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The 4 Levels towards a more Sustainable Cleaning for a Less Toxic, Greener Home

Updated: Aug 3, 2021

Your home place of living gets slowly (or quite fast with kids) and surely its fair share of grim and dust building up, especially in the wet rooms prone to various spillages: bathroom and kitchen. It is then when depending on your level of tolerance that you will clean it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. To do so, cleaning agents will be used.

When walking down the aisle of a supermarket the available choices can be overwhelming with the feelings that every surface needs their special magical recipe. However, you could be surprise to know that you only need a happy few to do the job.

Choosing the useful products means to buy what you exactly need, resulting in less plastic, safer for the environment and obviously for you, your skin and the air in your home.

For more extensive information on the benefit, read our post on the reasons going for a sustainable clean deliver many benefit.

Level Beginner - Reduce

If you seek to follow a more sustainable lifestyle the first step would be to downsize the number of products you own to these 5 essentials :

1. All purpose Cleaner

Usually found undiluted in bigger containers, the universal cleaners belong - sparingly dosed - in the cleaning water for all washable surfaces on a spray bottle, including floors. If undiluted, they can be used to remove dried, greasy soiling, for example on the stove or cooker hood.

2. Cleaner white vinegar based

The acid contained in vinegar cleaners primarily removes acid-soluble impurities such as lime deposits and urine scale. As an alternative to acetic acid, you can also use a more gentle cleaner with citric acid.

Acetic and citric acid are effective wherever you handle water, for example in the bathroom and kitchen. Undiluted, they can also be used to loosen lime encrustations - the key word being "soak".

3. WC Gel

WC gels are usually viscous and normally a bit acidic. The acids and surfactants help dissolving urine scale and lime. Alkaline ("hypo-chlorite") products have a bleaching and germicidal effect.

The domain of the toilet cleaner is the inside and the edge of the toilet bowl. Let the cleaner work for half an hour and then scrub the dirt away with the toilet brush. If you have a nasty line of hardwater stain, do not hesitate to leave it overnight. Watch out not to put any droplet on the toilet’s plastic seat, it could decolorize it and leave a stain.

4. Scouring Cream

scouring milk contains soft abrasive particles, e.g. of quartz or marble flour. Because they are "abrasive", they have a grinding effect, which is very effective especially against more strongly adhering impurities in the bathroom and kitchen.

5. Dish cleaner

Dishwashing or hand washing detergents are neutral to slightly acidic. Like universal cleaners, they contain surfactants against greasy dirt. Alcohol (solvent) and skin care substances are also used.

Hand dishwashing detergents have the task of removing food residues from dishes. In principle, they can also be used to clean surfaces, although streaks may remain after drying.

6. Optional - Wood cleaner

Parquet or plank flooring, can additionally purchase a suitable wood product, but should use it sparingly to not warp the floor. Water should be used even less sparingly in untreated wood floor.

Not needed

By now, I think you can feel that some other products that you may have are actually redundant with the above such as Bathroom cleaner (white vinegar or scouring cream)/ Stainless steel cleaner / cooktop cleaner (dish soap / oven cleaner (dish soap, scouring cream) / window cleaner (white vinegar).

Level Intermediate – Go Green

Cleaners can be made of nasty and unnecessary harsh toxic chemicals which can irritate the eyes, the skin and the respiratory system. Moreover a clean household rarely need antibacterial cleaning agents. On the contrary: These can attack the skin and cause allergies. So no need to go for toxicity, the second step would be to go for more natural eco cleaners.

eco label for cleaning products M&J Germany Mary and Jarvis

Check the tag and make sure you select an eco friendly label : Blauer Engel (the DM Brand Denkmit is awarded this label), EcoCert (Sodasan, AlmaWin and Klar) , EU Ecolabel (Denkmit and Frosh), Nature Care Product (Sonette).

Eco labels have a mix of the following properties : made of renewable plant-based origin and or natural active ingredients (the least ingredient the better), animal cruelty-free, free from micro plastic, avoidance of palm oil, the whole filled in a bottle made of recycled and recyclable material.

To note, These labels focus on ingredients that are harmful to the environment and health. Social standards such as fairer working conditions for employees are partially included in their calculations.

