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The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Green Cleaning
Up until a few years ago, I never stopped to consider what I was using to clean my home. Growing up it was normal to own conventional cleaners, but looking back there were a few red flags. We knew to stay out of the cupboard that had skeletons on the packaging and not to inhale when mom was cleaning the bathroom.
During my years studying health sciences, I spent a lot of time researching the ingredients on food labels. One day, I did the same for some of my cleaning supplies (including my proudly purchased natural versions). Boy did I regret doing that! I had now opened a massive can of worms…
All I could do next was learn how to prevent using dubious ingredients and clean green!
What is Green Cleaning?
Did you know that many of the ingredients used in store-bought cleaning products have been found to be carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors and even trigger asthma, allergies, and skin irritations to name just a few?
What I’ve found even more disturbing is how not all ingredients are disclosed but can be listed under generic terms like ‘surfactant’, ‘colorant’, ‘preservative’ or ‘fragrance’. These terms can mask dozens of chemicals, many of which have been linked to very serious impacts on our health, while others have never even been researched for safety…
On top of that, a lot of the ingredients in these products are very harmful to our planet. After we use them they end up down our drains and into our ocean causing harm to our ecosystem including marine plants and animals, and eventually circling back to us again.
I don’t say this to freak you out or contribute to fear-mongering (scientists hate that haha), but I strongly believe in knowledge is power.
Simply put, green cleaning means using cleaning products and practices that are safe for us, our loved ones, and our planet.
Misconceptions about Green Cleaning
There are numerous misconceptions about green cleaning to be aware of when starting.
Green Cleaning Misconception #1
Green cleaning products are better
Simply put, this isn’t necessarily true. What we’re seeing a lot of right now is something called greenwashing. This is the process of a product being marketed as eco-friendly, while often:
- Making claims that they cannot prove.
- Suggesting a product is ‘green’ by promoting environmental ingredients or accomplishments while leaving out the damaging parts.
- Using vague and poorly defined claims that are likely to be misunderstood by the consumer (e.g. ‘natural’)
- Using environmental claims that make consumers feel they are making a good decision but are irrelevant.
- Making environmental claims that are simply false.
- Using elements on the packaging that make it seem like it is certified eco-friendly but is not.
The worst part is that it’s completely legal.
It can be really difficult to find cleaning products that are truly green, effective and affordable.
This is why making your own green cleaners is great. Homemade green cleaners can be the greenest option because you can control the ingredients to ensure they are safe and eco-friendly, while also being cost-effective and time-efficient!
Green Cleaning Misconception#2
Green cleaning is less effective than traditional cleaning
Most experts will agree that you can clean just as effectively using green cleaners. You don’t need any strong conventional products to clean. These harsh cleaners might make cleaning easier, but they don’t clean any better.
The only conventional cleansers that green cleaners aren’t as strong are those that contain chlorine, such as bleach. In green cleaning, we use the alternative hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes it might take a little more scrubbing but it get’s the job done!
On top of that some green cleaning tools, such as microfiber cloths, actually clean better than traditional dust cloths, which spread more dust and dirt than they pick up.
Green Cleaning Misconception#3
All green cleaners disinfect
No way! This does not apply to all green cleaners. However, those that contain citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid, ethanol (vodka), and vinegar are used to disinfect efficiently. In fact, there are certain combinations of the above that have shown to be just as effective as any other harsh conventional cleaning product.
Green Cleaning Misconception#4
Green cleaners are expensive
Much like any other product, costs will vary. In general, the manufactured green products are more expensive than conventional ones available in stores. The best way to save money is by making your own homemade cleaners. You can basically clean most of your house using just a few simple ingredients, some of which you may already own, but all of them will in the end save you money.
Green Cleaning Misconception#5
Green cleaning takes more time
If you’re anything like me you like to get in and get out when it comes to cleaning. Many people make the assumptions that when a product doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, that you’ll be scrubbing away for hours. This simply is not true. If you have the right ingredients and recipes, you’ll be able to clean just as effectively without any more time.
The cleaning recipes that I’ve compiled on this blog reflect the need to speed clean. Most cleaners only require throwing a few things together, while others require a small extra step. However, you won’t spend longer than 5-15 minutes on any given cleaning recipe, and they are all effective cleaners.
Green Cleaning Misconception #6
Homemade green cleaners aren’t safe
It is true that any cleaning agent can become a hazard if you don’t use it correctly. Although they are healthy and eco-friendly cleaning options, I still refrain from ingesting most of my favorite ingredients.
Green cleaners are very safe when used correctly. Make sure you read the common mistakes that many DIYers out there aren’t aware of to ensure you’re making and using green cleaners safely.
