One day 12 years ago, I found myself on my hands and knees, scrubbing the walls of our house. It was during the nesting phase of my pregnancy that I realized how much the fumes were affecting me. Back then, non-toxic cleaning products weren’t as readily available as they are now, but from that point, I made it a mission to find non-chemical cleaners that were safe for my baby and for the environment. Sometimes that also meant getting out the good ol’ vinegar and bicarb soda.
But thankfully, brands have finally caught up with consumer demand, and the “clean” cleaning product market is booming. Awareness and education around the health implications of toxic chemicals have also made us choose cleaner beauty products and non-toxic cookware. But with so many brands to choose from, which ones do you buy?
Ahead, we share some of our favorite non-toxic cleaning products that actually work (including one brand five of our editors use!) along with the chemicals you should steer clear of!
image by Kristen Kilpatrick
What to Toss:
If you’re ready to make the swap to clean cleaning products then it’s time to ditch the toxic chemicals once and for all. That means anything that has ingredients like:
Methylisothiazolinone, ammonia, butyl cellosolve/glycol ether, parabens, phosphates, synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, 1-4 Dioxane, fragrance, dye, synthetic foaming agents, unnatural preservatives, water softening agents, pH adjusters, formaldehyde, bleach, artificial colors, and buffering agents.
Just like your food or beauty ingredient lists, always do your research. Look up the names of ingredients you’re unsure of, keep a list of the ones you want to avoid in your phone notes app, and typically (but not always) the fewer ingredients listed the better.
When possible choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic products. Look for essentials oils on the ingredients list for fragrance instead (but opt-out altogether if you’re sensitive to fragrances). Use simple detergents and soaps with short ingredient lists, and avoid antibacterial products with triclosan for home use.
White vinegar is always a great choice for general cleaning and can also replace your fabric softener or dryer sheets—or opt for wool dryer balls. (Biokleen Laundry Oxygen Bleach Plus uses the power of hydrogen peroxide for removing stains from clothing and your carpet.)
Tea tree oil is also another great antibacterial, antifungal alternative to chemical disinfectants. In fact, if you’re looking for an effective all-purpose germ-killing cleaner, simply add a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar to some water (option to add your favorite essential oil for fragrance), then mix it all together in a spray bottle and start cleaning!
For stubborn surfaces like the bathroom, kitchen sink, or stovetops, I always reach for Bon Ami unscented powder. It’s made from natural ingredients like ground feldspar and baking soda without the added bleach, chlorine, dyes, or perfumes. It also doesn’t scratch the surfaces which are very important when you have white ones like mine! Also, a hot tip for cleaning the toilet bowl, mix some vinegar with Borax powder.
Read on for more healthy swaps…
If you’ve already made the switch, let us know in the comments what your favorite non-toxic cleaning products are!
This post was originally published on January 20, 2021, and has since been updated.