Some months ago, my sister and two other 52 Week followers asked if we could do some testing of natural cleaning products on the market. With much of our audience being in the U.S., it didn’t make sense to do studies from Europe with European products. Now that I’m in the States on vacation, it seemed a perfect opportunity. I, too, am interested in finding more environmentally-sound cleaning products, but am afraid to give up effectiveness and cleanliness.
So, I spent this week cleaning my sister and brother-in-law’s kitchen and bathroom. Did I mention that I’m on vacation?
The Result: My sister’s house is nice and clean, she has an enormous stock of good, adequate and one downright bad cleaning products under her sink, and I have several broken nails and chapped hands. But, we’re both the wiser for the experience, and, here, I share:
- Lesson #1: Not all traits are inherited. Dad was an experimental scientist renowned in his field (he even specialized in testing of materials), we struggled with these experiments — you have to compare “apples to apples” and maintain controls and minimize variables. Urg!
- Lesson #2: Pretty packaging has nothing to do with anything, except that … well, it’s awfully purdy!
- Lesson #3: Never step too far away from your experiment, someone may clean up your mess.
- Lesson #4: Simple does sometimes = best.
What we tested
My sister and I tested a few different popular brands of “environmentally-friendly” products, along with a couple of my own natural “concoctions.” Preferences in the end weren’t brand specific.
All Purpose Cleaner
Products Tested: “Mrs. Meyer’s” Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner (Lemon Verbena scent) vs. “Seventh Generation” Natural Multi-Surface Concentrated Cleaner (Lavender & Juniper Citrus) vs. “Seventh Generation” Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner (Free & Clear)
Products were tested on ground-in “sun” designs made in turmeric on a kitchen countertop and were evaluated on smell, effectiveness, and ease of use.
As recommended on the packaging, “Mrs. Meyer’s” and “Seventh Generation” were diluted. All three products worked fine on the counter and removed debris and new food stains with equal ease. But …
- “Mrs. Meyer’s” Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner – First place! Used “straight” and allowed to sit for a few minutes before sponging up as directed for “tough stains”, Mrs. Meyer’s beat all in removing the turmeric stain as well as an old pen mark. We both liked the smell of this product! It’s fresh and clean smelling, without being overpowering.
- “Seventh Generation” Natural Multi-Surface Concentrated Cleaner – Used in concentrated form and allowed to sit for a few minutes, this product worked well on the turmeric stain and the old pen mark. However, the solution is very soapy and required a lot of rinsing. The scent is “clean” smelling and would be good in the bathroom or elsewhere in the house. However, I wasn’t keen on the aroma in the kitchen; it was a little bit too “pine-y” and overwhelming.
- “Seventh Generation” Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner – As a simple spray-on cleaner for superficial cleaning, this product worked fine. It was not useful on the turmeric stain nor on the old pen mark, even when allowed to sit for several minutes. For those who are sensitive to odors, the Free & Clear line is scentless. For me, this put this product at somewhat of a disadvantage — nothing “smelled” clean.
Note: due to my brother-in-law inadvertently cleaning the counter in the middle of an experiment, we also know that
Ultra Sun Light Antibacterial “Dawn” dish detergent (sorry, the bottle is labeled “Sun Light”, but my sister tells me that the contents are different than what the label indicates — controlled testing isn’t always simple :-P) and elbow grease works well on turmeric stains. This, however, was NOT done within a “controlled” environment.
Conclusion: Yes, we can be clean and green.
Tub and Tile Cleaner
Products Tested: “Seventh Generation” Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner (Emerald Cypress & Fir) vs. “Attitude” Eco Cleaner Bathroom Mold & Mildew vs. “A Natural Bathroom Cleaner Concoction”.
- Bathroom Sink: Initially, we tested the “Seventh Generation” and “Attitude” cleaners, each on half of the bathroom sink and counter. Both products worked equally well against surface dirt. Neither worked particularly well on soap scum or mildew. However, we did not allow the products to sit as long as was recommended. We had to clean up the products quickly …
We could not thoroughly test the “Attitude” product because it smelled so horrible. I called it the odor of “old soap,” my sister identified it as the smell of “soap scum.” Perhaps “Attitude” takes a homeopathic approach using the “law of similars”, in this case, using soap scum to get rid of soap scum? But, the smell was … well, it was disgusting. We couldn’t stand inhaling it, so we cut this study short knowing that the products would be tested later in the tub.
- Tub: Working in a bathroom with better air circulation, I gave “Attitude” Bathroom Mold & Mildew another chance and sprayed it on 1/3rd of the tub. “Seventh Generation” Tub and Tile Cleaner got another third, and “A Natural Bathroom Cleaner Concoction” went on the last third.
Products were tested on accumulated soap scum (in defense of my sister and her housecleaning abilities, I specifically asked her not to clean her bathrooms before I got here) in the bath tiles and tub, and were evaluated based on effectiveness, and ease of use.
