Start cleaning your home more sustainably with these tips : Life Kit (2023)

Swapping out some basic supplies can help you explore eco-friendly cleaning. Swedish dishcloths, reusable cloths, detergent sheets, hand soap tablets and reusable bottles for mixing your own solutions are good building blocks for a green cleaning routine. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Start cleaning your home more sustainably with these tips : Life Kit (2)

Swapping out some basic supplies can help you explore eco-friendly cleaning. Swedish dishcloths, reusable cloths, detergent sheets, hand soap tablets and reusable bottles for mixing your own solutions are good building blocks for a green cleaning routine.

Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Cleaning is a fundamental part of life. We have to clean ourselves, our clothes, our dishes, our homes – and for each of these tasks, there are countless products filled with ingredients with names so long and complicated, we have no idea what they are.

"There has to be a better way to clean our homes and not have to worry about what we are spraying [all over our homes]," says Stephanie Moram, who runs the website Good Girl Gone Green and hosts the podcast Green Junkie.

When she first started thinking about environmentally-friendly cleaning and living, Moram was just curious about the products she was using, and their impact on her family's health and the environment. Now, she makes her own cleaning products, practices zero-waste living and researches brands to make sure they're both sustainable and ethical before making a purchase.

Practicing green cleaning isn't zero-sum, says Moram. "You don't have to throw out everything in your house to live sustainably," she says.

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Think of your journey to sustainable living as being on a spectrum of greens. "No matter where you fall, if it's mint green or dark green or lime green or really dark forest green, it doesn't matter," she says. "We're all just moving forward together and doing the best we can."

If you're interested in more sustainable cleaning, here are some tips to get you started:

Invest in items you can reuse

Swedish dishcloths, reusable cloths or cut up t-shirts all make good substitutes for paper towels. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

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Replace paper towels and sponges with old t-shirts and Swedish dishcloths.

"Swedish dishcloths are super...absorbent and you can keep reusing them," says Moram. They're spongy towels made from cellulose and cotton, which means they can be washed and reused, and when you're ready to throw them out, they'll eventually decompose.

Look for ways to cut back on packaging for products you buy

The detergent bottle on the left performs 45 washes per bottle, the stack of detergent sheets performs 60. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

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The detergent bottle on the left performs 45 washes per bottle, the stack of detergent sheets performs 60.

Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Next time you're ready to buy laundry detergent, think about how it's packaged. Liquid detergent usually comes in a plastic container and it can be pretty heavy. "That has an environmental impact," says Moram, from how much space it takes up in a shipping container to how much water is used in the liquid detergent itself.

Instead, Moram uses laundry strips, which look like strips of paper packed with concentrated cleaning agents which dissolve in the wash cycle. "It comes pretty much in an envelope ... and all I do is rip off a strip and I put it in the washing machine," she explains. "Overall, it's less expensive, it's less packaging and ... you'll be able to transport more of that to people versus one big jug of laundry detergent."

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You can buy other cleaning products like hand washing soap and surface or mirror cleaners in tablet form. Just mix them with water at home in a reusable bottle.

If you already have big bottles of detergent, you can refill them at refill stores instead of buying fresh bottles. While you're there, you can also refill shampoo, soap and other cleaning products.

Read labels – and don't fall for buzz words

When companies label their products with vague terms like "eco-friendly" or "non-toxic," it doesn't mean much.

Companies will often advertise certain ingredients that aren't in their products, without providing more information. "They might replace it with something that's equally as bad, but it's not an ingredient that people look for," Moram explains.

Instead, Moram suggests focusing on reading ingredient labels to see what products do contain. Anything with "fragrance" on its ingredient list is best to avoid: "Companies are not required to disclose what the actual makeup of that fragrance is, and a lot of fragrances are mostly chemicals or not plant-derived unless you're using some sort of essential oil in there," she says.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has this resource to identify cleaning products that are actually environmentally friendly.

Moram will often look up unfamiliar ingredients with the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that specializes in researching toxins and pollutants and advocating for corporate accountability.

