A guide to zero waste home cleaning
It occurred to me recently how it might be helpful to have all my ideas and favorites for zero waste home cleaning in one condensed guide. It has taken me several years to make all of these changes in my own home, and of course we are still not at "zero!" Our approach has always been to swap out one thing at a time. When we run out of something, we'll look for a more sustainable alternative. It rarely happens overnight, but I find that this method lets us spread out the time commitment and the cost to a very manageable pace.
It also lets me think about each swap and find the perfect solution for our home. After all, every one's habits and lifestyles are so different, and we love to celebrate the myriad of ways you can reduce waste in your specific household. An added benefit: this approach of one-thing-at-a-time lets my husband adjust to each new change I make, and the same goes for me. It gives him a chance to initiate changes and swap out things in his own time as we make decisions and build a more sustainable home, together. You truly cannot force a good thing! :)
When it comes to cleaning, we have a relatively small collection of cleaning supplies. We do live on a boat, so we love anything that's multipurpose, but I have also inherited a love for simplicity from my grandmothers. Honestly, if you just had vinegar, baking soda and castile soap, you'd probably be okay. But the items I talk about in this blog have elevated cleaning to be easy, simple and quick. Some are DIY recipes, others replace single use items, and still others come from our bulk section. All of them are comparable in price when you do the math, and we have been just as happy with these items as we used to be with conventional cleaning supplies.
One of the first changes I made was swapping out our paper towels for reusable cloth towels that snap together and roll up on our paper towel holder! I got mine on Etsy, but the reusable cloth paper towels we carry in the store are by far one of the most popular items we sell. They're way more absorbent than a regular paper towel, and after you've cleaned up a mess or used one as a napkin, you can just toss it in the wash with your other laundry. Talk about $ savings! (insert chef's kiss here).
Funny enough, I don't usually use our reusable cloth paper towels for cleaning unless I'm cleaning up a spill. I might wipe down a counter or a mirror after I've cleaned it, but for the most part when I'm actually cleaning our counters or sinks, I do it with a dish brush! This is super particular of me, but I don't love having to touch a dirty paper towel or rag I'm cleaning with, which used to make me go through way more paper towels (or rags) than I really needed. It just always seemed gross to me, which made rag cleaning a harder switch than it probably is for most people. But then one day when I was washing dishes, I took our dish brush and a spray bottle of all purpose cleaner and just cleaned the counters while I was at it. It was so easy and I didn't have to touch a thing! Great scrubbing power, and when it got dirty, I just rinsed the brush and kept cleaning. I actually keep one of our old dish brush heads in my bathroom for cleaning now!
I have heard from a lot of my friends that they like cleaning with swedish dish cloths. They're pretty thick which makes them more durable, and so easy to toss in the wash when you're done, plus they're compostable at end of life. Also, they're very very cute. This one is my favorite.
You can very easily clean surfaces like countertops and sinks with a homemade blend of citrus infused vinegar and water, but I don't love the scent. I use our lavender all purpose cleaning liquid on almost everything. I keep it in a mason jar with a spray top lid and it's a staple in our cleaning cupboard now.
For a more vigorous clean, when I'm cleaning my sink or toilets, I'll use our home cleaning scrub. It's a powder, made with baking soda, soap and essential oils and I keep it in a small mason jar with a shaker lid. This would also work well on a bathtub or shower floor but I don't have one of those because I live on a boat! My bathroom sink faucet turns into a handheld shower and my floor is a slotted teak that drains straight to the bilge. Anyway, it has excellent scrubbing power and works really well, especially as a toilet cleaner. I still have my old plastic toilet brush because those things last forever, but if it ever gets too gross or breaks, I love the ones from Redecker.
I also keep some baking soda on hand, to clean our stove, deodorize our fridge and use in a million different recipes and DIY projects. For stove cleaning, I'll sprinkle some baking soda, scrub the whole stovetop with a damp dish brush, and wipe it down with a cloth paper towel at the end. We have a propane 3-burner stove but this would work for any electric or gas stove too, just be careful not to get water in the burners if it's gas. I keep mine in a mason jar with a shaker top lid.
For dishes, I use our dish brush with a replaceable head and our big block dish soap. The French breeze is our favorite scent, but honestly they're all nice. Before we made the switch, my husband actually thought he would hate solid dish soap, and told me as much, but he now loves the block soap even more than I do! We used to water down regular dish soap and keep it in a spray bottle, which made it last longer, but it wasn't biodegradable and it still came in a plastic bottle. Now, we actually carry liquid dish soap in our bulk section at but Jarod is totally sold on the block soap. It does have a good cleaning power since it's an oil based soap. We've never looked back!
We also keep a pot scraper from this brand by our sink to scrape off more stubborn food residue, but I've heard our handheld pot scrubber works really well too. I found the pot scraper up in Vancouver at a little co-op, and it's so simple and efficient which makes me happy. Maybe we'll carry them at Eco someday! Other things we have by the sink are a mason jar of hand soap with a soap pump lid, a bottle brush for our reusable water bottles and coffee thermoses, and a straw cleaner brush.
For our wood floors, every once in awhile I'll mop or use a floor oil but most of the time we're just vacuuming up Drifter's fur. If I lived in a house I would definitely have one of the beautiful Redecker brooms. Speaking of Drifter's fur, we also use a reusable lint roller! It's actually called a furniture brush and it works for couches, clothes, you name it.
That's all I can think of at the moment! To summarize, our cleaning supplies amount to this short list:
- All purpose cleaning spray (lavender) in a spray bottle
- Home cleaning scrub (tea tree scent) in a shaker jar
- Baking soda
- Reusable dish brush and a spare dish brush head
- Unpaper towels
- Lint roller
- Castile soap (not mentioned above but used throughout the house for various things. Love the clary sage & fir scent)
And for dishes: