(What a psychedelic image! We’ll get into Dr. Bronner’s soap later in the post.)
Home is where… our wifi connects automatically?
We spend a lot of time at home, it’s only fitting we should make it one of the safest, healthiest places for us.
It’s easy to get caught up in news headlines where some new study finds that a scary new way a household chemical or toxin is “slowly killing us.”
But we’re not about that. We’re here to provide you with actionable steps you can take to eliminate toxic chemicals and waste to make positive impacts in your home.
A “healthy home” is quite broad. You could spend days reading through EWG’s Healthy Living Home Guide, learning about everything from home construction materials, to furniture, to lights, to consumables.
With this post, we’re focusing on more common actionable steps.
Everyday cleaning and the reasoning behind our Home Box.
Your 4:1:1: Clean ways to make an impact at home
- Resources & Tools for you
Small steps add up to a more natural home and a huge improvement for yourself and the planet.
Making little changes that last means progress, and that’s what we’re about!
Trade-offs people assume:
- We want our home to be clean… so we need chemicals… but we don’t want toxins.
- We all want to do good for the environment… but we still want a clean home.
Did you know?
Cleaning products are not required to list their full ingredients on their products. In fact, most products on the market don’t have their full ingredients list.
While the clean-label trend is growing in food, it’s not fully there in cleaning supplies.
This can make it difficult to choose a safer, more eco-friendly, product.
One item we all use every day (hopefully 🤞) to clean is soap.
(PC: Dr. Squatch)
Soap has a long history, but there’s a trend (increasing paranoia?) of using more and more antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer.
While it may be needed in some places (that filthy gas station toilet you had to use 🤢 ), it’s not always necessary at home.
You can make your own soap as in Fight Club… but there are other eco-friendly solutions out there.
(PC: Dr. Bronner)
They have a totally psychedelic website, but that’s not why we picked them.
We picked them because of what they stand for, how they conduct business, their production practices and because they make really, really great soap.
- History - Dr. Bronner’s history and their story are impressive.
- Company principles - For people and our earth and back that up with action
- Produced responsibly - Environmentally and socially responsible ways for decades
- High Rating - A on EWG for health and environment
- Concentrated - A little goes a long way; just dilute
- Multi-purpose - It can be used for a LOT of different functions
They claim it has 18 uses (which is why it’s called “18-in-1”), but in reality, it’s really more like 14.
Which is still a lot!
“Dilute! Dilute! OK! But how much?”
While bar soaps are the typically best (not shipping water and little to no packaging), the Castile soap is extra concentrated so you just have to dilute.
Pair that with a multi-purpose bottle to spray, mix, or pump, and you can ditch a lot of those chemical cleaners!
Need a chuckle?
Read this humorous review of someone trying all 18 uses: I Used Dr. Bronner’s Soap for Everything and Now I'm Ruined (Vice)
Cleaning agents & the chemicals in them
Every single product we buy, “through its production, use, and disposal… has an environmental impact,” says the American Chemistry Council.
When we try to compare a “green” product vs. conventional product, things get complex quickly.
The Wire Cutter has a great article on Are Eco-Friendly Products Really Better for the Planet?
- Green cleaners: Although most of them are plant-based, and therefore a renewable resource, they have their own environmental trade-offs, which can produce more air emissions and solid waste.
- Conventional cleaners: Ingredients made from petroleum consume more total energy (not to mention the synthetic materials, VOCs, unknown chemicals you’re exposed to)
Take away: It depends. (Not what you wanted to hear, we know.)
Which is why we recommend...
The DIY method using regular household items. That way you know what’s in the cleaner and what you’re being exposed to.
Did you know?
You don’t need heavy cleaners like bleach if you’re a little more diligent with cleaning your home consistently with your non-toxic cleaner.
How to make it:
There are two main cleaners, both require a spray bottle. (DIY tip - You can just use an old used up cleaning spray bottle)
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
- 1 teaspoon washing soda (sodium carbonate) or borax
- 20 drops essential oil (tea tree, grapefruit seed, and lemon are natural disinfectants)
- ½ Water
- ½ Distilled white vinegar
- 25 drops: Scented essential oil (optional)
- Cleaning products to avoid
- DIY alternatives
- Tools of the trade
- Top Tips for different rooms
Waste & Cleaning:
You’ve got your non-toxic cleaner ready to clean in an all-new eco-friendly way, and you reach for… a roll of paper towels 🤔???