Make your own simple-formula cleaning products

If you're ready to go from mint green to avocado or even forest green on the color spectrum of green living, you can make your own cleaning products using a few simple recipes. DIY products can save you a lot of money, and by making your own cleaners at home, you're eliminating the environmental impact of packaging and transportation.

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER FOR FLOORS AND SURFACES

This all-purpose cleaner is made by combining 3/4 water and 1/4 white vinegar. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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This all-purpose cleaner is made by combining 3/4 water and 1/4 white vinegar.

Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Supplies:

  • ¼ cup of vinegar
  • About ¾ cups of water
  • Spray bottle
  • Essential oil, optional

Directions: Mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle, and use that to spray your floors before wiping with a mop or rag.

If you're not a fan of the sour smell vinegar can have, Moram suggests adding a few drops of essential oils, like citrus, lavender or pine, or you can open your windows for a little while until the smell dissipates.

HYDROGEN PEROXIDE DISINFECTANT

For a stronger disinfectant for your bathroom or kitchen, Moram suggests a diluted hydrogen peroxide mix.

Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water for this disinfectant. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water for this disinfectant.

Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

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Supplies:

  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Spray bottle

Directions: Mix together and use to disinfect.

(You can find other formulas that suggest a mixture that includes lemon juice.)

Unlike with a vinegar solution, which you can wipe immediately, "with peroxide, you need to let it sit for a few minutes," Moram says. For example, if you want to disinfect your toilet seat or bathroom counters, you can spray your hydrogen peroxide solution onto the surfaces you want to treat, go clean another area of your home, and then come back to wipe down your bathroom.

*Be sure to use gloves if you're cleaning with hydrogen peroxide.

Whatever you do, make sure you do not mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar in the same bottle. That makes a potentially toxic acid that can be harmful to your health.

THE MANY USES OF BAKING SODA

You can make a baking soda paste by adding water to baking soda until the mixture is spreadable. Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR hide caption

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Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

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You can make a baking soda paste by adding water to baking soda until the mixture is spreadable.

Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR

A paste of baking soda and water makes a good scrub for your sink or bathtub. Or you can unclog your sink by sprinkling some baking soda down the drain, adding vinegar and letting it sit for 15 minutes. Wash it all down with hot water and your drain should be back in business.

The podcast portion of this story was produced by Andee Tagle, with engineering support from Patrick Murray.

We'd love to hear from you. If you have a good life hack, leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823 or email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Your tip could appear in an upcoming episode.

Listen to Life Kit on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or sign up for our newsletter.

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FAQs

How can we clean up more sustainably? ›

5 Sustainable Cleaning Tips for Keeping Your Home Clean & Green
  1. Make the Most of Household Products. ...
  2. Opt for Reusable Rags or Tree-Free Paper Towels. ...
  3. Freshen the Air. ...
  4. Repurpose Old Items. ...
  5. Pair Green Cleaning With Green Entertainment. ...
  6. Sustainable Cleaning for Health & Happiness.
5 May 2021

What is sustainability in cleaning? ›

Sustainable cleaning is all about using biological products and methods that are safer for both environmental and human health. Eco-friendly cleaning products can reduce air and water pollution, as well as helping fight ozone depletion and climate change in the future.

Can you mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar and baking soda together? ›

If these chemicals are kept in a sealed container for a long time, it can cause a small explosion because the carbon dioxide will try to escape. So, while you can use baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach on their own for cleaning purposes, we recommend that you avoid mixing them with vinegar.

What are 5 ways to be sustainable? ›

Sustainable Buffs: 5 simple ways to be more sustainable
  • Limit your food waste. A great deal of energy is used in transporting and storing food for consumption. ...
  • Eat more plant based meals. Even one day a week of plant-based meals has an impact! ...
  • Recycle and compost. ...
  • Leave your car at home. ...
  • Reduce your plastic.
20 Jan 2022

Why is sustainability at home important? ›

Not only does sustainable design make a house less expensive to operate, it can also help reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts. It's not trendy, and evolution can be slow, but sustainability is important to help homes continue to be useful and comfortable as climate change accelerates.

