Go Green, Save Green When You Clean

Danny Seo, the Living Green Contributor for Better Homes and Gardens, shows Erica Hill som eco-friendly cleaners from around the home and shares some do-it-yourself tips and tricks to keep it green and affordable, on "The Early Show," April 18, 2009.
This story was originally broadcast April 18, 2009

Going green doesn't always mean you have to redo your roof with solar panels or buy the latest hybrid; it can be as easy as changing your everyday kitchen and laundry habits!

In The Early Show Saturday Edition's "Bargainista" segment, Better Homes and Gardens Living Green Contributor Danny Seo looked at some eco-friendly cleaners, and shared some do-it-yourself tips and tricks to keep cleaning green and affordable.

"We have this misperception or misconception of what clean means, and that means the smell of clean," Seo observed to co-anchor Erica Hill. "But usually, the smell of clean is actually petrochemicals, artificial fragrances, harmful chlorine bleach - these are things you want to avoid.

"But fortunately, green cleaning products and do-it-yourself solutions are not only nontoxic and better for you, but they're getting cheaper."

Seo's guidance:


The pollution inside our homes is usually worse than the air outside, and we spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors.

Rethink "clean": Our idea of clean may be hurting us.

The products we use to clean our homes can be loaded with chemicals, toxins and irritants.

You can also save a lot of money by making your own cleaners: The average U.S. household shells out about $600 a year on 40 pounds of chemical cleaning supplies. For about $20, you can replace every cleaning product in your house with a safer, nontoxic, biodegradable homemade version using common ingredients like baking soda, club vinegar, lemon juice and salt.


Air Fresheners

Eco-Friendly: phthalate-free fresheners out there such as Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle.

It's gross, but true: Many of us are guilty of using air fresheners to put off laundry day or sweeten the smell of a musty college dorm room. These days, the handy little spray-bottles-of-clean are used to freshen up just about anything, including underarms and that pair of jeans you've worn for four days in a row. But masking not-so-fresh smells with yet another smell can hurt more than your social life. Many aerosol refreshers are tainted with toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm.

Do-It-Yourself Tips: charcoal; essential oils and distilled water: Mix essential oil and distilled water into spray bottle.

Green tip: Look for phthalate-free fresheners.

Laundry Detergents and Bleaches

Conventional: Clorox, Non-concentrated detergent
Eco-Friendly: Concentrated varieties

You may think you're getting more with bargain barrels of detergent, but really, it's been watered down. Go for concentrated, and even better, eco-friendly concentrated.

DIY: Instead of bleach, use hydrogen peroxide.

Garbage Disposal Deodorizers

Conventional: Chlorine Bleach
Eco-Friendly/DIY: Tomato soup

Tomato juice removes skunk odors from dogs, and will do same for your garbage disposal!

Glass Cleaners and All-Purpose Cleaners

Conventional: 409, Windex, paper towels
Eco-Friendly: Green Depot; micro-fiber towels

Traditional glass and all-purpose often have ammonia and surfactants (contribute to asthma, etc.). Americans use around 27 million trees every year to supply our paper towel habit. To clean up spills around the house, reach for reusable micro-fiber towels instead. These fabric-like towels are made from millions of microscopic fibers that are knit together to literally grip onto dirt and bacteria; they're also extremely absorbent and can hold three-times more water than regular terry towels. Hotel housekeepers swear by micro-fiber towels. Since they're machine washable, you save money by using them over and over again.

DIY: Make your own: vinegar and water
Eco-Friendly: Micro-fiber, eco-friendly glass cleaner, mirror

Dishwashing Detergents

Eco-Friendly: Method "Smarty Dish"

Phosphate-free and chlorine-free detergents are important because of the residue those chemicals leave on the dishes and the steam that rises out of the dishwasher, which can be or contain chlorine gas.