Have you been cleaning your house more than usual? Doing more laundry? Wiping more surfaces? I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY!
I’ve been meaning to write a post on all my favorite natural, low waste home cleaning products for months, but the recent uptick in sanitation supply management gave me the kick in the butt I needed.
Around the time of The Wellness Project book, I switched all my home cleaners to non-toxic options. There are tons of brands now that offer solutions, many of which, like the Seventh Generations of the world, you can get at the regular grocery store.
But in the last year, I started noticing how much unnecessary plastic my cleaning supplies were adding to my carbon footprint. For example, the Seventh Generation multi-surface spray that I love doesn’t even allow you to untwist the cap and use the bottle for something else afterwards—it is quite literally a single use plastic.
Luckily, there are plenty of new direct-to-consumer companies sprouting up to solve this problem. Most sell their own set of reusable bottles (often plastic) and refills on a subscription or a la carte basis.
Below are some of the favorites that I’ve tried, and a few words about the footprint of a few others that I have not. They all have their pro’s and con’s, but I have found a few options that combined are likely to take me to zero single use plastics on the home cleaning front.
Read on for my favorite low waste non-toxic home cleaning products!
With health and hedonism,
THE BEST REUSABLE CLEANING SUPPLIES
First, let’s talk about low waste cleaning supplies. We use less than 1 paper towel roll every few months because we have almost entirely transitioned to rags. We have about 2 dozen of these kitchen towels which we use for napkins at the dinner table, and when they get too stained, transition them to exclusive use for cleaning in a stack under the sink.
If you don’t want to purchase one of the reusable bottle sets below, which are for the most part plastic, you can get your own glass set here. The only downside is that glass is heavier and, of course, not as durable. But if you feel better about the possibility of a broken glass bottle than a plastic one that will outlive you and probably not find another use outside your home, we like these options.
Lastly, this is an expensive item, but we have almost completely replaced our Swiffer and the disposable pads by purchasing a Eufy robo vacuum that constantly combs our floors. For a hack, you can buy these microfiber cloths and affix Velcro to either side of your Swiffer.
For dusters, there are these reusable options from the Package Free Shop.
THE BEST LOW WASTE NON-TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS
Dropps – Non-Toxic Laundry and Dishwasher Detergent Pods
This brand is one of the reasons why I can’t completely hate on Instagram ads. They know me too well!! And I wouldn’t have discovered them otherwise. These dishwasher and laundry pods are completely zero waste start to finish. They arrive in a convenient cardboard box that also happens to be its shipping container. There’s no box on box action here. Everything is truly designed to be efficient with the environment in mind. More importantly, the pods work SO WELL. I love the lavender scent, but the unscented ones also work wonders without the help of essential oils. I’ve had some problems with organic dishwasher detergents over the years and I have to say, I’ve been blown away by how clean and scum-free Dropps leaves my dishes. It’s a complete low waste win win and I’m a customer for life.
Blueland – Non-Toxic Surface Cleaners, Foaming Hand Soap
Blueland’s catch phrase is “refill is the new recycle” and their whole cleaning system is built on a dedication to the environment. Though their reusable bottles are plastic, I have to say they are pleasantly sturdy, chic and likely to last a lifetime (it’s the one I use in the lead image of this post). Their refills come in tablet form wrapped in compostable paper. All the packaging I received was plastic-free and compostable or recyclable. So far I’m loving the lemon scent and the cleaner has worked very well. They also carry glass and bathroom cleaner but I was waiting to order those until I tested out the first. Refill tablets run at $2 and make 20 ounces of cleaner. If you order a 6 pack at once, you’ll likely be set for the year and it’s certainly cheaper and greener than anything you would buy at the supermarket, even with shipping.
Follain – Non-Toxic Liquid Hand Soap or Soap Bars
The green beauty retailer Follain now carries their own “everything soap” in refillable glass bottles. If you live near one of the brick and mortar locations you can easily take your container (or a ball jar) in to get refills. We love the smell of the lemongrass scent. Their soap bars are also great for the shower. Switching to a bar soap has been on of the best things we’ve done for limiting plastics! It’s so easy.
Wally Shop – Non-Toxic Liquid Hand Soap
The second place I source my hand soap refills from is the Wally Shop. This is an incredible bulk bin delivery service if you’re looking for more ways to be low waste. They deliver everything from cleaning items to pantry staples in reusable ball jars, canvas sacks, and tins. You can keep the packaging for a fee or return it upon your next order to receive the deposit back. We use it constantly for olive oil, rice and grains, and hand soap! The cool dispenser top on this ball jar is something we bought through Wally and now we just order refills or pop into Follain for more of their soap. You can use the code PHOEBE25 for 25% off your first delivery.
