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« Gluten-free peach cobbler | Main | Blueberry jam is not hard »

Eco-friendly Cleaning: Seventh Generation healthy home starter kit giveaway 

I have a lot to say about cleaning; bear with me.

I made the switch over to green cleaning supplies a few years ago, admittedly without really understanding why it was important. I didn’t really care; I trusted the marketeers and revamped my cleaning cabinet to non-nefarious shades of green and white and orange. Back then I also shopped mostly at Whole Foods and they don’t sell anything else, a forced switch which fit with my color-coded consumption track.

“I can’t afford it”

Since I no longer have a full-time job (and commensurate salary), I decided to take a closer look at cleaning supplies. I’ve come to realize that saving money doesn’t necessarily mean buying inexpensive products.

A few weeks ago my neighbor and I were chatting while I was spraying aphids off my tomato plants with a dishsoap and water mixture. She asked me (in reference to my dishsoap), “You use that organic stuff, right? Mine’s just regular; we can’t really afford that fancy stuff.”

In the quest to save money, making the switch back to the majority of the synthetically-derived, toxic and considerably cheaper products was never an option. (I’ve since come to understand why I use non-toxic cleaning supplies.) Instead, I turned to vinegar, baking soda and borax to cut costs in the cleaning supply aisle. I buy only a few pre-made cleaning supplies now-a-days including laundry detergent, dishsoap, and a thyme oil-derived disinfectant spray (with the same disinfecting capabilities as chlorine bleach, but without the toxins).

Cleaning supplies should be considered along the same lines as the food you buy. If you’re buying mostly organic foods but then spraying EPA-registered-pesticides all over your house (which linger for periods much longer than food in your system), you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.

“Do eco-friendly cleaners really work?”

The hype surrounding these more expensive versions of cleaning supplies is not really “organic” and natural ingredients, because they do actually contain chemicals, the key is how and when these chemicals break down when released back into nature (i.e. washed down your drains). Products clean things primarily because of things called surfactants, or surface-active agents. They contain polarized ions that both attract and repel water molecules, loosening and suspending dirt and germs until they’re washed away from clothes, counters, floors and dishes. Green cleaners contain surfactants too, but rather than featuring petroleum-based surfactants, they’re derived from plants (and they break down faster and have a lesser impact on ecosystems).

The gist

Seventh Generation is a company on the right track; they should be the norm, not the exception in modern industry. Their values remain consistent at all levels of the chain (including algae and plankton), and their CEO goes by Chief Inspired Protagonist (rather than CEO) and writes books on corporate social responsibility. These folks make it easy for people to make the switch. I also have a slight crush on The Science Man; he answers all kinds of questions about green and DIY cleaning supplies in a non-advertisement kind of way, plus he cites his sources.

I’m hosting this giveaway to spur you into action. I believe in this company (I asked them if I could host this giveaway) and I believe in you to make better choices. Switch to better products for you, for the environment, for future generations who will inevitably want to drink water.

Just sayin’

Seventh Generation isn’t the only great brand out there, and please do feel free to explore your options. Honestly, you really don’t need any of these products to actually clean your house. I’m writing a couple chapters into my book with effective DIY options for you to explore at your leisure.

Asking someone to go cold turkey on cleaning supplies is a little unreasonable. Even when you’re on the vinegar wagon, you’ll still want to buy laundry detergent and dishsoap at the very least. Think of the rest of the eco-friendly cleaners featured here as training wheels for your DIY cleaning supplies adventures and know that this company is doing good things in the world.

The takeaway

It’s important for me to know that the cleaners I buy are safe for anyone in my house, including the kids I don’t have yet and the hairy orange pets (who will inhale or ingest the majority of toxic chemicals you use regularly since much of it settles in dust on the floor). Exercise your ability to choose.

Without further ado…One lucky person will receive all of the following full-sized cleaning products:

Seventh Generation Healthy Home Starter Kit

Enter by August 19, 2010 at midnight by leaving a comment below answering one or both of the following questions:

Why is greening your cleaning supplies cabinet important to you?


