Green Home

An Essential Guide to Sustainable Cleaning

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning
Bobbi Peterson
Written by Bobbi Peterson

Are you sick of the word sustainable? If so, there’s no need to feel guilty! You’re not a moustache-twirling, chemical guzzling “Captain Planet” villain for feeling that way. You’re just bogged down by buzzwords.

Buzzwords aren’t inherently bad. OK, maybe “synergy” is. In general, though, they’re just decent, hardworking, approachable words that are so overused, they appear to be meaningless.

So chances are you’re sick of the word sustainability, but if you give it a chance, you might find you quite enjoy sustainability itself.

Attainable Sustainable Cleaning

Buzzword status aside, sustainability has a very simple definition: Able to continue indefinitely.

That’s it!

In more recent years, sustainability has become a big buzzword in conversations about personal and environmental well-being. Chances are, that’s why you clicked on this article. Here again, the meaning is simple and easy: Able to continue indefinitely, without causing harm or depleting resources.

If we apply those simple definitions to sustainable cleaning, its meaning is clear. Sustainable cleaning is merely cleaning habits and methods that individuals can use indefinitely, without worry that their efforts will negatively affect their own health or that of the environment.

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning

In other words, it’s a maintainable cleaning routine that is good for you and good for the environment.

Now that we’ve broken down that buzzword, let’s break down just how easy it is to clean sustainably.


Get Label-Savvy

Picking the best, safest product is a nightmare, no matter what you’re shopping for. Ingredient lists are either overwhelming, incomprehensible or both.

Lots of companies love to plaster their products with eye-catching buzzwords like natural or green. Be wary! Those words aren’t strongly regulated. Chances are the product is neither green nor natural, and those words are just bait.

Luckily, you don’t have to research every product yourself. Instead, use information provided by a trusted third party like the EPA, EcoLogo or Green Seal. Buying items that have passed EPA tests or have the EcoLogo or Green Seal logo will ensure you’re getting the best, safest products available.

Stay Safe, Stay Smart

Buying in bulk isn’t just easier on your wallet, it’s easier on the environment.

Less packaging means less waste, so buy in the biggest quantities available. You can store all your bulk supplies in your basement, mudroom or laundry room and refill the smaller, reusable bottles you keep around the house from your main supply.

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning

Keep in mind the old adage “the dose makes the poison.” Nutmeg and vanilla extract are perfectly safe in the small quantities used in cooking, but are toxic when consumed in large doses. The same holds true for even the safest cleaning product, which is why they should be stored well out of reach from pets and children.

Unless a cleaning product poses real risk to your health, try to finish it up before tossing it to reduce waste. Most cleaners can be safely poured down the sink, but it’s always good to check with the manufacturer first.

Remember: Never mix cleaning products. Not while cleaning and not while pouring them down the drain.

Fall in Love With Microfiber

It’s easy to use paper towels when cleaning. It’s easy, but definitely not sustainable.

That’s where microfiber cloths come in.

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning


Microfiber cloths are great for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • You can wash and reuse them over and over
  • Since they last so long, you can save a lot of money on the paper towels and cotton cloths you’re no longer buying
  • Use them dry, wet or with a cleaner
  • They dry fast, so bacteria has a hard time growing

You can purchase microfiber cloths at your local grocery or home improvement store. You can get them in a wide variety of colors, allowing you to color code your cleaning. No chance of using the toilet cloth to clean your kitchen sink!

Learn to Reuse and Repurpose

Some jobs are so dirty, you know that rag will never be usable again. For those jobs, spare your nice microfiber cloths and instead use:

  • An old pair of socks
  • Ripped or stained T-shirts
  • Worn out sheets

Donating items you can no longer use keeps them out of a landfill and ensures someone else can enjoy them. For those items – like the list above – that no one else would use, give them a second life as a cleaning aid before you toss them. Old newspapers can be used to clean windows while old toothbrushes make great scrubbers for small spaces.

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning

Check your house for items that can pull double duty. Plenty of kitchen items – ice, kosher salt, citrus fruits, baking soda, vinegar – are staples in DIY cleaning recipes. A bag of eco-friendly kitty litter will take care of grease stains in the garage – and costs less than other grease absorbents.

Go Natural: Really Natural

It’s easy to get so caught up in green-cleaning recipes and cleaning product research that you forget about the simplest, most natural solutions nature has to offer.

Skip the air fresheners and let in some fresh air. Throw open your windows on nice days to get stale air out and fresh air in. Invest in a few houseplants to purify your air and use fresh-picked flowers to make your home smell great.

Save on your energy bill and get a fresh air scent – without scented dryer sheets – by line drying clothes and bedding.

A Guide to Sustainable Cleaning


Inefficient cleaning is wasteful cleaning. Bad habits can result in wasted water, wasted power, wasted product and wasted time.

Get the most out of your cleaning by:

  • Reading the label so you use the right amount of product
  • Selecting the correct load size when running your washer
  • Waiting to run the dishwasher until it’s full
  • Air-drying cloths and dishes when possible
  • Cleaning a room from top to bottom, far wall to doorway, so you don’t have to clean the same area twice

Committing to a daily list of cleaning tasks may seem time-consuming, but is actually more efficient in the long run. Putting items away after use, wiping down countertops and sweeping high-traffic floor areas means you don’t have to deep clean as often or work as hard when you do. That’s because you’re stopping stubborn buildup and overwhelming clutter before it can start.

Sustainable cleaning is easier and more attainable than you may think. It just boils down to purchasing trusted cleaners, relying on reusable products and developing an efficient routine. Need a simple first step? Throw a pack of microfiber cloths in your cart the next time you go to the store. Open a window. Buy a houseplant. Before you know it, you’ll be a master of sustainable cleaning.

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About the author

Bobbi Peterson

Bobbi Peterson

Bobbi Peterson is a writer, green living advocate, dog and Netflix lover, and sustainability blogger at Living Life Green.  You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter and

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