What are 10 ways to be more sustainable? ›

  1. Think twice before shopping.
  2. Make sure your big purchases have big environmental benefits.
  3. Go #PlasticFree.
  4. Boycott products that endanger wildlife.
  5. Pay attention to labels.
  6. Be water wise.
  7. Drive less, drive green.
  8. Green your home.

What are 10 ways to keep our environment clean? ›

Read on to know 10 practical ways to help clean the environment.
  1. Reduce the usage of your electrical appliances. ...
  2. Drive your car less. ...
  3. Reduce the usage of your wooden stove. ...
  4. Maintain a healthy eco system. ...
  5. Reduce usage of chemicals and pesticides. ...
  6. Recycle the waste products. ...
  7. Reduce carbon footprints. ...
  8. Grow your food locally.

What is the importance of cleaning? ›

Cleaning plays a vital role in our daily lives. Be it personal hygiene, such as washing our hands before we eat or covering our mouths when we cough, or setting a standard for environmental cleanliness, effective cleaning is our first line of defense against viruses and infectious diseases.

What is the importance of cleaning the environment? ›

Cleaning the environment is the key to existence and survival of life on planet earth. Maintaining a clean environment reduces pollution, preserves our biosphere, protects endangered species, and also helps preserve the earth's natural resources.

Why is cleaning important? ›

By safely and effectively removing soils, germs and other contaminants, they help us to stay healthy, care for our homes and possessions, and make our surroundings more pleasant. Regular cleaning and disinfecting can do a good job of removing allergens and germs, helping to prevent illnesses and promote wellness.

What should you not mix with vinegar? ›

The Three Things You Should Never Mix with Vinegar
  1. Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar. You may assume that combining these two ingredients in the same bottle will boost their cleaning power, but it's more likely to increase your risk of going to the emergency room. ...
  2. Bleach + vinegar. ...
  3. Baking soda + vinegar.
8 Feb 2019

What should you not mix with hydrogen peroxide? ›

Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar

While these two chemicals can be used in succession as a cleaning duo, do not mix them together. “Combining these two creates peracetic acid or corrosive acid, an irritant that, in high concentrations, can harm the skin, eyes, throat, nose, and lungs,” says Bock.

When should you not use hydrogen peroxide? ›

When not to use hydrogen peroxide
  1. Don't use hydrogen peroxide on wounds. It's time to retire peroxide from first-aid duty. ...
  2. Don't put hydrogen peroxide on acne. Peroxide kills germs, and you may have acne treatments that contain benzoyl peroxide. ...
  3. Disinfect. ...
  4. Wash produce. ...
  5. Remove household stains. ...
  6. Clean beauty tools and nails.
1 Dec 2021

What is an example of sustainability? ›

The foundations of environmental sustainability are: safeguarding water, saving energy, reducing waste, using recyclable packaging, limiting or eliminating the use of plastics, using sustainable transport, reusing paper and protecting flora and fauna.

What is the most sustainable way of living? ›

Top 10 Ways to Live More Sustainably
  • Drive less.
  • Recycle. ...
  • Sell and donate unwanted items. ...
  • Reduce energy usage. ...
  • Go paperless. ...
  • Eat less meat. ...
  • Grow your own produce. ...
  • Save water. Cutting down on water usage not only reduces your affect on the environment but also saves you money. ...
21 Sept 2021

How important is the environment in a sustainable life? ›

The Importance of Environmental Sustainability

About 24% of global human deaths are caused, directly or indirectly, by avoidable environmental factors. To live long and healthy lives, we need and deserve unpolluted air to breathe, clean water to drink, and live in places free of toxic substances.

How can people live sustainably? ›

Turn off your lights when you leave a room. Put up a no junk mail sign on your letterbox to limit the amount of paper waste. Hang your wet clothes on a drying line or rack instead of using a powered dryer. Hand wash your clothes, particularly if you only have a few items to clean.

