A Guide to Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

A Guide to Eco & Natural Cleaning Products | Curiously Conscious

Last updated: April 2024

As someone who likes to live in a more sustainable way, taking care of my home and my clothes using eco-friendly cleaning products is a natural step to take. So after a good few years of writing reviews and guides around sustainable fashion, lifestyle, and home, I thought it about time to write about my favourite clothes detergents, cleaning sprays, and more!

I started my journey into a more eco-friendly cleaning routine a few years ago. It happened after investigating the ingredients in my beauty products – I suddenly realised there are also nasty ingredients in the sprays, detergents, and bleaches that I was using to clean my home too!

On top of that, as sustainable fashion advocate, taking care of my clothes is incredibly important to me. From the hangers I use to the way I wash my clothes, sustainable garment care is just as important as sourcing sustainable pieces.

So, after years of trying different products, I bring you this guide to my favourite cleaning products around my home. There’s something for everyone: natural products, zero-waste products, supermarket options, and DIY options too!

What To Look For In Eco Cleaning Products

When it comes to cleaning, most products will follow the same ingredient formula:

Surfactant + water + perfume = cleaning product

There’s obviously a lot of variation depending on the product’s intended use, and the brand making it, but these form the basis of everything we use. It’s why the age-old DIY recipe of white vinegar, lemon rind, and water makes a great all purpose cleaner. In fact, if you’re open to making your own recipes, those three ingredients, along with a little Castile soap, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol, will make almost any kind of cleaner you can think of.

That said, sometimes it’s easier to get something that’s guaranteed to do the job (without making your stairs super slippery like I once did…) So how can you make sure it’s eco-friendly?

Unfortunately, cleaning products don’t need to disclose their ingredients as transparently as food or beauty products do. Some manufacturers will disclose them – which is great – but it’s totally optional in the UK. If you do find an ingredients list, or want to understand what most cleaning products are made of, here’s a quick explainer:

1. Surfactants

This is the detergent part of your cleaning product, and they’re what causes the degreasing action and soap suds. Unfortunately, most surfactants are toxic to aquatic life, and some of the worst of these are already avoided by most cleaning product manufacturers. That said, some are better than others – linear alkyl benzene sulphonates (LAS) used in cleaning products do not biodegrade without oxygen present, whereas alkane sulfonates, linear alcohol ethoxylates, and branched alcohol ethoxylates are better at breaking down. Either way, the names tend to not be on the bottles, which means we need to demand more transparency from manufacturers.

2. Water

One other great way to judge a cleaning product on its eco credentials is to see how much water it contains. Unlike food, cleaning products don’t need to list their ingredients in order of most to least, so the % of water is often unclear. However, there are brands out there who are reducing their water content (like Splosh), or providing waterless options (like The Green Co.) so as to reduce on packaging and environmental impact.

3. Perfumes

This is the part of your cleaner that smells nice! In both cleaning products and beauty products, this can often be vaguely listed as ‘parfum’ but for natural products, they often indicate natural extracts like lemon or grapefruit essential oils. If you’re sensitive to perfumes in beauty products, it’s probably best to choose cleaning products that are also perfume-free.

5 Eco-Friendly Cleaning Product Ranges, Reviewed

Here’s a run down of my favourite eco-friendly cleaning products to use around my house. I’ve grouped these by brand, so you can get an overall idea of how they operate and make their detergents, and then choose the right products for your clothes and home.

Clothes Doctor

Three bottles from Clothes Doctor Range

Best Feature: Gentle formulae
Rating: 5/5

Clothes Doctor is a British cleaning brand that offers both a cleaning service and accompanying product range.

I’ve had the pleasure of trying three detergents in their range – No. 2 for general clothing, No. 3 for cashmere, and No. 4 for silk. These were gifted to me to review, and I have to say I’ve been really pleased with all three! Their detergents come packaged in refillable aluminium bottles, meaning they are completely recyclable. The general detergent is a powder, while the other two come as fragrant liquids that are perfect for hand-washing my delicate items.

All of their range is made in the UK, using plant-derived, vegan, and cruelty-free ingredients. One thing I would love to see is a full ingredient list on their site, or on the bottles themselves though. Knowing there’s a surfactant mixed with an essential oil is nice, but it’s not enough.

EDIT: After reading this review, Clothes Doctor has now added ingredients to their labelling!

Ecover & Method

A selection of Method range

Best Feature: Widely available
Rating: 2/5

When it comes to cleaning my home, I often swing between Ecover and Method. This is mainly because they’re so accessible – often stocked in my local supermarket, and always available online. But are they really eco? And did you know they’re both owned by the same company?!

I made this discovery when reading Ethical Unicorn’s post about the two brands some time ago. Interestingly, it also shows how Ecover have been saying they’re moving away from palm oil in their formulae for over two years, which just isn’t good enough. Alongside their ‘slightly sustainable’ different ingredients, they’re making effort to use recycled plastic in their packaging – which is, again, better than the conventional alternative, but not quite enough.

I also looked into Ecover’s claims that it’s a B Corp, and oddly I can’t find it or its parent company (S. C. Johnson & Sons) on the B Corp Directory. Hmm.

