Eco-Conscious Cleaning and Home Care

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

 

Did you know you can sustainably kill pesky weeds, make yummy garden pickles, brighten your whites, and sanitize surfaces with one, yes ONE, all-natural solution? Any guesses on which one it is?

Distilled white vinegar! 🙂

It still boggles my mind that one liquid can do all of these magical things: Eliminate cooking odors in the kitchen, keep garbage disposal clean and smelling fresh, help dyes set, make  great salad dressing, clear mineral deposits from a steam iron, clean hardwoods, ferment foods, deodorize garbage cans and lunch boxes, preserve foods, clean eyeglasses, repel ants, kill weeds, clean soap scum, brighten laundry whites, remove stains, clean windows and mirrors, unclog drains, keep flowers fresher for longer, clean lime deposits, and prevent bright colored clothes from fading in the wash!

This post is more than an ode to vinegar, but it is definitely that too. It’s also a nod to something I am quite passionate about, eco-conscious living and reducing consumption at home. After having many conversations with friends, acquaintances, and family, (and also by sheer observation) I have concluded it may be helpful to break things down a bit and discuss exactly what it means to clean and care for your home in sustainable, zero-waste ways. It’s a rewiring of thoughts, but it doesn’t have to baffle! Here’s my humble definition of eco-conscious cleaning:

E C O – C O N S C I O U S – C L E A N I N G: a sustainable home-keeping philosophy that respects mindful care of your home using nature-friendly, plant-based, zero-waste practices to minimize harm to the environment. It’s about refusing from the start, reducing what you need, reusing what you can, recycling when possible, and rotting the rest to best mimic the earth’s ancient cyclical rhythm. Cleaning and caring for your home the eco-conscious way means going beyond what can be recycled and/or composted outside of the linear and disposable mainstream culture. Yes, it means cleaning with care, but also consuming with care as well. With eco-conscious cleaning, one must also consider waste prevention and product design in the process. As responsible consumers, it’s important to know how the products we use on a daily basis are being made, specially with regard to the resources it takes to create them and get them into our homes. There are four pillars of eco-conscious cleaning that I think help break down how to best mindfully clean and care for the spaces you inhabit:

 

Four Pillars of Eco-Conscious Cleaning: 

  1. Eco-Conscious Cleaning Agents: All-natural, plant-based, chemical-free solutions and substances used to remove germs, bacteria, dust, grime, stains, smells, and dirt.  (i.e. vinegar + baking soda + essential oils etc.)
  2. Eco-Conscious Cleaning Tools: Instruments made from sustainable resources used with environmentally-friendly cleaning agents to clean and care for your dwelling. (i.e. cleaning brushes made from bamboo + natural fiber bristles + wood brooms etc.)
  3. Eco-Conscious Cleaning Rhythm: Small, practical, mindful ways you go about bring for your home that conserves the most energy and resources. (i.e. running a full dishwasher without heated dry + running the washing machine with cold water + line dried linens etc.)
  4. Eco-Conscious Cleaning Ethos: Manifesting the spirit that less is more and haste makes waste, while giving yourself plenty of grace as you do your best, with what you have, where you are, in adopting long-term habits over short-term frills.

 

When it comes to stocking an eco-conscious cleaning pantry you really only need a few trustee ingredients. Let’s play a game: if I were to be stranded on a remote desert island and I could only bring along four cleaning items with me, they would be: distilled white vinegar, organic Castile soap, essential oils (preferably lavender, lemon, or tea tree), and baking soda. I know I wouldn’t need these items on said island, but thanks for playing along! Contrary to what trendy cleaning companies would like to have you believe, you do not, I repeat: you do not need everything you think you “need” to successfully clean or even eco-consciously your home. So many products are sold to us for a very specific use (i.e. bathroom wall spray, bathroom, sink spray, bathroom toilet spray, bathroom floor spray, bathroom shower spray…”) for all kinds of cleaning and care, but honestly you do not need a separate cleaner for every single area of your home. Two or three will do. I do however think it’s nice and fun to change up scents depending on what I am cleaning and the season it is outdoors, but buying hoards of chemically-scented cleaning solutions throughout the year is not the only way you can achieve this. I strongly urge against the pull to purchase new different cleaning solutions every few months simply because the store put them on the end-cap. Hey-ho Target, I’m lookin’ at YOU kid. Instead, try investing in a few simple, natural ingredients that are made from the earth and will happily return to it, and customize from there if need be. Bonus points if you buy in bulk and recycle the containers they come in!

