Written by Grove Collaborative

New Year’s cleaning resolutions: 9 swaps to make in 2021 for a healthier, greener year.

Last Updated: December 29, 2020

Resolved to streamline your 2021 cleaning routine — and make it better for you and the planet? We’ve got easy, eco-friendly switches you can make now for your freshest new year yet.

Even though COVID-19 turned time into a flat circle in 2020, the new year is right around the corner, and with it comes the tradition of making resolutions — really good ideas in theory, but usually too sweeping to actually incorporate into your daily routine.

We’re not here to make your life harder. Instead of changing your ingrained habits, how about making your existing ones more efficient, effective, and eco-friendly? What if your New Year’s resolution was simply to make your cleaning routine simpler, less harmful to your health, and safer for the planet? With a few simple swaps, you can feel better about your cleaning habits all year long — even if your actual habits don’t really change all that much.

9 Cleaning resolutions for 2021

Resolve to:

#1: Swap paper towels, sponges, and cotton cloths for microfiber.

Microfiber is the king of cleaning cloths, and making the swap for good can reduce your carbon footprint. Microfiber cloths have several million tiny, hook-shaped fibers per square inch that grab dust, dirt, grease, and germs — and hold onto them until you rinse and wring. Unlike paper towers and cotton, microfiber is literally engineered to clean: The material is incredibly absorbent and positively charged, attracting negatively charged dirt and grease like a magnet to opposing metals. Studies show that a spray bottle of water and a quality microfiber cloth with a 70/30 split-fiber material removes germs and bacteria from a surface even better than chemical cleaners.

You can use a microfiber cloth in place of paper towels for quick pick-ups; instead of a sponge for washing dishes; and in place of disinfecting wipes when cleaning your phone or door knobs. Dust with them, quickly dry your dishes with them, and get your floors extra-clean with a microfiber mop. Wash your microfiber in the machine: It’ll last for hundreds of washings, and most are dryer safe.

Resolve to:

#2: Swap chemical cleaners for natural varieties.

Gone are the days of choosing between eco-friendliness and effectiveness: There’s now an array of natural options to choose from that are tough on dirt but still good for the environment. From plant-based, synthetic-free concentrates to old standbys like vinegar and baking soda, natural cleaners can tackle anything in the home that your conventional brands can. The difference is that natural cleaners don’t contain many of the thousands of harmful chemicals found in the products you grew up with. They’re also generally biodegradable in the environment, and they’re less toxic to wildlife and water. Our helpful Beginner's Guide to Switching to Natural Cleaning Products lays it all out and offers tips on how to do it right.

Resolve to:

#3: Swap a huge collection of cleaners for just a handful of products that pull double- or triple-duty.

Forget sourcing a separate cleaner for each surface and job in the home. Most natural cleaners can be used in a variety of rooms, meaning less clutter — and chemicals — in the cupboard. All purpose, multi-surface cleaners work in nearly every room in the home. Combine with a solid floor cleaner, and you’ve got two cleaners that can tackle most everything.

This year, consolidate your scattershot batch of cleaners into just a few (maybe consider adding to a cleaning caddy for ease of use?), and simplify the cleaning process.

Resolve to:

#4: Swap hot-water sudsing for cold-water laundry.

The days of needing hot water to clean your clothes are long gone. Washing machines and laundry detergents have changed over the years to become far more effective at cooler temperatures. That’s a huge plus, considering about 90% of energy used in a wash goes towards water heating. Not only that, but cold-washed clothes last longer, meaning less fades, stretches, and pills on “brand-new” clothes.

Consider using cold water for everything that’s not intensely stained. It’ll save you hundreds in energy and fashion bills, and it’ll reduce your household’s CO2 emissions. Here’s our guide to cold water laundry that gives you an expert’s tips on why and how to do it.

Resolve to:

#5: Swap dryer sheets for dryer balls.

This swap will save you money, and it’ll reduce toxins in your air and on your clothes. A set of 100-percent wool dryer balls does the work of a dryer sheet — and then some. Dryer balls reduce wrinkles and static, as dryer sheets do. But they also create space and keep your clothes separated so they dry faster, which can save a lot of energy over time. Toss three or four dryer balls in with each load — each one is reusable for up to 1000 loads of laundry! For more tips, check out our guide to everything you need to know about wool dryer balls.

Resolve to:

#6: Swap air fresheners for open windows, natural room sprays, or an air purifier.

Do you ever feel your nostrils tickling or tingling when inhaling a big breath of air freshener? That’s because conventional aerosol air fresheners are filled with intense chemicals, many of which are unsafe for humans and pets.

If your air needs refreshing, open your windows to exchange stale indoor air for fresh outdoor air. During seasons when open windows only send in frigid or hot air, install an air purifier to help keep your air fresh. If you enjoy a fragrant home, you can make it happen without poisonous sprays and potions. Consider a natural room spray, essential oil diffuser, or naturally scented candles.

Resolve to:

#7: Swap your street shoes for slippers at the door.

There is a reason why “shoes off at the door” is commonplace in many countries around the world. Your shoes track in a massive amount of bacteria from the outside world, along with pesticides, motor oil, pollen, and mold. For anyone with pets or small children roaming the floor, this is an avoidable hazard if you keep comfy slippers (or flip-flops) at the door, and change into them when you get home. Similarly, give your pets’ paws and fur a quick wipe with a damp microfiber cloth when they come in from outside. We all know what kinds of things they step and roll in!

Resolve to:

#8: Swap out your old vacuum cleaner for one with a high-efficiency filter.

Since we’re all spending a lot more time at home, clean air is more important than ever. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your vacuum cleaner removes very fine particles from your air at a much higher rate (99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns and larger) than standard filters. While most common undesirables like dander and pollen are much larger than 0.3 microns, bacteria, pathogens, spores, and some dust are closer to 0.3 microns in size, and many will get trapped in the filter. Each time you vacuum, turn your thermostat fan setting to ON, and particles sent airborne by the vacuum will get circulated to the HVAC filter to help keep them out of the air.

Resolve to:

#9: Swap your clutter for clean space.

No amount of cleaning or eco-friendly products can substitute for a calming space when it comes to feeling at home when you’re at home. We all know that too much stuff everywhere contributes to stress and anxiety — and the kind of overwhelm that feels paralyzing and makes you more likely to put off cleaning for another day.

So as we contemplate a long, indoor winter, it’s a good time to downsize things to make room for beautiful, calming space. Go through your closets, cabinets, drawers, and shelves, and pack up the things you don’t use, need, or love. Take them to your favorite local thrift shop or homeless shelter.

Bonus: 3 other cleaning resolutions to make your life easier

This year — especially if you have a full, full-time household — cut yourself some slack when it comes to housekeeping. Instead of resolving to keep your house ultra-clean 24/7, try these gentler resolutions instead:

1. Pick three

Decide what the three biggest sources of clutter are in your home — dirty dishes, mail, and toys, for example — and devise a system to make it easier to keep those things under control.

2. Set a timer

Spend just 20 minutes a day doing what you can to minimize the mess. Ask the members of your household to participate — maybe inspire them with some rocking tunes.

3. Give clutter a ride

Work on getting into the habit of never leaving a room empty-handed. There’s always something that can hitch a ride to where you’re going — just gather up what you can, and put it away while you’re in there.

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Looking for cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our natural buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how you're tackling your new year's resolutions (or share your own ideas using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the switch to sustainable cleaning, shop Grove Collaborative's selection of natural cleaners in eco-friendly packaging for the swaps you — and the planet — will love.

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