What is your fave DIY cleaning supplies trick?
Please don’t forget to include your email address in the slot on the comment form or I won’t be able to let you know you won!

Reader Comments (49)

Greening my cleaning cabinet became important to me after realizing that my lungs burned after cleaning the bathroom. Also knowing that everything I use to clean ends up in our water.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa D.

Why is greening your cleaning supplies cabinet important to you?
I have always been attracted to natural foods and products, and what they represent... They are crucial for the environment, and our own health. I never realized how important they were (compared to their counterpart) until I had 2 babies of my own.... who get into everything, and who put their mouths on everything! I also have 2 dogs. I am very clean, and after I spray and wipe things down, I always see the dogs lick the floor trying to find a little more food. I always notice it, and I feel good... the seventh generation products are so natural, I know my dog will not be harmed by the residue... same goes for my kids... I refuse to bring something in the house that could make them terribly sick and poison them... god forbid they get into some cleaning supplies and dump them out. And I know that the spray will not poison the air, and get into their lungs... and I will not be questioning my choices as a parent when I hear them cough. I feel confident that i am making the right choices for my family, and protecting them from unwanted toxins. I am so happy that information is becoming more mainstream about how toxic so many "familiar" cleaners really are. Knowledge is power... when you know better you do better... thank you SO much for this posting!! :)

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPearl Hansen

Using alternative products became important to my husband and me a few years ago while working in the hospitality industry in Florida (the anti-thesis of "green" thinking). As the manager on duty, I should have been notified that they were spraying a pesticide inside the building, but was not. This chemical was "safe" to use around people and animals; the reason they gave me for not notifying me. I actually was fairly sheltered from this product, given the location of my office, my staff was not. It just so happened that I fall into the minority of people who are sensitive/allergic to the base of this product. Within a couple of hours I had a migraine headache, blurred vision, and a host of other symptoms. Again, I was relatively sheltered, and my staff was not exhibiting any symptoms. Not realizing there was an environmental trigger to this and i was not "just feeling bad" (I am not given to migraines) I went home and returned to work a couple of hours later. After about an hour, I could no longer see my computer screen, tolerate light, sit up, the pain in my head was goes on. There were many trips to the hospital, neurologists, specialists, while others at my workplace began to feel mild versions of my symptoms. Then the pesticide came to light. While the company stopped using the chemical, I was left with a physical hyper-sensitivity to and mental awareness of what "safe" chemicals could do to me, as was my boyfriend-now-husband. We started realizing that even cleaning our cat litter pans with bleach was a bad idea and began our quest to not hurt our cats and ourselves, which included switching the bleach out for vinegar. We have also learned just because it says it is safe to use around people and pets, they really just want to sell their product.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Despite the fact that I somehow got allergic to washing dishes and now use the dishwasher whenever possible, I do try to keep my cleaning supplies as clean as possible. It all leeches into our drinking water anyway.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

I began using more green products last year. Currently I have Clorox Green Works. I figured they had to work because Clorox wouldn't risk ruining their good name on a product that didn't. I've wondered about Seventh Generation, and now from your great review, I think I'll look into their products.

Moving to more green cleaning has been important to me because I'm in the wildlife profession. I do a lot of reading related to my profession, and I read so many articles related to toxins, pollution, and climate change and it's heart breaking. Here I am trying to save species, yet I realized my actions at home are harming them just as much as the lay person, which makes no sense. So within the past year I've switched to eating a more local diet, composting, using less energy, and using greener cleaning options. I love to see companies like Seventh Generation. It gives me a ray of hope that maybe my future grandkids will see some of the fantastic wildlife that I got to see.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaytee

I love Seventh Generation! I have been using their dish soap for years. It was the first "green" cleaning item I purchased and I haven't been back to the harsh stuff since.

My favorite DIY cleaning trick is for washing my hair - I use baking soda and water. My hair has never looked or smelled better. I will occasionally rinse it with very diluted apple cider vinegar to get rid of any baking soda buildup. Works like a charm!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

Oooh, I want! I want!