Alrighty, so why do this in the first place? Why change the way you are caring for your home reroute to eco-conscious cleaning and caring practices? For starters, it’s much, much safer for you and for those who live in your home. Many of the cleaning agents and tools on the market are chalk-full of very dangerous and unnecessarily harsh ingredients that simply put: are horribly harmful. And they don’t even have to be there in the first place! And then there’s plastic. Did you know plastic was designed to last until the end of time? So every singly bottle of cleaning spray you buy for every single different purpose in your home will end up on a giant heap forever if you toss it in the trash bin after use. These bottles were made to be tossed, keeping you the consumer buying on end. And what about the chemicals in said plastic bottle? Those toxins leak out and get into our water system, endangering all living things. You can read more about this here, and here, and really all over the Interweb these days.

So what can you do right now to start? First off, take a deep breath and give yourself grace. This is a long-haul approach you’ll want to take, so do what you can in small ways that fit for your lifestyle. You will learn so much more as you go, so don’t feel discouraged right off the bat as if you need to do this perfectly. I am still finding ways to do better every day, and I am several years into this process. That being said, one of the biggest things you can do to make an impact is it stop buying so much in the first place. Refuse refuse refuse. Say no to plastic. Say no to chemicals you cannot pronounce. And when you do need to buy something make sure it’s all-natural and non-disposable. Go plant-based when possible. Buy a few things in bulk and make sure they’re organic, if possible.

 

Here’s a nifty, non-overwhleming place to start gathering eco-conscious goodies: 

  • Two 16 oz. glass amber spray bottles
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Several essential oils (lavender, tea tree, orange, lemon, peppermint, and eucalyptus are great)
  • Organic Castile soap
  • Sustainably made brushes

 

For the curious, here are a few past posts I’ve written on this topic and may be helpful in your zero-waste endeavors:

 

And lastly, what questions, tips, or inspiration can you add! I love learning about this and am continuing to refine my approach living a more eco-minded life.

 

 

  • Lauren

    Hi Amanda! I love when you write these posts. Such a great reminder and I myself am ready for spring up in the northeast! Any chance you have similar advice/post for personal and beauty care? I’ve had such a hard time finding natural items that truly work. Especially shampoo! Anyways, thanks again for another inspiring post! Be well 🙂ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Lauren, Howdy! I do not have one on beauty products per se, but here are my daily go-to’s!

      1. Current Shampoo: Aveda Scalp Benefits with Burdock Root (been using this since college and love it!)
      2. Current Conditioner: I use Dr. B’s lavender coconut hair cream a few times a week or plain ol’ coconut oil mask with tea tree
      3. Soap: Dr. B’s scent-free all-purpose with a few drops of lavender oil or eucalyptus oil sometimes (this is the kid’s and dog’s soap!)
      4. Facial Serum – you can find that here…http://www.homesongblog.com/natural-whole/healthy-glow-face-serum/
      5. All over winter moisturizer: I use a mix of jojoba oil, whipped coconut oil, shea butter, lavender essential oil, rosemary essential oil, and bergamot essential oil in the morning and evening.

      And that’s about it! I tossed pretty much all of our beauty products a long time ago and now just stick to the basics. Hope that helps! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Joy

    I love this post! When I’m out of essential oils or money is too tight, we like to save and soak our citrus peels in vinegar inside a mason jar. We sit the jar in the sun or a windowsill for about a week. Remove the peels and strain the vinegar. Then fill an amber spray bottle halfway with the citrus vinegar, and the other half with water. Shake. Then you’re ready to get your clean on!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Joy, love it! This idea is especially wonderful for the wintery months when my kids eat pounds of citrus each week 😉 I made a really great grapefruit with fresh rosemary infusion last year and you’ve reminded me to try that again. Thanks, girl! xx AmandaReplyCancel

      • Joy

        Ooooo! Grapefruit and rosemary sounds lovely! I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Karen

    Hi Amanda! Really loved this post! You are speaking my language. The next step for me is to add eco conscious tools to my cleaning supplies as well as be more diligent with making my own cleaning supplies from your nifty list. I live in Florida and struggle with mold in the showers. I have tried several different eco friendly mixtures but nothing seems to conquer it. I aim to avoid bleach at all cost! If you have an eco conscious recipe for combating mold, I would be so grateful. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Karen, let’s see for mold I use a mixture of tea tree oil + vinegar + baking soda, however I have read that hydrogen peroxide works really well against bad mold build up as it’s a natural whitener and anti-fungal cleaner as well. I use it every so often to help whiten whites in the laundry with vinegar too 🙂 I would make a water bottle with 1/2 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide + 20 drops tea tree oil + water. Sprinkle the baking soda on the moldy area, and spray with the liquid solution to clean. Hope this helps! xxReplyCancel

