If you're trying to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your life, thinking about your household cleaning routine might highlight some areas of opportunity. After all, constantly purchasing new plastic containers whenever you run out of, say, glass cleaner is practically guaranteed to keep you from living a low-waste lifestyle. All those squirt bottles and tubs add up over the years, even if you're relatively lax about wiping down your countertops.
What's more, some cleaning products contain chemicals (such as alkylphenol ethoxylates) that might end up harming aquatic life after you've rinsed them down the drain. Standard sewage treatment effectively removes most chemicals from cleaning products, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But it's not a perfect system, and sometimes the chemicals still make their way into lakes and rivers where they can have a detrimental effect on aquatic species and, by extension, species that eat those creatures (including humans), according to the United States Geological Survey.
Of course, swearing off cleaning altogether isn't a fix since that comes with its own laundry list of downsides (hello @ COVID-19). But you can still make a commitment to buying more eco-friendly cleaning products the next time you're low on supplies. And if taking steps to save Mother Earth wasn't enough of an incentive, you might also end up saving money when you start purchasing reusable alternatives or refills. To get you started, here are a few brands that offer the best eco-friendly cleaning products. (Related: The 9 Best Natural Cleaning Products, According to Experts)
Thanks to Cleancult's approach, you can avoid the cycle of buying plastic containers every month or so when you run dry. Instead, you can purchase the brand's refillable glass containers (or use some of the containers you already own) and fill them up with Cleancult's refills, which come in recyclable milk cartons with compostable caps. The brand offers hand soap, dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, dishwasher tablets, laundry detergent, and bar soap refills made from plant-derived ingredients, such as essential oils and aloe juice. What's more, Cleancult has partnered with carbonfund.org to offset the carbon footprint of its shipments. (Meaning: the company promises to make up for the carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases it creates during production and distribution by supporting the building of wind farms, planting of trees, etc. to ensure an equivalent reduction in these harmful emissions.)
All of Earthling Co.'s products (which go far beyond cleaning, extending into beauty and other home goods) are packaged in recyclable and/or compostable materials and offer easy sustainable solutions. Case in point? The company's Solid Dish Soap (Buy It, $17, theearthlingco.com) which is just as easy to use as your usual dish detergent (read: no excuses for not being eco-friendly): Just wet a dish scrubber and rub it onto the soap black to create a lather for cleaning dirty dishes. You can take your green initiative even further and swap that old dish scrubber with a plastic handle for one made of wood, stainless steel, and plant-based fibers like the Earthling Co.'s Dish Brush (But It,
$13 $9, theearthlingco.com) What's more, Earthling Co. is a member of 1% for the Planet, meaning it's committed to donating one percent of gross sales each year to approved non-profit environmental organizations such as One Tree Planted and Rainforest Action Network. (Related: 9 Easy — and Delicious — Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste, According to a Chef)
Once you have reusable containers, you can stick to buying Blueland's tiny tablet refills (Buy It, from $6, blueland.com) to clean your whole house. Reminiscent in shape and size of a dishwasher tablet, this eco-friendly cleaning product transforms into a 20-ounce soapy solution once you add water. Not ready to start scrubbing surfaces just yet? No problem; you don't have to use the product the minute it dissolves. Simply store it as you would any other household cleaner (read: under the sink, in the laundry room, on an overly-crowded shelf that you're meaning to organize). Each tablet of bathroom, glass, and multi-surface cleaner costs about $1.50 each if you purchase a pack of nine. All three cleaners have earned the EPA's Safer Choice certification, meaning they only include ingredients that have been rigorously evaluated and deemed, well, safe by the EPA.
If you love the convenience of dishwasher and laundry detergent pods, then you won't have to give that up when going green, as Dropps offers eco-friendly options for cleaning your plates and pants. Housed in a biodegradable package, Dropps' detergents are free of dyes, phosphates, and phthalates (aka unnecessary chemicals), and are available in both unscented and fragrance-free versions. The pods are placed directly in a recyclable box for shipping (no plastic tub!), and Dropps has partnered with 3Degrees, a corporation that helps businesses offset carbon emissions.
Marley's Monsters is a goldmine of eco-friendly home goods — if you can think of a staple, there's probably an eco-friendly alternative on the site. Its specialty is UNpaper Towels reusable (vs. paper) towels that come in a variety of fun colors and prints and are machine washable. You'll also find eco-friendly cleaning supplies such as washable dishwashing "sponges" (Buy It, $10, marleysmonsters.com) and washable dusters (Buy It, $32, marleysmonsters.com). The brand uses plastic-free shipping materials and donates its fabric scraps to organizations, where they're upcycled into jewelry, hair accessories, and more. (P.s. did you know that food can also be upcycled?)
In addition to its beauty, personal care, and wellness offerings, Brandless sells affordable cleaning products such as refillable multi-surface, glass, tub and tile, and granite and stone cleaners that come in concentrated, just-add-water packets. A veritable Costco of sustainable solutions, the brand also offers laundry and dishwasher pods, as well as their very own tree-free paper towels (Buy It, $3 for two, brandless.com) that are made from sugarcane and bamboo grass (which is more sustainable than paper because bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth). (Related: Waterless Beauty Is the Eco-Friendly Trend That Could Also Save You Money)
Dedicated to providing "healthier home essentials," Grove Collaborative is a one-stop-shop for everything from eco-friendly cleaning products to better-for-you (and the environment) beauty buys. The online marketplace offers products from a range of brands — all of which meet Grove's standards in terms of using sustainable materials, ethical supply chains, and cruelty-free, plant-based formulas. Grove Collaborative also sells its own line, which includes earth-friendly cleaning products such as compostable kitchen wipes (Buy It, $4, grove.co) and concentrated cleaner refills (Buy It, $7, grove.co). While the company hopes to be entirely plastic-free by 2025, it's currently 100 percent plastic-neutral, which is a pretty big deal. In essence, for every ounce of plastic you receive from Grove, the brand makes sure the same amount of plastic is removed from the ocean as part of its partnership with Plastic Bank.
Earth Breeze's pack of laundry detergent sheets (yes, sheets) might look a lot different from the large jug of laundry detergent you're used to seeing, but don't be fooled: they're powerful AF. Simply toss one into a soiled load to get your clothes clean. You can buy a box of 360 sheets for $100 (which works out to $0.28 per load) or 60 sheets for $20 (which works out to $0.33 per load) — and both options are available whether you opt for fragrance-free or "fresh scent" sheets. In case you need more reasons to try it, the brand donates 10 sheets to people who need it for every one package purchased.