Nowadays, disinfecting the surfaces of our home and even the surface of the objects we use daily is vital not only to avoid the spread of bacteria but of viruses as well (looking at you, COVID-19).
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When only cleaning products are used, dirt and food residues are visibly removed from surfaces. On the other hand, when items or surfaces are disinfected with disinfectants, those surfaces undergo a reduction of disease-causing microorganisms, i.e. all those elements capable of producing some kind of illness or damage in our body are reduced.
However, it's truly ironic that in order to keep our house safe and clean, we have to use lots of chemicals and products that can endanger the environment and our health, sometimes even more than bacteria itself. Our Mother Earth is sick of hazardous substances entering oceans, rivers, and lakes, and plastic bottles and disposable wipes polluting landfills.
Not only do we have to think broadly about the Earth, but we also need to consider those in our own homes. Kids are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals from cleaners. Their respiratory systems, brains, and entire bodies are still developing. Any chemical exposure to them is like the butterfly effect - a small change at the beginning can cause a huge shift into adulthood.
So... is it possible to disinfect surfaces and objects without toxic chemicals?
It's time to wipe off our cleaning cabinet to welcome eco friendly cleaning products that disinfect, and if you don't know where to start, don't worry — I did in-depth research and put together some products that I even use each time I put my hair into a messy bun, grab the mop and tackle the job of green cleaning my home. So without further ado, let's get started!
How do cleaning products impact the environment?
Quick question: can you name at least five of the ingredients that typically come in the cleaning products you have at home? Most of us can't, and that's why I decided to search for disinfecting products whose reputation with the environment was spotless. Fortunately for us eco-cleaning freaks, I found many candidates! But before I bring them up, let's brush up on how conventional cleaning products harm the environment:
Water Pollution: Volatile organic compounds (VOC) such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and ammonia are the main polluting sources when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting products. When these chemical compounds are flushed or poured down the drains at home, they find their way into nature and not only contribute to environmental degradation but also reach rivers, seas, and farms, and therefore the food we later buy and eat. What a combo.
Air Pollution: VOCs can also affect both outdoor and indoor air quality. However, I'll just focus on outdoor pollution for now. When VOCs are released into the atmosphere, they react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sunlight, which can then form ozone at ground level. What's the problem with this ozone? Well, it contributes to smog, which can damage plant cells and reduce the amount of CO2 that they take in during photosynthesis. Plus, if you're buying mass-produced cleaning products, chances are that major manufacturers generate considerable amounts of carbon emissions in their factories and during transportation.
Waste: Most commercial cleaning products come in containers and bottles that aren't made from recyclable materials, and although some are packaged in technically recyclable plastic, many people simply choose to throw them away. When that happens, packaging and empty bottles often end up in landfills indefinitely, accumulating tons and tons of waste since plastic is not biodegradable.
As you can see, the mess that harmful chemicals in cleaning products make in the environment and our health needs to be swept away, ASAP.
Eco-friendly multi-purpose disinfectant sprays
Ah, disinfectant sprays. Just to give you a quick example, in the U.S., chemicals — including cleaning sprays — cause about 50% of all human-caused VOC emissions, when they used to account for only about 25%… And I wouldn't be surprised if a similar case is true in Canada.
Most homeowners use conventional disinfectants, but over the years, some serious Green flag-bearing contenders have emerged both on the shelves and on the Internet: eco-friendly multi-purpose disinfectant sprays.
They do the same job as traditional disinfectants, but without the not-so-tiny polluting detail. So if you want to keep your home clean, but also feel a bit less guilty every time you use your disinfectant spray on your countertop, here are some environmentally friendly alternatives!
Natural, organic, non-toxic formula: made with plant and mineral-based ingredients and renewable raw materials — caprylyl glucoside, an effective, non-toxic surfactant —, free of ethoxylated surfactants and harmful preservatives such as parabens and formaldehyde, and scented with essential oils. Looking pretty good in the eco-friendly formula department!
Biodegradable: sustainable AND biodegradable!
Packaging: Eco-friendly! Attitude Living’s bottles are made of recyclable HDPE #2 plastic, and they ship their products in boxes made from recycled and recyclable materials, filled with biodegradable and compostable starch packaging peanuts.
Certifications: Graded A on EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning, ECOLOGO Certified, and cruelty-free and vegan (Attitude is a member of PETA’S beauty without bunnies program).
Reviews / disinfecting ability: Almost every single review they have on Amazon is positive. Some people even say that this cleaning spray is stronger than the classic Lysol one, and considering the multiple “THIS IS AMAZING!!!” reviews, I believe it’s safe to say that its cleaning ability is more than good.
