Keeping it Clean the Eco-friendly Way

Okay. I am going to preface this post by saying that I am single. That may seem irrelevant for the topic of eco-friendly cleaning products, but it’s actually very relevant when it comes to some of the measures I’ve been taking as I attempt to continue to lower my carbon footprint on my zero-waste journey. As I mentioned in my last zero waste post, I’ve started making my own cleaning supplies and I decided that I would no longer use products that contained chemicals or ingredients that weren’t friendly to the earth or plant-derived (except for bleach, which I still use to clean and do my laundry with). That plan has been working so far.

I created two homemade cleansers and they both work well— actually, surprisingly well, when it comes to keeping things clean. I use them for general purpose cleaning, so stuff like countertops but also to clean the less grungy stuff in the bathroom (sinks and what not). One is citrus-based and the other is soap-based. The citrus-based cleanser is better for cutting through grease because citrus oil is great for greasy and grimey stuff.

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These babies are grease-cutting machines!

I’ve been using the citrus cleanser for several months now. I started experimenting with the recipe just a few months after I went vegan. The other solution I only started using in the past few months, after I discovered the wonders of  castile soap. Here’s the recipe for each cleanser:

Citrus cleaning solution:

  • 1:1 ratio of citrus solution* to warm or room temperature water. I use my own amber spray bottles and they hold 16 oz. of liquid, so that’s about 8 oz. (or 1 cup) of solution and 8 oz. of water.

Castile cleaning solution:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of castile soap (I use Dr. Bonner’s hemp almond castile soap)
  • about 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • the rest of the bottle is filled with warm water

You might want to adjust these ratios and amounts depending on the size of bottle you’re using, but these are pretty good general measurements.

I’ve also switched to using homemade, natural stuff to clean my laundry. The result of this was probably the biggest surprise because I’ve been washing with this solution for almost two months now and I’m being 100% honest when I say that my clothes are actually coming out cleaner and fresher with this new type of detergent. What’s in it you’re wondering? Well, it’s essentially the same mixture as the castile soap cleaning solution described above, except I add about 2-3 tbsp. of baking soda to the mix. Here’s the full recipe:

Castile laundry soap:

In a 32 oz. mason jar I combine:

  • 2-3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup castile soap… then close the jar and shake!

Like I said, I love this mixture for doing laundry. My clothes smell fresh. And not the way they smell when you use those popular name brand detergents. Those smell like scented

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My castile soap laundry detergent.

chemicals — fake floral scents and mock lavender. No, my clothes actually smell clean— like this is what clean is supposed to smell like! I may sound a little obsessive but this is what happens when you start opening your mind to what can be done with natural products and not the chemical filled stuff we’ve been conditioned to use through the use of advertising and societal influences.

Keeping my home and clothes clean with no chemicals is truly refreshing. Even though they aren’t things that we notice on a daily basis, I know big changes like better air quality are occurring with the use of less chemicals. This is, of course, important for personal health, but it’s also a big deal for me because I don’t want Atreyu (my cat!) breathing in a bunch of chemicals either.

But, there’s a small catch…

… everything hasn’t been entirely lavender and roses (cleaning and natural product pun completely intended).

Another major concern when it comes to my new vegan lifestyle is affordability— and that’s been the case from the beginning. I’ve always been more of a

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Oranges are cheap year-round so a homemade citrus cleanser is a great investment.

budget girl, and that hasn’t changed since going vegan. I know I’m saving money when it comes to cleaning supplies— I mean, I could buy an entire barrel of oranges to make a billion batches of my citrus cleanser and it probably wouldn’t at all compare to the amount of money I might spend buying a bunch of bottles of a packaged, chemical cleansers over time. But even still, my other new cleaning innovations were signaling some red flags.

So, this is where me being single finally becomes relevant. I know, you probably forgot about that important little tidbit but I told you it’d be back. Currently, I’m doing a few loads of laundry as a single person. And cleaning as a single person. And cooking as a single person. Yes, I’m doing everything as a single person. So quantities haven’t been a huge problem so far. But, castile soap isn’t cheap. And using all that good soap for cleaning solutions and laundry was starting to add up.

