Being GREEN While You Clean

Our monthly blog, edited by Dayenu (climate action and environmental justice) Circle members Chris Wynn and Sharon Smaller,  will give you ideas, information, resources, and things you can do to make this world a better place environmentally, tikkun olam. As a community, we can learn from each other, so we welcome your ideas and questions. Please share with us your successes in your endeavors to “go green.”

Think of all the different products you use each day to maintain and clean your home. Wherever you shop, you’ll find shelves filled with a dizzying array of cleaning products for countertops, sinks, appliances, bathtubs, hardwood floors and rugs, toilets, mirrors, and the list goes on. Along with usage and pricing, there are many different factors to consider before purchasing a cleaning product. And there is A LOT of information out there, which can get overwhelming, including a lot of greenwashing marketing of certain cleaning products. So this month’s Green Maven is going to attempt to simplify this so you can make more informed decisions.

A really good resource is the Environmental Working Group, an independent non-profit organization largely funded by individual donations and grants from charitable foundations. Their mission is to empower us through research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment. They have an app that you can put on your phone to rate products according to a number of different criteria. You can even scan a QR code while you are shopping and get immediate feedback about a product you may be considering. They also have a one-page guide which I highly recommend printing out that highlights the important stuff.

A second great resource is the David Suzuki organization. This is a Canadian non-profit which provides evidence-based research, education and strives to conserve and protect the natural environment of Canada. There is a lot of great information on this website.

While perusing these two resources, you may stumble across some recipes for home-made cleaning products. This is one sure way to know exactly which ingredients are in your cleaning products. While there are many different recipes, they all use basically the same ingredients:

  • baking soda
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • liquid Castille soap
  • borax
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • washing soda
  • essential oil

Learn more about those ingredients, their cleaning importance, as well as some recipes.

Friends of the Chicago River has a booklet of homemade cleanser recipes as well.

The thought of making your own cleaning products may seem way out of reach, but in some cases, the switch is very easy. Look through the recipes and find two that seem easy to you and try them.

I make my own:

  • Soft scrub
    • 1/2 cup of baking soda and slowly mix in enough liquid Castille soap so that the consistency is like frosting.
  • Window and mirror cleaners
    • 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water
    • add a little lemon water
  • Laundry Soap
    • 2 bars of Castille soap-cut into small pieces, then ground up smaller in food processor.
    • 3 cups of washing soda (wear gloves)
    • 2 cups borax
    • I mix these together (being careful not to breathe in the dust- I actually pour the powders outside) and keep the laundry soap in a pretty glass container by the washing machine. I have a scoop that measures 1/8 of a cup which is all that is needed for a full load. The cost is $13.00 for 56 loads and the products can be purchased at the hardware store or the Castille bar soap at Whole Foods. Another benefit is that there is no big plastic jug to lug home from the store. I’ve spoken to other people about their laundry products and one trend seems to be that many are using the laundry sheets and have stopped using dryer sheets and softeners.

So in the end, we hope that we’ve

  1. Given you resources about how to make better purchasing decisions
  2. Motivated you to make a few changes
  3. Inspired you to make one or two homemade cleaners

Be GREEN While You Clean