The 5 eco-friendly products that make my home more green

Guest post by siren0327


My husband and I have been trying to make our home more green lately. Here are the five eco-friendly items we have started using and are absolutely obsessed with.

1. Homemade household cleaners

This saves us tons of money and makes me feel better about not inhaling chemicals while I clean. My husband thinks the all-purpose sanitizer and window cleaner work better than the store-bought kind. There are tons of recipes at

2. Un-paper towels

The un-paper towels took a bit of getting used to because you can’t just wipe and throw away anymore — instead you just throw them in your weekly laundry. If the spill is really messy I just prewash them before putting them in the laundry.

You can find them by searching for “unpaper towels” on Etsy. They have many varieties and patterns and range in price from cheaper loose cloth towels to more expensive ones that fit on a standard paper towel roll and snap together. Bonus points for supporting an independent business.

3. Reusable Swiffer dusters

I love my Swiffer products — they are so much easier to deal with than standard brooms, mops, and feather dusters! You can find both the Swiffer mop head and reusable duster heads that fit on your current Swiffer product bases. Again, a bigger selection can be found on Etsy by searching “reusable swiffer duster” and can be cleaned by simply throwing them in the wash.

4. Solid shampoo bars

Solid shampoo bars use less waste, and Lush’s solid shampoo bars smell absolutely divine and come in a variety of options to suit different hair needs (e.g.: oily, dry, dandruff). Lush makes a great selection of solid shampoos. They have solid conditioner, too!

5. Reusable sandwich bags

Reusable sandwich bags come in a variety of sizes, colors, and fun patterns. I recommend getting ones that have zippers rather than velcro closures, and definitely get ones that have some sort of plastic waterproof lining on the inside. They just get simply rinsed off after use and can dry in your dish drying rack. We have them in snack, sandwich, quart, and gallon size so we literally don’t use plastic bags at all anymore.

It will take a little bit of an initial investment to furnish your home with all these items, but once you have them they can be reused for years and in the long run you will actually end up spending less, looking chic, being healthier, and helping the planet!

Comments on The 5 eco-friendly products that make my home more green

  1. I’ve been using the lush solid shampoo for almost 2 years! I love love love it. I cant even think about going back to regular shampoo. However I’ve tried their solid conditioner and it just doesnt work for my hair. My husband really likes it though. I’ve started giving the solid shampoo as gifts so that I can get other people into it too!

    • Ditto. I bought a bar in September, it’s now February, and I haven’t run out of it yet (I wash my hair every two days so it’s not like I’m skimping!). So handy when travelling as well as it’s not part of the ‘liquids allowance’.

      • I love my bar shampoo. I happen to be allergic to EVERY SINGLE liquid shampoo that has even been invented so finding a bar shampoo has been a real lifesaver. They travel so much easier (you never have to worry about them exploding all over your clothes) and last so much longer than liquid shampoos.

    • I’ve been using their solid shampoo and when I asked about solid conditioner the salesperson told me it really wasn’t that good for people with long hair. I see they have two types now, and I only asked about the type pictured above. Perhaps the other type is better? I’d really like to have both solid shampoo and conditioner for travel.

      • The Big Solid Conditioner is AWESOME!!! I’ve been trying, and failing, to love the jungle conditioner for years (the little green one in the article’s picture) but Big is…well, better 😉 I like to break a piece off and massage it into my hair. I have thick, long hair and it’s lovely, just remember you only really need to condition from the cheekbones down and that makes it last even longer. Might take some adjusting if you need a deep conditioning but it’ll make your hair shine and look beautiful without silicone buildup! Yeah!

    • Could you give me some info on what sort of hair you have? My hair is thick and pretty much requires 2 bottles of hotel shampoo in order to produce a lather, so I’ve been curious about solids but don’t know if it’d end up being too frustrating with my ridiculous mop.

      • I find that the solids lather a lot more than a liquid shampoo (and especially more than most of the liquid shampoos that Lush sells). I wouldn’t be too concerned about needing to use a ton of it.

      • I have INCREDIBLY thick hair and have no problem working up a lather with the Lush solid shampoos. I have tried Burts Bees solid shampoos before and had a problem getting them to lather but the Lush bars get much foamier. It might be a little less foamy than your liquid shampoo (depending on what kind you use) but cleans every bit as well. I really like the “Godiva” shampoo bar for my hair because it is extremely moisturizing. They also have a bar called “Karma” that is supposed to be for tangly & unruly hair so that might be a good bet for you too!

