Written by Christel Schultz
Eliminating waste production in our daily lives is an ongoing process for my family. Natural products are more widely available, but many of those still come in bulky, single use containers. Chemical solutions and abrasives in plastic containers currently make up the majority of our cleaning products. Our cleaning tools tend to be various types of scrub sponges in disposable packaging and plastic brushes or brooms. The goal is to minimize waste and convert to earth friendly products.
Do It Yourself
Do it yourself (DIY) options are ideal in theory, but busy schedules prevent many of us from consistently doing things ourselves. The best approach for transitioning to eco-friendly products with minimal waste may be a combination of DIY and available items through local or online markets. As a start, take inventory of your home for items that can be repurposed. We often take clothing to the thrift store, but some things are a little too far gone. Old clothing, bath towels, and dish towels provided us with a crate of rags for household use. We just wash and reuse or separate them based on purpose. Mason jars, old pickle jars, or jelly containers are ideal for storing various DIY cleaning solutions or powders, too. Basic ingredients for most cleaners include combinations of baking soda, distilled white vinegar, coconut oil, lemon juice, castile soap, and essential oils.
Here are some examples:
- Baking soda is a fantastic deodorizer and works well as a mild abrasive. Add it to your laundry. Mix it with warm water, vinegar, and your favorite essential oil for a personalized fabric refresher. Baking soda and vinegar create a foamy scrub to tackle bath and shower grime.Vinegar can be used to clean just about anything in the kitchen and bathroom, including windows and floors. It kills some bacteria, too. Adding citrus scented essential oil (or your favorite scent) can eliminate the unpleasant odor. Vinegar is acidic, though, so it’s not recommended for polished surfaces, stone or wood. Porous surfaces are subject to damage.
- Coconut oil and baking soda make an effective paste cleaner. Coconut oil alone is great as a crayon and scuff mark remover, furniture polish, and hardwood scratch hider. A light coating also makes a useful dust deterrent.
- Lemon juice is great for removing stains and grease, followed by a gentle baking soda scrub as needed. Apply lemon juice to fabrics and dry in the sun for a natural bleaching effect. It cleans copper and even windows.
- Castile soap may be the most versatile of all these ingredients. It is a vegetable-based, biodegradable soap available in liquid or bar form. Originating in the Castile region of Spain, it was previously made with olive oil. Castile soap has now gained worldwide popularity and is typically made with hemp, coconut or castor oils. Avocado, almond, or walnut oils may be used as alternatives. Mix it with some warm water in a spray bottle to create an all-purpose cleaner or in a bucket to mop floors throughout your home. A few drops can clean a sink of dirty dishes. As little as ¼ cup can be used as laundry detergent in the washing machine. Combine with baking soda for another effective shower scrub.
- Some of the most popular essential oils for cleaning include lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, orange, thyme, rosemary, grapefruit, eucalyptus, and lemongrass. Pick the scent that seems most refreshing or best suits your purpose.
The green clean movement has really taken root. So if DIY is not your thing, there are plenty of purchase options. Non-plastic, biodegradable, natural products, containers, and cleaning tools are widely available. Many containers are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic, too. If you use products in plastic, look for those. Avoid single use plastics and refill containers. Use concentrate and water solutions when possible. Look for brushes and brooms with wood or bamboo handles. Natural bristles made of horsehair or plant materials like rattan, tampico fiber, broomcorn, and yucca are known to out-perform their synthetic counterparts. Metal dust pans, buckets, wash bins and trash cans are more durable than those made of plastic.
The following companies offer a variety of options to consider:
- Blueland provide shatterproof, 100% Bisphenol-A (BPA) free, acrylic bottles that do not leach or break down. Fill the bottle with water, and add a Multi-Surface, Glass & Mirror, or Bathroom cleaning tablet. Get cleaning in minutes.
- Grove Collaborative offers household and personal care items. Choose from their own line of products or brands like Seventh Generation and Burt’s Bees. Consult with a Grove Guide to determine what products may be best for you.
- Biokleen plant and mineral-based home cleaning products are available for laundry, kitchen, and general household needs. The company uses bottles created with 50% PCR content. Their concentrated products minimize water consumption in manufacturing, require less packaging due to small size, and reduce shipping costs.
- Gaia Natural Cleaners products are plant and mineral-based, paraben and sulfate free, with no synthetic preservatives. The containers are metal tins and amber tinted bottles. Eleven total ingredients, plus a variety of essential oils, comprise the list for their ENTIRE line of products.
- The JAWS (Just Add Water System) is a line of non-toxic, biodegradable concentrate cleaners to clean glass, showers, hardwood floors, and granite. A disinfectant cleaner and degreaser for the kitchen are also available. Reusable spray bottles are included.
- Branch Basics offers a plant and mineral-based, biodegradable concentrate solution created with 8 simple ingredients for all of your cleaning needs. The oxygen boost powder (2 ingredients) can be combined with the concentrate solution to tackle tough stains and scrub bathrooms. A convenient, multi-purpose, natural beechwood scrub brush is also available.
- Well Earth Goods has a huge inventory of products to meet all your natural, sustainable, zero waste needs. The whole website is worth checking out. Their plastic free cleaning tools can be found here.
- Lola Products offer a variety of bamboo handle brushes with Tampico fiber bristles. The reusable paper towels are 100% biodegradable and compostable. Check out the eco-friendly products available here.
Think about this…
Your daily choices matter. Consider your needs and make informed decisions to transition your household. Chemical cleaners and unnecessary waste will be a thing of the past. Together we create a more sustainable tomorrow.