Eco friendly swaps for traditional household products save money, are more sustainable and promote a greener lifestyle. Most of these 9 product exchanges are easy to make with common household ingredients you can find in stores. Here’s how to become more environmentally friendly at home.
1. NON STICK COOKWARE – Choose ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron pans instead
2. HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS – Make your own natural homemade cleaner with white vinegar
3. TOILET BOWL CLEANER – Mix up this non toxic toilet bowl cleanser from vinegar and baking soda
4. OVEN CLEANER – Make your own non toxic version with baking soda
5. MOTHBALLS – Swap mothballs for homemade alternatives like cedar and oils
6. MILDEW CLEANER – White vinegar removes mold from porous surfaces like grout
7. WINDOW CLEANER – Blend white vinegar, alcohol and essential oils for a custom spray
8. PLASTIC CONTAINERS – Swap out plastic for beeswax wraps, glass and eco friendly bags
9. AIR FRESHENER- Mix a custom scent with essential oils, alcohol and water
Which household products may be toxic?
So many harmful household products rarely get a second thought because we’re used to seeing them in our closets and on the shelves. But if you want to go green and start living with your families health in mind, then it’s worth taking them off your shelves and getting a healthier substitute.
- Non stick cookware made with polytetrafluoroethylene PTFE releases harmful gases into the air when heated. As your pans age, they can also chip or scratch and that coating ends up in your food. Releasing cancer causing fumes each time you use our pans is a recipe for potential health concerns.
- Most all purpose household cleaners are made with harmful ingredients you may not even be aware of. Unlike food, cosmetics and personal care products there’s no legal requirement to list cleaning product ingredients on the container. That bottle of cheap floor cleaner may not be worth it especially if your kids play on the floor.
- Toilet bowl cleaners are known to have corrosive ingredients, which is why they do their job pretty well. Breathing in the toxic chloride gas they emit can be harmful to your respiratory system though. Combining a toilet bowl cleaner with other products also makes them hazardous to use especially in enclosed spaces.
- Another household product that’s designed to be caustic is oven cleaner. Although it’s easy to spray and go, the corrosive alkalis can be seriously damaging to your gut and respiratory system if you happen to inhale or ingest them. The high oven heat that’s required to make these corrosive alkalis work adds to the toxicity.
- Mothballs have been a convenient way to keep pesky flying moths from munching on our clothes, but the naphthalene in them is known to kill red blood cells. So while in your closet they’re releasing harmful vapors you’re breathing in. Although mothballs are now made of PDCB they’re still toxic to humans. You just know anything that smells that bad isn’t good.
- Mildew removers such as Tilex are used to keep shower grout and surfaces clear of mildew. Because a shower is an enclosed space we might end up breathing in the sodium hypochlorite which can cause eye and skin irritation or respiratory problems. There’s a reason the instructions say use in a well ventilated room!
- Who doesn’t love squeaky shiny glass and mirrors? Windex is like Kleenex, it’s what we’ve always used to clean windows, but it creates another potential toxic load on your system. Not all cleaners have ammonia, but the ones that do can do a number on your respiratory system. I’ve got to the point where I can’t tolerate the smell anymore.
- Plastic food containers are something we use every day to store leftovers. I always look for the ones that say they’re BPA free but even these may release some harmful chemicals into your food. The FDA decides if a plastic is “microwave-safe”, so reconsider heating your food in a container that’s not.
- Air fresheners are easy to reach for when things get a little stinky around the house. What could be simpler than spraying good smells from a can or bottle? But with ingredients like formaldehyde and phenols (that cause allergic reactions to skin) you’re not doing your family any favors by using a store bought air freshener.
Why are eco friendly or bio products usually more expensive?
Manufactured eco friendly products can be more expensive for two reasons: labor and materials.
- Companies using fair labor and ethical practices may pay workers a higher wage
- Sustainable materials cost more to grow
- Non disposable materials cost more to manufacture
- Mass production reduces costs, but high demand for eco friendly products isn’t there yet
- The cost of 3rd party certifications such as “organic” or “fair trade” can be expensive
Eco friendly cleaning products you make yourself are going to be much cheaper than anything you can buy. For example, buying a gallon of white vinegar at Target is only $2.79 and 3.5 lbs of baking soda is $2.29. Depending on how often you use them, these two natural cleaning powerhouses could last you months at a fraction of the cost of traditional cleaners.
Do eco friendly cleaning products work as well?
By now you’re wondering who’s the winner between eco-friendly cleaning products vs. regular cleaning products.
Most homemade cleaning products will be just as effective as any commercially manufactured product and much cheaper.
