Easy on your wallet and the environment – go green when you clean

Canada Life - Mar 01, 2022
Keeping your home safe and clean feels good. But for a lot of us, using harsh chemicals doesn’t.
Young family tidying up a messy garage.

Traditional chemical-based cleaning products can be pricey and harsh on our skin, our health and the environment. These tips can help you go green when you clean – and save you a little money along the way.


When it comes to using green cleaning products, you can often do-it-yourself. You might be surprised to find lots of natural cleaning products in your kitchen cupboards, including:

  • Baking soda. Use this to scrub and deodorize. Mix with water for a light, all-purpose cleaner, or mix with vinegar to use as a toilet scrub. You can also clean your oven with a paste of baking soda and water. Let it sit for a few hours, then scrape it off and wipe down your oven. 
  • Vinegar. Deodorize and disinfect with white vinegar. A mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water can help make your windows and mirrors shine. Use a microfibre cloth (more on that below) to avoid streaks. Creating a paste of water and baking soda and spraying it with a mix of vinegar and water can make your tile sparkle. Vinegar is also a great dishwasher cleaner – put two cups of it in a dishwasher-safe bowl on the top rack, and let your dishwasher run for a cycle.
  • Lemon. Like vinegar, lemons deodorize, disinfect and cut through grease. Mix together a little lemon juice and baking soda to remove stains from plastic containers or rub a slice of lemon across your cutting board to disinfect it. 
  • Olive oil. This pantry staple works wonders on wood and leather. No matter what material you’re polishing, do a patch test first so you know how it will react. Rub a thin coat of olive oil onto your wood furniture to help keep it moisturized. For supple leather, rub on some oil, let it sit for 30 minutes and wipe off the excess. 

With these DIY options, you can turn everyday kitchen ingredients into powerful multi-purpose cleaners. Although they might take a little scrubbing and scouring, they’ll make your home sparkle without a cupboard full of cleaning products – or the price tag that comes with them.

Use eco-friendly commercial cleaning products

If you don’t want to mix and measure your own cleaning products, or if you’re looking to get the job done with a little less elbow grease, I get it. There are lots of great, eco-friendly commercial cleaning products available. But just because a product has “green language” (like “non-toxic,” “biodegradable,” “green” or “safe”) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe for your home, family or environment.

If you’re looking to make a greener choice, check the ingredient list. You’ll want to avoid products that contain*: 

  • Chlorine or chlorine bleach, which is used to disinfect and whiten
  • Petroleum, which quickly dissolves oil, grease and grime
  • Glycol or propylene glycol, which is used to give a softer consistency to cleaning products
  • Phosphates, which are often used in detergents make them more efficient 
  • Ammonia, which cuts through grease and soap scum and cleans glass and mirrors without streaking
  • Sodium hydroxide, which helps fats and grease dissolve in water

Reduce, reuse, refill!

Being green when you clean is about more than the products you use. There are lots of small actions you can take to be a little more eco-friendly.

  • Reduce waste by cleaning with reusable microfibre cloths or sponges instead of paper towels. Designate one cloth or sponge for toilets, one for sinks and one for countertops.
  • Reuse old sheets, pillowcases, towels and t-shirts by cutting them up and using them as rags.
  • Bring your clean jars or bottles to a package-free grocery store or refillery where you can fill up on cleaning products. Don’t have a package-free store in your area? Buy larger refills of your favourite products so you can reuse your spray bottle.

These tips and tricks for cost-effective, green cleaning can help you keep your home safe from dirt, grime and germs. The environment – and your wallet – will thank you, too.

* Environmental Working Group, EWG’s guide to healthy cleaning, “Decoding the labels,” retrieved May 3, 2021, https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/decoding_labels/