Cleaning, and the products we use to clean, is a bigger consideration than ever. And while much of the focus has been on disinfecting to reduce the transmission of the novel coronavirus, cleaning in general — how, how often, with what products — is a thing people are spending more time thinking about, especially when it comes to safety.
Cleaning products can protect you from disease, but they can also sicken you if they contain toxic chemicals or other irritants. If you’re concerned that the products you use to clean your home aren’t safe, and are considering switching to more natural cleaning products, here are expert tips on how to do so without sacrificing quality or busting your budget.
Why make the switch to natural cleaners?
Natural cleaners offer a number of benefits — some of which may surprise you. The biggest benefit of switching to natural cleaning products is reducing exposure to toxic chemicals in the home. “Think about it: We’re spraying these cleaners all over our homes, inhaling and touching whatever is in the mixture as we spray it — and long after it’s been applied to every surface,” says Kate Kordsmeier, who runs the holistic living and wellness blog Root and Revel.
Cindy LeBow, the founder of Great Green Cleaning and Disinfecting Services, learned this from experience; she made the switch to natural products to protect her staff of housekeeping professionals. “I found that toxic cleaners would make my staff sick, burn their skin, hurt their lungs and eyes and cause allergic reactions,” she says.
The benefits of switching to natural cleaners extend beyond human exposure to toxic chemicals. Reducing your household’s use of products that include synthetic colorants and fragrance, phthalates, ammonium, etc. — as well as avoiding disposable products like dusting wipes or single-use mopping pads — means reducing the damage conventional cleaning products do to the environment.
And, despite a reputation for costliness, switching to natural cleaners can actually save you money by reducing the number of total products used to clean the home. “We have been trained to need a plethora of chemical-filled products for different cleaning purposes,” says Jordan Berry and Cindee Black, founders of the organic cleaning line Black and Berry Living, “but it’s unnecessary, because natural cleaners can tackle multiple cleaning jobs.”
Natural cleaning pitfalls and how to avoid them
While there are many good reasons to switch to natural cleaning products, there are drawbacks: They can be more expensive than traditional products, and many people find they simply don’t clean as well. “Not all natural brands perform as well as the chemical combinations in conventional brands, and the ingredients can come at a higher cost,” Kordsmeier says.
She suggests reading product reviews to find out which ones people like best, and shopping at places like Amazon, where those products can often be found at affordable prices. Using the right tools for the job can also boost the efficacy of natural cleaners. Switching to reusable microfiber cloths (which remove buildup like soap scum and grime better than cotton rags or paper towels), using scrub brushes on tough jobs and giving the products time to do their job can all help to make cleaning with natural products more effective.
The experts we spoke to all agreed that it’s important to read the labels on products that claim to be natural but that actually contain toxic ingredients. “Don’t get fooled by ‘greenwashing’ — if a product has [artificial] colors and perfumes, just don’t use it,” LeBow says, even if the product is branded as natural or green.
How to make the switch to natural cleaners
When it comes to switching to natural cleaners, simplicity should be the goal. “Keep it simple — you only really need a handful of products. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t spend a ton of money,” LeBow says.
Berry and Black echo the advice to keep it simple, especially when it comes to ingredients, adding, “Read labels and pick a product with ingredients you understand.” To make it easier to easily identify quality products, they suggest finding a brand that you trust and sticking with its entire range to take the guesswork out of shopping.
Kordsmeier encourages people looking to make the switch to natural cleaners to consider going the DIY route. “If you really want to do it on the cheap, I recommend making your own cleaning products,” she says.
Best natural cleaning products
These are the products and brands the experts we spoke to named as their favorite natural cleaners — the ones that they reach for over and over to tackle messes in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and beyond.