Not all DIY natural cleaning products may work as well as your usual products. For example, this homemade laundry cleaning solution didn’t get the results she wanted, but all the other methods worked perfectly.
But if you’d like to try to make your own laundry detergent, a natural stain busting ingredient is washing soda – not the same as baking soda. However Arm & Hammer makes both products. Find it in the laundry products aisle or your local home improvement store. I found it on Amazon.
All natural products made by companies like Method, Ecover and Seventh Generation are your next best choice if you’re squeezed for time or not into making your own. If you’re not happy with the results you can keep trying brands until you find one that works for your family.
9 Easy Household Swaps to be More Eco Friendly
If you’re looking for a eco friendly substitute for common household products, then here’s what I’ve found.
1. What can I use instead of a nonstick frying pan?
Swap your non stick cookware or frying pan for ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron. It’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to cooking without the benefit of a non stick surface but you can do it. This is the only swap that may require spending more. But think about how many times you use a frying pan and look at the cost per use as an incentive.
- Ceramic coated pans such as Green Pan have a similar finish to traditional non stick cookware. The Green Pan is safe on induction stove tops, is dishwasher safe and claims to have even heat distribution. The downside is ceramic pans have a shorter lifespan and may only last up to 5 years. Don’t turn up the burner to high, start pre-heating on low and gradually increase to medium heat when cooking. Home Depot has a good selection of non stick Green pans.
- Stainless steel frying pans can be seasoned to prevent eggs and other foods sticking. Add 1 tbsp coconut oil to your pan and heat over medium-high heat until melted. Swirl oil around and then out of the pan and discard. Sprinkle a layer of table salt in the pan making sure to cover sides and bottom. Wipe out salt and excess oil with a paper towel and you’re ready to cook! Repeat occasionally to keep pan seasoned.
- Cast iron skillets are probably the hardest swap to make for non stick. It does require pre-seasoning and extra attention to keep it “non’stick”. You can scrub and wash cast iron, just be sure to dry it thoroughly, don’t leave it to soak. Rub it with kosher salt with a towel while its warm and wipe it down with a fat such as lard or flaxseed oil. The Cadillac of cast iron pans is Le Creuset which offers the best of both worlds; cast iron with a non stick enamel finish.
2. What can I use instead of traditional all purpose household cleaner?
Swap your traditional household cleaner for an easy to make totally natural green cleaner. Use it to clean any surface like non stone countertops, trash cans, hard water stains or grubby walls. Skip the granite countertops though as the acidity may etch the stone.
Homemade all purpose household cleaner recipe
- Spray bottle
- White Vinegar
- Rosemary or essential oils
Grab an empty spray bottle. Recycle by thoroughly washing and removing the label from an empty product or buy a new one. Be sure to add a new label to your empty bottle with what it is and the ingredients.
- Pour white vinegar into the bottle until half full and then fill with bottled water until almost full.
- Leave room for lemon rind and some sprigs of rosemary.
- Using a small knife or vegetable peeler, peel a nice long length of lemon rind.
- Snip some sprigs of rosemary from your garden or use drops of essential oils instead for fragrance.
- Shake ingredients and let sit to infuse.
Another green option is the all purpose cleaner called Simple Green available at Home Depot. It’s a concentrated non-toxic bio-degradeable cleaner for floors, walls and all washable surfaces. I like the clean scent; it doesn’t smell overpowering which is great if you have allergies or a sensitive nose.
3. What can I use instead of toilet bowl cleaner?
Toxic toilet bowl cleaners aren’t the only way to get your bowl sparkling clean and smelling sweet as a daisy. One option is to substitute a green cleaner like one of these from Seventh Generation or Ecover found at Target and most grocery stores.
Or make your own. Step away from the bleach and whip up a batch of homemade toilet bowl cleaner.
Homemade toilet bowl cleaner recipe
- Glass mason jar (not plastic or metal)
- Baking soda
- White Vinegar
- Essential oils, orange, tea tree, pine or lavender
- Measure 2 cups of baking soda into the glass jar
- Use a wood spoon to mix in1 tsp (100 drops) of an essential oil
- Keep mixing until all clumps are gone
- Screw top of jar to keep airtight and store away from humidity
- To use sprinkle about a tbsp in bowl and sides using brush to spread
- Use 1/2 cup of 20% vinegar or 2 cups of 5% vinegar to bowl
- Contents in bowl should fizz! If not add more soda mixture
- Scrub with brush and let sit for 15 minutes, then flush
4. What can I use instead of oven cleaner?
If your oven doesn’t have a self-cleaning feature you may feel trapped into using spray on products like Easy Off to get your oven clean. But our friends baking soda and vinegar can do the job without the toxic hit of conventional chemicals.
