Because we do so much laundry, I began looking for a cost-effective yet eco-friendly alternative for laundry detergent. One of the first things I tried was, soapnuts from LaundryTree http://www.laundrytree.com/. The outer shell of the soap"nuts", which are actually the fruit of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, contains saponin. Saponins are a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse. According to LaundryTree the soapnuts are also antiimicrobial and biodegradable. I was able to use the soapnuts by placing several in a cotton drawstring bag, or by making a liquid laundry detergent from them. The spent "nuts" were added to our compost and the packaging was much more eco-friendly than commerically available detergent which comes in plastic containers. I used essential oils to add a pleasant scent the laundry, and as far as I could tell, the laundry was as clean as usual, but I still met with quite a bit of resistance from my family.
LaundryTree's website also suggests soapnuts for non-toxic window cleaner, liquid hand soap, floor cleaner, kitchen and bathroom cleaner, and even as a shampoo! Although I admit I didn't try the soapnut soak for these other applications, I still may. It was worth a try as our laundry detergent, however, to keep the peace, I switched to a eco-friendlier laundry detergent than I had been using. Although I don't think it can be classified as non-toxic, it's still better than what I was using, and sometimes you have to make trade-offs to achieve harmony.
Now we're using, Natural Elements Ultra Purex linens and lilies laundry detergent as a compromise. The packaging indicates that the detergent is a naturally sourced cleaning power, made from plant-based surfactants and natural fragrance extracts, that it is a biodegradable formula with no phosphates, safe for the septic, and it's affordable considering all the laundry we do. The plastic bottle is recyclable, and there is also an EPA stamp, "designed for the environment" www.epa.gov/dfe
I am working on slowly switching to other non-toxic versions of cleaners such as Green Works Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, and "natural biodegradable" cleaning wipes with coconut-based cleaners and essential oils (and even though they are disposable I ease my conscience with the fact that they are compostable!).
Recently, after refilling my dishwashing pump with the last of the usual dishwashing liquid, I added it to my grocery list, and made a conscious decision to look for a non-toxic version to try. I took the opportunity to buy ECOVER's ecological dishwashing liquid with lemon and aloe vera. I'm very excited to try ECOVER's formula. There are several reasons I decided to try ECOVER's dishwashing liquid: it's made with plant and mineral ingredients, is biodegradable, safe for septic systems, and made at their eco-friendly factory. http://www.ecover.com/us/en/About/ I'll be sure to let you know about the product once we use up the current dishwashing liquid :)
Besides non-toxic cleaning products available at the store from companies such as Ecover, Greenworks, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and J.R. Watkins, other options include natural cleaners that can be made with ingredients probably found in your fridge or cabinets: such as apple cider vinegar, white vinegar (a weak form of acetic acid), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or NaHCO3), and lemons.
There are many recipes to make simple general purpose cleaners:
Mix 2 tbs baking soda + 16oz water in a spray bottle, or
mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar, or
mix ½ c apple cider vinegar with 1c water (clean tiles, disinfecting, windows, microwave, glass, mirrors)