Flip the Cleaning Routine for the New Year!

Posted on January 10, 2023

Happy New Year! 

We are one week into the season of “out with the old, in with the new.” For some of us this means purging old clothes, jobs, habits, or furnace filters out of our lives. But have you thought about including your old cleaning routine in this year’s cleanse? Whether you’ve already considered making a change to your cleaning product inventory or this is the first time it’s come up for you and you are intrigued, we are here to help.  

Discussions around how to protect our health and our waterways from chemicals found in everyday household items have become increasingly hard to ignore. We get it: it’s concerning but also overwhelming. Combine the increasing number of companies engaged in greenwashingi and making a decision about what shampoo, cleaning product, or food item to purchase becomes daunting. Easier to stick with the devil you know than find out you bought into the wrong campaign, right? It doesn’t have to be this hard. We promise. It is possible to have a healthier, more environmentally conscious home without a lot of work. Not only are there many natural products that will give you the same, effective cleaning your home needs as your current products, you likely have some of them already on hand. Vinegar and baking soda in the kitchen? Hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol in the cabinet? You are ready to start cleaning!    

Some of you might be asking, why does it matter? There are a number of reasons switching to a more environmentally friendly cleaning routine is beneficial to the health of the people and pets in your home and the environment outside your home:  

1. It can save you money: Many natural products do more than one cleaning task gently and effectively. What you use to clean your toilet could also be used to wash your pets (more on this in a bit). Many products are also inexpensive household staples you probably have one hand.  

2. It’s easy: In most cases all you need is a spray bottle, a couple ingredients, and away you go. Glass, surfaces, and floors; there is nothing you can’t do.  

3. Keep aquatic systems safe: The chemicals in many popular cleaning products are not filtered out from our wastewater before entering the river. We have top-notch water treatment plants in Calgary, but even the best treatment facilities have their limits. Compounds and chemicals such as nitrates, phosphates, parabens, and phthalates (to name a few) cannot be removed and are accumulating in our waterways. Studies have shown that these chemicals affect aquatic life and humans due to the increased build-up in the environment. What this means to us at home is what we dump down the sink, toilet, and shower cannot necessarily be purified 100% before it ends up in someone’s drinking water. This is also a good time to remember that anything entering the stormwater system via storm drains on your street heads directly into the river.  

4. A healthy household: Many popular household chemicals are harsh on the respiratory system or irritants to the skin. They can irritate the eyes, lungs, throat, and cause headaches. Fragrances in many household cleaners are also potential irritants and don’t contribute to the cleanliness of surfaces. Just because it smells good doesn't mean it’s good for you. Some cleaners contain chemicals that are vaporized at room temperature, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can contribute to chronic respiratory problems. We also want to keep our homes clean without compromising our natural biomes, especially in children who need good microbes to maintain a healthy biome and form their immune systems. Children are also more sensitive to chemicals, in general, while their organs and brain are developing.  

How easy is it really? 

Let’s start with what you probably already have on hand. Vinegar. Nontoxic, multipurpose, and cheap, the acetic acid in vinegar makes it a great cleaner and disinfectant. White distilled vinegar has 5% acidity which is equal to many popular household cleaners. It can be used for mild clean-ups to more serious disinfecting jobs (). For 9 ways to use vinegar (including apple cider vineger for a sweeter smell) in your home, check out this article.   

Baking soda is another great scrubbing agent that is probably already in your cupboard. A combination of vinegar and baking soda can even help keep drains clear. It’s as simple as ¼ cup baking soda followed by a ½ cup vinegar down the drain. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Then Pour 8 cups of boiling water down the drain and vualá! Use this method to maintain common problem drains and avoid the clog. 

Some call castile soap the “magic soap.” It is inexpensive to purchase and can be used on everything, including your pets! You need anywhere from a few drops to 1/2 a cup for a job, so a bottle will go a long way. This might not be an item already available in your home, but it can be picked up at many local places, including Green Calgary’s EcoStore.

There are many online forums with cleaning recipes using these three products (if you like little fragrance in your clean, add some lavender or lemon essential oils to your mix). Green Calgary also sells a great homemade cleaning and personal care recipe book for only $5.00. Some of the Green Calgary team have been using vineger and castile soap exclusively for over a decade to clean their homes. These methods are not only backed by science but by good old-fashioned experience. If you have any questions, or this still feels a bit too overwhelming, you can reach out to Green Calgary and we would be happy to chat with you.


i. Behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.

Important Notes: Never mix Castile soap with lemon juice or vinegar to clean. It can leave a white residue on surfaces. Never combine vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide or bleach and any ammonia-based products. Toxic vapors can result. 

Don’t just take our word for it.

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