7 Floor Cleaner Alternatives for a Human-Safe Home
By Marilee Nelson |
Floors typically need a lot of cleaning, especially in homes with children and/or pets.
If you’re using conventional and even some “green” brands of floor cleaner, this means regular exposure to some pretty awful chemicals.
Fortunately, there are healthier ways to clean your floor using natural cleaning products or DIY versions made from everyday household items.
Here, we explore five floor cleaner alternatives for a human-safe home.
Ingredients to Avoid in Floor Cleaner
Synthetic chemical-based floor cleaners contain some pretty toxic and downright harmful chemicals.
So much so that several brands and ingredients are not recommended for use around pets or babies.
Here’s a list of some of the worst (and most common) floor cleaner ingredients to avoid:
- Bleach (chlorine, sodium hypochlorite) is problematic for pets when used in toilet bowls and floor cleaners and can kill smaller pets if too much becomes airborne.
- Essential oils: Although 100% pure essential oils may be natural, they can also be toxic and/or irritating to pets and babies.
- See Our Guide To Pet-Safe Cleaning for a list of essential oils to avoid.
- Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, including certain terpene-containing essential oils, which can react with ozone and create formaldehyde chemicals in the home.
- Glycol ether benzoic acid
- Glycol ethers such as propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, and diethylene glycol
- Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
- Phenols, a type of chemical toxic to pets found in pine-scented floor cleaners
- Phthalates (found in synthetic fragrance)
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (aka: Quats or Quacs). Quats are often found in disinfectants and ammonia-based floor cleaners and other cleaning products.
- Examples of Quats include: Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium saccharinate and Ammonium Hydroxide. Learn more in: 7 Natural Alternatives to Lysol.
- Synthetic surfactants, which fall into the “forever chemical” category
Knowing which ingredients to avoid is essential, but it’s only half the battle.
Unfortunately, cleaning product companies are not required to list all their ingredients on labels. Which can make label-reading floor cleaners difficult.
This is where consumer advocacy sites like The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning are essential.
Here, you can type in the name of a particular cleaner or ingredient in their database or app, and they’ll rate it for toxicity on a scale of “1” (least toxic) to “10” (most toxic).
Get more helpful tips for avoiding harmful ingredients in: 3 Tools You Need To Become Your Own Product Advocate.
Branch Basics was created as a simple, non-toxic cleaning system that utilizes one natural Concentrate plus optional Oxygen Boost to replace every cleaner and laundry product in the home.
For those who are new here, here’s how it works.
When you order a Branch Basics Premium Starter Kit, you’ll receive the Concentrate, Oxygen Boost (a bleach alternative, laundry booster, natural scouring agent, and so much more), and five bottles to make your own All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, Laundry, and Foaming Wash.
So, where’s the floor cleaner?
Our Concentrate can be diluted to work wonders on all floor types, including in carpet cleaners, but we could not provide a one-size-fits-all dilution recommendation due to variances in floors.
Here’s a quick guide to how to use Branch Basics on floors:
- All-Purpose is ideal for cleaning porcelain and ceramic tile.
- Floors with sealers like cement or natural stone tiles may need a more dilute solution (small areas should be tested for compatibility).
- Oxygen Boost is excellent for cleaning grout.
Branch Basics products are EWG-verified, Made Safe Certified, not tested on animals/cruelty-free, and safe for pets, babies, children, and the chemically sensitive.
For more details on how to dilute Branch Basics to create the perfect custom floor cleaner for your floors, check out: Branch Basics Ultimate, Guide to Non-Toxic Floor Cleaning (it’s easier than you think!)
2. DIY Vinegar Floor Cleaner
Distilled white vinegar is one of the most versatile everyday household items for non-toxic cleaning, including most floor types.
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which helps break down dirt and grime while killing some germs like salmonella, listeria, and E. Coli.
Due to its acidic nature, vinegar is not recommended for natural stone, concrete tiles, or waxed wood floors.
If unsure, you can test your vinegar solution in a small, inconspicuous area of the floor to observe its effects and different dilutions.
- Fill a spray bottle with 100% vinegar or equal parts distilled water and vinegar*.
- Use this solution to mop your floors in a spray bottle, spray mop, or mop and bucket method.
*Different floor types and messes may benefit from stronger or weaker dilutions of water to vinegar, so experiment to see what works best.
Note: Vinegar contains acetic acid, a lung irritant when sprayed. Use it in a ventilated area, and try not to inhale the freshly sprayed vinegar. Do not spray vinegar in the presence of children, the elderly, and those with lung or chronic health conditions.
3. Lemon Juice + Water
Like vinegar, lemon juice also contains acetic acid, making it a powerful weapon against dirt, grime, oil, and almost all floor messes.
- Fill a spray bottle with either 100% fresh or bottled lemon juice or a 50:50 mixture of lemon juice and water.
- Spray onto tile floors and wipe clean.
