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I’ve learned so much on my journey to becoming a zero-waste household this past year. Especially when it comes to cleaning. While there has been tons of trial and error along the way, one thing has remained true throughout my process, my understanding that a house is not truly clean if the process of maintaining my home results in all kinds of unnecessary waste.
While traditional cleaning methods rely on various chemical products, plastic bottles, paper towels, plastic bags, sponges, disposable wipes, and a ton of unrecyclable stuff, it just doesn’t have to be that way. You can alter the way you clean at home to be less wasteful, more frugal, and less time consuming too! Here are my five tips for getting started with zero-waste cleaning at home!
1) Rethink your cleaning tools: Start your zero-waste cleaning by first minimizing the number of ingredients and the tools required to keep your house clean. This will also help to limit the waste generated by the cleaning process as a whole. Things you’ll need include:
- Bagless electric vacuum. Makes it easy to compost dirt and debris when emptied.
- Wooden-handled straw broom and whisk brush. Long-lasting and biodegradable!
- Galvanized steel dustpan.
- Glass spray bottles for DIY cleaners.
- Glass and stainless steel shaker. Readily found at Dollar Tree stores.
- Mop with a wooden handle and washable head. For dust mopping wood floors.
- Steam mop with washable pads for mopping all non-wooden surfaces.
- Washable cleaning cloths.
- Pumice stone. Naturally, scours toilets bowls without scratching.
- Galvanized bucket. Purchased at feed stores for half as much as plastic buckets.
- Collapsible basket. Used to pick-up items while cleaning and tidying.
- Tapioca scrub brushes. One for cleaning dishes and another for cleaning grout.
- Squeegee. Used to clean glass, shower doors, and tile. Also found at Dollar Tree stores
2) Create a cleaning routine: Cleaning routines are by no means new business. But creating cleaning routines based on how you clean and not what you clean it. A zero-waste cleaning routine relies on durable, lasting, renewable tools that can be washed and reused.
Once you have your tools, place your cleaning gear in the rooms they will be used, as opposed to one central cleaning space. This will keep you from wasting valuable time while cleaning having to go from room to room finding your cleaning tools. Next, you’ll want to create a routine based on your habits. For example, start your daily cleaning not in the morning but after dinner. This way you’ll start your days off with a clean home which will motivate you to keep your homes clean throughout the day. I start by cleaning my kitchen, followed by bathrooms, and high-traffic areas such as dens, living rooms, library, office, playrooms, and entrance ways. Bedrooms, on the other hand, can be tidied in under a few minutes each morning before you start your day.
Keep in mind, cleaning routines work best in organized spaces. If your home is super cluttered, start there. Once you’ve maintained your cleaning routine for a full season, it will become easier and over time you can even start to eliminate seasonal purges and tedious weekly cleaning sessions. When I started zero-waste cleaning a year ago it took numerous hours to clean my 3,000 square foot home. Now, I can clean my entire home in under an hour and tidy my house in half that time. Remember, cleaning is habitual and will take to master. Aim for consistency, not perfection.
3) Minimize the number of cleaners you use: When I first started my zero-waste journey I found my home to be in full possession of no fewer than a dozen cleaners. Each purchased because corporations and advertisers reassured me that I needed a specific solvent for each and every cleaning need in my home. With an average cost of nearly forty plus dollars each month! I soon realized that this was as far from the truth as could be. My favorite zero-waste cleaners are:
- Baking soda. A true a workhorse. It can do almost anything – cleaning, scrubbing, absorbing odors, clearing drains, shining silver, killing mold and unclogging drains (when used together with white vinegar), in DIY dishwasher tabs, and many more uses. Buy it in bulk in reusable containers or in bulk bins to get the most bang for your bulk and less impact on the planet! I add it to topping shakers and keep it in my bathroom and kitchen for scrubbing and scouring.
- Castile soap: Castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s, can be purchased at many bulk food stores in reusable containers or online. A few drops go a long way toward disinfecting surfaces and leaving your house smelling amazing, especially if you use peppermint- or lavender-scented soap. I use castile soap to wash my dishes, to mop wooden floors, to creating dusting spray, to wash my pets, and to clean our cars.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil, purchased in bulk, is good for removing stains from upholstery and carpets, polishing patent leather, removing chewing gum, cleaning shower scum, and for polishing stainless steel and stone countertops. Coconut oil is also naturally antimicrobial and so it’s great for rubbing into bamboo cutting boards after washing for extra disinfecting!
- Vodka: Vodka, when mixed with cedar and lavender essential oils, creates the best fabric refresher!
- White vinegar. This agent disinfects surfaces, softens fabric in the wash, cleans toilets, removes wax from vegetables, cleans floors, removed calcium buildup, and clears drains. You can also make your own vinegar cleaner. Three go-to varieties include:
All Purpose Vinegar Cleaner:
- 1 Cup Warm Water
- 1 Cup White Vinegar
- Mix together in a spray bottle for use.
Scented All Purpose Cleaner:
- 1 Cup of Warm Water
- 1 Cup White Vinegar
- 10 drops essential oil of choice.
- Mix together in a spray bottle for use.
Citrus-Infused Vinegar Cleaner:
- Combine the peels of four lemons or limes in a quart sized mason jar.
- Fill mason jar to neck with white vinegar.
- Seal and store for one month.
- When ready to clean, strain and add to glass spray bottle.
- Use full-strength to clean shower stalls or diluted for windows and countertops.
4) Utilize the power of the sun and wind: Fresh air and sunshine should not be overlooked! The sun is the ultimate zero-waste cleaning tool! Laying cloth items in the sun to dry, known as sun bleaching, is a natural way of disinfecting fabrics and killing most surface contaminants. Opening your windows and airing your home out on non-windy days (to avoid dust contaminants coming into your home), is another way to help you live a healthier life while simultaneously reducing your need for toxic aerosol air fresheners.
5) Invest in good zero-waste cleaning cloths: I’m a firm believer in using the right tool for the right job. This is especially true for cleaning. You should always invest in good cleaning cloths to clean, polish, and sanitize your home. You will also need a few to get started.
- Bar towels: Great for drying dishes without lint.
- Drying mats: Used to air dry non-dishwashable items.
- Shammy towels: Used to clean electronics without scratching.
- Microfiber towels: Used to clean heavy spills, counter tops, general cleaning, and more.
My favorite microfiber towels? e-cloth. Because with e-cloth you can clean many surfaces in your home with just good old tap water! My favorite thing about e-cloths? They are also reasonably priced. My 8-piece home cleaning kit cost under $40.00. This is nearly a 1/4 of my annual cost for paper towels just a few short years ago! This is such a small cost for what you get, making e-cloth my go-to zero-waste cleaning cloth brand at home. If you’d like to learn more about the e-cloth 8-Piece Home Cleaning Set, click here.
So, friends, those are my 5 favorite tips for zero-waste cleaning at home. I hope they will challenge you to rethink the way you clean your home. Now I have to ask, do you already use any of these tips at home or do you have zero-waste cleaning tips you’d like to share as well? I’d love to hear about them below!