      • I have long, thick hair as well and have never had a problem with lather with Lush’s solid shampoo. I have however, had a problem with the bar breaking and getting caught in my hair in the last few uses.

      • FWIW, as long as there’s enough slipperiness to get the soap worked through your hair, lather isn’t really necessary. It’s largely a psychological ping to make you feel like your hair is really getting clean. (Most shampoos for humans even add foaming agents to give the lather some extra oomph).

        (Rubbing lather through you hair sure feels nice though.)

      • I haven’t used the solid soaps, but for what it’s worth: Baking soda in water! I have super fine hair that looked greasy or gross whenever I washed it. Baking soda mixed into water seems to work really well. I only use it every other day when it’s humid and every two days when it’s dry. My hair looks ten times better than it used to.

        I only eyeball it but I generally mix 1 tbsp baking soda and 1 cup water in a little glass bottle. The bottle only lets out a little at a time so I don’t use too much in one cleaning. Scrub it in, rinse it out, and you can dry how you please.

      • I use shampoo bars with fine/thin hair. It works fine for me. An apple cider vinegar rinse once a month or two months makes things run more cleanly. I don’t use Lush products because I’m not a fan of the fragrances/colors that they add but there are other options out there.

      • In our house we have my super thin, knotty tangled curly hair, my wife’s long (over a yard at last measure) thick, thick, thick hair, and two toddlers with lots of long, fine, wispy hair. This fall we started using Lush solid shampoo and are able to all four use the Squeaky Green (I think that’s what it’s called).

        I haven’t used shampoo in years and this bar actually brought me back to the fold. I can go with only conditioning once a week, which is _crazy_ for my hair.

        Also, Lush’s Jungle solid conditioner was a nightmare in my hair. A horrible tangled, had to cut some of it off, nightmare. The new conditioner is a dream.

        Wow, I’m really product pushy here. Sorry! As a native family, hair is sacred, I guess I spend more energy thinking about it than I thought.

      • Lush’s “Seanik” shampoo is supposed to be for flat hair or else the “Squeaky Green” as someone else suggested is supposed to be really clarifying.

    • Has anyone used solid shampoo bars on very long hair?

      I’ve never tried any of them because it’s always seemed like it would be hard to get enough shampoo off of them to get it worked all the way through my thigh length hair.

      My hair is not terribly thick, but I have a hard time getting shampoo worked through my wet hair to my scalp if the shampoo does not suds up well.

      • Sarkat, my hair is very thick and also very long. It is not that this solid shampoo doesn’t “suds well,” it just doesn’t foam like liquid shampoo does. It foams more like bar soap does but is a little frothier. As long as you massage it in well I’ve had no problem with this. An earlier commenter said the conditioning bar breaks in her hair but I work up a lather in my hands first then apply it, I don’t rub the solid bars straight on my hair.

  2. If you have to wash all the mop heads, un-paper towels, etc, and also prewash some of them, is this not bad for the environment too?? I’m just thinking about water/electricity usage to power the washing machine. I know I wouldn’t want to wash that sort of thing with my (comparatively clean) clothes so it seems like it would make extra loads every week… Or is there a friendlier way to wash them out than the machine?

    • Worse than processing trees for paper and all the shipping, fossil fuel use, water, and electricity that requires? Not to mention the horrendous environmental record of companies like APP (there’s a reason Greenpeace have a campaign running against them). I wouldn’t imagine so.

      • I personally don’t use a lot of paper towel and so on (just for the really messy spills – and I always buy recycled anyway), so on that basis, it seems like I’d personally be swapping one environmental problem for another. I guess I just think there is a happy medium to be found.

    • I’m not an energy expert or anything, but I think that using a little bit extra electricity in the home, might be better than making more paper from trees, and then putting it in a landfill. It might depend on the community, as well. what do they do with household trash? Maybe the refuse is burned for electricity. This is a really good question, and I hope someone has a better answer than I do!

