Clean your home and stay ethical as Charlotte Willis guides you to the best vegan-friendly cleaning products…
My mother was always one for keeping an immaculate household. Something that she has undoubtedly passed onto her daughter, who some may say, takes cleaning to a near-obsessional level. When I say I care about spotlessness, there comes a tipping point when I can’t rest easy knowing there are dishes to be washed. I will be the first to admit it. I care about how my home looks and feels, it ultimately affects my mood and sense of belonging. Besides, a tidy home creates a tidy mind.
After making the ethical switch to become vegan almost three years ago, I discovered that considerate living actually extends from your (immaculate) fridge into the contents of your cupboard under the sink. So allow me, a self-confessed clean-queen, to guide you through the certified vegan dos and don’ts of ethically and sustainably cleaning up your act.
As vegans, we reach a near expert level qualification in label analysis, scrutinising many different types of product on a regular basis. But when it comes to household products, the distinction between conscious and cruel is less clean-cut. In fact, I recently saw a post on social media that highlighted how a popular, seemingly-ethical brand of washing up liquid, had listed whey powder as an ingredient in its chemical make-up. Why whey? I was left confused, but this peaked my interest. To my surprise, there are a staggeringly large number of animal products found commonly in conventional cleaning products. Common household detergents and branded cleaning products may contain as many as five to ten animal-derived ingredients such as;
- Caprylic acid (sourced from milk)
- Tallow (rendered beef fat)
- Animal glycerol and steric acid (animal fats)
- Animal lecithin (waxy nervous tissue)
- Oleyl alcohols (sourced from fish)
Often listed using their chemically-derived names, it can be hard if not near impossible to determine if your product is entirely plant-based, adding to consumer uncertainty.
Testing Murky Waters
Maybe finding unwanted animal fats in your washing-up bowl isn’t enough to make you reach for the disposable paper party plates? Well, it transpires that many large manufacturers of cleaning products outside of the UK may trial their products on animals.
The good news is that increasing pressure on the UK government from concerned ethical campaigners has resulted in a ban on animal testing for many common household products. As of October 2015, the previous government passed a law banning animal testing on “all finished products – including detergents, polishes and cleaning products, laundry products, air fresheners, deodorants, paints and other decorating materials.” The statement released by government spokeswoman Lynne Featherstone goes on to detail; “It will also apply to any chemical, when more than half of it is expected to be used as an ingredient in household products. Testing of such ingredients on animals will be banned unless there is a legal requirement or an exceptional justification can be made in advance.” To me, this justification is not quite as clear-cut as I would have hoped, allowing for a certain area of leeway for less concerned companies to contribute towards animal testing.
Sadly, on a multinational scale, there are many popular household brands that continue to test on animals routinely. From dripping chemicals onto bare patches of skin, testing for irritation, to feeding the animals small amounts of product to examine possible toxicity, it seems oxymoronic that such dirty and harmful practices are involved in the search for products that are both clean and safe.
So, without having a degree in chemistry (most definitely not for the faint hearted), how do we know which cleaning products are both cruelty-free and vegan friendly? Luckily consumer demand has led to ethical cleaning brands becoming available and suitable for every budget and allergy.
So Simple Air Freshener
Fill half a lidded container with bicarbonate of soda, add in a few drops of your favourite essential oils and a tsp of purified water. Replace the lid, but be sure to poke a few air holes in the lid to allow the fragrance to slowly diffuse into the air. Some of my favourite fragrances include lemongrass and ginger.
Quick Surface Cleanser
Pour 450ml (16fl oz) of purified water into a spray bottle, add 60ml (2fl oz) of any form of castile soap and add 15-20 drops of lemon, orange, tea tree and citrus essential oils (or get creative and use a combination). Not only are these refreshing fragrances, but they are known to be deep clean and cut through grease in no time. Shake the bottle gently before use and wipe with a cloth.
