Cleaning products are something many of us only think about when we use them, but sadly, the ingredients in our household cleaners don't just disappear once we've cleaned our homes. They end up contaminating water and ecosystems, and they are also use a lot of plastic packaging, which contributes to the waste crisis.
Furthermore, many of the chemicals can cause air pollution inside the home, so even as you're cleaning up, your cleaning products are replacing bacteria with airborne chemicals that can cause potential respiratory issues after prolonged or repetitive exposure.
Especially in recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on clinical levels of cleanliness at home, and many mainstream cleaning products increasingly contain many nasty and toxic ingredients.
Luckily, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives that clean just as well so you can switch to a sustainable alternative without compromising on your family’s health. Sustainable cleaning products focus on biodegradability, low packaging, and natural ingredients.
What Are The Negatives of Conventional Cleaning Products?
Mainstream cleaning products contain a long list of unpleasant and potentially harmful ingredients. For example, many contain the chemical ammonia, a corrosive compound that can cause severe reactions.
More generally speaking, ‘VOCs’ (volatile organic compounds) are a big problem caused by household cleaning products. These are found in vapors given off by common household cleaning products and studies have shown that long-term use can cause respiratory problems comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
If you have members of your family with sensitive skin, common cleaning products could also be the culprit for irritation: the harsh ingredients of these products can cause contact dermatitis, an itchy rash, or exacerbate problems such as eczema.
Eco-friendly cleaning alternatives contain far fewer VOCs, and partly by nature they are often much more suitable for sensitive skin because their ingredients are not as harsh.
What Effect Do They Have on the Environment?
As well as causing pollution inside your home by diffusing through the air, the major environmental impact of household cleaning products is their effect on water and ecosystems.
Once they wash down the drain and out into the water system, they can change the PH of water. When the PH of the water changes, it has an impact on the type of plants and wildlife that will thrive in the water, in turn creating huge changes in the ecosystem.
Furthermore, once these particles are in the water it is easy for wildlife to consume them, causing health problems all the way up the food chain.
As well as being negatively impactful as substances in themselves, the environmental impact of these products’ manufacture and their transport across the globe is significant.
Buying mass-manufactured cleaning products doesn’t just mean that you’re buying into a product with a lot of harsh and potentially unknown ingredients. It also means that’s you’re buying a product that has likely been shipped across the country to reach you, and was produced in a large scale industrial environment. This adds to the environmental impact of your decision.
Most eco-conscious cleaning brands use production practices that are on the whole much less environmentally impactful and production rarely occurs on the same scale that we see with big names.
If you can buy from an independent seller or small local brand then that increases your sustainability even more, as this will cut down on greenhouse gases attached to your purchase as well as supporting smaller businesses and companies.
What To Look For In Eco-Friendly Brands
There are, as always, a lot of factors about what makes a product eco friendly but you can pick out a few key factors with eco-friendly household cleaning products, but the main things to look out for are non-toxic ingredients, biodegradable, and/or plastic-free packaging, and biodegradable ingredients.
For Laundry: The Eco Egg
They are skin-friendly, reduced plastic, and Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, too.
This mineral-based reusable laundry product is an innovative waste-free approach to washing which features a reusable plastic egg filled with mineral pellets that you throw into your washing machine with the laundry. It replaces both detergent and conditioner, saving you the plastic and cost of two products, not just one.
Instead of harmful chemicals, the EcoEgg uses mineral pellets that lift away dirt without affecting color or fabric and only need replacing every twenty to thirty washes. This is also a fantastic option for those with sensitive skin as it was developed with reducing irritation in mind.
EcoEgg has been awarded the Good Housekeeping ‘Getting Greener’ award 2020 for their sustainable practices and efforts at reducing plastic.
The EcoEgg is fully recyclable, BPA and microplastics free, and free from palm oil, SLS and SLES, parabens, petrochemicals, enzymes and phosphates. All EcoEgg packaging is plastic-free, FSC approved, and fully recyclable, as well as being printed with vegetable-based, non-toxic inks - and all fragrances are made from blended natural oils.
For All Surfaces: Bower Collective Surface Cleaner
This all-round surface cleanser is good for every surface from the kitchen to the bathroom, with fantastic degreasing and anti-bacterial properties created by orange oil and lactic acid, which neutralizes 99.9% of all harmful bacteria - as good as any big brand product. It also meets food grade regulations, so it’s a perfect non-toxic product for use all around the home.
As well as being a great eco-friendly product, the brand themselves are very environmentally conscious and offer refill packs of their products each time you run out. They also receive back your used pouches and reuse them for other customers, creating a culture of efficient waste free business.
Their products are made with ethically sourced ingredients and they are very affordable, making them good for the environment and you.
For General Cleaning: Method All Purpose Cleaner
Another multi-surface spray which is made from biodegradable and plant-based ingredients, keeping your home free from harsh chemicals without compromising on cleaning quality, and leaving all your surfaces sparkly clean.
Method is a well-known player in eco-friendly circuits, offering vegan-friendly cleaning products with nature-based fragrances, which are never tested on animals and are completely cruelty-free.
This product does come in a plastic bottle, but all the plastic used is post-consumer and 100% recycled. They haven’t figured out a perfect alternative to plastic handles and triggers yet, but they’re working towards that goal and are a perfectly ethical and affordable brand to place your money with while they do that.
For Glass: Mrs Meyer’s Clean Day Glass Cleaner
The friendly name of Mrs. Meyer is as good as it sounds, a brand offering biodegradable products free from ammonia, chlorine, and phosphates. Essential oils are used to create delicious fragrances. The raw materials used to create these cleaning products are obtained from renewable sources and the company is cruelty-free.
Mrs Meyer is also a real-life mom from Iowa, meaning you’re supporting a family business by shopping with her too.
For Clogged Drains: Ecozone Citrus Enzymatic Drain Cleaning Sticks
A little more unusual are the Ecozone drain cleaning sticks, which use natural bacteria and enzymes to break down anything that might block up a drain in the sink or shower. Instead of clearing existing blockages, these prevent blockages from occurring. Each pack contains 12 sticks which will last you about a year.
Ecozone’s products are allergy approved, Leaping Bunny certified, vegan friendly and suitable for use in septic tanks. Instead of using a lot of harsh chemicals to unblock your drains and then wash away into the water system, damaging the environment and harming wildlife, these sticks a re a great eco-friendly alternative to prevent drain blockages from occurring
For All Cleaning: Ashley & Co Bench Press Surface Spray
Another great versatile surface spray made from a blend of biodegradable ingredients with added essential oils, creating an effective cleaner free from harsh chemicals. As well as leaving surfaces spotless, this spray is gentle on your skin. It also has an amazing scent including caramel, coriander, and cinnamon bark - and their fragrances are EcoCert approved.
All Ashley & Co cleaning products are also paraben-free, color free, mineral oil and PEG-free, and certified vegan products.
For Toilets: Ecover Toilet Cleaner
Toilet cleaner isn’t the most glamorous sustainable swap you can make, but it is a good one. Ecover offers fantastic cleaning results achieved with natural ingredients, avoiding petrochemicals and unnecessary foaming agents. They are a Leaping Bunny-approved company, and they’re especially good for buyers concerned about skin sensitivity.