    • Helen, I am am the author of this post and I was concerned about this at first too. Compared to the amount of trash that is created by paper towels, their wrappers, paper tube cores, gas & labor to drive them to the store, etc. I think the amount of water you use to prewash them is negligible. If you feel the need to run a separate load that might make more of an environmental impact but to prewash them I usually just use a little bit of dish soap and tiny bit of water and rinse them in my kitchen sink. I maybe use a cup or two of a water max for really dirty towels. Sometimes if I have a bunch of really dirty towels I will fill a small wash bucket with water and wash them in their own separate load and hang dry them on a drying rack. Again, this only takes a small amount of water, maybe a gallon max to wash and rinse all the towels at once. If you are worried they will get your other clothes dirty you can simply throw some Borax or Arm & Hammer Washing Soda into the load.

      Also remember that all these items are all really small. I just add them to my regular weekly laundry and they don’t take up enough space to make a difference in the amount of laundry I need to do.

      If you want to try them before you commit you can just buy a few of the loose unpaper towels for much cheaper than buying the whole roll. The rainbow ones pictured above only cost $7 for 6 towels and you can often buy them in even smaller quantities than that!

      • They are very easy to make actually, in place of paper towels we use squares of old khaki pants, they don’t run much, I keep a jar of very watered down bleach water by the sink (1 tbls of bleach to a 36 oz bottle of water and a tiny squirt of Dawn) to disinfect them after i quickly rinse them out and then I dry them before tossing them in the wash, I have dozens of them and because I disinfect and dry these thin cotton cloths I often use each for a few days and if I dry or at least rinse after the bleach dip they never fade my wash.

    • What do you do with dirty, wet rags until you can wash them?

      This has been my main stumbling block in using rags instead of paper towels for cleaning. If I put them in a bucket I am worried they will mold before I wash them and hanging them to dry would require a lot of space (At least after large cleaning projects) in a fairly well ventilated space (Not, say, under the sink) and something to catch the drips of dirty water so it doesn’t drip onto the floor.

      Also, it is hard to get enough rags to make a full load of laundry without leaving dirty rags to sit for weeks and I don’t want to wash rags I’ve used to to clean up messes with my clothes or with the towels I used to dry clean dishes.

      • Sarkat, I either put the dirty rags straight into my washing machine to dry or prewash them. They are not very thick or large so they dry pretty quickly in the empty washing machine and I’ve never had a problem with them molding in the week it takes me to do laundry. If they are very dirty I prewash them with a little dish detergent first so that I don’t have to worry about them getting the rest of my wash dirty. I have never needed to do separate loads just for the rags so they get washed on a weekly basis with my regular laundry and I haven’t had any problems with this.

        If I have a lot of them I just wash them in a bucket together and hang dry them on a clothes rack.

      • I also use very thin cotton material, a little bleach water or a dab of strong soap, rinse and wring then I will sometimes open the washing machine and dry them on the open lid. Also after I rinse them in bleach water and dry them I use them over and over so I don’t have tons of them.
        They are never a problem in my wash in any way.

      • I can see why you would be unsure about using a bucket system. We keep a reusable grocery bag (from canvas or recycled materials) on a hook in the kitchen. Our cloth towels of all sorts (rags, dish towels, unpaper towels, reusable sweeper heads, etc…) go in there between cleanings. The bag allows for air flow, so towels dry on their own and don’t become moldy. Also, it makes for easy clean up, since we just need to walk the bag over to the washing machine and dump in the bag and towels together.

      • I’ve been using rags and cloths instead of paper towel and napkins for years. I don’t prewash them. I just rinse and wring, then put them into a plastic basket (solid bottom to prevent leaks, slotted sides for air flow) and once a week toss them in a hot wash with our bath towels. The hot wash and mild detergent (I make ours scent free, since hubby has allergies) kills the germs and any bad odors.

  3. We do a lot of bulk shopping and freezing stuff to use later. Does anyone know if the reusable bags would work for that? In my head I think no…but I’ve never tried it so…

    • Sara, I think the zippers might get weird if they are frozen but you can also get the bags with velcro closures that might do better in the freezer. I always just put things in reusable BPA-free plastic dishware in the freezer rather than using the bags.