Homemade oven cleaner recipe
- Spray bottle
- Baking soda
- White Vinegar
- Non scratch scouring pad
- Dump about 2 cups of baking soda into a bowl
- Add enough water and stir until you have a thick paste
- Apply the paste to the inside of your oven
- Let sit for 10 minutes
- Spray white vinegar onto the paste
- Let it bubble and sit for another 10-20 minutes
- Scrub down with scouring pad and finish wiping out with a microfiber cloth
5. What can I use instead of mothballs?
Mothballs have one of those smells you never forget. For a long time we took it for granted that every closet should have a few. But now we know better. One of the best ways to deter moths is to keep your out of season clothes in an airtight container. Make sure they’re clean first, because moths love dirt and body oils.
Moth and insect protection can smell a lot better than stinky mothballs, just try these simple alternatives. Home Depot has a good selection of affordable cedar products for closets that will bust mildew smells and repel insects.
- Cedar shavings in a cloth bag or cedar blocks hung in the closet.
- Cedar lined closet
- Lavender or herb sachets hung or placed in drawers
- Soak cotton balls in essential lavender oil and place in drawers
6. What can I use instead of mildew cleaner?
It’s tempting to pull out the big guns when you’re facing a shower wall with the telltale signs of black mildew. But they’re not really necessary because there’s a much less expensive alternative. White vinegar! Tea tree oil is also effective and if you’re wondering if you can you mix tea tree oil with vinegar, the answer is yes. Vinegar is better than bleach at removing mold from porous surfaces like grout too because it’s high acidity attacks mold and mildew.
Homemade Mildew Remover Recipe
- Spray Bottle
- White Vinegar
- Tea Tree Oil
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and bottled water in your bottle
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil if desired
- Spray mixture onto mildew
- Scrub if needed to remove stains
7. What can I use instead of window cleaner?
We all grew up with Windex and it’s one of those household favorites that we reach for time and again. But lately I find the smell is way too overpowering and have been wondering what’s a good alternative? Manufacturers have caught on to the green movement and come out with some vinegar based alternatives. Can you just make your own?
Homemade Window Cleaner Recipe
- Spray Bottle
- White Vinegar
- Rubbing Alcohol 70%
- Essential Oil – optional
- Combine 2 cups of distilled or bottled water, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 rubbing alcohol and a drop of essential oil in your spray bottle and shake.
When cleaning your windows, wait until the sun isn’t shining on them for best results. Because when it’s hot or sunny, any mixture can dry too quickly leaving streaks. Wipe with a clean cloth, t-shirt or paper towels until clear.
Get a pack of 4 reusable spray bottles at Home Depot and you’ll have one for each task. Don’t forget to label them. with these
8. What can I use instead of plastic containers?
If you’re wondering what can I use instead of Tupperware, the answer is easy. Don’t even think about plastic Saran wrap, that’s not the answer! But there are a ton of cute new wraps and products now to store your food safely and stay green. Use easy to clean glass to store your leftovers and try some of these eco friendly reusable products for the lunch bag or backpack.
Sandwich storage – eco sandwich bags, beeswax wraps, wax paper sandwich bags
Leftover storage – glass storage containers with lids, storage jars
The more plastic we use, the more plastic is manufactured. Since plastic isn’t biodegradable, choosing other materials instead that are recyclable will help our planet stay green.
9. What can I use instead of air freshener?
You’ve seen those plugins and sprays with the flowers on the package? Perhaps you’ve even used them from time to time when you were desperate for a quick odor fix. But the harmful ingredients it takes to make them work just isn’t worth it. Plus I think they smell fake. Your family deserves better. Making your own all natural DIY home air freshener couldn’t be easier.
Homemade air freshener recipe
- Spray bottle
- Rubbing alcohol or vodka
- Essential Oils like orange, lavender, peppermint, grapefruit
- Pour 1 cup of distilled or bottled water into your spray bottle.
- Add 10-15 drops of essential oils.
- Add 2 tbsp of alcohol
- Shake and spray
Have fun mixing different oils to create your signature scent. You can substitute vanilla extract (which is usually alcohol based) for the alcohol, add essential oil of orange and you’ll have a mellow Creamsicle scent! I just discovered Plant Therapy essential oils. With so many to choose from you could have a lot of fun making up your own custom blends.
Another air freshening tip for the kitchen is to bring a small pot of water to boil, then turn off and tap in a few drops of essential oils. The steam will infuse the whole room! This is a great way to create a mood for a party or during the holidays.
If you love to shop online – and who doesn’t these days – Thrive Market is worth checking out. Especially if you’re into healthy living! Order from the comfort and safety of home and get everything from green cleaning products to all natural and organic food delivered right to your door.