Green Cleaning Misconception #7
Green cleaning is just a millennial fad
Through hard work by the scientific community, people have been becoming more aware of the dangers of commercial products. People simply don’t want to use chemicals in their home that could permanently damage their own health and the planet we live on. It may seem to go hand in hand with all the other things millennials do, but this trend hasn’t budged and is here to stay!
In the end it’s up to you but I say it’s about time to come over to the green side!
How To Get Started With Green Cleaning
Switching to homemade DIY cleaners might sound like a hassle, but it’s super simple if you have the right information! To get started you’ll need to go through these 5 easy steps:
Green Cleaning Step 1
Read this beginner’s guide!
Starting with the right information from the get go makes ALL the difference. I also recommend you grab the free ebook I made that I wish I had when I got started on this page. You’re on the right track so let’s keep going!
Green Cleaning Step 2
Get eco-friendly cleaning products
You’ll need cleaning products that are both effective and have been reviewed for safety and environmental impact.
You’ll need these green cleaning products to start making your own healthy cleaning products. These are easy to come by, last a long time and are incredibly versatile. You probably already have a few lying around your house already!
Green Cleaning Step 3
Use the best green cleaning tools
If you’re anything like me you love a clean home but you wouldn’t exactly consider cleaning a hobby. There are ways to simplify your cleaning routine without compromising on cleanliness. After a lot of research, I’ve found some of the best eco-friendly green cleaning tools that are highly effective, save me money and a lot of time!
Choosing certain cleaning tools is also an opportunity to reduce the plastic you use on a daily basis and reduce the harmful effects we have on our planet.
Green Cleaning Step 4
Make natural & green cleaners
Anyone who has ever looked online or tried making their own natural cleaners knows how many DIY recipes there are. These range from super effective to absolutely disastrous and leave many people wasting time, ingredients and sometimes ends with gunk on the floor…
Most green cleaners fail because they use the wrong ingredients for the task or the wrong combinations. Some mixtures combine ingredients that neutralize their cleaning effect while others create chemicals reactions that make an even bigger mess or become dangerous.
If you want to start off on the right foot, check out my green cleaning crash course for free!
Green Cleaning Step 5
Know the common mistakes people make when cleaning green
It is a very common misconception that natural ingredients are always safe. Make sure to read through these safety guidelines that most people aren’t aware of when going green.
One of the common mistakes people make when green cleaning are combining ingredients that should NEVER mix.
Green Cleaning Mixtures To Avoid
Castile Soap + Vinegar = Disgusting Curdled Mess
When these two react the soap unsaponifies, meaning the soap returns to it’s original state, which does NOT clean and in fact just makes everything so much dirtier.
Hydrogen Peroxide + Vinegar = Peracetic Acid
When combined, peracetic acid is formed, which is highly corrosive and can cause lung damage.
Baking Soda + Vinegar = Ineffective Cleaner
This combo is one of the most common DIYs out there but unfortunately useless. These two together may look like it’s working but all it’s doing is react together and neutralize each other’s cleaning power.
Tips for Green Cleaning Success
It may feel a bit daunting when you’re new at green cleaning but I promise with a few simple ingredients, tools and recipes you’ll be a green cleaning pro in no time.
Green Clean Tip#1
Always have your ingredients available
You never know when you might need them and you don’t want to end up at the store during a cleaning emergency and resort to an overly-expensive or harmful cleaner.
Green Clean Tip#2
Start with a few basic recipes that are easy and you use most often
I created my green cleaning crash course just for this, so grab it for free if you’d like to begin today. Once you master these you can grow your recipe arsenal.
Green Clean Tip#3
Be very careful following all the fun tips and recipes you’ll find online
Natural ingredients are also made up of chemicals, and these chemicals react with each other. I’ve come across too many blogs that have wonderful intentions but are using ingredient combinations infamous for being ineffective or dangerous. You may want to re-read Green Cleaning Step 5.
Green Clean Tip#4
Use smart multi-purpose cleaning tools
They’ll speed up your cleaning routine and minimize the number of cleaning products you need. Take good care of them too!
Green Clean Tip#5
Do a little prep work!
I love saving time and making batches of different cleaners to put in my cleaning caddy, so I can just whip it out whenever I need something. This would include things like natural carpet deodorizer, no scrub all-purpose bathroom cleaner, or my green toilet cleaner.
Green Clean Tip#6
Mind the shelf life of your homemade green cleaning products
I strongly recommend you make small batches of cleaners that include water. Microbes thrive in water and will cause cleaners that include water to have a short shelf life. Luckily, they are made quick and easy, so stick to making as much as you need.
