How to master a vegan and eco-friendly home

You may be vegan and eco-friendly most of the time, but are you sure that your home is too? Here’s how to create an eco-friendly home, that’s 100% vegan, beyond January!

Oak Furnitureland sale
(Image credit: Oak Furnitureland )

Whether you’ve been vegan for years, or you've just successfully completed Vegan-uary and are thinking about going vegan for the long-haul, or you're simply looking to live a little more eco-consciously this year, then you may have to re-think a few of the things that you have around your house. 

When you’re vegan, you tend to be hot on cruelty-free beauty products and vegan food, but when it comes to household products, even furniture, it’s not always clear what’s vegan and what’s not. Don’t feel bad, though: the fact that products contain animal bi-products is not something that brands tend to rave about, so you have to be conscious of what household items could need double checking. 

  • Find more advice on living more sustainably at our eco hub page

How to have a vegan and eco-friendly home

From a few ‘no no’ ingredients to other key elements/manufacturing notes to look out for, we’ve done our homework so that you don’t have to when ensuring that you live in a vegan and eco-friendly home.

What’s ideal about leading a vegan lifestyle is that it goes hand in hand with being earth friendly, too. So in essence, even if you’re not vegan, whether you make a few tiny changes or if you choose to completely veganise your home, you’ll be opting in to way more conscious and eco-friendly surroundings, which is something to be proud of. 

We’ve made a conscious (see what we did there?) effort to ensure that these changes are all achievable and pocket-friendly too. We’re not talking about solar panels, and no planning permission will be needed, but, here are some items to reconsider:

  • Leather furniture – darned beautiful but very much not vegan;
  • Wool/silk or any animal-derived bedding/cushion covers and more – as above;
  • Fur throws or blankets – you can work this one out;
  • Mattresses – some may be treated with fire retardants that aren’t vegan like wool or silk;
  • Furniture polishes – many of which may contain beeswax;
  • Wall paints - may contain Casein and/or beeswax;
  • Household bleach & cleaning products – it is really hard to come by vegan bleach that has not been tested on animals at some point in the supply chain;
  • Loo roll – paper, yes fine. But, binders including gelatin can be used, and a few companies may still test on animals.

Find the perfect vegan couch + accessories

To ensure that your sofa, armchairs, headboard and all the rest is vegan, you want to ensure that it’s made from cotton or synthetic materials. If you still love the look of leather, then you can go for a faux leather piece as they’re looking more and more stylish and if you’re a complete sucker for a deep buttoned sofa (you know the ones we’re talking about) you can now even find vegan Chesterfields.

The changes you make really depend on whether you’re looking to buy something new, or there are heaps of vegan and more sustainable fabrics to choose from. 

Those are your options when you’re buying something new for your home, but if you’ve only recently invested in an expensive leather three-piece suite for example, what are your options? 

  1. You could donate it to charity or sell it on eBay for a good price and use the cash to invest in a new or pre-loved vegan number (where eBay is the perfect place to look too!)
  2. You can use it until the bitter end, and this should be enough to keep your conscience in place.

Then when it comes to choosing soft furnishings, bedding and the likes, opt for natural materials such as organic cotton, sustainable banana fibre, bamboo, Tencel or another recycled natural/synthetic fibre. What they can do with natural fibres now is pretty unbelievable and when the texture is on point too, you just will not miss any of your old soft furnishings! Remember to recycle what you have of course.

Try a homemade furniture polish

If you’ve bought a beautiful wooden piece of furniture like a coffee table, bookcase or side table to upcycle, it’s vegan and eco-friendly up to the point when you sand it down and give it a few coats of furniture polish... Yep, not that obvious, but many furniture polishes contain animal derivatives such as beeswax. You can get around this by either choosing a vegan furniture polish, or by making your own!

There are so many uses for coconut oil, but did you know that furniture polish is one of them? It moisturises wood, highlighting its natural colours, and its high saturated fat content means that it is slow to oxidise as well. In addition to coconut oil, you can also use soy wax, olive oil, walnut oil, jojoba or almond oil, and this is how to use coconut or another oil of your choice on furniture:

  • Sand and prep the wood as needed, let it dry;
  • Use an old rag to apply the oil over the entire surface using long, even strokes;
  • Let it dry for 10–15 minutes before buffing it with a dry cloth in a circular motion for extra shine.

You can use most of the oils pure, but you can also add white or cider apple vinegar to any of these and this will actively clean off any grubby marks as you go. Plus, the anti-bacterial properties will prevent it going rancid. Try it on your bed frame, dining room table and whatever you choose to spruce up to see how stunning it turns out.

The best homemade furniture polish recipe

  • 1 cup of the oil of your choice
  • ¼ cup white or cider apple vinegar
  • A few drops of an essential oil of choice (lemon works for us)

Application:

  • Mix all of the above in a bottle and agitate;
  • For a light polish you can spray it on to an old rag and apply it, following the wood’s grain;
  • For a deeper treatment you can spray it directly to the furniture and give it a couple of coats.

Check out your vegan and eco paint options

Opting for paints that are VOC free and non toxic usually means they are better for you, the environment, and they are more likely to be vegan-friendly too. Casein is an animal derivative, made from milk and it’s fast-drying, durable and permanent qualities means that it is often present in wall paint. 

Beeswax is another product that may feature in generic wall and household paints but there are more and more paint brands like Farrow & Ball and Dulux that are creating eco-friendly paint formulas that are low VOC, vegan and therefore cruelty-free.

Remember: paint brushes need to be vegan too

Paint brushes are often made from 'natural' bristles which usually means they are made from animal fur or a combination of animal furs. From pony and ox hair to labels like 'Sabel' which can indicate a combination of fur from minks, ferrets and weasels, to 'camel' hair that can actually be from goats, squirrels and other animals, natural paint brushes are definitely not vegan.

There are vegan and cruelty-free alternatives, thankfully, which even tend to work better. Rather than absorbing the paint, their texture makes for a smooth and consistent finish, plus they are easier to clean. So, whether you're painting furniture or dabbling in a little watercolour for an original print, pick up one of the many beautiful synthetic brushes around. 

Start using vegan and natural cleaning products

There are now heaps of vegan cleaning products and you can find more information in our guide to the best eco-friendly cleaning products online. If you want to play it even safer, then you could DIY and make your own cleaning products. Here are some natural alternatives to bleach and the likes that you can use safe in the knowledge that they are vegan, gentle on your surfaces and kind to the environment:

  • Lemon juice – a natural disinfectant which happens to smell lemon-fresh too;
  • Baking soda – mixed with vinegar will create a potent cleaning paste so be sure to check out our baking soda cleaning tips;
  • Castile soap – dilute with water and use this pet-safe and biodegradable product everywhere;
  • Vinegar– use with a rag and dilute with water and some essential oils for a more pleasant fragrance;
  • Tea tree oil – naturally antibacterial, simply mix a few drops with water and use where needed.

As we've said, non-vegan items are everywhere, unless you know what you're looking for. Take the above on board and, if in doubt when buying something new, check the materials list and where it's from, (you'll need the leaping bunny logo if it's a product) and always read the small print.

Make sure you're using eco-friendly toilet paper

Yep, you even need to keep an eye on your loo roll! Be sure to check for the leaping bunny logo and go for packets that are marked up as recycled or biodegradable. The fact of the matter is that some companies use chemicals in the production line and animal derivatives in the final product to bind fibres too, so you need to triple check that what you're buying is certified as vegan-friendly before you bring in to your eco-friendly home.

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