We do our best to avoid hazardous household cleaners, but what about the integrity of the tools we use to clean our homes? Unfortunately, most of them are cheap, disposable pieces of plastic manufactured with no regard for the health of our homes or our planet. Next time you find yourself in need of a cleaning tool, opt for one of these more health-conscious and eco-friendly choices.
No (Plastic) Scrubs
If you haven’t done it already, make the switch to biodegradable sponges and scrubbers. Conventional neon-colored sponges are made of oil-based, landfill-clogging plastic. Cellulose sponges, on the other hand, are made of compostable plant-based materials, and are available unbleached and undyed. Twist Loofah Sponge and Twist Scour Pads, $1 to $5.
Tip: Toss sponges in the dishwasher or a pot of boiling water to disinfect.
All-natural homemade cleaners are great alternatives to common chemical-laden varieties, but even natural ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide and essential oils can be irritating. Open windows to ventilate rooms while you clean, and wear gloves. If You Care Household Gloves are made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified latex, and the rubber harvesters receive a fair wage. If You Care Household Gloves, $3;
Tip: To make your own hand exfoliant, mix two tablespoons olive oil with kosher salt in the palms of your hands and rub.
Does your vacuum suck (in the pejorative sense)? If you have pets, large area rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting, consider investing in an energy-efficient vacuum with a HEPA filter. HEPA filters pick up tiny particulates—dust mites, pet dander and other allergy triggers—that other vacuums leave behind. We like bagless models (less waste) with lifetime washable filters. Dyson DC24 All Floors, $400.
Tip: Empty canisters or change bags outside—and do it often.
Paper manufacturing is the third-largest user of fossil fuels worldwide. Curb your consumption by replacing paper towels with an arsenal of reusable dish cloths. Stash dirty rags in a bin under the sink until it’s time to do the wash, but make sure they’ve had a chance to dry out first to avoid mold. Full Circle Tidy organic cotton dish cloths, three for $6.
Tip: Repurpose old clothes and towels as cleaning rags.
Streamline your collection of brooms, mops and floor-cleaning gadgets into one space-saving, sustainable workhorse. The Cradle to Cradle-certified eclipse collection includes a pole made from 30 percent recycled aluminum with three interchangeable heads: broom (made from recycled soda bottles), mop (made from 30 percent soy) and microfiber duster (traps dust without chemicals). eclipse collection, $8 to $30.
Tip: For a natural floor cleaner that smells great, combine ¼ cup white vinegar with 10 drops lemon oil and 4 drops oregano oil in a bucket of water.