Green Clean Tip#7
Print a list of your effective green cleaning recipes.
…and keep nearby so you have them whenever you need to quickly make a batch. I like putting a list in my cleaning caddy. I also like keeping a printed ingredient list so I am clear what I need when I’m doing shopping.
Green Clean Tip#8
Keep it simple!
For the love of everything good, don’t feel the need to overcomplicate things. To get started you really only need a couple ingredients, tools and recipes. To make things even simpler, check out this quick & easy green cleaning checklist.
Common Questions/FAQ About Green Cleaning
Come on… Are conventional cleaners really that bad?
When it comes to using cleaning products, green or conventional, companies say using their product in small amounts and with proper ventilation, probably won’t make you sick. However, most of us use more than one cleaning product, exposing ourselves to a whole array of chemical ingredients of which no one knows the true impact yet…
Companies choose these ingredients based on their ability to perform but many have been proven to be unsafe for personal use. What is even more shocking is that tens of thousands of chemicals commonly haven’t been researched at all.
Those skeletons on the packaging don’t seem weird any longer, do they!
What about the natural cleaners in the store?
I’m sorry… this includes a painful amount of the pretty natural looking cleaners that market themselves as green. A 2011 study found that fragranced green cleaning products contained pretty much the same levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as traditional products, which have been linked to all sorts of health problems from eye irritation all the way to liver damage.
There are certain companies that say they stay away from ‘dirty ingredients’ or those that are suspected of causing any health or environmental risks such as chlorine bleach, triclosan, parabens, and phthalates. This is a great thing but unfortunately, after being independently reviewed, even many of these ‘green’ products have been found to be unhealthy choices.
Where can I buy green cleaning ingredients?
Grab the list of ingredients made available in my free green cleaning ebook to prevent buying all sorts of things you don’t need. Most of the products on this list you can either buy at your local supermarket (like white vinegar), while others may need to be bought at your local health food store (like unscented castile soap) or online. My favorite essential oils are ordered here, while other products that I can’t get locally, like Sal Suds, I will order through Amazon!
What do I do with my old toxic cleaners?
When you’re making the switch to green cleaning you may be wondering what the heck to do with all those toxic cleaners laying around. The only thing you can do given the situation is disposing of your cleaners as best as possible. Instead of simply washing them down the drain, dumping them in the trash or into your yard check Google! Many cities have collection days or local collection sites that accept toxic chemicals and dispose of them properly.
Why do many recipes include essential oils? Do I really need them?
Essential oils have become very popular today for good reason, but the truth is if you are on a budget you do not necessarily NEED them.
Just like the cleaning industry, there are many companies out there making claims as to how great their products are. Duh! Haha! I’ve written this article on the things I discovered when researching essential oils.
Essential oils are basically concentrated oils distilled from plants. Essentials oils are so wonderful because they have an array of beneficial properties. For cleaning specifically, they are used to give a natural fragrance but they also have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Additionally, many of them have become staples in my cleaning arsenal to rid myself of anything from grease, to odors to mold. My favorite essential oils for cleaning are lemon, melaleuca, peppermint, eucalyptus, orange, clove, oregano, and lavender essential oil.
Additionally, we use them for everything from homemade personal care, beauty products to supporting us with ailments like colds or cramps, and mood. We’ve been quite taken aback how pure essential oils have enriched our life, so if you can afford it they are definitely worth the investment.
How do I know what is safe and effective?
Learning about green cleaning – from ingredients to effective recipes – can get confusing and unfortunately takes more research than a quick search on Pinterest or Google. I know because I’ve been there!
What I discovered is that even the most natural and harmless sounding ingredients and products are completely misleading. That’s why I was stoked to find the EWG scale!
The Environmental Working Group reviewed and rated more than 2,000 popular household cleaning products and ingredients with grades A through F, based on the safety of their ingredients and the information they disclose about their contents.
In other words, this scale was designed to protect our health and the environment from dangerous chemicals.
I choose green cleaning ingredients that:
- Get an A or B rating on the EWG scale.
- Are highly effective at cleaning
There is no point in getting a safe natural cleaner when it doesn’t work!
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Green Cleaning
Green cleaning is not any harder than cleaning with harsh conventional cleaning products. In fact, with the right green cleaning recipes and tools, you’ll be able to save not only time but also money. Start with a few simple recipes today by grabbing my green cleaning ebook for free!
Will You Try Green Cleaning? Do You Have Any Tips?
I am always learning and would love to hear from you. Do share your thoughts in the comments below!
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