Sweet cleans are made of these.

By Kelsey Mulvey
January 26, 2021
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Credit: Getty/LumiNola

Want to make the world a better, greener place? Well, it starts at home. With a laser-focused eye on sustainability, it's easy to bring an environmental approach to every facet of your home. But while you might've jumped at the opportunity to buy organic produce or eco-friendly furniture, it's possible you've been hesitant to give non-toxic cleaning supplies a try. It's no secret that the harsh chemicals in conventional cleaning supplies are not great for the environment, but they do leave our spaces spick and span. So, what happens when you make the sustainable swap?

According to Ryan Lupberger, CEO and co-founder of Cleancult, non-toxic cleaning supplies can be good for your home and your wellbeing.

"It's incredibly important to have non-toxic cleaning supplies in your home as this space is what you breathe, what you touch, and what you sleep on," he explains. "In addition, three percent of the weight of your clothes is leftover laundry detergent, so you're putting unregulated chemicals directly on your skin."

Of course, your sprays and soaps are only as good as their formulas. So, if you want to pick up non-toxic cleaning supplies that actually work, here are four ingredients to look for:

Lemongrass Oil or Limonene

From its plant-based formulas to zero-waste packaging, Cleancult is determined to bring a natural edge to the entire cleaning process. However, it turns out one of the brand's most effective ingredients appeals to all the senses.

"[Lemongrass oil] is the natural essential oil from lemons and is a powerful stain remover, grease cutter, and smells lovely," Lupberger explains. "This is really a hero ingredient in dish soap as well as liquid laundry detergent, and is as natural as an ingredient could be."

Thanks to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, this one ingredient will cleanse your belongings—and make unwanted mold and bacteria a thing of the past.

Citric Acid

Looking for a natural cleaning ingredient that's tough enough to combat grease and stains? Your favorite fruits might hold the answer. One of the most popular ingredients in non-toxic cleaning supplies is citric acid, which (as you might've guessed) is derived lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines.

"Citric acid is a natural disinfectant and if it's is in a concentration over 0.7%, it kills 99.9% of germs, as referenced by the FDA," Lupberger says. "It's highly effective, incredibly natural, and cuts through most household gunk."

Tough on mold, mildew, and bacteria, citric acid can be found in everything from sprays, to soaps, to cleansing wipes. But, if you want to create your own cleaner from scratch, you can mix two and a half teaspoons of citric acid to one cup of water.

The catch? Using citric acid-based cleaners can come with some unexpected side effects. While the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA, for short) says it's generally safe, breathing in citric acid has been linked to respiratory discomfort, skin irritation, and eye redness.

If you want to err on the side of caution, open the windows for some extra ventilation, cover your eyes and skin, and refrain from ingesting it. (Just because citric acid comes from your favorite produce doesn't mean it's a replacement for your fruit salad.)

Baking Soda

Syed Naqvi, head of product development and innovation at non-toxic cleaning brand Blueland, has a lengthy list of ingredients to avoid: parabens, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), triclosan, ammonia and phthalates, just to name a few. So, which ingredients get his seal of approval?

"Ingredients to look for are mild, mineral-based cleaners such as sodium bicarbonate," Naqvi says.

Translation? Baking soda.

The pantry essential has been a staple in natural cleaning supplies for years—and for good reason. Decked out with an abrasive texture, baking soda works hard to remove stains and loosen up stubborn particles. This ingredient is also known to absorb odor, making it the perfect match for stinky sinks or refrigerators.

While baking soda is present in many non-toxic cleaning brands, you can always make your own concoction. In fact, baking soda is known to be extra powerful when combined with vinegar. (When baking soda's basic properties are exposed to the acidic vinegar, it has a volcanic-like reaction.)

Vinegar

Speaking of vinegar, did you know this kitchen essential is also super effective on its own? Made with a super-tough compound called acetic acid, vinegar can slough away dirt, grease, and mineral deposits. In fact, some reports claim vinegar is strong enough to kill some bacteria. (However, when it comes to protecting your home from the COVID-19 virus, we encourage you to refer to the CDC's list of approved disinfectants.)

So, how common is vinegar in cleaning supplies? Very. Take Aunt Fannie's, for example. Non-toxic, kid-safe, and pet-friendly, the line is free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, ammonia, and more. However, vinegar is a key ingredient in Aunt Fannie's multi-surface sprays, wipes, and floor cleaners. You might get more flies with honey than vinegar, but it turns out the latter has its perks, too.

WATCH: 6 Cleaning Rules Even the Busiest People Can Follow

Read the Label

In addition to keeping your eye out for specific ingredients, Blueland's Naqvi says it's important to pay close attention to a product's eco-friendly certifications—or lack thereof. Specifically, Naqvi highlights the Platinum Level Material Health Certificate from Cradle to Cradle, USDA BioPreferred, EPA Safer Choice, and Leaping Bunny as the four top certifications to look for. 

"These certifications review everything from ingredients, to performance, to packaging sustainability before approval," he explains. "Triple check the certifications from industry leaders, along with the ingredients on the back, and make sure to research anything you're unfamiliar with."

That way, you can feel good knowing your cleaning supplies have your home and Mother Nature in mind.