All worked equally well on the upper tiles (that had little soap scum) as a “spray and wash off”. But, honestly, I couldn’t stand the smell of the “Attitude” product any longer and I refused to continue testing it.
On tough soap scum in the tub, I sprayed the tub with water, sprayed “Seventh Generation” on 1/2 and “a Natural Concoction” on the other 1/2, and let them both sit for five minutes.
These two “finalists” came out pretty close.
- “Seventh Generation” Tub and Tile Cleaner – First Place! After ten minutes, using only a sponge (no abrasive), the scum came off with little effort. It gets an “A” rating in my book! The Emerald Cypress & Fir aroma is pleasant, albeit a bit strong.
- “A Natural Concoction“* – Very close second! I had to give the tub an extra swipe, (still no additional abrasive), but the scum came off without a problem. I’m convinced that had I let it sit for a couple more minutes, the scum would’ve come off with equal ease. I personally love the peppermint aroma of Dr. Bronner’s (see recipe below), but it could be overwhelming for some (any other type of Castile soap can be used in its place). Note: price is not a factor in this “study”, but if it were, this homemade concoction would come in First – very inexpensive to make!
*Natural Bathroom Cleaner Concoction (adapted from Earth Scrub Tub and Tile Cleaner)
|Baking soda||1-1/3 cups|
|Liquid Castile soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Soap – Peppermint)||½ cup|
|White vinegar||2 Tbsp.|
|Lemon juice||½ lemon|
Put all into a squirt bottle and shake to mix all ingredients well. Periodically shake the bottle when using. If the mixture gets too thick, dilute with water.
Conclusion: Yes, we definitely can be clean and green.
Glass and Mirror Cleaner
Products Tested: “Method” Best in Glass vs. “Seventh Generation” Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner vs. “Windex” vs. “A Natural Glass Cleaner.”
All products were tested on two different bathroom mirrors and evaluated on: effectiveness, rate of drying, streakiness.
All the natural products cleaned equally well. Sad to report that Windex, indeed, was slightly most effective in that it dried fastest and left the least amount of streaking. However, the difference (we’re talking about one more swipe of the paper towel and a few more seconds of drying time) was not significant enough for me to place it above the others, weighing the fact that it is not an natural product and contains ammonia.
- “A Natural Glass Cleaner”* – First Place! Cleaned well, no streaking, dried quickly and clear. A cheap and easy homemade alternative.
- “Seventh Generation” Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner - Cleaned well. Though it initially had a “soapy” film, it dried clear with few streaks.
- “Method” Best in Glass – Cleaned well, but took several more swipes to get dry and streak free.
- Windex – It admittedly cleaned well, didn’t streak, and dried quickly. But, it does contain ammonia (“Ammonia-D” is merely their trademarked name for ammonia) which, as used in cleaning products, is a caustic and corrosive chemical that can be a hazard to lungs and skin.
*Natural Glass Cleaner
|White vinegar||¼ cup|
|Castile liquid soap||a couple of drops|
Put all into a squirt bottle and shake to mix all ingredients well. (Note: the liquid soap will help break down any waxy build-up that might have been left on windows or mirrors by other cleaning products) Periodically shake the bottle when using. Note: while I wouldn’t advise cleaning your mirrors and windows with this concoction right before guests come by, the smell of vinegar does disperse to nothing quickly.
Conclusion: Ditto! Clean and green go together.
Powder Cleanser (This section added 7/7/2019)
Products Tested: “Mrs. Meyer’s” Clean Day Surface Scrub (Lemon Verbena) vs. “Bon Ami” Powder Cleanser.
Products were tested on my sister’s porcelain kitchen sink and evaluated on: smell, ease of use, and effectiveness. Approximately equal amounts were sprinkled on two-halves of the sink.
Two Winners! Both Mrs. Meyer’s and Bon Ami came out on top. Mrs. Meyer’s was a bit more difficult to open initially (the opening needed to be “punched” out and it took several efforts), but once open, both products were equally simple to use; the powder of both flowed easily and freely. Both also tested equally well in effectiveness. The sink had black marks from pots and pans and a few tough, yellow, set-in stains. Black marks were gone in a flash with both products, using only a sponge! The set-in-stains (surprisingly) were removed by letting the powders sit for a few minutes, followed by some “elbow grease” and the more abrasive side of a sponge.
The only significant difference between the two is the smell. Bon Ami is scentless and probably preferred by many; Mrs. Meyer’s has a very pleasant “lemon-verbena” scent that I personally like. I’m a bit torn between the two products because while I’d lean toward the nice scent, I admire the Bon Ami tradition. It’s been around for 120 with a history of being natural long before “natural” was cool.
More testing to come
We still have
two one additional type s of product we haven’t yet tested: dishwasher detergent and scouring powder. We have too many people in the house doing too many loads of dishes or cleaning too many places and our experiment keeps getting washed away. We’ll report our results as soon as more dirty dishes and grime are generated. Watch this space in the days to come.