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.
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.
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.