As someone who loves living in a more sustainable way, taking care of my home and my clothes using sustainable products is a natural step to take. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that I haven’t really focused on cleaning products on the blog before! I hope this post will remedy that…
I started my journey into a more natural 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 an ethical fashion lover, taking care of my clothes is incredibly important to me. From the hangers I use (no metal hangers for woollens!) to the way I wash my clothes, I think sustainable garment care is just as important as sourcing sustainable pieces too.
So, after months of product testing, I bring you this guide to my favourite cleaning products around the home. There’s something for everyone – natural products, zero-waste products, supermarket options, and DIY options too.
What to look for in an eco cleaning product
When it comes to cleaning, most products will follow the same formula:
Water + surfactant + 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?
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.
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.
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 (see Splosh, below) so as to reduce on packaging.
Eco Cleaning Products, Rated
Best Feature: Delicate Formula
Clothes Doctor offers both an eco-friendly cleaning service and eco cleaning 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! Packaged in refillable aluminium bottles, the general detergent is a powder, while the other two come as fragrant liquids that are perfect for handwashing 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 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
Best Feature: Large Range
When it comes to cleaning my home, I often swing between Method* and Ecover*. 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 Corporation 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 – and in my case, only buy when you can’t find better alternatives.
Norfolk Natural Living
Best Feature: Reducing Number of Washes
Norfolk Natural Living (NNL) 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 at the moment.
NNL’s range caters to the eco conscious without any 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.
Best Feature: Zero Waste Packaging
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.
Other Notable Mentions…
Bio D* – Independent, family-owned, cleaning company using plant-derived ingredients across a large range.
Blanc – Environentally-friendly dry cleaning company that recently won at the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards!
Kinn* – Plant-based detergents and cleaning products made with very few ingredients.
Kleen – Waterless car cleaning service, currently only available in London.
Seventh Generation – Plant-based cleaning product range that is also a B-Corp. Beware the cardboard bottles though – there’s plastic underneath!
Which are the best eco cleaning products?
So, the question still stands – which range is the best? And I’ll be honest: it really depends on what you’re looking for in an eco product. 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, Splosh is a great alternative.
And if it’s the cleaning ingredients that you’re more focused on, 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 need to order online can also be drawbacks.
Personally, I like to have a mix 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 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 affiliate links (denoted with '*') and gifted products (denoted with 'gifted')