Why we should keep our environment clean essay? ›

The environment provides food and shelter to all the living organisms (plants and animals). Keeping it clean and pollution-free ensures we have a steady supply of fresh air. However, water contamination, climate change, and pollution are degrading the environment at an alarming rate.

What is the best way to clean your home? ›

The Total Method

“House cleaning is much more efficient if you pick one task, such as dusting, mopping or vacuuming, and do the same task in every room of the house,” he says. “Focusing on one task will save you hours of time in the long run and it'll help you avoid starting the same task over and over again.”

How do you clean your home answer? ›

Here is a list of things that are almost everyday routine to keep your house clean and organized.
  1. Make your Bed.
  2. Wipe your bedside table every morning.
  3. Organize your room and cupboard.
  4. Identify the rooms which really require cleaning.
  5. Vacuum clean the rooms.
  6. Mop the floor with disinfectant.
  7. Organize your dining table.
26 May 2021

What are 5 things you do at home to be an eco-friendly? ›

Sign up to our newsletter
  • Step 4: Eat less meat. ...
  • Step 5: Don't waste food. ...
  • Step 6: Compost. ...
  • Step 7: Recycle everything. ...
  • Step 8: Try to cut out plastic. ...
  • Step 9: Use LED light bulbs. ...
  • Step 10: Insulate your home. ...
  • Step 11: Have your food shop delivered.
15 Aug 2022

How do you keep your house clean and safe? ›

Here is a list of things that are almost everyday routine to keep your house clean and organized.
  1. Make your Bed.
  2. Wipe your bedside table every morning.
  3. Organize your room and cupboard.
  4. Identify the rooms which really require cleaning.
  5. Vacuum clean the rooms.
  6. Mop the floor with disinfectant.
  7. Organize your dining table.
26 May 2021

Why should we keep our house neat and clean? ›

Keeping your living space clean and organised ensures it is safe and non-hazardous. You'll keep dust and other allergens out of your home. Regular cleaning keeps your home free of dust and makes it a much better environment overall for your family, particularly anyone with allergies.

Can you mix baking soda and white vinegar together? ›

These two common household materials can serve as natural cleaners to remove grime and keep your surfaces clean. Because vinegar and baking soda are on opposite ends of the pH scale, they can be combined and used as effective cleaning solutions.

What vinegar can be harmful? ›

Vinegar can be as much as 7% acetic acid, which can cause serious dental damage. Acids carry away the minerals in your teeth, weakening enamel and potentially leading to cavities and other problems. Habitual drinking of straight vinegar may be problematic for this reason.

Is vinegar or bleach better for killing mold? ›

Is Vinegar More Effective Than Bleach? Vinegar truly is better than cleaning with bleach when it comes to killing mold. The EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill or remove mold, except in special circumstances. In most cases, “a background level of mold spores will remain” after the application of bleach.

How do you whiten clothes with hydrogen peroxide? ›

Whiten Dingy Whites

Simply add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding the water and clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.

Is vinegar or hydrogen peroxide better for mold? ›

Yes, vinegar is a mild acid that kills 82% of mold species. It's often used as a natural and nontoxic alternative to cleaning chemicals when it comes to killing household mold. Cleaning vinegar, which contains 6% acetic acid, is the best type for killing mold.

What do you do with expired hydrogen peroxide? ›

You can dispose of expired hydrogen peroxide that you bought from a pharmacy by pouring it down the sink. Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide need to be diluted with water before they're thrown out.

Can hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth? ›

Summary. Hydrogen peroxide is a common home remedy for whitening teeth. It is an ingredient in many teeth whitening solutions for use both at home and in the dentist's office. A simple hydrogen peroxide mouthwash may help remove mild stains.

What toothpaste has hydrogen peroxide? ›

Colgate Optic White Renewal Teeth-Whitening Toothpaste

This next-generation whitening toothpaste contains more hydrogen peroxide than other Colgate Optic White toothpastes. This makes it a more effective teeth-whitener for people with tough tooth stains, such as those caused by cigarettes, red wine, tea, and coffee.