Grove Collaborative – Seedling Bamboo Paper Towels and Toilet Paper
I had high hopes when I heard that this natural cleaning product retailer was going “plastic neutral.” But then I had to wonder to myself…why plastic neutral when you can go plastic-free like some of these other companies? Still, I was curious to try their in-house refillable cleaners. Unlike Blueland, their reusable bottle is glass with a silicon gripper. I liked the design and preferred that it was glass versus plastic. But then it arrived wrapped in plastic bubble wrap! I don’t want to be too big of a stickler since so many of these brands are offering solutions that are a step in the right direction. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t wrap it in paper the way that Thrive Market does their glass pantry items (see above for ideal and below for reality). Their cleaning set included concentrates in smaller, but still plastic bottles and only would generate one bottle’s worth of cleaning liquid. So again, while you might be purchasing less plastic, you’re still going to be using a plastic bottle EVERY TIME you want to refill the glass one. This is still better than buying a Seventh Generation spray bottle every time. But Blueland is a completely zero waste alternative. Same goes for the Grove laundry pods which came in a plastic pouch. If you really want to be low waste, just use Dropps. The only part of my order that I was excited about and was genuinely plastic-free was the Seedling toilet paper and paper towels that came in a paper box and are made from sustainable bamboo. They are also super soft! If I every order from Grove again it will be to resupply these items (even though we don’t use paper towels very often) since it will mean avoiding the soft plastic wrap on regular TP and towels, and using a more sustainable material.
Branch Basics – Honorable Mention for Non-Toxic Cleaning Sprays
I was an early adopter of this woman-founded company. Their mission to create a cleaner so non-toxic you can lick the counters seemed genuine and like it was coming from the right place. This was validated further when they pulled their products off the market for almost a year after discovering an unanticipated impurity via one of their sub-contractors. It made me trust them even more that they would sacrifice their bottom life for their integrity. Like some of the above brands, Branch sells refillable plastic bottles and a concentrate that can be used in varying ratios with water. It’s the same concentrate for every product (glass cleaner, versus multi-surface) and I like this versatility. Their in-house bottles make it easy to measure out those ratios as they have lines for where to fill the concentrate to and where to add the water. Overall, I prefer Blueland’s plastic bottles and zero waste philosophy. The Branch Basics concentrate comes in a large plastic bottle, which will still replace the 6 or so you would ordinarily buy. I prefer this from a waste perspective to the Grove refillable cleaner model, but still prefer Blueland overall. I will say though that Branch has huge fans in my community and I’m happy to support them!
I can’t speak to any of these other brands from personal use as I’ve already found the solutions that work best for me in Dropps, Blueland, Follain and Wally–so why look any further? But I thought I’d peruse some of the other brands doing similar things and give me take on how low waste what they’re actually offering is.
Clean Cult – Dish Soap
This brand has a similar refill gimmick as Blueland but the soap is not in tablet or concentrate form. Rather, it comes in milk cartons which you can transfer to your refillable bottles with the help of a funnel. They advertise that the packaging is recyclable, however, a dirty little secret of recycling is that Tetrapaks and milk cartons are much harder to recycle than people realize–sometimes more so than a traditional plastic bottle since it uses paper and a small percentage of plastic. I’m not sure if this is the case with the cartons used for Clean Cult since they don’t have a plastic screw top, but it makes me skeptical. That said, I haven’t found a great solution in any of these other companies for dish soap. Right now we use a large Dr. Bonner’s bottle from Whole Foods and I’d love to find a sustainable refill option for it or a reusable bottle.
Public Goods – Tree-Free Tissue
Very similar to Grove, Public Goods has great branding, but doesn’t actually cut down that much on waste. Their surface cleaner set uses small plastic refills like Grove and their dish soap refill comes in a plastic sack that’s probably not ever recyclable. I haven’t seen Tree-free tissues though and I’m intrigued by that.
Laundress – Fabric Cleaners
Many people love this one stop shop for laundry needs. However, everything comes in plastic bottles with no refill potential and the shear number of sku’s makes the brand seem like its designed to sell you more things for your washer/dryer than any one person actually needs. Is the sport detergent really that different from the cashmere wash? Perhaps I’m cynical from having worked in the beauty business prior to starting this site, but let Branch Basics’ concentrate be a lesson to everyone: it’s usually the same damn thing in every bottle, it just has a different outfit.
What are your favorite natural home cleaning products and what ways have you tried to reduce waste in your home cleaning routine? I’d love to hear any additional brands to check out or strategies to get me greener. There is always the DIY option for much of this stuff! I’m just not there yet…