We won’t deep dive into the environmental issues with paper towels…
Okay, maybe just one.
The average person uses 2,400 – 3,000 paper towels outside the home, in a given year…
That looks like this:
(PC: People Towels)
That’s so many trees, so much waste, and is so unnecessary.
That’s why we recommend microfiber cleaning cloths for that very reason.
- Reduce your use of paper towels
- Require less cleaning solution
- Are designed specifically for different surfaces
The specific microfiber cloths (KAF) we recommend are designed for different surfaces:
- Stainless Steel: Rubbed texture restores luster and removes films and oils that dull the appearance of stainless steel and chrome surfaces. Use on appliances and cookware.
- Glass: Short looped, grid textured cloth leaves a streak free shine on all glass surfaces. Use on windows,mirrors, computer monitors and TV screens.
- Wood: Flannel surface picks up and removes dust from all wood surfaces.
- Utility: Plush pile is highly absorbent and cleans all surfaces.
Greening your Laundry:
We all read about that craze where kids (and some elder, for a different reason) were eating Tide pods for a challenge and it not ending well...
(We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to put this gif in)
We don't recommend that. But we do recommend Mindful Momma's post about the best eco-friendly laundry detergent if you're looking for eco-friendly laundry detergent.
We want to talk about the waste with laundry… your dryer sheets.
What’s wrong with Dryer Sheets?
A single dryer sheet a load might not seem like a lot… but it will
- Cost you $20-30 a year (depending on family size)
- Release harmful chemicals (health and environmental)
Did you know your clothes dry without a dryer sheet?
All kidding aside, dryer sheets, while they smell nice, are loaded with chemicals.
Pop over to Google real quick, type in dryer sheets and wait for the word toxic to auto-populate.
The main ingredients, found in both conventional sheets and the liquid equivalent, have been linked to a whole slew of nasty stuff.
You know how your clothes smell good after the dryer… yeah, that’s from chemicals like:
- Benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer),
- Benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant)
- Ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders)
- Limonene (a known carcinogen)
- Chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen).
- Dryer sheets contribute to landfill waste
- Pollute the water
- Pollute the air
What’s the alternative?
Wool Dryer Balls!
- All-natural: 100% New-Zealand wool that staves off static, prevents wrinkles
- Efficient: Can cut down on drying time ($$)
- Reusable: Saves you from ever buying a box of dryer sheets again ($$).
Still want that nice smell?
Just add drops of your favorite essential oil to a ball or two and put back in your dryer.
- $0.1188 /kWh, a single run = 3.3kWh
- Cycles per year: low 208/year (4x/wk), high 392 (7.5x/wk)
- Cost per cycle = $0.1188kWh x 3.3kWh = $0.40… Low: $83/year, High $156/year
- Assume 25% time reduction… Low: $20/year savings, High: $39/year savings
Savings from not buying dryer sheets:
- Dryer Sheet Box: 240 sheets at $10 = $0.041/sheet
- Cycles per year: low 208/year (4x/wk), high 392 (7.5x/wk)
- Cost per year: $10 - $20/year
- Dryer Balls Lifetime: 1000 cycles
- Lifetime at low # of cycles: 4.8 years
- Lifetime at high # of cycles: 2.5 years
- Savings of $40 - $45 over dryer ball lifetime
Thanks for reading!
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What's your favorite eco tip at home?
What could we dig into more for you?
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Resources & Tools for you:
- EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning Products: They rate products for safety, health, and eco-friendliness
- EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning: Pocket Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- Check out Dr. Bronner’s Dilution Cheat Sheet for all your needs. (PDF version)
- EWG’s Healthy Living: Home Guide: Information and guides on everything home related
- EWG’s Easy-Change Guide
- EWG’s Healthy Home Checklist
- Mindful Momma: The Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent for Your Family’s Needs
- Mindful Momma: The Best Green Cleaning Brands You Need Under Your Sink
- Mindful Momma: The 5 Non-Toxic Cleaning Sprays You’ll Find In My Home
Resources We Used:
- Environmental Working Group is a leader in research on consumer safety at home. They examine every facet of our lives and rate products. We’ve read their research and used a few of their resources to put this together.
- Kris Carr + EWG: Healthy Home Checklist
- The Wire Cutter: Blue Shift: Green Cleaning—Are Eco-Friendly Products Really Better for the Planet?