Attitude is one of the world's biggest natural cleaning products brands out there, and with good reason, as this specific disinfectant spray is a game-changer. They also make the best natural laundry detergent, eco-friendly fabric softener, eco-friendly hand sanitizer, and even zero waste deodorant.
Proudly made in Montreal, their All Purpose Cleaner Disinfectant lives up to its claims: it's made from non-toxic ingredients, disinfects surfaces up to 99.9%, and comes in eco-conscious packaging. The only downside? You have to let it stand for 10 minutes before wiping, but if you're patient, this won't be a deal-breaker. USE CODE CANDICEB10
Natural, organic, non-toxic formula: natural surfactants, hydrogen peroxide, plant-based enzymes, and eucalyptus essential oil, which creates a pH-neutral and environmentally non-toxic formula.
Biodegradable: Yup, it is biodegradable!
Packaging: although they do not specify on their website what material their packaging is made of, Natura assures that it is recyclable. They also encourage their customers to check the bottom of the packaging for the class number to verify whether their local recycling company accepts this kind of material or not.
Certifications: I could not find any third-party eco-seals on their products, but as this is a relatively "new" brand, let's not jump to conclusions. I hope they will gradually add certifications to both their product packaging and their website. I'll keep an eye on them.
Reviews / disinfecting ability: It states it kills 99.99% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and although I couldn't find reviews on their website or Amazon, they have good feedback on their Instagram. I mean, it contains mostly hydrogen peroxide, a quintessential disinfectant, so its ability to disinfect is not in doubt.
It won't be the first time you'll see Natura Solutions on this list, as they don't just make spray disinfectants — they have an extensive catalogue of cleaning products that you'll want to have in your eco arsenal! This Surrey, BC-based brand (#supportlocalbusinesses) hasn't been in the cleaning market long, but they've already made a mark on it as all of their products are pH Neutral and biodegradable.
Natural, organic, non-toxic formula: their #1 ingredient in all of their cleaning products — including this disinfectant spray — is distilled water, which they filter and distill themselves! The all-purpose cleaner also contains all-natural, organic, distilled vinegar and lemon, tea tree, and rosemary essential oils.
Biodegradable: 100% biodegradable, it’s phthalates, parabens, ethyls, and sulfates-free.
Packaging: packaged in reusable and recyclable opaque glass bottles with an optional plastic pump (big plus!).
Certifications: 100% Certified Organic.
Reviews / disinfecting ability: Earthy Edith's All-Purpose Cleaner has a strong disinfecting ability — its multiple positive reviews speak for themselves. Vinegar and essential oils are natural disinfectants, so it works wonders.
This product is Earthy Edith's flagship natural disinfectant, a simple yet effective product. As they state on their website, "we love cleaning chemicals free, and now you can too with our SIMPLE solutions!". The main feature of this disinfectant spray is that it's literally simple, it doesn't contain many ingredients, and the ones it does contain, are completely organic and natural. Plus, it's a family-run zero-waste business, so how can you not love their stuff?
Pro-Tip: Always clean first before disinfecting. Cleaning removes dirt and preps the surface to be disinfected, if you don’t clean first, germs and bacteria can hide under the dirt and reduce the effectiveness of the disinfectant.
Eco-friendly disinfectant wipes
It's no secret that single-use paper napkins (check out these paper-towel alternatives) are one of the items that generate the most waste at home, besides contributing to deforestation, of course. They are often used for minimal purposes, such as removing crumbs or food residues from the table and wiping our hands, but in other situations, they are used to disinfect surfaces quickly — this is where disinfectant wipes come into play.
Nevertheless, while some wipes can be used several times, the chemicals they contain infect and pollute the environment once their useful life is over. Also, they aren’t made of paper, but of a textile blend of polyester and cotton among other things, so basically, they aren't biodegradable.
Yes, they are very convenient and useful, but they cause a serious impact on the environment, so… What green alternatives are out there? Eco-friendly disinfectant wipes! Let's see which ones you like the most:
Natural, organic, non-toxic formula: the wipes themselves are made from natural bamboo, and the ingredients they contain are simple but effective. It features plant-based enzymes and essential oils, two natural, non-toxic ingredients that won't pollute the environment once the wipes are ready to go, and they rest within a base ingredient that we already mentioned in their disinfectant spray — hydrogen peroxide.
Biodegradable: Surprisingly, yes! You might think that the only way disinfectant wipes can exist is if they are made of plastic polymers or something similar, but Natura wipes are made of bamboo, which makes them biodegradable.
Packaging: supposedly recyclable, but check with your local recycling company anyway.
Certifications: same as above, no eco certifications for now.
Reviews / disinfecting ability: although I couldn't find reviews for their disinfecting spray, I did find reviews for their wipes, and fortunately, they are positive. They cut tough dirt and grease, disinfect and have no nasty chemical smells.
