Long before the Covid-19 pandemic spiked the demand for everything from toilet paper to yeast, I deep-cleaned my kitchen and wasted a lot of plastic bags and containers in the process. It got me wondering how I could make my cleaning routines less wasteful. When I looked into it, I came back disappointed.
Researchers are developing new ways to recycle plastic, but it’s not an earth-friendly material right now, and cleaning supplies use a lot of it. Solutions like disinfecting sprays and soaps are comprised largely of water, which also makes those products heavier and harder to ship efficiently. Shipping packaging is another contributing factor, as are harmful chemicals that can end up in the water supply (or you).
Cleaning can be wasteful, and even if you do everything right, you still may end up washing microplastics down the drain. Below are some of my favorite cleaning products that attempt to be more eco-friendly, won’t feel too different from what you’re already using, and are relatively affordable. You don’t need to try and fit all of your trash into a single Mason jar, but next time you need to stock up, consider some of the products below.
Eco-Friendly Cleaners for the Whole House
There are several environmentally friendly cleaning solution companies out there, offering the general-use products you’d typically buy in spray bottles. All of the brands mentioned in this section are eco-friendly in various ways, whether that’s from offering refills, using green ingredients, shipping without plastic, or a mixture of those factors. Go with whichever fits your cleaning style, budget, and aesthetic goals (because, yes, they’re all nice to look at.)
Blueland concentrated cleaner kit (WIRED’s Top Pick): Blueland’s $6 refills come in the form of dissolvable tablets. You’ll get a few recyclable acrylic “Forever Bottles” by purchasing a $39 starter kit. Refills include hand soap, bathroom cleaner, glass + mirror cleaner, and multipurpose cleaner. They all smell great and work even better.
Branch Basics concentrated cleaner kit: The $59 Branch Basics starter kit gets you a 32-ounce bottle of sustainable concentrated cleaning solution, plus spray bottles with fill lines for easy dilution. You’ll get enough concentrate for three bottles each of all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and foaming wash, plus a 64-load laundry bottle. The concentrate is powerful and made from simple ingredients.
Cleancult cleaner kit: Cleancult’s starter kits cost about $56. They include three glass bottles, all-purpose cleaner, dish soap, hand soap, bar soap, and dryer balls, plus a funnel for easy refills. Refills come in paper-based milk cartons, available for $7 each. The company also makes dishwasher tabs, which I tried and liked.
Grove concentrated cleaner kit: Grove’s cleaning concentrates are available in a three-pack for $10. You’ll get all-purpose, glass, and tub + tile cleaners. Squirt the contents of the tubes into 16-ounce bottles (also on Grove’s site) and fill the rest of the bottle with water. In particular, I like the glass cleaner, which works significantly better than Windex. (It smells better, too.)
Seventh Generation Free & Clear All-Purpose Cleaner: This biobased product isn’t sold in concentrates, but I’m including it here because I didn’t try anything else like it. It has no fragrance and no color. It almost feels like you’re cleaning with water. If you’re one really sensitive to fragrances, to the point where “lightly scented” still gives you a headache, this is what you’re looking for.
Truce cleaner kit: Truce’s starter kit doesn’t have concentrates, but I’m including it because the products are different from what is typically offered. Aside from an all-purpose cleaner, you’ll get wood cleaner and scouring powder in the kit, which most similar services don’t have. They work well.
For the Kitchen