So, I started researching cruelty-free and vegan detergents. As of the publishing of this blog post, I’ve narrowed it down to two brands that are ethical, contain vegan  ingredients and are cruelty-free. I’ll post what they are and what I decided to go with in another blog post. I figure now is the best time to make the switch so I can start saving more money but I’m also thinking practically for the future. When I have a family, what will be more likely to stick? I don’t wanna start doing things that get me closer to a zero-waste lifestyle now, then fall back a few steps— or a bunch of steps— or several staircases worth of steps because I made a few changes as a single gal that I couldn’t keep up with once more people were in the picture. I’m still using my castile detergent for now, but I’ll be switching over to a bulk detergent shortly. I hope my clothes will smell as clean as they have been while using the castile soap. The fact that the ingredients will be natural gives me some hope that they might. And anyhow, I thought of an idea; I can mix some of the castile soap (and maybe vinegar?) in with the bulk detergent to make it a “super-detergent”, able to rip through dirt in the blink of eye and tear apart soil particles with the snap of a finger! As for my cleaning solutions, those are actually doable labor and price-wise, and I’m 100% gonna keep making them to clean with. And finally, I don’t think I’m gonna give up bleach anytime soon, but as with everything else on this journey— baby steps.

So that’s where I’m at when it comes to cleaning my space and my clothes. It hasn’t all been easy-peasy, but then again, nothing that truly matters ever is. In fact, I remember the first time I heard about the “cheap, fast, good” diagram. It was on a t.v show, and although the show isn’t at all relevant, the purpose of that lil’ venn diagram remained with me for years and still resonates with me when I think of everything in life, because it’s truly applicable to everything in life.

**

If we want something to be cheap and fast, it ain’t gonna be the best quality. If we want something to be fast and good quality, it ain’t gonna be cheap, and if we want something to be cheap and good quality, it definitely ain’t gonna happen overnight. The point is, you can’t have all three; only two of those amazing things are achievable at one time and so there will always be some form of work required on our end— either patience, funds (monetary or otherwise), or acceptance. That’s how I’m approaching my zero-waste journey. I’ve invested in a few items like hand towels, and bottles of castile soap, knowing that in the long run these changes will reap great (quality) benefits when it comes to my health, my zero-waste goals and my overall moral feels. I’m already spending less money on things like paper towels (a product I believe is one of the biggest kept secrets as a “big money waster”) and cleaning products, and I know I’m making progress as I try to head into more of a zero-waste life for my current situation and my future, unknown life. I’m very proud of myself and I know future Tiffany is waiting to pat me on my low carbon footprint back too.

* To make the citrus solution: In a 32 oz. mason jar, I combine the peels of 5-6 medium to large sized oranges with vinegar. Make sure that the peels are free of any fruit, or that will make the solution sticky. You only want pure orange peel because it has the citrus oil in it. Once the peels are in the jar, fill the jar almost to the top with white vinegar. This mixture will yield you four cups of citrus solution, but as you use it you can add more vinegar and let the mixture become stronger over time. The same peels should last for a few months before you need to replace them. With a new batch, I let the solution sit for at least 24 hours before using it for cleaning. It should reach maximum potency after about a week.

[Edit:] As of January 21, 2019, I have decided to use detergent and other products from the Seventh Generation brand. This line of products is entirely vegan and cruelty-free. The parent company of Seventh Generation, Unilever, was at one point known for its animal testing. However, as of 2019, the company is pioneering the global ban on animal testing, and PETA has now classified them as a company that is “working for regulatory change”. The company will only perform animal testing where required by law.

** Venn-diagram chart photo courtesy of: pyragraph.com.

Unilver information courtesy of PETA: https://www.peta.org/blog/dove-earns-cruelty-free-stamp-of-approval-added-to-beauty-without-bunnies-list/

Author: thevegangirlnyc

Vegan foodie in New York City. Saving the animals, the planet, and my health one meal at a time.

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