Lemon-Soda Fridge Freshener
We’ve all been there – leftovers from last night might be on today’s lunch menu, but leaving a lingering odour in your fridge, that’s probably something you’d rather forget! Simply halve a lemon and place in a bowl of bicarbonate of soda to be left in the fridge. Citrus will refresh your fridge and reduce the occurrence of mould, whilst the bicarbonate of soda absorbs and neutralises odour simply and effectively.
Old-School Glass and Steel Cleaner
Pour 115ml (4fl oz) rubbing alcohol, 75ml (2¾fl oz) white distilled vinegar and 300ml (10fl oz) purified water into a spray bottle. Use on mirrors and glass, ensuring to wipe the surface over with a microfibre cloth afterwards. For glass, a long-kept tradition is to use an old newspaper to prevent smears and maintain a fresh sheen on the surface – it actually works a treat!
Look For The Leaping Bunny
Struggling to find cruelty-free supermarket cleaners? Confusion over. All products with the Leaping Bunny (left) are certified by Cruelty-Free International, meaning the products are guaranteed free from involvement in animal testing. Look out for labels that also state “free from animal ingredients” or “entirely plant-based” as these also indicate ingredients that are vegan-friendly.
Choosing the right cleaning product for you
Best For: Allergies
Conventional cleaning products can wreak havoc with sensitive skin or allergies. In fact, allergic reactions to a household cleaning product is one of the most common causes of localised skin irritation and contact dermatitis. Step forward cleaning brand Bio-D, an Allergy UK certified company committed to using only 100% natural and plant-derived ingredients in their products. This ethical brand excludes harmful chemicals that are proven to have a negative impact upon both our health and the environment, in favour of essential oils and more environmentally sound ingredients. For those with sensitivities, this brand also has a solvent and fragrance-free collection to ensure skin harmony. All of the products are hypoallergenic, never tested on animals and are certified by the Vegan Society.
Best For: Tough Cleaning on A Budget
In need of a deep cleanse? For when a quick clean just won’t cut the grease, one of the best brands to reach for is Astonish, offering ethical consumers a range of products specifically designed for tough cleaning jobs – their Pro Range. They also provide a variety of household cleaning products specified to suit every household job, such as lime scale removers and oven hob cleaners. As of 2016, Astonish have also promised that every product available to purchase will be both cruelty-free and vegan friendly. Budget-wise, their range starts from as little as £1, what better reason to tackle that oven!?
Best For: Versatility
Give a vegan a bottle of Castile Soap and the possibilities are endless. Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is probably one of my favourite soap ranges of all time (yes, I have a list of favourite soaps). The ingredients used to create the range of products are all sustainably and responsibly sourced, never using GMOs and are certified organic by the USDA. All products, besides a handful of cosmetics, are also certified vegan with a strict view against the use of animal testing. Their range of beautifully-fragranced castile soaps can be used for laundry, washing up, surface cleaning and even as a body wash – making these soaps a staple product in my household.
Best For: Accessibility
One of the best supermarket brands for affordable, vegan and cruelty-free cleaning is The Co-Operative. The Co-Op’s own brand household products, including everything from surface cleaners to laundry products, are all certified by Cruelty-Free International and (bonus) they are completely free from animal-derived ingredients, as stated on the packaging. Also worth a mention is Marks and Spencer’s own brand cleaning product range, which is also anti-animal testing and vegan-friendly.
Best For: Fragrance and Style
If you like your conscious cleaning products on the fragrant and chic side, then look no further than brand Method. With beautifully designed hand-soap bottles resembling teardrops, and creatively designed packaging using only 100% recycled ingredients, Method has one of the most versatile ranges of fragranced cleaning products available on the market. What’s more, all Method products are 100% free from animal by-products and are completely vegan, with the company being committed to never testing on animals.
About the author
Charlotte is a student researcher of nutrition and human disease. As well as working as a staff writer for Vegan Food & Living, Charlotte also writes for The Vegan Society and online publications.