Keeping it clean - and green!

Dr. Bronner's uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and strives to be zero-waste in all manufacturing. Photos courtesy of manufacturers.

March 19, 2020

Since we’re all being extra vigilant this month about cleaning surfaces around our home and office, here are some eco-friendly alternatives. Please check each one to be sure that it is disinfecting in the way that you need.

As consumers, there are few times when we are as directly exposed to chemicals as when we are cleaning around the house. Every time we wipe down the stove, wash our windows, scrub the toilet or even wash our hands, we either breathe potential toxins into our lungs or absorb them through our skin so it’s up to us to choose products that are as eco-friendly as possible, both for us and the planet.

If you’ve got a favorite cleaning product and you’re not sure of its green creds, you can check out its rating with The Environmental Working Group, an industry watchdog organization whose mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” 

Wanna make your own green cleaners? Scroll to the end for some simple recipes.

WET IT

Wet It  reusable clothesWet It! dish cloths are made from high-grade cotton and cellulose pulp.

It’s exciting to see so many stores carrying greener options which makes it easy to make wise choices.

“Rather than consume and harm more of our natural resources, we need to reuse, repurpose and recycle,” said Sharon Anderson with Rooster Home & Hardware in Lake Highlands. “We offer tools to make cleaning earth friendly.” 

Some of Sharon’s best-sellers are Wet-It! dishcloths, made from biodegradable materials in tons of fun designs. The washcloths were first brought to the U.S. by Mathilda Davies when she realized that the handy sponge/cloths that she had grown up using in Sweden were not available in this country and Wet-It! was born. 

Wet It reusable wipesYou can use these durable, eco-friendly cleaning cloths again and again. They can be washed in your clothes or dish washer up to 200 times.

They are made from 100 percent all-natural wood pulp and renewable cotton fibers, so after their long life, they simply biodegrade in your compost pile. Each one replaces up to 17 rolls of paper towels and can take in 20 times its own weight in liquid. Just think of all those paper towels you're no longer sending to a landfill.

Available at Rooster Home & Hardware in Lake Highlands and stores all around town.  Visit WetCloths.com to find a dealer near you.

DR. BRONNER’S

Dr. BronnersIf you’re new to going green, grab some Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps to help get started. We often think of going green as a recent initiative but many cleaning products companies have been doing it quietly for years. Dr. Bronner’s near-cult following of eco-devotees has been touting the products’ benefits since the free-love days of the 1960s. 

Originally launched in 1948 by Dr. E.H. Bronner, the company dedicates a major portion of their profits to help make a better world. Founder Emanuel Bronner was a third generation master soapmaker who barely escaped the Nazis and lost both parents in concentration camps. He was quite a character and even spent some time in a mental hospital, after which he used his soap bottle labels to espouse his somewhat offbeat ideals of peace, unity, love and "All-One-God-Faith!" Keep a bottle handy just for reading material. 

The company offers fair trade and organic personal and home care products that will make you tingle, literally all over, in a variety of natural scents such as peppermint, lavender, rose, tea tree and almond. The company uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and strives to be zero-waste in all manufacturing. 

Dr. BronnerThe eccentric Dr. E.H. Bronner founded the soap company in 1948.

Do a quick Google search to learn more about the company’s fascinating founder or watch this trailer for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox, a film about his life and times, as well as that of his family who took over the company. If you are interested in the business background of Dr. Bronner’s, read this article in Inc.

Many of Dr. Bronners receive and A+ rating from The Environmental Working Group. Visit Dr. Bronner’s website to find dealers near you.

MRS. MEYERS

Mrs. MeyersLooking for products that smell lovely, are effective and clean like the dickens plus you can buy them just about anywhere? 

Mrs. Meyers products are cruelty-free and made with plant-derived ingredients, essential oils and other thoughtfully formulated ingredients. 

Back in the day when most folks were using bleach or other toxic chemicals to do their dirty work, Mrs. Meyers was inspired by Thelma Meyers, who with nine children, wanted more natural cleaning products to get the job done. One of her daughters created a line of eco-friendly cleaners and named them for her mom. 

