Making the switch to non-toxic cleaning products can feel like an overwhelmingly huge task. Home cleaning products can easily get pushed to the side in trying to transition to a cleaner life. We want products that work, and marketing has convinced us that if our cleaning products aren’t full of “germ-killing,” “fast-acting” synthetic chemicals, then they won’t work. But this is not the case. There are natural cleaning products that do work just as effectively. These non-toxic cleaning products are made with simple plant-based ingredients that won’t harm you or your family’s health. The toxic chemicals in synthetic cleaning products quickly seep into the air you breathe and onto the surfaces you tough all day long. Children and pets touch and put their mouths on these contaminated surfaces every day. It is important that you swap synthetic chemical cleaning products for organic and plant-based products to help protect your family and your pets. We did the research for you and have broken down easy cleaning supply swaps that anyone can make. Making these swaps will make a huge difference in reducing the toxic load from products used in our homes.
Cleaning Ingredients to Avoid
In the United States, cleaning companies are not required to disclose all their ingredients. They are only required to disclose active ingredients or ingredients “of known concern.” This means that companies don’t have to disclose all the synthetic and potentially toxic ingredients in their products, making it way harder for consumers to know what lies beneath the label. Even more concerning is that the government doesn’t test cleaning products or mandate any chemical testing. Oftentimes even natural or green cleaners have no regulation either leading to issues involving greenwashing. Cleaning products are often falsely marketed as natural but since there is no regulation, their labels don’t accurately represent the potentially harmful chemicals they could be using. Since we use cleaning products often, weekly, or even daily, it is important that we become aware of the most common toxic ingredients in cleaning products and swap them out of our routine.
Companies use the term fragrance to hide up to thousands of chemicals. Fragrance is considered a trade secret so if you see fragrance without any disclosure, like a blend of essential oils, you should avoid it. Phthalates are a super common toxic chemical often hidden behind the term fragrance.
If you’ve ever cleaned your bathroom and smelled a strong acidic burning smell, it’s Ammonia. This chemical is often used to clean glass and polish surfaces, but it is linked to serious health concerns. Ammonia is very irritating for those with asthma and lung issues and can cause a variety of respiratory issues and kidney and liver damage.
This chemical belongs to a category of solvents that are commonly found in window cleaner, spot cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, and degreasers. But it should be avoided since it is linked to kidney failure.
4. Ethanolamines (Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA), and/or Triethanolamine (TEA))
This group of chemicals is used in all-purpose cleaners, polishes, detergents, and foaming products. They are known hormone disruptors as well as cause skin and eye irritations and liver and kidney damage.
5. Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine Bleach is used as a bleaching agent in cleaning supplies like toilet cleaner to remove mildew and bacteria. But it is extremely harmful to the environment and for you to breathe. Bleach irritates the lungs and eyes and can even burn, corrode, or destroy living tissues. Once flushed down the drain, bleach damages and kills animals and plants.
This common toxic chemical is used to cover odors and is commonly found in all-purpose cleaners, detergents, and disinfectants. Phenols should be avoided since they can cause painful blisters, burners, and even severe skin damage.
Phthalates are a known hormone distributor linked to a variety of reproductive and other issues. Phthalates are common in laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, and a variety of other cleaning products but their use is often not disclosed and is hidden under the term fragrance. Phthalates make a product smell good, but it is best to stay away. Aside from reproductive issues, phthalates are also linked to asthma and are known to be a possible carcinogenic.
8. Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate
This chemical compound is the main ingredient found in toilet cleaners. If you have ever coughed or had trouble breathing after cleaning the toilet, this chemical is your culprit. It is linked to permanent respiratory issues.
It seems shocking that formaldehyde is still allowed in cleaning products, but it is more common than you may think. Formaldehyde is especially common in laundry detergents. This chemical is a known carcinogen and highly toxic.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common in scented cleaning products. Formaldehyde is an example of a VOC. These compounds are linked to asthma related issues and other health concerns.
