Committing to a vegan home – one that doesn’t use animal products – can look like a big job. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you know what to eliminate (and what to replace it with), making your home cruelty-free and vegan can be a pretty simple process. Although you might hear vegan and cruelty-free used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing – and the differences are pretty significant. Sometimes vegan products aren’t cruelty-free, and cruelty-free products aren’t vegan.
- Vegan products: When you see a product labeled as “vegan,” that only means it doesn’t include animal ingredients – but it doesn’t mean the product wasn’t tested on animals.
- Cruelty-free products: When you see a product labeled as “cruelty-free,” that only means its ingredients or finished product wasn’t tested on animals.
If you’re thinking about making the switch in your home, the first step is to prepare yourself by figuring out what you can hang on to and what needs to go. Once that’s done, you can start shopping for ethical replacements.
Preparing to Go Vegan and Cruelty-Free at Home
Before you can start transitioning from an everyday American (or international) household to one that’s animal- and eco-friendly, you have to know what products, materials and derivatives need to go. Some are pretty obvious, but others include animal products and byproducts that you wouldn’t even notice if you weren’t looking for them.
Say goodbye to:
- Cleaning products, like bleach and others
- Fabric softener and some soaps
- Glues used in woodwork and musical instruments
- Plastic bags
- Products with red dye derived from carmine (crushed bugs)
- Some paints
- Tires for cars and bikes
We won’t go into all the details of why these products can be cruel – there’s a pretty good chance that you already know if you’re considering such a big change for your household – but know that even when some products appear to be byproducts of the meat industry (like sheepskin or suede, for example), that’s not always the case. Even plant-based products, like carnauba wax and palm oil, are significant contributors to animal cruelty all over the world.
What to Do With Products You Can’t Keep in Your Vegan, Cruelty-Free Home
If you’re committed to starting fresh, you’ll have to decide what to do with the products you can’t keep in your home any longer. There are a couple schools of thought on this, so you’ll have to weigh your options before you make a decision. Whatever you decide is your business, nobody else’s, and the most important thing is that you’re comfortable with what you’ve chosen.
- Use until it’s unusable: You may decide to continue using the items until they’re worn out and unusable. When the items are no longer useful, you might choose to get rid of them and replace them with new cruelty-free products.
- Donate or sell: You could donate or sell the items you can’t keep. It might seem like a small thing, but what you’re actually doing is preventing another person from making a new purchase that directly impacts animals and their welfare. If you want to, you can tell the person you’re giving or selling the items to that your conscience won’t allow you to keep them.
- Dispose of responsibly: You could get rid of the products without passing them on to someone else. Make sure to look for the most sustainable and safe way to dispose of your items.
Alternatives to Animal Products and Products Tested on Animals
You can’t just give up everything in your home, right? Don’t worry; there are plenty of alternatives that are actually better than their animal-based counterparts. Many are plant-based and some are synthetic. Either way, you can use them to make a difference.
When it comes to cleaning products, there are plenty of vegan and cruelty-free alternatives. Look for products that feature a cruelty-free logo. Some animal-friendly and cruelty-free products (at least as of this writing) include:
- Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Household Cleaner
- Biokleen Carpet and Rug Shampoo
- Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus
- Citra Solv Air Scense
- Citra Solv Natural Cleaner & Degreaser
- ECOS Furniture Polish + Cleaner
- ECOS Liquid Laundry Detergent
- Ecover Dishwasher Tablets
- Method Dish Soap
- Method Squirt + Mop Hard Floor Cleaner
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Fabric Softener
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lavender Glass Cleaner
- Seventh Generation All-Purpose Natural Cleaner
- Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Household Furniture and Bedding
Cruelty-free, vegan furniture is made without harming or displacing animals, and it doesn’t include any animal products like leather or down. Many furniture companies have strong cruelty-free policies, including:
- GreenCulture Furniture
- Terra Furnishings
- West Elm
- Synthetic leathers feel just like the real deal, and you can opt for faux fur and down alternatives made from plant-based and synthetic materials.
Anti-cruelty bedding companies include:
- Bamboo Village
*Side note, though: If you’re shopping for a vegan mattress, choose wisely. Sometimes they’re made with latex, which contains casein (a protein found in mammal milk).
Remember: Don’t fall prey to the cruelty-free logos that some companies put on their products; in many cases, they’re misleading, and in others, they’re completely fabricated. Your best bet is to find a company with a logo from Choose Cruelty Free or Leaping Bunny, which each vet and accredit businesses. Even then, double-check the company’s reputation on the organization’s website. (Unfortunately, anyone can download and use these logos.)
Tips for Buying Animal-Friendly Products
At this point, you’re probably running through every household item in your home, wondering what you’ve purchased that wasn’t vegan or cruelty-free.
When you know better, you do better! The point is to move forward in the way that makes the most sense for you. Check out these tips when you’re buying cruelty-free, vegan furniture or other household items:
- The only way to be completely sure a company is cruelty-free is to check its certification with Leaping Bunny or Choose Cruelty-Free. Sometimes a statement that says “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” only refers to a finished product, not its ingredients (or mixtures that companies buy from other companies).
- Know that animal testing is never required for household products or cosmetics. Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission force companies to test these types of products on animals. In fact, most chemicals and products have already been tested on animals in the past, making it even more unnecessary to do so now or in the future.
- Don’t be afraid to read the fine print on ingredient lists or call companies when you have a question. The more you know, the better decisions you can make.
Where to Find Cruelty-Free Products and Brands
Download The Ultimate Guide to Make Your Home 100% Cruelty-Free and Vegan to reference as you maintain or build a vegan and cruelty-free home.