In lieu of Bathroom month, here's a quick refresher course on ways to make your bathroom cleaner and greener. We're not talking about any major renovations, like replacing your floor with cork tiles or installing formaldehyde-free cabinets (although those are great ideas). No — we're recommending some simple green ideas you can implement on a small budget. See our Top Ten below...
1. Switch to natural cleaners. This is pretty self-evident, as conventional bathroom cleaners create toxic fumes that no one should breathe in! This is especially a problem for bathrooms, which are typically small and poorly ventilated. Vinegar and baking soda are nature's wonder cleaners. Spray the shower after each use with diluted vinegar to help prevent mold growth. You can also make your own bathroom cleaners. If DIY solutions are not your thing, there are plenty of green cleaners on the market: we like Oxy-Grout Grout Cleaner by Natural Choices for the tub, and Fresh and Natural Bathroom Cleaner with Tea Tree and Lavender from LifeTree.
2. Keep it well-ventilated. Make sure to open a window or run a fan for a few minutes after you shower. This will help reduce the humidity and cut down on the mold.
3. Use recycled toilet paper. This is a heck of a lot better for the environment than the fluffy white Charmin. Look for 100% post-consumer content paper, or at least a mixture of post-consumer and post-industrial paper. Seventh Generation and Green Forest are both good options. Trader Joe's also carries recycled toilet paper with 80% post-consumer content.
4. Install a low-flow showerhead. The term "low flow" is defined as a showerhead with a water consumption rate of 0.5 to 2 gallons per minute (gpm). This compares to the average 4.5 gpm water rate of normal showerheads. Check out this review of the best low-flow showerheads for help in choosing one.
5. Use an environmentally-friendly shower curtain. This means no vinyl or PVC. Look for organic cotton, hemp, linen or nylon. We've written quite a bit about shower curtains, so check that out for more recommendations.
6. Buy organic cotton or bamboo towels and wash cloths. Conventionally-grown cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides, damaging the surrounding soil and waterways and creating potentially severe problems for the workers. In addition to organic cotton, bamboo is a good option since it has natural antibacterial properties.
7. Rethink your personal care products. Shampoos, soaps, deodorants and cosmetics with petroleum-based ingredients like mineral oil, paraffin and propylene and other synthetic ingredients are harmful to our bodies. Read the labels and try to stick with all-natural ingredients. Some of our favorite natural personal care products are Tom's of Maine Peppermint Toothpaste and Dr. Bronner's Organic Peppermint Soap Bar.
8. Put a CFL above your sink. Sometimes the sink can be easy to overlook when you're switching out your light bulbs. Globe CFLs are most commonly used in bathroom vanities. The glass diffuser provides a softer light and helps to reduce the heat buildup.
9. Remember to turn the water off. It almost goes without saying... turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth, shaving, or soaping up your hair. Take shorter showers. Try and conserve as much as possible.
10. Bring a plant in. There are a number of plants that will thrive in the bathroom. They'll freshen the air and your spirits!
Do you have any other tips?
(Originally published 2009-03-03 - CB)