    • I also do the freezer thing a lot and I often freeze things in small very zip thin sandwich bags, though for very small solid things I wrap them in thin fold over bags, freeze them on a cookie sheet then I stuff a good quality Ziploc gallon bag full of them, use a piece of tape to liable the big bag and just use what I need.
      This way I only toss a very thin amount of plastic, it is easy to portion stuff out, I actually get less freezer burn and I reuse the thicker, pricier bags over and over.

  4. I use antibacterial cloths for cleaning, that way they don’t really need to be washed after each use. I just rinse it out, and hang it up. I can tell if it needs to eventually be washed if it gets stiff or smelly. I only have a few cloths hanging up, rather than a big drawer or bin full of rags. Before I started using them I would have a big wet pile in a basket after a few days and it was gross! I have no idea the environmental impact the production of these cloths have. So, for me, I guess it was kind of a selfish decision to go re-useable. But I did stop using cleaning products other than water, and the occasional citric acid.

  5. This is great! I’ve dipped my toe into making my own cleaners (holy wow, vinegar is magical) but I am psyched to find a green alternative to Windex! I’ve also been contemplating switching over to un-paper towels (I cloth diaper, and I figured that it CAN’T be any harder than that!) but I’ve been dragging my feet on that a bit. Good to find some options!

      • This is true! I tend to water down my vinegar a bit (equal parts vinegar and water), but it works great.

        Personally, I had to switch to green DIY cleaners because the name brand cleaners were causing pretty bad asthma attacks for me (I deep cleaned once a week, and would spend about 3 days recovering from that, ugh). It sucked.

        Later on, I found that the green cleaners wouldn’t cause any asthma attacks at all, and they cleaned just as well (if not better) than the normal stuff. My multi-purpose kitchen/counter top cleaner is:

        ○ 1 tsp Borax
        ○ 1/2 tsp Washing Soda
        ○ 1/2 tsp Castile Soap (or dishwashing liquid soap)
        ○ 2 tbsp Lemon Juice (antibacterial agent, plus smells awesome)
        ○ 20 drops Tea Tree Oil (antibacterial agent)
        ○ 1/2 cup vinegar
        ○ 1/2 cup water

        Nice, huh? The ingredients are fairly cheap as well. =)

    • Hi Jill,
      The natural glass cleaner works great! I added some lemon juice concentrate to mine to cut the strong vinegar smell and give me the lemony-clean scent. You should give the un-paper towels a try. If you buy them off the roll they are really cheap and wonderful!

    • I have a special glass cleaning clothe that does a surprisingly good job of cleaning glass with just water. It doesn’t work very well if the glass is greasy and I don’t know how well it would work on the outsides of windows, but it works well on mirrors and the insides of windows.

    • I notice you said you cloth diaper – if you use prefolds, they make the BEST rags. When I was in university, I worked as a window washer (residential) in the summer, and I remember being so confused when my ‘team leader’ said the rags we were using used to be her diapers (I didn’t know cloth diapering still existed at that point!).

      Now we’re cloth diapering, and we realized we had more prefolds than we ever use regularly, so we took 5 or so and designated them rags instead. They’re awesome…totally lint free and so absorbent!

  6. reuseable sandwich bags! I love it! I hate spending so much money on sandwich bags x.x

    Unfortunately those lush products don’t work for me at all – I’m allergic to many of their fragrances and can’t go in their store.

    • The plastic sandwich bags can be reused, assuming that you don’t buy the super-cheap kind. I buy maybe one box of plastic zipper bags a year. (Reusing the bags that bread, etc., comes in works as well. Of course, those aren’t as pretty. ;))

  7. I make my own fabric refresher out of distilled water and essential oils and I LOVE it. I’m not someone that likes things lightly fragranced. I love strong smelling things, so making my own fabric refresher makes sense. You can add as many drops as you like to a re-used spray bottle filled with distilled water, to your desired intensity. It’s key to get essential oils, not scented oils. Lavender with a touch of tea tree is my favourite for bed sheets.

    • I do this with air freshener, I make one that I add to 2/3 vodka and 1/3 cooled boiled water in a room spray bottle.
      It is pretty equal parts of these essential oils that help Seasonal Affective Disorder…
      And if you like it basil

  8. I love these ideas – and just added unpaper towels and reusable sandwich bags my etsy wedding registry! I discovered in the process that some folks line those bags with materials not considered food safe, so do your research before choosing.