The company is now owned by SC Johnson Wax but they have stayed relatively true to the original formulas. If you’re wondering what exactly goes into each product, they have an ingredient glossary directly on their website. Plus, their scents range from florals like mums and peonies, to basil and honeysuckle so your house will be smelling like a garden in no time. Recycled packaging and other eco-friendly practices make this a green favorite. Available at most retailers.

ECOS (FORMERLY EARTH FRIENDLY PRODUCTS)

Ecos dish soapEcos products use plant-based ingredients and environmentally friendly processes - plus they are manufactured using 100 percent renewable energy.

Family owned and operated since 1967, Ecos is dedicated to providing environmentally friendly products with superior cleaning results. The company was founded by Van Vlahakis, a Greek immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was only 18 with $22 in his pocket. He lived in homeless shelters while earning a degree in chemistry from Roosevelt University in Chicago. When he got severe headaches from cleaning products at his first job out of college, he decided to go back to his roots, creating eco-friendly cleaning products from vinegar and olive oil, like his mother and grandmother had done back in Greece. His company has been quite successful. Mr. Vlahakis’ life has even been the subject of a feature film, A Green Story

Ecos all purpose cleanerEcos now distributes their wide range of cleaning products throughout the United States and to over 60 countries. They make everything from kitchen and bathroom cleaners to laundry detergent and even pet deodorizers using plant-based ingredients and environmentally friendly processes - plus they are manufactured using 100 percent renewable energy. Ecos products have won many environmental awards including the EPA’s Safer Choice 2017 & 2015 Partner of the Year and often receive top ratings from The Environmental Working Group.

We have tested many and found them to work great - but our outright fav is the Parsley-scented All Purpose Cleaner, which leaves the whole house smelling like springtime. Learn more at Ecos.com.

BONA

Bona floor cleanerIf you're not familiar with Bona, a 100-year-old Swedish company, they were one of the first companies to make products that were considered "green.” Before many were thinking of it, in the 1970, Bona's water-based, safe floor care products were quietly revolutionizing the industry and they continue that tradition today. Newer additions include furniture and cabinet spray cleaners and polishes and a pet spot odor remover.

Many of their products are even certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Plus if you’re thinking of having your wood floors refinished, ask for Bona varnishes from your flooring refinisher. They are water-based and low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), just like other Bona products, but are super-tough and will outlast more-toxic oil finishes, even with pet toenails and heavy foot traffic. Learn more about Bona here.

J.R. WATKINS

JR WatkinsOne of the oldest U.S. companies in cleaning products, J.R. Watkins has been around for almost 150 years with a dedication to high-quality natural products ranging from home care to body scrubs.

The company’s distinctive labels hark back to the day in 1868 when J.R. Watkins created a liniment made from camphor and Capsaicin (that is still being sold) and the brand now includes everything from cleaning products to spices and all-natural vanilla extract.

Their home care line offers soaps, fresheners and cleaners - there’s something for everyone! Our top choice is the Aloe and Green Tea scent that actually makes us look forward to cleaning. Find JR Watkins at most retailers or buy online at JRWatkins.com and search "cleaners."

Orange TKOORANGE TKO

My editor’s favorite go-to cleaning agent is Orange TKO, a super concentrated citrus cleaner/degreaser made from the peel of the orange. It is an emulsifier which contains no synthetic chemicals, petroleum distillates, or detergents. According to the Canadian-based manufacturer, it is 100 percent environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It can be diluted with water to create an all purpose spray cleaner or added to a mop bucket with a dash of dish detergent. It will make your bathroom and kitchen floor smell like oranges! Also good for cleaning toilet bowls. Can be found locally at the Sunflower Shoppe in Fort Worth and ordered online at OrangeTKO.

DROPPS

DroppsDropps offers biodegradable pods made with plant-derived ingredients.

Back in the 1980s, Jonathan Propper and his mother, Lenore, couldn’t find a gentle enough detergent to wash the sweaters that they made at the Conshohocken Cotton Co. near Philly - so they decided to create their own. Their product, Cot’n Wash, was easy on fabrics, yet tough on dirt. Consumer Reports even named it number one in overall cleaning at that time. 