Labels award products which are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than conventional products. However, it does not mean that it gives a free pass to over use them. Their ingredients even coming from renewable raw materials may also be damaging to the environment. Make sure not to be wasteful and adhere to the dosage suggestions on the packaging. As a rule of thumb, less is more.

Level Advanced - The One Bottle Only

Some innovations are coming in the cleaning product sphere to tackle the repeating purchase of plastic bottles once your current one is empty.

The most widespread alternative so far is to buy a (bio certified) concentrate and then refill your cleaning spray with the correct ratio every time it empties.

The newcomers are tablets or powder producers. The idea is to put the correct tablet recipe (for windows/mirror, all purpose cleaner) on a spray bottle filled with water. The tablet dissolves itself and once fully disappeared the bottle is ready to use. It brings many advantages, the ultra convenience of not caring about the ratio, having only one bottle per use, the tablets comes wrapped in paper packaging (not in bulk yet unfortunately) to minimise waste, the avoidance of micro plastics. They lack the Eco-Label awards due to the fact that all of those brands are quite young but it is worth a look but some are going this direction by already following the criteria of the OECD (301) test series:

easy biodegradability.

Level Master - Do It Yourself

If you want to go further, you can actually do your cleaning products yourself. It is easy as only 3 ingredients at top are usually needed, cheaper because those ingredients are actually quite the bargain, safer with no toxic chemical involved and you will use less plastic as the plastic or glass bottles can be used endlessly.

The ingredients

White Vinegar

An acetic acid with great properties against soap film and mineral deposits. It can be found in glass or in big plastic containers.

Tip : add drops of essential oils to fight its strong scent.

Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)

A mild abrasive salt, baking soda can be use to absorb odours and clean stained spots, especially when forming a paste with water : bathtub, kitchen, oven, sink, counter and toilet.

Liquid/hard Soap (vegetable oil-based, castile or glycerin)

Made of vegetable oil, water and lye, soaps removes dirts by dissolving the oils that bind the dirt to their objects. They are biodegradable and makes it ideal to cleaning without endangering the marine ecosystem. Tip : do not mix castile soap with acid such as vinegar, both agents will cancel each other’s effectiveness.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are high concentration of extracts of plants. These are great alternatives to any conventional industrial scents especially to stop the strong smell of white vinegar. In addition each one has its own special cleaning properties. The most useful ones for cleaning are lemon, lavender, peppermint and tea tree.

Tip : Make sure to buy bio sustainable brands as it takes a lot of plant matter to make concentrate.

The Recipes

All-Purpose Cleaner

White vinegar based

  • 1:3 White vinegar

  • 2:3 Water

  • o 10 drops Essential Oil

Baking Soda and Soap based

  • 4 table spoon Baking Soda

  • 4 Tsp Castile soap

  • 1L Water

Window cleaner


White vinegar based

  • 1:3 White vinegar

  • 2:3 Water

  • 10 drops Essential Oil

Dish Soap

Castile Soap based

  • A bit of castile soap

  • on a rag/clothes with warm water

Baking Soda based

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 20 grm Tsp castile Soap

  • 0.5L Water

  • 10 drops Essential Oil

Scouring Cream / WC Gel

Baking Soda based

Form a paste with

  • 1:5 castile soap / baking soda

  • Essential oil

  • + Water

Bonus ones

Granite Stone cleaner

  • 1:10 ratio soap with water

  • 10 Drop Essential Oil

  • 9:10 Water and CS

Hardwood cleaner

  • 1 tsp Castile Soap

  • 10 Drop Essential Oil

  • 1L Water


  • Liu C, Sustainable Home. White Lion Publishing. 2018.

  • Logan K, Clean House, Clean Planet. Pocket Book. 1997

  • Wischnewski-Kolbe J, Peter A, Weidenweber C, My Green Home, dein Guide für ein nachaltiges Zuhause. Knesbeck. 2020

  • Eigner C, Haushalt Nebenbei, 500 saubere Expertentricks, Stiftung Warentest. 2014

  • Hammersley T, The Complete Book of Clean, Tips and Techniques for your Home. Weldon Owen. 2017

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