In more recent years, sustainability has become such a big buzzword in conversations about personal and environmental wellbeing. 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.
Attainable sustainable cleaning
Sustainable cleaning refers to cleaning habits and methods that individuals can continue to use indefinitely, without worry that their efforts will negatively affect their own health or that of the environment. 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.
1. Get label-savvy.
Picking the best, safest product is a nightmare, no matter what you’re buying. 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 exhaustively 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.
2. Stay safe, stay smart.
Buying in bulk isn’t just easier on your wallet; it’s also 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.
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, for example, but both 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.
3. Fall in love with microfiber.
While cleaning with paper towels is easy, this practice is definitely not sustainable. This is where microfiber cloths come in. 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 have a hard time growing on them.
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 more using the toilet cloth to clean your kitchen sink!
4. 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 items like in the list above that no one else would reuse, however, give them a second life as a cleaning aid before you toss them. Old newspapers can be used to clean windows, for instance, while old toothbrushes make great scrubbers for small spaces.
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.
5. Go natural…really natural.
It’s easy to get so caught up in green cleaning recipes and green 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.
6. Be efficient.
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 each day means you don’t have to deep clean as often or work as hard when you do, 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 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.
Feature image of Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products from The Tiny Twig