Consumer Goes Green: Flat Surface Cleaning

Last time we talked about hair, this week we’re attacking the flat surfaces in the house, floors and counters and whatnot. There’s a part of my brain that just wants to say “Go out and get a lot of vinegar,” because it rocks, but PoM and I have both already extolled the virtues of vinegar before so I will talk about other things instead.

Simple Green
It's like a bottle of magic

When I need to clean up, my entire arsenal is comprised of vinegar (of course), baking soda, water and Simple Green. Have you ever used Simple Green? It’s amazing. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, and it smells like root beer. When I was little, I always thought it was weird that the health food stores my parents took me to always smelled like root beer, now I know it’s because they used Simple Green to clean up. I don’t think there is anything that it can’t do, and it comes as a concentrate, so you can dilute it to whatever strength you need. The only drawback, and the reason I tend to save it for nasty messes, is that once you are done cleaning, you have to wipe everything down with a damp cloth to avoid leaving a residue. The extra step irritates me.

If you aren’t ready to join us in the cult of the vinegar, there are lots of all-purpose spray cleaners in the green camp. Almost all of them meet my standards for affordability (less than a dollar more than what I would pay for the “regular” stuff) and they are easy to find. Method and Seventh Generation are the most common, though I have issues with Seventh Gen. It is silly, but the first time I bought a Seventh Generation product, it smelled so bad that I had to give it away. IMHO it was worse than the funky bathroom smell I was trying to get rid of. Since then, I have avoided them on principle. I should probably get over it, but I’m not quite ready to trust them yet. Scent is very important to me.

bottle of spray cleaner
It's just so pretty, and it smells so freakin' good.

The other two easy to find multi-purpose cleaners are Mrs. Meyer’s and J.R. Watkins. They are slightly more expensive, but they smell so damn good. They are like my guilty pleasures as far as cleaning goes. And the bottles are pretty. I hate that I can be influenced by attractive packaging, but I am only human, after all. Marketing works for a reason.

So, what else can you do to make cleaning greener? Besides using non-toxic or biodegradable cleaners, the easiest thing you can do is get rid of the disposable elements. Stop using paper towels. We haven’t been able to quit them 100%, mostly because our animals have accidents or hairballs that you just want to be able to wipe up and throw away, but for spills and general cleaning, we use old washcloths or a scrub brush. If you use a Swiffer type mop, stop buying disposable pads for it. The microfiber pads they sell for the new-ish refillable spray mops stick just fine to the velcro on the bottom of an old Swiffer. Disposable cleaning products have gotten really popular by playing up the gross factor of having to store something that you just used to clean up a disgusting mess. In reality, if you wash a cleaning cloth between uses it’s not going to get terribly gross. Plastic is not a very hospitable environment for germs, so a scrub brush isn’t really a health hazard when it hangs out under your bathroom sink. Sponges, on the other hand, are scary. Don’t use sponges, the Mythbusters have proven them to be bacteria breeding grounds. There are options out there for natural sponges, and you can disinfect them by microwaving or boiling them, but for now I am fine with my scrubby dishcloths that can go in the washing machine.

kitchen sponges in a circle with a line through them

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

10 replies on “Consumer Goes Green: Flat Surface Cleaning”

Oh jeepers. This is a habit I need to break: cleaning wipes. I use washable cloths for cleaning, too, but I have yet to kick the habit of using wipes around the kitchen. This may just be the motivation I need to really try and cut down on using them (if not cut them out altogether!). Thank you!

Vinegar FTW!  I use up so much of that stuff, it’s ridiculous.

I have to agree with you about 7th generation.  I have their lemon grass and thyme scented multi-purpose cleaner and it smells TERRIBLE.  How does anything with lemon grass and thyme smell bad?  How is this possible?  I don’t know.  I never use it, but I’m too stubborn to throw it out.

Mrs. Meyer’s is lovely, isn’t it?  I use their dish and laundry detergent a lot because I want to my clothes smelling nice and my nose to be filled with yummy smells as I’m standing over a dirty sink.

And I need to convince Mr. Nonsense about sponges.  He goes along with my craziness so well…but he just can’t give them up. They are so freaking nasty.

I’m a sponge-lover, the ones with the no-stick plastic nubbies are the only things that get my really dirty pans clean. I microwave mine for 1 minute every other day, and so far nobody has died of botulism.  I switch them out every month or so, or when they start to get that OMDFG THAT SMELLS LIKE HATRED stench.

I’d also like to plug steam, because I am a total steam cleaning evangelist now. NO CLEANERS AT ALL. Just water and some clean towels.

I do use way more than my share of paper towels when I clean. I should work on that, but when I’ve tried to be good all the time and use only rags, I just don’t clean.

I do. My greatest steam victory was when I used my steam mop, with a little vinegar in the water, to steam a vintage wool coat that the cat had peed on. It came out smelling like it had never seen a cat, and I got to save the cost of dry cleaning.

AHHH!  Did Mr. Nonsense send you?  Because he throws that botulism line at me every time we have the sponge talk.  I think it’s the texture of sponges that I don’t like… and okay it’s also a germ thing.  It’s mostly in my mind because I clean them, but yeah.  I’m not a sponge girl.

I bought a steam mop a few months ago and I feel like my life has changed.  It rocks.

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