The wabi-sabi cleaning cupboard has taken on a much different meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we think about the importance of being sanitary, it is a good time to also consider how to balance the need for chemicals and sustainable cleaners—approaching our methodology in a safe and environmentally friendly way. 

In implementing sustainable living, we are always looking for ways to use natural materials and cleaning agents, use quality-made cleaning tools, find joy in the process, and use less energy. Here are a few of our suggestions: 

Soap and water work miracles.

When Natalie moved back to her Florence hometown and arrived in her new home and soon-to-be-production-studio in 2000 (read this story in our 21 Years project here), she wiped down every knotted pine board of the ranch house that had been unoccupied for years. This cleansing (and meditative) act laid the groundwork for eight years of design and making inside its walls.  

Broom making is a craft to be celebrated.

It is also a living art that requires special equipment and skills to make. There is also something wonderfully meditative about the act of sweeping. There are many artisan-made brooms on the market, and this simple cleaning tool is an object of beauty and craftsmanship. In our local community, George Jones is a fourth-generation broom maker with a lovely story and deep history. Natalie uses his brooms in her home every day.  

Nothing beats the smell of fresh laundry off a clothesline.

And it saves energy in the process. During her first few years of designing clothing, Natalie would place finished collection garments on the clothesline to dry before sending them to their recipient with a special note in the pocket.  

Don’t forget: clean first; then disinfect.

You cannot properly disinfect a dirty surface. Use the same green products and processes you have in place at home or read about some options for cleaning with items you might already own: hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and salt. Some disinfectants have less harsh ingredients than others; look for products with lactic and citric acid.  

Reuse + Repurpose

Use reusable cleaning tools (if you are able to in a sanitary way) and consider natural materials over plastics for items like sponges and scrubbers.  

In our studio, we’ve created a simple “swiffer” cloth with our fabric scraps, and we use our organic cotton remnants to wipe off and clean almost every surface. These can go in the wash in hot water to disinfect.  

Natalie has been using a recipe for homemade dishwasher rinse as a way to keep her kitchen and home safe and sustainable. (Yes, Heath Ceramics goes in the dishwasher!) 


2 T citric acid 
1/2 cup white vinegar 
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol 
Lemon essential oil, as desired 

Images of Heath CeramicsAdam Silverman for Heath Ceramics, and The Shelter Collection in Natalie’s kitchen (explore InStyle‘s feature on Natalie’s home and kitchen renovation written by our dear friend, the ever-talented Sarah Cristobal).

We consider our home as a sanctuary, a safe place. It’s an opportunity not everyone has, and one we are grateful. 

Alabama Chanin makes no claims to the effectiveness of these methods or materials and trusts our readers to make the best and most informed decision for their cleanliness, safety, and wellbeing. 


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