Many household cleaning products contain ingredients that aren’t great for the environment. Some of the worst ingredients are phosphates and surfactants. Phosphates act like fertilizers, helping boost the growth of algae that takes oxygen from the water, which impacts fish and other aquatic animals. Surfactants make it easier for animals and plants to absorb pollutants. 

While water from a septic system and sewer ends up in a wastewater treatment plant, these treatment measures can’t remove every speck of a harmful chemical compound. Some get through anyway where they cause problems. 

Another problem is the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are in spray cleaners. They’re able to reach the ozone layer and cause harm. You also have to consider the packaging that cleaners are in. If your cleaners are in one-time-use plastic bottles, they could end up in a landfill. 

The best way to help the environment is by making sure you use eco-friendly cleaning products. Many of them are probably already in your home.

Household Item That Are Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaners

It’s surprising if you don’t have at least three of these items in your home already, but they’re things to add to your shopping list if you don’t. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is more than a leavening agent in baked goods, it’s an amazing cleaner. It’s a mixture of bicarbonate anion and sodium cation that comes in a white powder that’s slightly alkaline. It’s a mild abrasive that excels at stain removal and deodorizing.


Sodium borate, more commonly known as Borax, is a mixture of boron, oxygen, and sodium. It’s similar to baking soda, but it’s more alkaline with a pH of 9.5. It’s good for badly stained items and surfaces, but there is debate on whether it’s worth it or not.

Don’t use it if you have pets or children in your home as it can damage organs like the kidneys if enough is ingested. While boron mining isn’t good for the environment when it’s not carefully managed, two of the largest boron mines are known for green practices and environmental stewardship.

Castile Soap

This mild soap is made from vegetable oils, such as coconut or olive oil. It’s a good general cleaning agent when you need something that becomes sudsy.

Distilled White Vinegar

This is my go-to cleaning agent. It may not smell the best to everyone, but it cleans well. It’s a great alternative to an ammonia-based glass cleaner. Pair it with baking soda to get a fizzling paste and you’ll find it’s handy for removing coffee and tea stains from cups and pots. It’s a good disinfectant for counters. It’s not as powerful as bleach, but it’s better for the environment.

Essential Oils

Distilled water and essential oils make for a good room freshener. Mix a few drops of a favorite essential oil – lavender is my favorite – into a spray bottle filled with distilled water. Spray that on pillows, sofa throws, or pet beds to help them smell fresh and clean.

Hot Water and Lemon Juice

Hot water and lemon juice together create steam that makes it easier to clean out a microwave or oven. Squeeze half a lemon into a bowl of water and microwave it for a couple of minutes. Let that sit and then wipe away greasy splatters. You could also put a bowl of steaming water and lemon juice into a dishwasher, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe out the inside.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide at a 3% solution is a safer alternative to bleach. It’s a good disinfectant and can kill mildew. It’s also good at whitening objects like grout. Mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda for an effective cleaning paste for areas like a sink or bathtub.


Lemon smells fantastic, which makes it a popular choice for cleaning. The acidic nature of lemon juice helps clean up grease on a stovetop or in an oven or microwave. 

Table Salt

If you have water rings, salt helps remove them. Mix it with Castille soap or lemon juice for a scrub that removes sticky stains or tarnish on certain items. Sprinkle salt into a greasy pan and scrub the grime away.

Handy Tips That Make Cleaning Easy

Those are the eco-friendly cleaners to keep on hand, so what are the best ways to use some of them? Here are a few of my tips.

Deodorize the Worst Smelling Dog Blankets

Our elderly dog is getting smellier as he ages. A bath fixes it, but he’s grown to hate baths and they leave him shaking, so we try to minimize how many baths he gets. Instead, we use this deodorizing spray on his blankets. After five applications, the blankets smell great.

Mix a tablespoon of Borax into two cups of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray the smelly item with the deodorizing spray. It takes several applications to work. We vacuum it each time after the deodorizer dries. This also works on shoes, garbage pails, and cat litter boxes.

Make a DIY Stain Remover

If I spill something on a shirt and need a stain remover, I mix equal parts of Castille soap and hydrogen peroxide and spray that on a shirt immediately after blotting as much of the stain as I can. 

Freshen Your Fridge With Baking Soda

A lot of experts recommend keeping a box of baking soda in your fridge to absorb odors. I clean my fridge with baking soda instead. Every few months, I’ll pull everything out and make a paste of vinegar and baking soda and wipe down the different surfaces. If there are stuck-on stains, the paste works wonders and removes them. If they’re really sticky like jam, I use the same scraper that came with my glass cooktop.

Remove Tarnish With Salt and Lemon

One of my favorite cleaning tips is something my aunt taught me. If you have any brass, bronze, or copper items that are tarnished, liberally coat a quarter of a lemon in table salt. Use that to scrub the item with the salt and lemon juice paste. Rinse clean and immediately dry with a paper towel.

 Buff with an old T-shirt to get a sheen. While some say that it can scratch softer bronze, I use fine salt and have never had a problem. 

Eliminate Mildew

We have a problem with basement mildew as there’s a problem with water seepage each spring. We have a sump pump, but there’s no ditch on our side of the road, so we can only drain water to the side yard. That doesn’t keep mildew from growing on wet surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide sprayed on those surfaces does the trick. 

I keep a spray bottle downstairs for that reason, and it ended all mildew issues. I also use it on grout and caulking outside the home in shady areas.

Deodorize Carpets With Ease

Most of my home is hardwood floors, but for the bedroom carpets, I make a mixture of baking soda and a few drops of lavender essential oil, lightly sprinkle that on the carpets, and let it sit for a few minutes before vacuuming.

Let Fresh Air In 

As spring arrives, my best tip is to throw open windows, when possible, and let in some fresh air. It helps rid some of the trapped, stale air that’s been circulating all winter, especially if you have a boiler with a closed-loop baseboard hot water heating system. You don’t have air filters to help rid the air of dust and allergens. 

I always throw open windows, get bedding outside to freshen in the sun, and rid the home of as much dust as I can. Plus, a dozen lilac trees around my property fill the home with the scent of lilac soon enough.

If you have allergies to grass and tree pollen, opening the windows isn’t a good idea. Thankfully, mine aren’t too bad until the poplar tree fuzzies and pine pollen come out, which occurs after the lilacs.