Earth911’s Green Spring Cleaning Guide

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Photo: Alexandra Vietti, Earth911

Green Spring Cleaning Guide: Bathroom

1. Take a look at your products

If the cabinet under your sink is practically exploding with half-full bottles of lotion, soaps and cosmetics, it's probably time for a purge. Combine similar soaps, shampoos, lotions and makeups, rinse the containers out and recycle them.

Most hygiene product bottles are recyclable. To be sure, check the number on the bottom of your plastic bottle (found in the middle of the chasing arrows recycling symbol) and compare to your town or city's list of accepted materials.

While you have all your bathroom goodies in one place, take a moment to read the backs of the bottles. Some personal hygiene and beauty products contain harmful substances known to be skin irritants, poisons and even carcinogens. Choosing natural-ingredient products helps you reduce your exposure to toxins, and you'll also be avoiding companies that produce excessive greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing.

So, which ingredients should you avoid and what products might contain them? In partnership with the Environmental Working Group, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has created Skin Deep, a searchable online database of cosmetics and personal care products where you can check your sunscreen, shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream and more for toxic ingredients.

Go DIY: The Big Green Remodel: Bathroom

2. Avoid single-use towels

Cleaning the bathroom can be an icky job, and you may be tempted to use loads of single-use towels rather than soiling your dishcloths and sponges. Resist the urge and gather the proper reusable materials for all the clean without the waste.

First, protect your hands with reusable gloves to reduce the ick-factor. When choosing your gloves, opt for a brand that uses natural, powder-free rubber or latex. Both rubber and latex are plant-derived materials, making them biodegradable. If you plan to toss the gloves on your household compost pile, note that decomposition may take a while. And be sure to wash the gloves thoroughly to remove any cleaners that may contaminate your pile.

Once you have your hands protected, start scrubbing away with sponges and reusable towels. After you're finished cleaning, the thought of germs may tempt you to throw your sponges away. But a five to 10 minute soak in full-strength vinegar will banish bacteria. So, you can save your sponges for your next cleaning project.

Find Out More: 8 Ways to Green Your Hygiene

3. Don't forget to recycle

Sometimes we forget about recycling outside of our kitchen wastebasket, but there's plenty to recycle in the bathroom, too!

Try keeping small, separate wastebaskets for trash, paper or cardboard and plastic to make sorting easier. And the next time you're out shopping for personal hygiene products, keep an eye out for items packaged in recycled or recyclable material.

Reclaim Those Resources: 10 Things You Never Knew Were Recyclable

Our Room-by-Room Guide:

Mary Mazzoni

Based in the Phoenix metro area, Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.