    I’m so bummed to have the same problem as Hintzy- Lush fragrance = instant migraine for me. I wish they would consider selling unfragranced products ( not that I could ever walk into one of their stores)

  9. I’m not sure what a “sandwich bag” really is in the first place (living in France, I don’t quite figure out an equivalent around here) but the idea of cloth containers for sandwiches appeals to me!

    Other ideas for greening your house besides what other commenters suggested:
    * using family cloth or water (not for everyone of course, but if you’re not grossed out, it really cuts on TP consumption)
    * freezing fluids in glass container to cut on all the nasty plastic. Contrary to common belief, glass doesn’t explode when frozen, you just have to leave a little allowance for the food to expand when it’s frozen.
    * using cloth make-up remover instead of cotton pad. Well anyway, replacing anything disposable by its reusable cloth alternative is the way 🙂

    • A sandwich bag is a small, ziploc, plastic bag of approximately the right size for a sandwich, but also useful for storing any number of other small things where you want to keep moisture, grease or air in or out.

  10. We’ve been “greening” our house little by little each year. Now that I have 2 littles and work as a SAHM (and very part time bartender) we’ve gotten pretty hardcore about living sustainably. My philosophy is, “Can I make it or find it for free?”

    I make all of our household cleaners including washing soda and laundry detergent but excluding dishwasher detergent (can’t find a good recipe yet).

    Our family buys all of our clothing at thrift stores or on clearance. I make diaper wipes for my son, and only use cloth napkins and towels. Old towels become new rags.

    We try to walk or ride our bikes in place of driving as often as possible. My husband commutes 9 miles to work 3 to 4 times per week, and I walk my daughter up to the local park for preschool

    I just transitioned to buying from the bulk section of our co op. Besides the standard bulk items, they even have the Dr. Bronner’s I use in everything, soy sauce, grind your own nut butters, and bulk dish soap. I store it all in jars I’ve gotten for free, recycled from my own home, or found at thrift stores.

    I make all of our lotions, diaper rash balms, lip balm, hand soap, and our version of shampoo/conditioner (I use the baking soda/ACV method).

    I haven’t purchased any cleaning supplies, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, lip balm, lotion, vasoline, in over 2 years and it’s saved us so much money that it’s allowed me to stop working outside the home for the most part.

  11. I have to say that while these are commendable, mostly, I really can’t see the value in non-paper kitchen towels. Given that most of the stuff you mop in kitchens is either oily, greasy, stinky, staining, sticky, and sometimes all of the above at once, it would neccessitate a lot of soap and water to get it clean, not to mention the potential for contamination in the wash basket (oil on silk? No thanks) and of the laundry basket itself. It’s costly in terms of detergent, water usage and electricity to wash cloths. I fail to see how that helps the environment any. After all, paper is more biodegradable than detergent and it doesn’t cost you in terms of hot water and labour.

    • We use all cloth in the kitchen and wash all kitchen linens once a week in the same load. I keep a canvas bag hanging in the kitchen by our broom/mop, and when it fills up I toss the whole bag in the wash. It saves us lotsa $$$ and we recently switched to a mini garbage can in the kitchen because we have less waste (which is also in part to buying in the bulk section).

      • That’s interesting, Bri. I suppose it might work if there is enough in a week to merit a whole wash load, although it does still sound too labour/storage (a real problem in my house)/cost intensive on paper. I would stay a sceptic on this one until I tried it for myself – if I could work out the sheer physical mechanics of it first!

        • I didn’t actually plan to make the cloth kitchen switch, it sorta happened accidentally. Since I make almost everything we need I don’t have to shop very often except for supplies.

          We ran out of paper towels once and I just started using dish towels for everything out of sheer laziness and avoidance of shopping. Once I realized I didn’t need disposable towels, I picked up some dish and hand towels and cloth napkins at garage sales/thrift stores for super cheap and that was that.

          As a one income family, this is what works best for us. Plus it follows my personal rule I mentioned above about making it, finding it for free, up cycling something else or making due without.

          • That’s a great rule. And I only have expensive clothing because I am a dedicated thrifter at my wonderful 99p store. But I do love my clothes, second-hand or no, and there would definitely be no oil and water mixing with my laundry! If I can ever work out a viable way to store soiled kitchen cloths long enough to merit a dedicated wash, I will definitely put it through a Thrifty Measures Experiment.