It’s why my score here is so low – both companies produce cleaning products with a little more conscience than the conventional alternatives, but in all honesty they’re still not transparent about their ingredients, and they are only taking small steps to be more socially or environmentally sustainable. So take their words with a pinch of salt. I’ll only buy them when I can’t find better alternatives.

The Green Co.

The Green Co. Green Sheets laundry detergent review

Best feature: Waterless products
Rating: 4/5

The Green Co.* is my latest discovery, and deserves a mention due to their waterless products. Back in 2021 I wrote about waterless beauty products and how these would become a staple of the sustainable beauty scene. I’m hoping the same can be said for the cleaning scene!

I’ve been using The Green Co.’s Green Sheets (gifted) for a few weeks now, and the switch was seamless. They’re delivered direct to my door, and already have a lower carbon footprint than other detergents due to them being lightweight and minimally packaged.

Instead of using a messy liquid detergent, I can simply tear a sheet (or two, as we live in a hard water area) and put it into the drum of my machine with my clothes. The cost of these is equitable to laundry detergent too – just 19p per wash! If you have young children or pets, I also think this is a much safer option than liquid detergent or pods. The one drawback is knowing that these sheets do have an environmental impact when they wash away, which is why I’ve docked one point.

The Green Co. also does waterless fabric conditioner and cleaning sprays as well, so you can switch to an entirely waterless cleaning system in one go.

Norfolk Natural Living

Norfolk Natural Living Cleaning Products

Best feature: Slowing down the wash cycle
Rating: 5/5

Norfolk Natural Living gets a big five-out-of-five from me, not only for their gorgeously minimal design, but also for their innovative line of products. They kindly gifted me their Wool & Silk Wash and Garment Refresher to try, and both have worked incredibly well – both for cleaning my clothes in a kind way, but also for reducing the amount I need to wash them too.

When it comes to cleaning, extending the length of time we wear our clothes reduces the water and energy used each time we put the washing machine on. It also reduces the dissemination of microplastics from polyester-based clothing, which is a huge issue considering 60% of the world’s fibre usage is synthetic. If you check your clothes labels, I bet you’ll be surprised at how many garments contain a percentage of acrylic, elastane, polyester, or similar.

Norfolk Natural Living’s range caters to the eco conscious without drawbacks. Their products promote a more sustainable lifestyle, their ingredients lists are transparent, easy to understand, and often plant-derived, and their range is so clean it goes from home cleaning to clothes cleaning to skincare! I’m a big fan.

Splosh

Splosh Cleaning Product with Refill

Best feature: Zero waste packaging
Rating: 4/5

Finally, for my inner zero-waste enthusiast, I had to mention Splosh. I’ve been trying out Splosh’s range over the past six months, kindly gifted in the beginning and now I’m hooked.

Splosh create cleaning products that focus on what’s important: the cleaner inside the bottle. In fact, they treat the bottle as a bit of a distraction really, providing the option to get bottles to start, and then receive highly concentrated versions of their cleaners in refill pouches, such as the green one pictured here.

This is brilliant for a few reasons. First: less packaging = less plastic. Second: The refills last a long time, reducing the need to go out and buy more, and also reducing delivery costs and needless packaging. And third: Their pouches fit through your letterbox, meaning you can order replacements easily!

While I can’t be sure as to the ‘natural’ ingredients used in this range, I can certainly say there is a sustainable element to them that gives them an edge over those on the supermarket shelves.

More Cleaning Brands I’ve Tried & Recommend:

Bio D*: Independent, family-owned, cleaning company using plant-derived ingredients across a large range.

Bower Collective*: Refillable cleaning products and personal care products.

Clean Living: Metal-bottled cleaning products made to be reused and refilled.

Eco Egg: Novel laundry ‘egg’ which uses pellets to clean clothes. Works a charm!

Wilton: Plant-based cleaning products with beautiful scents, and made with very few ingredients.

So, Which Eco Cleaning Products Are The Best?

So, the question still stands – which range is the best? And I’ll be honest: it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for no packaging, I’d still recommend finding a zero waste store near you and filling a tub with clothing detergent. But, if that’s too inconvenient, The Green Co. or Splosh are great alternatives.

If you’re still concerned about the ingredients in your cleaning products, then go for DIY. There’s nothing purer than lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, and some elbow grease!

When it comes to best in show, I have to say I love Norfolk Natural Living’s range – they just get it. But, the price tag, and small number of stockists, can be drawbacks.

Personally, I tend to have a mix of brands and products on hand. I like Clothes Doctor’s specialist clothing detergents for when I’m hand washing my delicates, and Natural Norfolk Living’s spray always comes out on day two of wearing clothes (or three, or four, or in the case of my jeans, week four…)! If I have had chance to visit my local zero waste shop, I’ll use their refillable products, but if not, I’ll order online, or at a push, go for the more widely-distributed products by Ecover or Method.

Either way, all of this made for an interesting look into the world of eco cleaning – and how we can all be a little greener (and cleaner) for the planet!

Disclaimer: This post features paid-for and affiliate links (denoted with '*') and gifted products (denoted with 'gifted')

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