Note: Acidic cleaners, such as lemon juice, may not be suitable for concrete tiles, natural stone, marble, or unglazed quarry stone.
4. Lemon Juice or Vinegar + Baking Soda For Grout and Tile
Using a naturally acidic cleaner, like lemon juice or vinegar, with a non-toxic alkaline substance, like baking soda, creates an ultra-powerful floor cleaner for tile floors.
While the acid in the vinegar or lemon juice helps break up dirt, grime, and stains on floors, the baking soda acts as a gentle scouring agent, deodorizer, and natural bleach alternative on grout.
- Make a DIY vinegar or lemon juice spray as described previously.
- Make a thick paste using baking soda and water.
- Although some sites recommend a vinegar/baking soda paste, we do not recommend this, as straight vinegar can wear down grout over time.
- Apply the baking soda paste to the grout using a toothbrush or grout brush.
- Let dwell for at least 15 minutes.
- Scrub and wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Clean the tile using the vinegar water spray* and microfiber mop.
- Dry with towels.
Curious about other bleach alternatives? Check out: How to Naturally Disinfect Surfaces.
Want more tile-specific natural cleaning tips? See How To Clean Floor Tile Naturally.
5. Castile Soap
Pure castile soap is an excellent option for cleaning all floor types when used as directed.
We recommend sourcing only 100% pure fragrance-free castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Baby.
Here’s how to make it:
- Combine 1 teaspoon Dr. Bronner’s Baby with 1 quart (4 cups) of water.
- Add to a spray bottle or spray mop, mop your floors, and let dry completely.
This is an excellent option for anyone who does not want to use an acidic cleaner. It works on wood floors and is safe for pets.
6. Water+Vinegar or Lemon Juice+Olive Oil for Wood Floors
Adding olive oil to a DIY vinegar or lemon juice floor cleaner provides a conditioning element to this DIY wood floor cleaner.
We generally recommend using this with a mop and bucket method so you don’t clog up your spray mop (olive oil solidifies when cool).
However, you could use the solution, while still warm, in an inexpensive spray bottle if you prefer spray-as-you-go. If you choose this method, you’ll need to clean the nozzle after use and store any leftover cleaning solution in a different container.
- Clean your wood floors using a mop.
- Buff dry.
Again, acidic cleaning solutions may not be appropriate for waxed wood floors, so check with manufacturing guidelines and test an inconspicuous spot.
7. Steam or Dry Steam Mopping
A steam mop is a wise investment that can clean and sanitize nearly any hard floor type with zero harmful chemicals.
We like the Hoover brand (steam) mops for performance and durability.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and always use distilled water to extend the life of the mop.
Generally, steam mopping is appropriate for all types of flooring, but check with the manufacturer to confirm.
Also, take extreme caution when using these around babies, children, and pets, who could easily suffer severe burns if they get in the way or get a hold of the mop.
Want Fragrance? Try Lemon Juice or Essential Oils
As discussed in previous articles, synthetic fragrance is a huge source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and allergens, such as phthalates.
Plus, did you know just one signature fragrance can be made of dozens or even hundreds of undisclosed chemicals? That spells trouble for anyone interested in living a low-tox lifestyle.
Yet, many of us love the pleasant scent that floor cleaners leave behind.
Two natural options are to opt for either lemon juice (you can add in lemon peel or slices for a more intense scent) or a few drops of 100% pure, steam-distilled, organic, and wildcrafted essential oils.
If you have pets, be sure to choose from pet-safe essential oils for your floor cleaner, as some essential oils can harm cats, dogs, and other pets.
Likewise, if you live in an area with ozone alerts, you should avoid terpene-containing essential oils as these can react with ozone, creating formaldehyde particulates in the home.
The main oils to avoid contain d-limonene, pinene, and citrus.
This may not be problematic if your local air does not contain high levels of ozone (and if you’re using an Ozonator or air purifier with ozone in your house, we’d encourage you to stop now!).
You can check the ozone levels in your area by visiting: AirNow.
Get more tips on pet-safe floor cleaning in: 5 Best Pet-Safe Floor Cleaners + DIY Tips
Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics
We’ve all been led to believe that getting and maintaining a clean home, and floor, requires toxic chemicals.
However, as you’ve just learned, this is not the case.
With just a few simple cleaning products and/or DIY solutions, you can clean and sanitize your floors quickly, thoroughly, and naturally with no harmful side effects.
Branch Basics is a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal for non-toxic cleaning.
To learn more, check out our Starter Kits (available in reusable glass or plastic), which come with everything you need to tackle non-toxic floor cleaning and replace every single cleaning and laundry product in your home with just one Concentrate + Oxygen Boost.
Want to try us out first?
Our Trial Kit contains a mini Concentrate and full-size All-Purpose bottle, with more than enough to test us out on your floors, surfaces, your bathroom, produce, stains, and more for only $5.00.
For more non-toxic floor cleaning advice for specific floor types, check out:
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.