          • This is a great idea if you have a washer/dryer in your home, but the laundromat is so expensive! The last thing I want to do is make more laundry. I would definitely consider this in the future when I have my own w/d, though.

          • JenW- the unpaper towels and other machines washable items are very small and add hardly any mass to your laundry. I have never had to do extra loads on account of any of these cleaning tools!

            Alternatively you could hand wash them separately in a small bucket or your kitchen sink and let them hang dry thereby skipping the laundromat completely!

          • siren0327, you clearly have no idea how messy/klutzy my boyfriend is. 😉

            Seriously though, this is something I would try when I have my own w/d, but I don’t do laundry very often so I would end up running out of cloths and be forced to use paper towels anyway.

    • Chancery, the unpaper towels are great because they are small so they do not take up extra space in the regular weekly wash and dry quickly. Also, by switching to unpaper towels it made me have to really think about whether a mess was worth using a towel for. With paper towels I would just mindlessly grab them and throw them away. Now a lot of time I clean messes up with a reusable kitchen sponge instead- the Greener Clean ones by 3M are nice because you can put them in the dishwasher when they start to get gross and extend their life by weeks.

      It is true that the paper towels themselves are biodegradable but the plastic wrapper that is around them is not and that also does not account for the energy it takes to source the towels from trees, manufacture them into paper towels, package them, and ship them to stores. Their plastic outer-wraps and cardboard cores both have to go through similar processes too. If you think of the lengthy process it must take for a paper towel to go from being a tree to reaching your store shelf you can see why a little extra detergent and water is negligible in comparison.

      If you are worried about contaminating your wash load you can just wash the unpaper towels separately in a small bucket or pre-wash them in your kitchen before throwing them in the wash. You will find it really takes little to no extra work whatsoever!

  12. For those who have issues with lush solid shampoo, they’re not the only ones who make shampoo bars! Check around to your local health food stores or eco-shops, or artisan fairs, etc. My neighbour runs soap-making workshops, and after I went I taught my mom who now makes batches for me and my friends. It’s great because we all know exactly what’s in it, so if anyone has allergies (I’ve met a bunch of folks lately who are allergic to chamomile), my mom will just try something else next time.

    And for conditioner I’m all about the organic apple cider vinegar. I used to use it every time, but lately my hair hasn’t needed it as much.

    • Emily, great point- there are lots of solid shampoos & conditioners out there. I only suggested Lush because I have tried a few different kinds and their products work well for me, smell good, and I feel aligned with their sustainable business practices. At any rate- I think everyone should try to find a solid shampoo they just LOVE!

  13. I just wanted to hop on and second the awesomeness Lush Shampoo Bars! My husband first found them when looking for something to travel with so we didn’t need to fuss with liquids and the TSA rules. They can also be used as body soap (that was news to me, although it makes sense) and they last a very long time. I do understand the scent issues some posters have mentioned, and I too would love an unscented option. I really like the aqua colored one (I forget the name), it does great things for my hair and doesn’t have a lingering scent. I am a fan of several of their products and like the company’s policies (which makes me feel a lot better about spending my money with them)

  14. This is great! I think for me the key is balance…even just cutting down on your paper towel use by half is a great step forward. We have been using rags for years, but we still keep paper towels on hand and use them mostly for when our cats pee on things.

  15. I adore the solid shampoo bars. I haven’t bought one in ages, but now I’m working right across from a Lush location and may have to start back up again. I love how they make my hair smell!

  16. Just want to point out that all cleaners, even homemade cleaners are made of chemicals. Vinegar and lemon juice are still chemicals. The idea of not using potentially caustic chemicals is valid, but just using the blanket term “chemicals” to signify danger or is a bit ignorant, and as a scientist who also identifies as granola-leaning this ‘fear chemicals’ mantra I see lately really bothers me.

  17. I didn’t even know there were solid shampoos, that sounds awesome! I really like your ideas, they are quite simple and you can really make a difference by trying them out. Being closer to nature and using only renewable and natural products is the only way we can save our planet from the impending disaster. I also really enjoyed your idea of green cleaning products – I’ve been testing all kinds of green cleaners with vinegar and baking soda, and I can say that they are equally efficient as the ones you get from the store.

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