This Nontoxic Cleaner Can Replace Everything In Your Cabinet
As the green beauty scene rapidly expands, new and notable offerings in natural skin care and makeup seem to be popping up almost daily. But the home space has been a little bit late to the nontoxic party. While there are a handful of home cleaners that boast simple, clean ingredient lists, the market is still murky and the FDA doesn't regulate cleaners1, meaning American manufacturers aren't required to disclose all of the chemicals in their products (crazy, right?).
However, studies continue to confirm that exposure to chemicals in cleaning supplies can cause health issues: The American Lung Association found that it is associated with higher asthma rates, and the Environmental Working Group has linked it to respiratory damage and wheezing.
In a world that's filled with toxins and irritants, warnings like these can sometimes go in one ear and out the other—but as I was recently speaking with Allison Evans and Kelly Love, the co-founders of plant-based cleaning brand Branch Basics, the case for more regulation became alarmingly clear.
As a sophomore in college, Evans started experiencing crippling chronic pain throughout her body, which quickly led to a loss of motor skills. She remembers traveling the country searching for a diagnosis, but doctors couldn't peg it. Ultimately, it was Evans' aunt, Marilee, a dietary and environmental health consultant, who connected the dots and said it could be an adverse reaction to the new, just-renovated apartment she had just moved into. After cleaning up her diet and personal care products, Evans' symptoms started to subside—and when she spent the summer at Marilee's off-the-grid home immersed in the Texas Hill Country, they disappeared almost completely. Her college roommate joined her on that summer reset, and the two left convinced that your surroundings can have a huge impact on your health.
The makings of a plant-based cleaner
In the years since, Love and Evans have teamed up with Marilee to start a company that helps others detox their routines—starting with their home cleaners. They've gone to exhaustive measures to make sure that their line is free of chemicals that could cause any sort of health flare-up. It's fragrance-free and plant-based with some of the main ingredients being coco-glucoside, derived from coconut oil and corn and fruit sugars, baking soda, and chamomile flower extract.
"We chose to use chamomile as a principal ingredient (third on our ingredient list!) because our first priority was to create a formula that not only did not irritate the skin but is also soothing and healing," the team explained of the choice. "Chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial2 properties and can contribute to the lessening of skin redness and irritation and has even been found to be helpful for dryness and eczema. It's mild enough for baby skin as well."
The result is supposed to be gentle enough to use as a hand soap, natural enough to be totally biodegrade, and powerful enough to tackle some pretty impressive stains.
What really sets the product apart is the myriad ways you can use it. The Branch Basics concentrate was designed to replace basically everything in your cleaning cabinet and laundry room—you can just add a few squeezes of it to water (you tailor your water to concentrate ratio based on how tough the cleaning job is) and get scrubbing.
Using concentrate is cost-effective and eco-friendly: When you buy cleaners with water as a main ingredient, you're essentially paying to have that water shipped to you in plastic. I was sold on the premise, so I set out to see if one product could really handle every aspect of my weekly apartment clean.
Using an all-in-one cleaner on everything
I started with my wood floors, and the amount of dirt that came up was equal parts impressive and disgusting (lesson learned: I really need to clean my floors more). It effectively spot-cleaned my bathroom tile, tabletops, and kitchen counters too—especially when I let it do its thing for a few minutes before wiping up with a cloth. I sprayed some on my dishes to soak before hand-washing, and I swear it made the grime slide off immediately. It was nice as a scentless hand wash too. Not done yet! I also combined the concentrate with Branch Basics' Oxygen Boost (sodium percarbonate combined with baking soda) in a bucket of water, let a stained white shirt soak overnight, and it came out good as new.
As an aspiring minimalist who lives in a tiny apartment with little room to spare, using one (plant-based!) product as a tile scrubber one minute and a dish cleaner the next was pretty game-changing for me. Yet another reminder that most of the time, simple is so much better.
Next up: Check out the natural cleaner this natural beauty expert swears by. (It's the easiest DIY ever.)
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.