But the creative son decided to go one step further by offering the detergent in a disposable pod. Yes, he created that concept that we now see so often. 

Fast forward and the company now sells Dropps, tiny laundry and dishwasher detergent packs in biodegradable pods that have been so wildly popular that they even made Oprah’s coveted O-List. 

All products feature plant-based ingredients with no animal testing, plus recyclable and compostable cardboard packaging to eliminate single-use plastic bottles. Choose from unscented, lavender and eucalyptus, or citrus - lightly scented with essential oils. 

Starter bundles include: 32 pods of Laundry Detergent + 32 pods of Dishwasher Detergent for $30. Prices go down to under 25¢ per load when you subscribe. 

Dropps.com - The Naked Truth About Laundry

The company also offers a highly-rated Oxi Booster. There’s even two choices for safer baby detergent. We tried out their trio of dryer balls that arrive in thre colors - light. medium and dark, to use with different colors of clothes. Dryer balls help to reduce drying time and save energy. All products are shipped in simple brown boxes that are eco-friendly, compostable or recyclable. We tested their Lavender Eucalyptus Laundry Bundle, which includes lavender laundry pods plus fabric softener pods and found them easy to use, leaving our clothes clean, soft and with a pleasant scent. 

You’ve just got to watch their hysterical video featuring Jonathan Propper himself. Order online at Dropps.com.

CHARLIE’S SOAP

Charlie’s Soap is a non-toxic, biodegradable laundry detergent that was also born in the textile industry. It cleans tough stains and doesn’t leave any perfume or residue on your clothes. A little goes a long way: Just one tablespoon is enough for an entire load of laundry and costs under 20¢ per load. 

Charlie's SoapThe inventors are Charlie Sutherland, Jr., and his brother-in-law Ron Joyce, who were working for the yarn oil division (run by Charlie’s dad) of a large textile company back in the 1970s. Charlie had to find a soap that could clean the oils and other grime from yarn machines and also the fabrics in the mill so the ingenious pair decided to make their own. It worked so well that employees of the mill wanted to use it at home. The rest is history and now it is sold worldwide. 

All Charlie’s products are made with only biodegradable, hypo-allergenic ingredients and no phosphates. It not only leaves your clothes clean and fresh but also removes the residue left behind in your washing machine from previous products. 

Charlie’s also makes a hard water laundry booster that really works and a line of indoor/outdoor cleaners that are non-toxic and biodegradable. They get under grease and grime, gently releasing them without harsh chemicals or abrasives. We have tested the products and found them to work very well at a cost that will fit any budget. 

Their laundry powder also receives an A+ rating from The Environmental Working Group. Our only gripe is that some of their products are sold in plastic bags which, although they are recyclable, aren't accepted by most municipal recycling systems. 

Visit CharliesSoap.com to order online or find a retailer near you.

If You Care household glovesIF YOU CARE

If You Care household gloves are made from FSC certified latex, a natural rubber sourced from a responsibly managed plantation.

If You Care was founded in 1990 with the first unbleached coffee filters on the market. Their line now includes dozens of eco-friendly products, including many other unbleached paper goods such as baking cups and parchment paper. 

We love their Household Gloves, made from FSC certified latex, a natural rubber sourced from a responsibly managed plantation. Buy your first pair in-store so that you can try them on as we found that the sizes can run a bit small. The gloves are super strong and perfect for a variety of uses around the house and garden. When they wear out, you can simply cut them into small pieces and compost them. 

If You Care sponge clothsThe same with their handy Sponge Cloth, made from three simple sustainable materials; cellulose, non-GMO unbleached cotton and mirabilite - a natural mineral salt which is washed away during the manufacturing process. Each sponge cloth is super absorbent and can replace up to 75 rolls of paper towels! At the end of its life, the sponge cloth is also completely compostable as is the cellulose fiber bag that it came in. See the full collection of If You Care products at IfYouCare.com. Click this link to watch a short video about how rubber is harvested. You’ll never look at your rubber gloves or boots in the same way again.

Full Circle veggie brushThe Full Circle veggie brush is made from bamboo, recycled plant fiber bristles (tampico) and recycled plastic bristles. 