8 Non-Toxic Cleaning Product Swaps
The following 8 swaps will help you detoxify your home. A lot of these products can be swapped with a DIY vinegar alternative or have vinegar as a main ingredient. Vinegar is a highly effective active cleaning ingredient that is non-toxic. In fact, it was one of the very first antibacterial active ingredients ever used and easily dissolves stains and kills germs. We have recommended our favorite non-toxic cleaning supply brands for each swap to help ease the process.
Swap 1: All-Purpose Cleaner
Swapping out your all-purpose cleaner is one of the easiest DIY swaps. Simply dilute castile soap or vinegar with water and you’ll have an easy and affordable non-toxic cleaner. If you're looking to buy a non-toxic cleaner, Branch Basics has you covered.
Branch Basics is a great place to find non-toxic cleaning products. They have great starter kits for only $69 that come with 7 products. Branch Basics is Certified Made Safe, Leaping Bunny, and EWG verified. Their products never use GMOs, synthetic fragrances, or preservatives. The most important product that Branch Basics offers is “The Concentrate” which replaces all your cleaning supplies when diluted with water. The Concentrate’s ingredients are short and simple: Purified Water, Decyl Glucoside. Chamomile Extract. Coco-Glucoside, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Sodium Phytate. With one bottle of concentrate, you can make 3 all-purpose bottles, 3 streak-free bottles, 3-bathroom bottles, 3 foaming wash bottles, and 64 laundry loads. Now that's cost-efficient! This safe and effective product does it all. Another great product Branch Basics offers is their oxygen boost, which boosts the power of the concentration and is great for laundry and stains.
Swap 2: Laundry Detergent
Swap out your toxic Tide with GO by Greenshield Organic. There are plenty of fragrance free or essential oil-based laundry soaps that fully disclose their ingredients and are better and safer options for your home.
GO was the first line of USDA-certified organic household cleaners and detergents in the USA. Their certified organic laundry detergents are offered in fragrance free, natural enzymes, baby, and lavender-scented options. These detergents are Leaping Bunny certified, low sudsing, hypoallergenic, sulfate-free, and formulated for sensitive skin. GO products never contain harsh chemicals, synthetic dyes, or fragrances. The product easily erases stains and leaves clothes soft and odor-free. They are standard washing machine safe. Their bottles are 100% recyclable and made with sugar cane. We love GO by Green Shield Organic’s laundry detergent and their organic household cleaners.
Swap 3: Dish Soap
It’s time to swap out your Dawn with plant-based dish soap. Washing the surface, you eat off with synthetic toxic chemicals is not a good idea.
Eco-Me Dish Soap uses natural plant extracts instead of harsh chemicals to clean your dishes. Their plant-based and essential oil-based formula is tough on grease and offers fast effective cleaning without all the toxins and chemicals. Choose between unscented or naturally scented lemon fresh, citrus berry, or herbal mint. They also offer a stronger dishwasher detergent for tougher jobs. This product contains no synthetic dyes, colorants, harsh preservatives, sulfates, BPA, or phthalates. Even their recycled plastic packaging is BPA-free. Eco-Me discloses all their ingredients and their formula contains only food-grade plant-based ingredients. Natural dish soap like Eco-Me helps keep waterways and our kitchens safer.
Swap 4: Bleach and Disinfectant
Swap out toxic chlorine bleach disinfectant for a vinegar-based alternative that works just as well! You can easily make your own highly effective disinfectant by combining vinegar and water.
Force of Nature has created a wonderful little appliance that transforms salt, water, and vinegar into an all-in-one cleaner. Their device makes it easy to create your own disinfectant right on your own kitchen countertop. Just fill up the Electrolyser with water, add salt and vinegar, push the button and you're ready to go. Force of Nature's product is highly effective in disinfection. It is on the EPA’s list of disinfectants approved for use against Covid-19. It is also an EPA registered disinfectant that ensures it kills 99.9% of germs, without bleach, alcohol, or other sneaky toxins. This disinfectant is kid and pet friendly and free from all toxins, fragrances, phthalates, dyes, preservatives, and bleach. You can use it on anything from counters to ovens to windows to rugs. Force of nature also used eco-friendly reusable bottles and is Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free. Swap out your chlorine bleach for Force of Nature’s disinfectant.