  • I love this post! With spring right around the corner, I’ve been thinking of doing a deep spring cleanse. There’s something so peaceful about a freshly cleaned house. I have recently begun purging my cabinets of all cleanser with harsh chemicals and the transition has been better than I even expected. My go-to lately for surface cleaning is super simple. I just use lemongrass essential oil and water. Because of it’a antimicrobial properties, lemongrass makes a great replacement. Not to mention, it smells amazing! I have to replace many of my cleaning tools and you have inspired me to go all natural!! Thanks for the inspo! Great post!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Courtney, I absolutely love hearing stories like this, thank you for sharing! I totally agree about the peace and calm that comes with a clean, orderly home. It makes me feel so much more present and patient, too 🙂 x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Mindy

    I’ve been eying eco friendly cleaning tools. Not only are they a better choice for the environment, but I imagine they make cleaning a more beautiful experience. And they are so much prettier! Thanks for posting!ReplyCancel

  • Hi Amanda, Distilled vinegar is my go-to as well. I keep it mixed with water in a glass spray bottle and use on just about everything. Do you have any suggestions for getting stains out of linen material? I have a flax color linen couch (not the best material to have with small children) and have no idea what to use as a natural spot remover for the occasional marking. Years ago I bought some terribly toxic upholstery cleaner and hide the can in the garage – its ugly, smelly, and actually doesn’t even work. Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Ali

    I loved this post and your gorgeous photos. I was wondering if you have a good recipe for getting out stains in clothing? I have had a hard time moving to a natural stain treatment because nothing seems to work like the ones with all the chemicals.ReplyCancel

  • i love springy cleaning posts! (actually the most recent blog post i have is from last march and it’s exactly about cleaning stuff too! teehee) in europe it’s hard to buy baking soda in bulk, so i had to buy a 50 lb sack from amazon! i told my husband if we weren’t on the nsa watch list already we definitely were now! xxReplyCancel

    • admin

      Sarah, hilarious! Thanks for the morning laugh 🙂 and Cheers to the weekend! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Adair

    Hi!
    I too love reading these posts. I know you are a collector of wooden cleaning tools. I received a wood brush for my dishes at Christmas and it already is smelling moldy. I’m not sure what happened. Any suggestions to bring it back to life and or prevent this in the future? Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Katie

    Love this! Do you have any advice on keeping cleaning brushes from getting moldy? I recently bought one that you suggested, but after a few uses, it got extremely moldy.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica

    Hey Amanda!
    I’d love to see a list of what is usually included in your spring cleaning. Could you maybe make a customizable checklist? That would be so helpful.
    As always, I appreciate all your tips and thoughts.
    Blessings,
    JessReplyCancel

  • Lucy

    Hi,
    This is a really helpful post, I am gradually transitioning to an eco friendly home and I was wondering if you had a post or could point me to another place that explains how to use the 4 cleaning products you specified to clean everything! There are a few ideas in here but would be so helpful to have a room-by-room summary of what to use where e.g.. what to clean bath/limescale/tiles/toilet with and what exactly you would use castille soap for and how you use essential oils with your cleaning products.
    Thanks so much
    LucyReplyCancel

  • Liz

    I really loved this post, it came at a perfect time for me as I am only now beginning to look at what chemicals are in my cleaning products and thinking what actually IS that?! I don’t want my baby to be taking in these chemicals, or myself!
    I really want to jump on board with using essential oils too, for cleaning and other uses, but I have no clue where to start, is there a book you could recommend for a beginner? Many thanks xReplyCancel

  • Amanda Hermansdorfer

    Thank you for sharing! I have been researching and planning my next steps in natural cleaning and this is helpful. As I move in this direction do you have a suggestion for what to do with the “not so good” products and their bottles?
    Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Samantha

    Hi Amanda! This is so random, but what kind of container do you store your dish soap in? I don’t mean for the dishwasher, I’m talking about the quick rinse in the sink? I don’t know why, but looking at a cracked plastic bottle on my window seal makes me sad. Haha. Do you just hide it under the sink? Or use an amber bottle? Any suggestions? Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Samantha

    *both laughing and horrified that I got autocorrected to window seal instead of windowsill. Ha!ReplyCancel

  • Marissa

    I’ve made several of your cleaning solutions (and bought the amber glass bottles) and I adore them! So easy to make and I can tell a difference in my air quality! It just helps me be one step closer to becoming even more sustainable. White vinegar is a life saver! Even though I hate the smell, mixing it with essential oils and distilled water makes it so much better! Thanks for all of your blogs.ReplyCancel

  • Deborah Hernandez

    I enjoyed all your Essential Oil posts for sprays, I was looking on your blog for recipes for foaming handsoaps. Do you have one?ReplyCancel

  • Kate

    Recently, I got highly useful home disinfection tips from a professional cleaner, and I started trying them soon after. It has actually helped me to keep my cleaner and brighter than ever.ReplyCancel

  • oh, i have been looking for a laundry soap recipe – so thank you! is it ok to use your food processor for food after using it for soap? do you just wash it normally, or do you do anything special to ok for food use again? thank you!ReplyCancel

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