes instead of plastic, which is a eco-friendlier choice.
Comments: What are your favorite green cleaning products?
Jade on October 07, 2019:
Have you ever tried Norwex? You could replace all those cleaners with a few microfiber cloths. Not to mention get rid of your swiffer. I really think it would benefit your health greatly.
Mari on July 16, 2017:
Method is not truly "green" ...check out brands like Nature Clean..do that comparison and you will see the difference
safemama on September 10, 2015:
method and mrs meyers have been proven to not be actually naturally derived
granite cleaner on February 27, 2011:
Nice to see so many product all in one place. would like to see some reviews on these products