Swap 5: Toilet Cleaner
Rather than spraying your toilet with toxic ammonia and bleach Lysol products opt for a non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner like Better Life.
Better Life’s natural toilet bowl cleaner easily removes all rings and build-up without the use of toxic chemicals. They disclose full ingredients lists so we can be confident the product is safe for kids, pets, and the planet. Their plant-based ingredients are biodegradable and packaged in recycled containers making this product kind to not only our bodies but also waterways and marine life. Better Life products contain no chlorine, synthetic fragrances, bleach, parabens, phthalates, ammonia, sulfates, or other harmful chemicals. Their products are made in the USA in a solar energy powered factory. Better Life toilet cleaner is the better solution for you!
Swap 6: Window/Glass Cleaner
Swap out your harmful Windex for an organic glass cleaner. You can even make your own by combining rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and distilled water. Windex recently faced multiple class-action lawsuits since they had a “non-toxic” claim on their vinegar cleaner, but it still contained harmful chemicals like butylphenyl. Avoid misleading advertising and unbacked claims by switching to a truly safe non-toxic glass cleaner like GO by Green Shield.
We already recommended their laundry detergent, but we also love GO by Greenshield’s glass cleaner. This cleaner gives your streak-free shine without all the harmful chemicals. There are only four simple ingredients in this product: water, acetic acid, ethyl alcohol, and organic fragrance (essential oils). Their glass cleaner is made in recyclable bottles and contains no ammonia, GMOs, or other toxins. We are recommending a GO product again because these cleaning products are truly the gold standard for non-toxic cleaning products.
Swap 7: Floor Cleaners
Ammonium is super common in floor cleaners which is concerning because it is highly toxic when inhaled or ingested. You can easily DIY your own floor cleaner with water and castile soap or vinegar. If you would rather purchase a non-toxic floor cleaner, swap out your Bona for Aunt Fannies.
Aunt Fannies offers a budget-friendly vinegar floor wash concentrate in four scents: sweet mandarin, eucalyptus, bright lemon, or lavender. The main ingredient is distilled white vinegar which is then combined with essential oils for scent. This floor cleaner is pet-friendly, kid-friendly, Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free and rated A for safety on EWG. They also have a hardwood floor cleaner and a variety of other non-toxic cleaning products. Aunt Fannies has a “no” list of chemicals that they never use which includes phthalates, parabens, allergens, bleach, synthetic fragrances, ammonia, and more. With Aunt Fannies you can make your house clean and smelling good while using an environmentally friendly, safe, and effective product.
Swap 8: Sponges, Clothes, and Brushes
Along with swapping out your actual cleaning supplies, it is important to also swap out the plastic brushes and sponges used for cleaning. Typical plastic sponges and silicone brushes are not biodegradable and often contain harmful toxins. Using paper towels to clean is a wasteful use of paper and it is better to opt for reusable organic cotton cleaning cloths. One of the easiest swaps to reduce plastic is to get eco-friendly sponges, cloths, and brushes.
Zefiro offers a variety of zero-waste, eco-friendly options for your cleaning needs. We love their Bamboo and Sisal 4-piece brush set which includes one pot brush, one scrubber, one all-purpose brush, and one bottle brush. The handles are made from sustainable bamboo and the brushes are plant-based sisal, the leaves of a plant in the agave family. This set is ideal for cleaning dishes, stovetops, and bathtubs. Zerfiro also offers fully compostable Swedish dishcloths made of 70% cellulose and 30% cotton to replace your paper towels or plastic sponges. Zefiro also offers their kitchen sponge loofah as another swap for your sponges. This natural sponge is made from 100% loofah and sewn with 100% cotton thread making it fully compostable. All Zefiro products are vegan, fully compostable, and free of unnecessary packaging. The company is also part of 1% for the planet. Zefiro is a one-stop-shop for zero waste, affordable cleaning accessories.
We know that swapping out your old products for cleaner alternatives can feel overwhelming at times. We hope this article helps you easily swap out your old cleaning supplies for safer, more sustainable alternatives.