How does hydrogen peroxide remove age spots? ›

During this treatment, a doctor will apply highly concentrated liquid hydrogen peroxide to each age spot four times over four minutes. The hydrogen peroxide helps moisten age spots to dissolve them without damaging surrounding skin.

What sustainability concerns are there in regards to cleaning products? ›

Environmental Impacts
  • Water Pollution – Thousands of chemicals from cleaning products are washed into streams and rivers. ...
  • Air Pollution – Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and add to outdoor smog. ...
  • Waste – Many containers are not made from recyclable materials.
14 Oct 2019

What is sustainable cleaner production? ›

Cleaner production: The process of using the resources and energies effectively along with the elimination of toxic raw materials and reduction in toxicity of all emissions and solid wastes. From: Sustainable Manufacturing, 2021.

What is the role of cleaner production in achieving sustainability? ›

A broad range of cleaner production initiatives contribute to sustainable development not only through the efficient management of resources and energy, but also through the development of new and smart technologies, new ways of assisting policies development, and organizing supply chains, sectors and individual ...

What are the 5 principles of cleaning? ›

  • Principles of Cleaning. ...
  • Wash hands thoroughly and always wear appropriate personal protective equipment. ...
  • Cleaning is required before any disinfection process because. ...
  • Always clean from the cleanest to the dirtiest areas. ...
  • Do not leave the room before the cleaning is complete unless.

What household items are sustainable? ›

15 Sustainable Household Products That Will Save You Money
  • Reusable K-Cups.
  • Stasher Silicone Reusable Storage Bags.
  • Reusable Silicone Straws.
  • Swiffer Microfiber Mop Pads.
  • Wool Dryer Balls.
  • Reusable Paper Towels.
  • LED Light Bulbs.
  • Hydro Flask Reusable Water Bottle.
12 Apr 2022

What are the 3 basic things you'll need in cleaning? ›

A Broom, Dustpan, and Mop. If you have any hard surfaces like wood, tile, cork, and linoleum, you'll need tools to get them clean. You should check out the instructions for different types of floors before you start, but most people can get along with a broom and dustpan and/or a dust mop.

How can you reduce the risk of cleaning products? ›

Store cleaning products safely. For some tasks, you may also need to provide personal protective equipment like protective gloves, aprons and eye protection. Practice good hand care – remove contamination promptly, wash hands properly, dry thoroughly and use skin creams regularly. Keep the workplace well ventilated.

What are the 7 steps of cleaning? ›

7 Step Cleaning Process
  1. Knock on Door/ Place wet floor sign outside work area.
  2. Empty trash and clean waste receptacle inside and out. ...
  3. High dust – Work counterclockwise around the room. ...
  4. Damp wipe surfaces. ...
  5. Stock supplies – soap, paper towels, toilet tissue.

What are the benefits of cleaner production? ›

The benefits of cleaner production can include less waste, recovery of valuable byproducts, improved environmental performance, increased productivity, better efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and an overall reduction in costs.

Why is it important to maintain a clean and efficient working environment? ›

A clutter-free and neat office decreases distractions, resulting in increased productivity and even higher quality work. A clean work environment breeds satisfaction and boosts employee morale.

What is the most important rule of cleaning? ›

Start with the least harmful approach

Use your gentlest cleaning methods first and move up to more aggressive techniques only if necessary. And know your materials well enough so that you will stop your cleaning efforts before you do damage.

What are the ten important points of cleanliness? ›

Cleanliness
  • Cleanliness is very important in our life.
  • It is required to keep us healthy.
  • Cleaning our environment is an easy task and we should do it.
  • Maintaining cleanliness shows our culture.
  • Cleanliness is important in development of a society.
  • We should make it a habit to clean our environment.
15 Sept 2021

What are good cleaning habits? ›

9 Habits of People Who Always Have a Clean Home
  • Make the Bed.
  • Tidy Up as You Go.
  • Wipe Down Surfaces.
  • Tackle Laundry Each Day.
  • Categorize Paper.
  • Donate Regularly.
  • Clean Your Fridge Weekly.
  • Clean Up After Cooking.
25 Jul 2022

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