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Published on June 2nd, 2008 | by fsechler

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The Green Cleaning Challenge: Substituting Chemicals With Vegetables

Laundry I have discovered the holy grail of green cleaners! There are very few situations in which consuming unnecessary chemicals seems like a good idea so I decided to re-vamp my cleaning supplies. Slowly I am substituting my traditional products for vegetable-based products which are more safe and sustainable and I challenge you to try the same!

Of course it is always cost effective and environmentally friendly to make cleaning products at home but if you opt to buy them instead then this article is for you! So far I have found vegetable-based laundry detergent, anti-bacterial spray, dish soap and even biodegradable cleansing wipes! Let me elaborate on the brands I have stumbled upon:

My new favorite laundry detergent is made by a company called Ecover which specializes in biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning products for all areas of the home. Each load requires just two small lid-fuls of detergent which will last you an estimated 20 loads. My clothes come out fresh and fragrant every time.

The second bunch of green cleaning tools comes from Clorox. I have invested in their new line of Green Works products, including toilet bowl cleaner and all-purpose cleaner, which work like magic. Now we’ll just have to wait for them to phase out the traditional chemical-based cleaners!

Lastly, I must confess that I am a slave to disposable wipes. I clean often and I depend on the convenience of small sheets that are ready to be used at my disposal… literally. However, I have found Method, a brand which I discovered while wandering the aisles of Target. This brand, first mentioned on GO Media by Kelli, sells biodegradable wipes which smell lovely (mine are lavender scented) and work like a charm.

If you are not ready to embark on a full cleaning product makeover I encourage you to at least substitute one chemical-based product with a vegetable-based one and see if you don’t feel like you’re making a difference!

Here are some other brands to check out!

Image Credit: Fazen at Flickr under a Creative Commons license


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  • Thanks for the mention of the Method wipes. I’ll look for them at Target. I’ve looked for greener wipes at my supermarket and haven’t found them. I’ve been continuing to use the bleach type wipes because I’ve got 6 & 8 year old boys who can never quite hit the toilet 100% of the time, and it’s just really gross.

  • Frances Sechler

    No problem Robin! 🙂 I love the Method wipes and you might find it interesting that they also carry special versions of the wipes for wood surfaces, granite surfaces, etc. They even have eco-friendly mop thingies similar to swiffers but the pads they make to go with the mop are also biodegradable. Let me know what you think when you try the wipes!

  • pricklypear

    While I always applaud an effort to choose more friendly options, I would hardly call any of the productsor manufacturers mentioned in the post the “holy grail of green cleaners”.

    Quite frankly, I don’t know if there is… but here area few thoughts to ponder.

    First, from the sustainability pov ANYTHING that is not low-impact to produce, get to market, sell, use, and dispose of and still be used again in some way is not “sustainable”.

    So…. if you have the choice of buying a product repeatedly at a store, it will probably be less sustainable than something you make at home. That said, to “make” something you must purchase something… so how sustainable were your ingredients and their packaging?

    From a chemical-free pov or direct impact on the environment there is one BIG thing that must be taken into consideration (that makes my head hurt, because it knocks out about 80% of my cleaning products) and that is salt. We are salting our water supplies to death – more so in some locations than others. I live in AZ where we have HUGE salt problems… the salt content of our municipal water supplies have increased to the point where we are losing golf courses (from the salt in our municipal supplies). That salt also contributes to the collapse of aquifers and can interfere with recharging of aquifers. Salt, in it’s many forms, is a cleanser and is used in almost every soap. Especially the “natural” ones. This salt point was brought home to me recently while in a greywater harvesting class… when the instructor listed every eco-friendly cleaning product I used and told me that with a greywater system I could no longer use them (unless I wanted to kill my plants).

    So… something new to ponder, a new headache to figure our way around.

    Salt.

