Everything You Need to Know About “Green Cleaning”

published Nov 28, 2023
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Step by step instruction of non toxic home cleaning detergent recipe made of vinegar, baking soda and lemon. Eco friendly zero waste household concept.
Credit: Kudzina/Shutterstock

When it comes to cleaning your space, you have lots of options for how to do it effectively and safely — and not every product in the cleaning aisle is created equal. If you’re committed to reducing your impact on the environment and using fewer potentially irritating chemicals in your home, adopting a “green cleaning” approach is one way to do it. 

But no matter how determined you are to make the switch toward an eco-friendly strategy, navigating all the “green” options out there can be a little intimidating. What does green cleaning actually mean, and how does it all work? We talked to professional cleaners to find out exactly what you need to know. 

What Is Green Cleaning? 

Simply put, green cleaning — also called environmentally friendly or eco-friendly cleaning — is cleaning without the use of chemicals that could be harmful to you or the planet. 

“Many commercial cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that can be detrimental to both human health and the environment,” says Karina Toner, operations manager at Washington, DC-based Spekless Cleaning. “To address this, eco-conscious individuals are turning to environmentally friendly cleaning products with non-toxic ingredients that are safe for both people and the planet.” 

Protecting your home environment and the planet involves a few key components. According to Muffetta Krueger, founder of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants, green cleaning typically involves the following: 

  • Natural ingredients: Non-chemical ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and essential oils are usually safe and biodegradable, which means they naturally decompose and won’t sit in a landfill forever. 
  • Non-toxic ingredients: Unlike traditional cleaning products that may contain harmful chemicals, green cleaning products are usually considered non-toxic and are free from synthetic fragrances and dyes that could be detrimental to people or the Earth. 
  • Environmentally friendly ingredients: Green cleaning also reduces the release of harmful chemicals into the environment, contributing to cleaner air and water. 
  • Energy efficiency: The process of green cleaning also promotes energy-efficient practices, reducing your carbon footprint.

Not sure if a product is actually eco-friendly? Be sure to read the label and check out the ingredients. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires cleaning products to label products that meet their criteria for chemicals safer for human and environmental health. 

How to Make Your Cleaning More Green at Home 

If you want to pivot toward a greener cleaning practice, there are a few ways to go about it. 

  • Make your own cleaners. When possible, Toner recommends creating your own cleaning solutions using simple, non-toxic ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. 
  • Choose natural tools. Use natural scrubbers like sponges and brushes made from sustainable materials instead of synthetic alternatives. “Look for sponges made from materials like cellulose, loofah, or sea sponge, which are biodegradable and sustainable,” Toner says. Coconut fiber scrub brushes are also a good option. 
  • Go reusable. Invest in reusable microfiber or cotton cleaning cloths to reduce paper towel waste. 
  • Invest in energy-efficient tools. Toner suggests looking for energy-efficient appliances, such as vacuums and washing machines.
  • Buy in bulk. Purchase cleaning products in bulk to minimize packaging waste, and opt for refillable cleaning product containers, too. 
  • Minimize water waste. Krueger recommends using water-efficient cleaning techniques, such as using a spray bottle to target specific areas rather than soaking an entire surface. 
  • Practice safe disposal. When disposing of cleaning waste, ensure you do it properly. Krueger says many green cleaning products are safe for disposal down the drain, but be sure to check instructions on the product labels. 

It’ll take time and work to adopt a different cleaning approach, but the investment is worthwhile. “By incorporating eco-friendly cleaning practices into your home, you contribute to a sustainable future while maintaining a clean and welcoming space,” Krueger says. “Your planet and your well-being will thank you for it.”