More sustainable/green household cleansers and supplies are important to me for many reasons-- primarily what I see working as oncology nurse and my fears of cancer. And fears for my 2 year old daughter. And what the regular stuff does to the environment. AGH.

I use various combos of vinegar, borax and/or baking soda for everything.
The only thing I can't get as clean (looking) as I'd like it is the tub/tile.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeg

We went with green cleaning products a few years ago. My husband developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity from overexposure to pesticides at his workplace--we lived in Florida at the time and they spray everything and they spray it heavy. He was getting physically sick if I would use bleach in the house, so I began doing some research and quickly decided this was something we had to do. I clean mostly with baking soda, vinegar, bon ami and a lot of elbow grease now and we are all much healthier for it. My husband has been unemployed for 7 months and we spend a lot of time at home right now. I feel good knowing that our home is a safe, healthy place for us to be.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa H.

Green cleaning is becoming more important to me with each passing day. I switched cleaners a couple of years ago when I realized that I was getting headaches and nausea from cleaning. I dreaded having to clean because of how ill I would get. After switching to Seventh Generation, I LOVE cleaning and knowing that I am using a better and safer product for myself and for the environment.
My husband and I are also planning on starting a family soon, so I am making the transition now to become "green." The sooner I make the transition, the easier it should be once a little one comes along -- I hope!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa O.

I became green with my cleaning supplies about 13 yrs ago, I had noticed how sick & sensitive mainstream cleaning agents made me. Did not realize at the time but I had contracted Lyme Disease & Co infections. Which induced chemical sensitivity& other neuro endocrine Immune issues. When I had my first child a year later it all made even more sense to me. I love using non toxic products to clean with. I use Baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, Dr Bronner's Castille Soap, & some Seventh Generation products. It has become important to me & to the health of my family to continue on this path.

One of my favorite things to use to freshen upholstery & other hard to clean fabrics. Get an empty spray bottle add distilled water, essential oil of your choice, teaspoon of baking soda, just a drop of alcohol & shake. It makes a great room deodorizer too

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYemaya v

It is so important to me to use 'green' cleaning supplies, so I will never have to watch my dogs and cats have another seizure after I swifer the floor. True story - it happen twice before I figure out the problem. And my lungs shouldn't burn after I scrub the bathroom either. We are we so obcessed with clean, that we hurt ourselves in the process?


August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlanna

It's pretty simple really. We (as a whole) never relied on these mass produced products, paper towels, grocery bags, cleaning agents, until somewhat recently. And somehow, we all became hooked. We so quickly strayed from Grandma's approach that it soon became forgotten and "weird" (I get that a lot). But the world is changing and so must we. It's not about money (like the article mentions) it's about erasing what we think we know about cleaning and going back to the tried and true. I have large quantities of Baking Wash, Borax, Vinegar, Lemon Juice (to just name a few) on my shelves. I haven't used a paper towel or grocery bag in a few years (give or take the few times I go shopping spur of the moment to grab a sale). It's so important to me, that I clean and live naturally in balance with the Earth, and that it can be done frugally :)
Thanks for the great article!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Making my life greener is pretty important to me, so making the cleaning supplies green goes hand-in-hand. To clean my disposal I like to throw in quartered lemon rinds and grind them up. It smells good and disinfects.

p.s. I made your blueberry plum basil jam over the weekend and it is delicious! Thanks for posting the recipe :-)

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjessica

Greening my cleaning supplies is important because I don't want to undo all the hard work I'm doing by trying to eat and live green. Seems silly to take backwards steps in the cleaning dept, especially when there are so many toxins to avoid!

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarbzilla

Why is greening your cleaning supplies cabinet important to you?

My husband and I live on an organic bandwagon, and a comment has stuck with me ever since I watched "Food Inc." (If you haven't seen it, do!) Someone makes the point that every time we purchase a product we vote. We vote with every scan of a UPC label, and businesses listen!

