3 Swaps to 'Green' Your Spring Clean

Say no to chemical-laden disposable products. We've got better ideas.

spring cleaning collage

Free the Ocean

It's that time of year when many of us are eager to throw open the windows and let the fresh air and sunlight flood in. We feel a strong urge to purge the dregs of winter from our homes and scour everything to reflect the new, life-affirming season. Spring cleaning, despite being hard work, often feels as good for the soul as it does for the house.

This year, you should reconsider the tools and products you use to make that transformation come about. Instead of relying on conventional cleaning chemicals and wasteful disposable sponges and cloths, we have some better options. You might be surprised to know that household cleaning products in the U.S. contain more than 60 ingredients with known links to respiratory problems, skin irritation, organ toxicity, and more. Despite this, the U.S. only tests about 1% of cleaning products for safety. 

The Environmental Working Group explains: "Although government scientific and regulatory agencies have focused considerable attention on chemicals suspected of causing cancer, they have devoted far fewer resources to evaluating substances that may be toxic to the brain and nervous system, the hormone system and other organs." 

Furthermore, many conventional cleaning products are plastic, single-use, or disposable. This adds to the enormous problem of plastic pollution that's suffocating our planet. Did you know the average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash daily and 286 pounds of plastic specifically per year? That's huge. 

You can reduce chemical exposure and waste output by choosing to clean differently. Here are some suggestions:

1. Swap Reusable Swedish Dishcloths for Paper Towels

Until you've tried a Swedish dishcloth, it's hard to understand just how revolutionary it is. The cloths are super absorbent, capable of absorbing 20 times their weight in liquid and then drying quickly without breeding bacteria or creating odor. Non-abrasive, they work on any kind of surface, from wood to granite to concrete to stainless steel.

You can toss a dirty cloth in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean, then squeeze it out and air-dry. A single cloth is equivalent to 17 rolls of paper towel, and when you're finished with it—when it starts to fall apart after months of daily use—you can snip it into little pieces and put it in the compost bin because it's made from biodegradable FSC-certified cellulose and water-based ink.

Teri P. is a fan of Swedish dishcloths. Commenting on Free the Ocean's shopping page, she said, "I have lots of these and love how they dry quickly, don't harbor germs, can be tossed in the washer or dishwasher. Cute styles for everyone!"

2. Try a Biodegradable Sponge

Another great eco-friendly product is the biodegradable sponge, which does just as good a job as the synthetic kind, minus the plastic waste. A biodegradable, or natural, sponge does not shed microfibers down the drain as you use it; they are made from cellulose, so it's only plant material that's flaking off as it wears out. You treat it the same as a conventional sponge, soaping and scrubbing dishes, surfaces, and other household items, then rinsing and air-drying. A sponge can absorb up to 10 times its weight. At the end of its life, it too can be cut up and put into the compost because it's plastic-free.

Bonnie raved about them in an online comment: "I love these biodegradable sponges! While they are featured as 'kitchen' sponges, they work well everywhere you can use a sponge. Of course, the best thing is that they are biodegradable. I frequently run them through the dishwasher (top rack) to freshen them up, and when it is time to dispose of them, take the time to cut them into small pieces and put them in the compost bin."

3. Buy Some Wool Dryer Balls

Forget the single-use scented dryer sheets that coat your clothes with chemicals that reduce absorbency. Wool dryer balls will reduce drying time by 20%, banish wrinkles and static, and soften clothes naturally. These cute penguin-looking ones, sold by Free the Ocean, are handmade by artisans in Nepal from 100% New Zealand-sourced wool. They are good for at least 1,000 cycles, which means a set will last you for years. (Of course, we prefer that you hang your clothes to dry, but there are times when dryers are necessary.) If you ever needed to dispose of them for any reason (although we're not sure why you would), they can be composted in the backyard.

Joanna M. said, "They leave my laundry soft and static-free and cut drying time. They will save me money in the long run, because I don't have to keep buying dryer sheets. And they are very cute looking, too!" 

You can find all of these products at Free the Ocean, as well as others that might help to "green" your spring cleaning routine.

View Article Sources
  1. TRI-Listed Chemicals.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. Cleaning Supplies and Your Health.” Environmental Working Group.

  3. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste.” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2021. doi:10.17226/26132

  4. How Much Waste Does US Produce Compared to the Rest of the World?World Atlas.