When Kristi Lord’s baby developed eczema at six months old, she began questioning which products in her home could be irritating his skin.
For Lindsay Droz, the tipping point came one day when she was cleaning the floor with a conventional cleaner. The back of the bottle said not to use it if you have animals because it absorbs into their paws, or they could get sick if they lick it. At the time, she had a dog and was pregnant.
These two Seattle moms met at a mutual friend’s wedding, and last year, launched a line of plant-based cleaning products called L’Avant Collective. They hired a green chemist to create products — dish soap, multipurpose cleaner and more — that wouldn’t harm their children or their pets. One of the primary components of their cleaning detergent is coconut-based, and all of the products are free of artificial fragrance, parabens, phosphates and phthalates.
“Plant-based cleaners can work as well as your conventional cleaners,” Lord says. “We wanted to give people another alternative to using traditional products.”
Along with L’Avant Collective, there are a growing number of products that contain fewer unnecessary ingredients and harsh chemicals. There are also tried-and-true DIY formulas that allow you to know exactly what you’re using.
What to look for
When grocery shopping, we’re used to looking at food labels for nutritional information. But for cleaning products, there are no requirements to list out ingredients, or regulations about which products can be advertised as “natural,” Lord says. “A lot of those ‘natural’ cleaning products still contain dyes in them,” she says.
When you’re choosing cleaning products, first look for a list of ingredients (if they’re not on the bottle, sometimes they can be found on a website). Droz and Lord recommend staying away from dyes and colorants, fragrance, bleach, parabens and phthalates.
Conversely, look for any call-outs on the label that say, for example, “No parabens, no bleach, no dyes,” which is a good sign that the product is more gentle.
Some chemicals are hazardous because they’re reactive, while others are potential endocrine disruptors. Like eating organic food, using nontoxic cleaning products is just another healthy action, Droz says.
“It’s for the health of your home,” she adds. “You don’t have to be perfect, but it’s just a better choice for your body, for the bodies in your home, your pets and the planet.”
DIYs to try
Before launching L’Avant Collective, Droz and Lord both experimented with DIY nontoxic cleaning solutions. Alternatives to bleach include hydrogen peroxide, borax, vinegar and even lemon juice.
Ready to green up your cleaning routine? Here are some solutions to try:
From Lord: In the springtime, instead of using RoundUp, you can take a tablespoon of dish soap, a half cup of kosher salt and 32 ounces of white vinegar. Mix it up, put it in a spray bottle and spray it on weeds for an all-natural DIY weed killer.
From Droz: I love baking soda. Baking soda is the best scrubber to add to dish soap. For marble counters with water or wine stains, make a little paste out of baking soda and it lifts off stains. It’s so, so good. Baking soda is truly a magical cleaner. It’s great to add to laundry — it cleans the dishwasher — but I love it for stain removal on counters.
From Angela Scott, owner of Angela’s Green Cleaning: Our cleaners mix vinegar and water to a 20% solution and it is our glass cleaner and mopping solution. This is the optimum ratio for having streak-free glass, as well as a safe ratio for hardwood and most other surfaces, with the exceptions of unsealed stone and marble.
From Logan Taylor, president of Dazzle Cleaning Company: To make my favorite all-purpose cleaner, fill a spray bottle 20% full with rubbing alcohol, fill it almost to the top with water, then add one drop of dish soap and several drops of organic lemongrass oil. It will make your whole house smell delightful.