Living Lightly

Green Cleaning and Household Harmony

Green Cleaning

I could have called this: “How to Get People to Agree with You.”

I am rather amused when I get asked psychological questions. I have little training in psychology – unless you count teaching, parenting, and even marriage – all of which provide a never-ending crash course in managing human nature.

This particular psychological question goes something like:

How do I get my parents/spouse/sibling/roommate/children/teachers/boss on board with green cleaning?

None of the ideas I present below are unique to green cleaning. You can substitute in any topic and use the same tactics. Personal hygiene, financial responsibility, eating well, cheering for the Packers.*

Regardless of the topic, persuading anyone of anything has some pretty consistent principles.

What doesn’t work:

  • Nagging
  • Whining
  • Yelling
  • Threatening
  • Condescending
  • Throwing their cleaners out when they’re not looking.

None of these would persuade you. Neither will they persuade others. I promise that last one is an especially bad idea.

Ten Techniques

1. Identify persuasion trigger points. Take some time to think about your person. Identify what’s important to them and speak to that: Cost? Ease? Effectiveness? Smell?

“This one bottle of organic soap dilutes to make 32 bottles of All-Purpose Spray. That means each bottle of spray only costs 46 cents as opposed to $3.29 of this Brand X.”

“I’ve made some of these green housecleaning solutions and put them right here under the sink. With this one cleaner, I can clean the entire bathroom.”

“I’ve been reading on the Center for Disease Control’s website that research shows that soap and water are just as effective at getting rid of germs as these chemical cleaners and have fewer side effects.”

 “I know how much you love that strong “this is clean!” smell. Check out this combination of tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils I put in this spray.”

2. Teach it. There’s a bit of “how to” involved with green cleaning. Host a 30-minute demonstration. (Serve snacks. They’ll come.) Show them how to make an All-Purpose Spray, and what to use for mopping, toilets, dishes, laundry. Print my Sal Suds and Castile Dilution Cheat Sheets and post them inside the cleaning cabinet.

3. Model it. A lot. This one does take some elbow grease, but it is essential. If you’re all talk and no clean, no one is going to listen to you. Show them you’re all in.

“I’ll clean the kitchen for a week with these green cleaners, and you tell me how clean you think it’s getting.” Who is going to turn that down??? 

“I’ll do the household laundry this week to see how these greener cleaners do. We’ll check out the results together.”

4. Listen to them. What are their concerns about switching to green? If you listen well, they will hand you the key. People above all want to be heard and understood.

“I hear your concern that green cleaners just don’t smell convincing. Those very smells are what I’m reading are the most problematic. Because it means particles from the cleaners are getting into our lungs.”

5. Aim for gradual change. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Start with one area. Window cleaning with vinegar/water is super easy. Or use baking soda instead of conventional scouring powders.

6. Be gracious. Be patient. Remember your own path – you didn’t always know what you know now. Sometimes you need to plant little nuggets in their minds, and then walk away. Let them germinate. Let them grow.

7. Be positive. Instead of, “Everything you’re doing is wrong,” opt for the more forward thinking, “The next time we need to mop, I’d like to show you a super easy way that works but won’t leave residues or fumes.”

8. Timing is everything. Choose the right moment to bring this up. Not at bedtime. Not when they’re hungry. Not when they’re rushing off somewhere. Wait for that teachable, hinge moment.

9. Do your homework so you can answer questions. See the resources I’ve listed below. Be trustworthy and credible.

10. Compliment. “The Sandwich Technique” is a great strategy in which you position your advice between two compliments. People are much more receptive to advice when the news isn’t all bad.

“You keep the car looking so nice. Thanks for taking the time to wash it regularly. I know the idea behind the air freshener hanging from the mirror is to improve the air, but it’s actually releasing a lot of toxic fumes and gives me a headache. Instead, when it’s musty, open the windows for a bit, or spritz some Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizer. It’s so great knowing that if I have to drive a colleague, the car is nice and clean. I really appreciate it.  

My Story

I traveled this road myself. I made the green conversion a little before my husband.

Compromise helped us along. When I cleaned, I used what I wanted. When he cleaned, he used what he wanted. The long-term modeling also helped: he could see surfaces were clean, family was healthy, things looked good. Research-based evidence was another trigger for him – the FDA ruling on the efficacy of soap and water and studies that demonstrated, “Women cleaning at home or working as occupational cleaners had accelerated decline in lung function, suggesting that exposures related to cleaning activities may constitute a risk to long-term respiratory health.”