 FULL CIRCLE

Full Circle Home’s approach to cleaning and homeware utensils makes going green more fun with their ergonomic and fashionable designs in everything from compostable cellulose fiber sponges to bamboo-handled scrubbers. The company sources eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, recycled plastic, walnut shells and bamboo in their products - plus many have replaceable parts to help extend their usable life. 

Full Circle walnut scrubberA few favs are their Veggie Brush with recycled bristles and curved bamboo handle that’s easy to grip, Ziptuck Reusable Snack Bags that can be washed and reused endlessly and the Fresh Air Odor-Free Kitchen Compost Collector with compostable liner bags keeps kitchen waste at hand and easy to take to your outdoor composter. Check Full Circle Home out online or at stores all around the area. FullCircleHome.com.

GUILT-FREE WIPES

For that rare occasion when you absolutely have to have a disposable cloth, there are now several choices from which to choose. 

Ode to CleanOde to Clean’s wipes arrive in a refillable countertop dispenser that looks attractive in a kitchen, bathroom or nursery. The wipes are made from plant cellulose soaked in bioperoxide, a natural odorless cleaner that removes dirt and grime from countertops, floors and even your skin.

MethodMethod also offers naturally-derived compostable cleaning wipes that are made out of wood fibers and plant-based cleaning agents. We especially like their plant-derived scents - lavender, lime/sea salt and grapefruit. All are completely biodegradable and can simply be thrown into your compost collection bucket. 

Under the best circumstances, they should be commercially composted to completely break down but we have heard that you can also put them in your home composter if you don’t mind waiting a while for them to biodegrade. 

Even if some of these new generation of wipes end up in a landfill, they are certainly better for the environment than the plastic fibers (which break down into microfibers) that have comprised most conventional wipes on the market. Great to keep in the sick room, car, office, on the trail or other situations where disposability is sometimes a near-necessity. 

MAKE YOUR OWN

Green Tip Guy has a simple tip for making your own all-natural dryer sheets.

Save money and the environment by mixing your own cleaning products from ingredients that you may already have on-hand. Baking soda, lemon juice, distilled white vinegar and a good liquid soap or detergent will do most tasks nicely. 

Jason Winningham, better known as The Green Tip Guy, loves to come up with creative ways to stay simple and green - and for good reason.

“We are inundated with toxic chemicals every day through our use of ordinary, over-the-counter items," said Winningham. "Most standard house cleaners have the negative effects equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes a day through their use - which is why it is so important to use all natural cleaners like vinegar.” 

Jason has a simple tip for making your own all-natural dryer sheets.

Here’s a few more easy do-it-yourself recipes from my own archives:

DRAIN, SINK, BATHTUB AND TOILET CLEANER RECIPE

Mix ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup white vinegar and a squirt of dish detergent. Add the baking soda first and then the vinegar, followed by the detergent.

It makes a fun and safe “explosion” that kids love to watch. Also a great way to encourage your youngsters to clean the bathroom and especially the toilet!

NATURAL DEODORIZER RECIPE

When I was an antique dealer, I often used lemons and sunlight to help deodorize old furniture - and you can make a simple solution to do the same all around your home.

Dilute ½ cup lemon juice in a spray bottle with about two cups of water and then stir in two tablespoons of baking soda.

Spritz the air for an everyday pick-me-up or spray directly onto nasty odors to help stop stubborn smells dead in their tracks. If the item can be set in the sun, the heat and sunlight will help to evaporate odors. Also great to deodorize shoes by spaying a few squirts into each and then setting outdoors to dry.

LemonsSIMPLE SCRUBBER & DISPOSAL CLEANER RECIPE

After using lemons halves for your iced tea or whatever, sprinkle salt liberally on the meaty portion of the lemon half. Use it as a scrubby to clean your sink or dirty dishes.

Then cut the lemon into a few small portions and run it down the disposal along with hot water, a few squirts of dish detergent, two tablespoons of vinegar and a handful of ice cubes to clean the disposal blades and keep the unit running smoothly. The ice cubes and lemon help to grind off any gunk on the disposal blades while the vinegar and detergent neutralize nasty odors. Repeat every couple of weeks.


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