Spring is coming. For some of us, that means a kick in the ass to do some sprucing up—organizing the pantry, tidying up the kitchen, lightening our actual menus, and so forth. Combine that seasonal motivation with environmental conscientiousness and replace some of your conventional kitchen cleaning products with greener alternatives.
They’re nothing new at this point; we first wrote about these brands we love in 2008, and they’re all still on our list of favorite eco-friendly products. Pretty much every one of them is available at most major grocery stores these days, but if you haven’t tried one yet, there’s no time like the present.
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The best way to be sure you’re not spraying toxic chemicals in your kitchen is to make your own cleaning solutions. Many are based on white vinegar or baking soda, making them an extremely economical option. Check out these simple recipes for a start. If you like scented products, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to them. Reusable glass spray bottles are perfect for holding your concoctions; amber glass can help protect any oils in the mix, but you can also get clear bottles if you prefer. We’re partial to a bright pop of color—but these options all come with labels so you can remember which mixture is which.
This producer makes tons of different cleaning products, but one of the best is a drain opener that’s nontoxic and nonpolluting. Earth Enzymes employs bacterial mixtures and proteolytic enzymes to clear your drain. It’s also safe for septic systems—it doesn’t kill off beneficial bacteria. Use it to unclog the kitchen sink or garbage disposal.
Twist makes biodegradable hand-sewn sponges out of cellulose sourced from renewable tree farms, and it reuses most of its waste. The small product line includes the European Sponge Cloth shown above, a long-lasting paper towel alternative, and the Loofah Sponge, which has an abrasive side.
Biokleen’s cream cleansers, soaps, and all-purpose cleaners are chlorine- and phosphate-free. For fighting mildew, try its stain and odor eliminator, which uses live enzymes to break down nasty smells and molds (i.e. it’s just as effective on living room carpets as it is on wine-stained tablecloths and smelly kitchen linens). You can buy it in smaller sizes, but if you have the storage space, may as well stock up.
Method’s biodegradable, nontoxic products are widely available and easy on your wallet. Its granite and marble cleaner and wood polish will keep your counters and cabinets sparkling, but you can also pick up an all-purpose cleaner for pretty much any countertop—in scents from fresh mint to zesty pink grapefruit.
Basil, lavender, geranium, and lemon verbena smell a lot better than Windex and Pine-Sol. The Mrs. Meyer’s website clearly outlines the ingredients in each item if you have special sensitivities. The basil-scented Kitchen Basics Set will get you started with dish soap, countertop spray, and hand soap (but if you prefer other scents, there are plenty, from the aforementioned lavender and lemon verbena to spring-appropriate geranium and limited-edition peony).
Seventh Generation’s dishwashing liquid works well enough to stand up to a test kitchen’s pots and pans, so it should serve you well at home. It’s also biodegradable, nontoxic, and free of phosphates and petroleum-based cleaners. It comes lightly scented or fragrance free.
Shaklee made its first biodegradable product in 1960, long before movie stars were driving Priuses and “green” was fashionable. Try the heavy-duty scouring paste for pots and pans and your oven itself (not to mention your sink); it uses natural mineral abrasives and biodegradable cleaning agents. Their cleaning wipes are great for lighter jobs. If you don’t like the company’s stuff, it offers a full refund.
Ecover sells eco-friendly soap, rinse aid, and surface cleaner, as well as biodegradable compost bags, but what makes the company unique is that it manufactures the products in green factories with living roofs for insulation. The floor soap won’t leave behind any unnecessary chemical residue, but check the website to be sure it will work with your flooring type.
If you need to buy a new scrub brush, consider one made from an alternative to plastic. Japanese tawashi brushes are constructed out of super-tough but totally biodegradable palm fibers and are great for scrubbing fruit and veggies, as well as wooden and cast iron cookware. We also get a kick out of the Sandclean, which offers some hard-core abrasion thanks to its threads of sandpaperlike cloth but looks more like a pile of rubber bands.
11. Veggie Wash
While you’re cleaning all your kitchen surfaces, linens, dishes, and appliances, don’t forge your fruit and veggies too. Buying organic is great for the environment and your health, but even then, there may be traces of dirt, wax, and other things you don’t want to eat. That said, you can also make your own produce wash with equal parts vinegar and water if you like.
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