We are quite on the same page now. However, we still have a (very old) bottle of Formula 409 on a high shelf in the garage. It’s never used, but it’s there nonetheless. A token of peace.

Call this my Valentine’s Day post. My contribution to healthy relationships everywhere. In all relationships, keep in mind the universal truism:

The only person you can change is yourself.

When it comes to others, you can encourage, influence, recommend, and woo. But ultimately the decision to change is up to them.

Further Resources to Help Your Quest of Persuasion

Research-based information

Ratings of specific products

What my cleaning cabinet looks like

*Or your choice team. I don’t necessarily follow the Packers, though my brother Mike says they’re everyone’s second favorite team. Having lived most of my life in sunny SoCal, I am mightily impressed by anyone’s willingness to play ball – or watch others play ball – in sub-freezing temperatures.

Further reading

This tip and many more are in my book, Soap & Soul: A Practical Guide to Minding Your Home, Your Body, and Your Spirit with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, available now in hardback on or at your favorite bookseller, and as an eBook and audiobook (read by me!) from wherever you download or listen.  

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Bonnie says:

Do you ever use alcohol or peroxide for disinfecting. I don’t use bleach.
Please tell me what to use. I don’t want anything I do not need.

Thank you.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Bonnie- There has been a lot more discussion of disinfecting of late. One point to keep in mind is that there is a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting. In general, all surfaces need cleaning, but not all need disinfecting. Soaps or detergents, including our Castile Soap and Sal Suds, clean by removing. They remove germs, dirt, oils, and other debris. Disinfectants clean by killing. They are biocides. Unless someone is sick, I do not regularly disinfect my surfaces. This is per the CDC’s recommendation ( as unnecessary disinfecting can reduce the efficacy of disinfectants and unnecessarily expose us to more intense chemicals. However, when disinfecting is called for, either alcohol between 60%-90% spray surface and let air dry – or Hydrogen Peroxide, if bought at the standard pharmacy concentration of 3%, diluted with water at a ratio of 1:5 – let sit for 1 minute. Alcohol smells worse but hydrogen peroxide can bleach some surfaces, so spot test before deciding which to use first.

Diane Martinson says:

I need advice for carrier oils, what do I buy and where do I find them to use in my foaming hand soap?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Diane- A carrier oil isn’t needed. Simply dilute at 1 part soap to 3 parts water in your foaming pump dispenser.

Carolyn says:

In this age of dissension, I love the peaceable suggestions. I love your products and luckily, my husband is completely onboard 🙂


I LOVE LOVE the SAL SUDS how much can you delete for hand washing of dishes, it is the best product EVER for getting rid of grease and nothing smells better.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Laura- It’s great to hear that Sal Suds is working for you!

Jennifer Perron says:

Great tips!! I also have a question: what’s the ideal dilution for a foaming hand wash dispenser? I just can’t seem to get it right!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Jennifer- Thanks for reading! I’ve find 1 part soap to 3 parts water works well. Start there and feel free to adjust if needed.

Nicole Foley says:

I recently tried a recipe of 3 tbs Bronner’s (I used almond) with 1 tbs carrier oil (I used vitamin E oil) and the rest water in a repurposed foaming pump from B&BW. And I am really loving that combination so far. I have kinda the same set up for my body wash except it is one part Bronner’s peppermint (1/2 cup) to two parts water (1 cup) and 2 to 3 tbs of any carrier oil, works great and foams up huge in my sponge and I feel like my suds and bubbles last longer.

Margarita Cramer says:

Another great post, Lisa. Definitely a mantra for me is “The only person you can change is yourself.” About 25 years ago I read about the health problems home stay women developed vs working out of the house. The air inside was 7x more toxic than outside due to the chemicals in cleaning supplies. That prompted me to find green solutions and have never looked back. Thanks for a great article.

Bill Paull says:

We have been consciously trained to think if we can’t smell it ,then it’s not sanitized. Personally I can’t stand the smell of bleach which reminds me of a institutionalized bathroom or the public swimming pool locker room.I have been using water and vinegar forever. Adding lemon juice or any citrus smell adds the added aroma. I will start using the baking soda to clean my white bakers uniform. I look forward towards what you have next. I have started a soap making hobby. With your advice and my new set of skills. I’m excited. Thanks

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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