Cleaning product producers promise a sparkling-clean house with their range of different solutions for windows, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, etc. (each in their own plastic bottle, of course). And of course, you apparently can’t possibly start your weekly clean without plastic rags in plastic packaging and an array of cleaning gadgets. But the reality is, this is more about marketing than necessity. You can get along perfectly well without plastic to keep your home clean and sanitary. Let’s start our big clean, and count how many plastic items we save in the process!
First of all, don’t toss out all the cleaning gear you already have, even if they are not zero waste. Reuse them as long as possible and then try to recycle them. And only when they can’t serve you anymore, replace them with eco-friendly alternatives. If you’ve just started living alone and you simply don’t have any cleaning equipment, nature will be grateful if you opt for second-hand durable gear, instead of new stuff.
Dust doesn’t care if you wipe it with a polypropylene cloth from a supermarket or an old T-shirt. But nature cares. Speaking on its behalf, we vote for an old cotton T-shirt. Prolonging the lifetime of clothes that can’t be repaired anymore is significantly more eco-friendly than buying a new cleaning cloth (even if it’s made of recycled PET). For dust cleaning in high-up, hard-to-reach places, you can use a feather duster instead of a plastic one.
You’ll have trouble finding a plastic-free vacuum cleaner, but it is a durable product that will serve you for years. If your vacuum cleaner offers the option to use disposable dust bags instead of a reusable dust tank, you’d better pass on it. These dust bags are always plastic and always unrecyclable. Also, a stainless steel dustpan and a broom made of natural materials (such as wood, bamboo, or coconut) will replace a plastic set for a quick sweep without a vacuum cleaner.
Plastic mop connections very often crack, meaning these items quickly end up as trash. For plastic-free floor mopping, you’ll need a wooden mop, a metal bucket and an old T-shirt.
Only a few people in the world really like cleaning. That’s why we often delay cleaning as long as we can, but one day-old dirt in the oven or shower must be cleaned at some point. A knitted jute/cotton cloth or your old toothbrush will do the job of scrubbing perfectly!
A bamboo brush with coconut bristles will do the toilet cleaning duty with the same end result as a plastic one. But, you can compost it instead of sending it to the landfill when its lifecycle ends.
One more item many households use for different purposes while cleaning is gloves. There are a few recycling and composting opportunities for rubber, nitrile and latex gloves, but they’re not widely available. Let’s question the necessity of gloves though. While you need to protect your hands when using aggressive chemicals, when using natural cleaning products, you can safely clean without them. Move on to the next section for some cleaning product recipes.
Bleach, lye, naphthalene, ammonia, formaldehyde and other chemicals used for industrial cleaning products can cause health problems in people and marine life if sent down the drain. Cleaning solutions may contain microplastic and the bottles they are sold in contribute to plastic pollution (if you missed our previous article, check it out for more on this issue). It’s time to stop supporting this industry! Below you’ll find our simple solutions for bypassing plastic in cleaning products to save nature.
There is nothing easier than making an all-purpose zero waste cleaning product for windows, mirrors, sinks, countertops and almost every other surface (except for marble and granite because you may dull or etch them). Just add 1 part warm water to 1 part white vinegar and mix in a spray bottle. For a nice scent, you can also add a few drops of lemon, tea tree or pine essential oil, or put citruses peels into the bottle. Alternatively, for sticky areas, use lemon, citric acid or baking soda.
Toilet cleaning chemicals can be replaced by a zero waste fizzie. Mix 3/4 cup of baking soda with 1/2 cup of citric acid and add 25 drops of lemon or orange essential oil. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of this mixture to the toilet bowl, let it fizz, scrub with a toilet broom, then flush. Your toilet will be sparkling clean! If you want to make the process less messy, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the mixture, stir, put it into a mould and let it dry. Now you have toilet cleaning product divided into equal pieces. Store them in a glass jar.
Nothing smells better than fresh air. And the best way to get it is to open your windows! The simplest and totally zero waste advice. Don’t thank us. But if you still think you want your home to smell of something else, try putting some coffee beans around the house or light up a scented soy-wax candle. Finally, spraying water with some drops of your favourite essential oil also works well.
It’s hard to count exactly how many plastic items we’ve avoided buying for our hypothetical clean of a hypothetical house. Roughly, it’s at least 13, but you can count the number in real life when you give it a try! We’d love to hear how many plastic things you refused, so don’t hesitate to post your score online!