Natura Solutions has a spot on this list again thanks to their signature product: biodegradable disinfectant wipes! They come from nature and will eventually manage their way back into it, which is pretty cool IMO. BTW, they also have a "mini" version of these wipes so you can take them on the go and disinfect anything that might contaminate you or your family.
Natural, organic, non-toxic formula: these wipes don't include sanitizer or disinfectant solution of any kind. You just have to follow the directions on the back of the jar, mix the ingredients — distilled water, essential oils, white vinegar, and 120 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol —, and that's it. A totally eco-friendly formula!
Biodegradable: the wipes are made of cotton, so they are indeed biodegradable.
Packaging: very minimal packaging. It's just a glass jar that you can reuse over and over again!
Certifications: these wipes are the only product on this list that does not need eco certifications, as the wipes are reusable, and you simply pour the ingredients into the jar by yourself.
Reviews / disinfecting ability: When I say all reviews are positive, I mean it — EVERY review is positive. The formula that Saged Home states on the back of the jar effectively disinfects surfaces, is easy to follow and the liquid (and I quote) "lasts surprisingly long before having to refill it".
Trust me. You'll never want to go back to your Clorox disinfectant wipes once you try these ones! They are sustainable, eco-friendly, and wait for it — reusable! If you want the convenience of a disinfecting wipe, but you don't want it at the expense of the environment, the small brand Saged Home offers you their zero waste wipes that, besides disinfecting any surface they touch, make you activate your DIY spirit. These wipes are for the OGs of eco-friendly cleaning, so if you're one of them and don't want to deal with extra packaging and want to know exactly what's in the wipes you use, these are for you.
Best eco-friendly disinfectant
After reviewing and discussing the pros and cons of different eco-friendly disinfectants, I can confidently say that the one that takes the Best Eco-friendly Disinfectant trophy is, drumroll please... Attitude Living's All-Purpose Cleaner Disinfectant!
Attitude's All Purpose Cleaner Disinfectant is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and sustainable, their packaging is recyclable, they have multiple third-party certifications, and last but not least, it just works great.
I love the fact that their products are so well thought out and take care of every aspect of their production chain in order to not harm the environment, and of course, I can't leave out the fact that their disinfectant is made in Canada, #proud! I'm not ashamed to admit it — I'm a sucker for this brand!
P.S: To avoid becoming a victim of greenwashing, it is very important to distinguish between claims that do not provide valuable information from those that actually guarantee that an eco-friendly disinfectant follows strict quality and sustainability criteria during its entire value chain: from the extraction of the raw material to the final packaging. Always check the ingredients that compose the cleaning products you are buying, and look for labels that ensure that the brand is eco-friendly and non-toxic.
Can you make your own eco-friendly cleaning products at home?
If you've been on the green journey for a while and want to take your eco-friendly low waste lifestyle to the next level, you can make your own DIY eco-friendly disinfectant wipes! There's no need to buy extra products if you know how to mix certain ingredients that you may already have at home, and the best part is that you can customize the amounts to your liking! Of course, you may not get results as fragrant as you can get with expertly made products, but they work — and that's what matters.
Some of the ingredients you can use are baking soda, lemon juice, natural soap, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and essential oils like tea tree oil. I have already talked about the holy trinity of green cleaning — vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice — several times in this blog, and that's because those ingredients form a more than a decent disinfectant solution that while it won't smell like roses or strong fragrances, it will do its job in disinfecting superficially contaminated surfaces.
On the other hand, if you want a slightly stronger disinfectant, you can make a mixture of hydrogen peroxide with essential oils. Just make sure you have an opaque spray bottle (as hydrogen peroxide is sensitive to light), about 16 oz hydrogen peroxide (3%), and 1 teaspoon of your fav essential oil. Mix all ingredients in the bottle, shake, and you're done! Eco-friendly DIY cleaning products in a snap.
You can find plenty of eco friendly cleaning products that also disinfect!
If you haven't started your eco-friendly journey yet, the best place to do it is at home. While using a new type of wipe or changing the spray you use to disinfect your kitchen alone isn't going to clean up your carbon footprint 100%, these environmentally friendly alternatives are an easy way to begin ditching wasteful and polluting habits step by step. Like I always say, we all start somewhere!
Also, taking the step towards eco cleaning is much easier if you have options to choose from, and fortunately, there are a variety of products available out there that can give an eco-twist to your cleaning routine. Plus, not only are these alternatives environmentally friendly options, but they are also effective for people who are allergic or sensitive to chemicals. What more could you ask for?
In short, if you want to take care of your home while also caring for your health and the environment at the same time, eco-friendly cleaning products that disinfect are definitely the way to go. If you choose to buy any of the products listed in this post, feel free to write a review in the comment box below, I'd love to read it and know if you loved them as much as I did.
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