    PS – here’s a good link for reading on the subject.
    http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/greywater-harvesting/greywater-compatible-soaps-and-detergents/

  • Liz

    I liked Ecover, unfortunately my husband’s skin did not. Something in it made him itch like the dickens. I replaced it with Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, which I absolutely adore. Comes in delicious scents and gets my clothes spotlessly clean. I’m pretty happy with their other cleaning products as well.

  • emmer

    and what are the lovely scents made from? if these are not organic and the label doesn’t say…
    why not use reusable wipes? just wash them with your regular laundry? they don’t need dryer drying, just hanging.
    and anti-bacterials? why use them at all? homes should not be operating room clean. clean, yes. sterile, no. a little challenge for your immune system is a good thing…kind of like the one-weekend-a-month training duty reservists do. practice is a good thing to keep your white cells on their toes.
    this post sounds a bit like an infomercial. i’m glad clorox is getting the message and i hope it is for real and not just greenwashing. but when vinegar in a spray bottle is insufficient, i will purchase cleaners from a company with better credentials.
    thank you commenter for the info on salt in cleaners. is there a source where i can read which companies use the most?
    blessings,
    emmer

  • Bean

    While I’m all for healthy disagreement, I think the OP is doing a good job following up on the lessons learned from this earlier post:

    http://sustainablog.org/2008/05/19/lesson-one-living-sustainably-is-not-automatically-possible/

    Going green is a process, and can’t be done in one fell swoop by even the most committed environmentalist. For me, changing brands of household cleaners (especially to something that is widely available in stores where I already shop) is a doable first step. Also, buying those products and showing companies that green is profitable is the only way I can think of to get biggies like Clorox to switch over completely (an idea I never thought of before you brought it up, Ms. Sechler).

  • pricklypear

    Emmer – No, I don’t know of a website that compares salt contents of soaps. The only reading I know of related to salt in our water supply related to green/sustainability is the link I attached previously.

    I find it VERY encouraging that “green” has become popular, fashionable,and spoken about everywhere by a lot of people. I find it discouraging that there is so much greenwashing and flat-out incorrect information and myth out there. However, I do recognize it is a process – and an exciting one, I think. I was thinking today Green is like a whole new frontier – sort of like the Space Race (:, IMO.

    I am encouraged that major brands like Clorox are entering the green market with products that are better than “greenwashing”. While I am not familiar with their green offering, I have read that it is better than some traditional “natural” lines (ahem, small businesses created to solely market their particular “green” product”) not only in performance, but in life-cycle greenness.

    I am also encouraged that the marketplace – just regular folks are becoming more aware that changes to our daily habits have consequences and must sometimes change. I think the average consumer (including me) falls for quite a bit of “greenwashing”, but at least we’re trying and I think all the trying will translate eventually into real progress.

    True sustainability (if you can even settle upon a definition) is extremely difficult, if not impossible to achieve. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the fight. And it IS a process. It took me about 6 years to reconcile myself with the idea that I must give up the salt cleaning products if I want to live as green as I think I should…. I heard the arguments about salt a long time ago… I just told myself that it was “extreme”. Now I know that even if it is extreme (giving up my salt-based cleansers) it still must be done.

    A looooonnnggg process.

  • If you want to know more about the reputations of cleaning product companies – how they treat their employees, communities, the environment and society in general – check out a newly launched site called Vanno.com ( http://www.vanno.com/ ).

    To get started, do a search on cleaning product and service companies for the aspects of company reputation that are important to you, and you’ll find out what other consumers and citizens think of hundreds of companies – large and small, public and private, global and local. It’s pretty revealing.

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  • Here is a single product that can do all of your cleaning in one formula with no toxic chemicals – Enviro-One. One gallon of this stuff last me months. Check out the website http://www.enviro-one.com.

  • I’ve tried some of the brands you have listed above and found that they still not as chemical free as they claim, including Green Words. I have been using Enviro-One Green Cleaner for quite some time. One Gallon of this stuff last close to a year for me and I dont have to keep dumping the bottles out which ends up in land fills since i reuse the containers. You can check it out at http://www.enviro-one.com

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