I've been slowly, but surely, trading my non-green cleaning products for green products as I run out. I love my laundry detergent, dish soap cleaner and multi-surface spray. Throughout this process, I have to admit -- I'm afraid of letting go of my one product that contains bleach (I know! The worst one!).

Winning this giveaway would help me spread the word to others (when I love something, I share it with everyone!), and would keep me from spending money on products I'm nervous about.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeighton

When I became pregnant with my first child seven years ago, my brain did a complete flip and I couldn't stand the thought of anything harming this tiny human I was bringing into the world. Out went the chlorine bleach, the conventional dairy products, air fresheners and chemical-laden personal care products. Now I am very careful to clean the house with items like baking soda and vinegar - it helps the wallet, the environment, and the health of my children.

And I love/love/love Seventh Generation products, and would love to try some of the products in the kit that I haven't had the funds to get on board with yet.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Beam

I've been trying to switch over to a greener method of cleaning, though am finding it hard to do! I can't bring myself to just throw out the old stuff I have in my cuboard because that doesn't seem any better for the world! That said I live by soap nuts for laundry, as not only are the unscented, they are totally chemical free! Here's to hoping I can make the rest of the switch soon, I'm almost out of some of my old cleaners :)

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten

Greening my cleaning products is important to me because my newborn has motivated me to want better for her future. I want her to be a part of the movement to help the environment be healthier. My first move was gDiapers. I plan to start using seventh generation to ensure she does not breathe in harmful toxins most cleaning products hold.

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Nguyen

Greening my house is important to me. I don't want to inhale all those nasty chemicals, I don't want my hubby inhaling all those chemicals, and someday (when we have them) I don't want my kiddos inhaling all those chemicals. And, I don't like the fact that all those chemicals end up in our water. And to be honest, I think Seventh Generation cleans better than the leading non-green cleaner! I love their stuff!

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

Greening my cleaning supplies became important to me a few years ago when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a disease with no apparent cause and no cure. The birth of my baby this year has made me totally commited to doing anything I can for the environment as I see this living link to the future growing like a weed.

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJane

I loved this post! I hope people will share it with their friends and family who still think they can't afford to go green. It's actually much cheaper than purchasing the chemicals and fancy packaging (which also harms the environment)!

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

I've been using a mixture of water, white vinegar, and cheap vodka on my faucets and bathroom mirror and they've never sparkled so much!

Using natural clean supplies saves me money and minimize the chemicals in my home that I can't pronounce nor fully no their potential impact on my health!

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Using eco-friendly, green products is most certainly an ethical choice. My favorite product is vinegar! I use probably a gallon a week. From fabric softner, toilet cleaner, disinfectant, deodorizer, vinegar has SO many uses.

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHailey in MT

I am the mother of four daughters, ages 16, 14, 12 and 10. Although 1994 seems not that long ago, when you look back, we were not yet participating in the eco-chic environment that we see today. People thought I was crazy because I breast fed all my girls until they were about 18 months; I made my own healthy baby food with organic foods and I was very aware of the toxins that were all around us. Back in the day, I felt very much the odd ball, but stuck to my guns. My kids didn't eat much dairy, but they ate tons of veggies. I carried my babies in a carrier and they slept in the bed with us. I guess I was a woman before my time...but was I really? Wasn't that the way people lived back in the day? Well anyway, here's my favorite cleaning trick....BON AMI....$1.00!!! It is a powder that you can get at almost any store, it comes in a can that looks like a COMET can, except it says Bon Ami and has a picture of a baby chick. This powder can be used for cleaning the toilet, tub, sinks, pots, pans, stains in clothing (test first) . I've used it to get crayon off the wall. It is completely non-toxic and very versatile. I use vinegar to clean windows, as a fabric softner and I leave in teacups when there's a bad smell in the basement. I am soon going to be experimenting with making my own laundry detergent for a front loading machine...will let you know!

August 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeirdre

Green cleaning is important to me because I am making switches in my life over to healthier foods and products. I've started only eating meat from local sources, and buying more local produce, and I'd like my house to be cleaned with environmentally responsible products.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlly

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