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Best Zero Waste Cleaning Supplies

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I wish I could say I went from normal life to zero waste overnight. The truth is it’s been a long arduous process and I’m still not there yet. I am perpetually working on limiting my disposable waste stream, particularly plastic. Eliminating disposable plastic from food products has been the most daunting task. Finding zero waste cleaning supplies has been far easier, but not without its challenges.

RELATED CONTENT: Low waste milk, juice, and Ziplock bag products.

Commercially available cleaning products in disposable plastic packaging are just part of the problem. The other part is the actual cleaning products. According to the American Lung Association, many cleaning supplies or household products can contribute to serious health problems, such as headaches, eye and throat irritations, and even cancer. Some of these products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The ALA suggests that we avoid using air fresheners altogether.

In a dual effort to lower my disposable plastic waste and improve indoor air quality, I stopped purchasing most commercial cleaning products. I now purchase natural cleaning products in sustainable or bulk packaging. Some of the products may still be in plastic, but I purchase them in bulk form to limit my overall packaging waste. Listed below are my 16 favorite cleaning products.

1. Vinegar

<img src="heinz-white-distilled-vinegar-glass-bottle.jpg" alt="white vinegar in glass bottle">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Of course this titan of clean is a must have for zero wasters. I use a vinegar and water mix (with 30 drops of essential oils) on almost anything. It’s my go-to all-purpose cleaner for counters, showers, sinks, toilets, appliances, floors. Full disclosure: I purchase a large container of vinegar in a plastic jug. I could purchase white distilled vinegar in a glass bottle, but that would equate to a heavier product (more emissions to ship it) and more packaging. The 32 oz glass vinegar bottle sure is pretty, but a 128 oz plastic bottle contains four times the product.

Shower Cleaner Recipe
1 cup of vinegar
4 tablespoons of dish soap
1 cup of water
10 drops of tea tree oil

2. Baking Soda

<img src="baking-soda-in-cardboard.jpg" alt="baking soda in cardboard packaging">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Baking soda combined with vinegar can do almost anything. I recently unclogged my dishwasher with baking soda and vinegar. Used together they cause a chemical reaction. Like vinegar, baking soda has many uses, including baking and cleaning. Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a pot of hard-boiled eggs and they are easier to peel. I do not typically use baking soda for personal care products because it irritates my skin, but I know some who use baking soda for toothpaste, deodorant, exfoliation, and insect bites.

I use baking soda to clean my smooth top cook surface, pots and pans, the oven, remove grease stains, freshen carpets, clean up urine-soaked beds (my kids, not mine). I also mix baking soda with hot water to clean personal care products, like retainers, and hair brushes. One of my favorite things about baking soda is that it comes in a cardboard box, which is compostable and recyclable.

The trick to unclogging a drain with baking soda is to mix baking soda with water, stir until it’s a soupy mix, pour into the drain, followed by vinegar, then boiling water. I keep seeing photos of people pouring powder baking soda in their drains. I have tried this…and it never works. The only time this worked for me was when I mixed the baking soda with water to form a thick liquid. 

3. Pumie Stick

<img src="Pumie-scouring-stick-for-cleaning.jpg" alt="Pumie scouring stick clean toilets sinks bathtubs showers">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Before I discovered the pumie stick I thought I was going to have to buy new toilets. This stick can take on most stains in a ceramic toilet bowl. It can clean hard water stains, acid stains, calcium deposits, rust, etc. Be sure to purchase the scouring stick, not the one with a plastic handle attached.

4. Bamboo Dish Washing Brush

<img src="Kuechenprofi-Classic-Dish-Washing-Brush.jpg" alt="Bamboo metal dish washing brush">
Image credit: Amazon.com

I’m still using a beat up old plastic one, but as soon as it breaks I will be purchasing this bamboo dishwashing brush, which has received rave reviews from many zero wasters.

5. Coconut or Walnut Scrubbers

<img src="Coconut-Fiber-scrubber-natural-bristles-for-cleaning.jpg" alt="Coconut scrubber for dishes cleaning">
Image credit: Amazon.com

The coconut scrubber is made of fibers extracted from coconut husks. The walnut scrubbers are made from walnut shells. The walnut scrubber is a good alternative to scouring pads. Whereas, the coconut scrubber is great for scrubbing vegetables and fruits, as well as pots and pans.

6. Cotton Dish Cloths or Tea Towels

<img src="cotton-dish-cloths.jpg" alt="cotton dish cloths tea towels unpaper towels">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Cotton dishcloths are a good replacement to paper towels. If you’re looking to unpaper towel your kitchen, then look no further. These cloths soften with each additional wash. I use them to keep food warm and to clean up messes.

7. Essential Oils

<img src="essential-oil-aroma-therapy-kit.jpg" alt="cheap good essential oils kit">
Image credit: BulkApothecary.com

Bulk Apothecary has a great selection of organic, commercial, and therapeutic grade oils for reasonable prices. If you’re looking to avoid that “vinegar” smell in your all-purpose cleaner, then add 15 to 30 drops of the essential oil of your choosing. Tea tree oil is a good antiseptic. It can be used in various cleaning routines and personal care items. You can purchase tea tree oil individually or purchase an essential oil kit.

8. Borax

<img src="Borax-20-mule-team-in-cardboard-packaging.jpg" alt="Borax great cleaning product">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Borax is a prime ingredient in my powdered dishwashing detergent. There is some disagreement about the safety of Borax as a household cleaner, but the jury is still undecided. I still use Borax for cleaning and dishwasher detergent. I do not use Borax as a laundry detergent. See my favorite dishwashing detergent recipe below.

Dishwasher Detergent Recipe
2 parts Borax
2 parts washing soda
1 part citric acid
1 part salt

9. Citric Acid

<img src="citric-acid-bulk-package-10-lbs.jpg" alt="Citric acid great homemade cleaning products">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Citric acid (sour salt) is another ingredient in my dishwasher detergent. It can typically be used in plastic or stainless steel interior dishwashers to fight hard water stains. It’s also useful for canning because it raises the pH balance of acidic fruits. I purchase a 10 lb bag of citric acid in plastic film packaging (which I recycle at the grocery store).

10. Washing Soda

<img src="Arm-and-Hammer-washing-soda-in-cardboard.jpg" alt="Washing Soda homemade cleaning products">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Washing soda can be used as a water softener in the laundry, in dish washing detergent, and as an all-purpose cleaner. There are few things washing soda cannot do. Like baking soda and Borax, washing soda typically comes in cardboard packaging. When making my own dish soap I add a tablespoon of washing soda to thicken it.

11. Biz Detergent Booster

<img src="Biz-powder-laundry-detergent-booster-in-cardboard.jpg" alt="Biz powder laundry detergent cardboard replace Oxiclean no plastic">
Image credit: Amazon.com

If you’re looking for a replacement to OxiClean (which typically comes in plastic), then consider Biz Detergent as a non-plastic alternative. Like OxiClean, Biz Detergent is a detergent booster, but it contains enzymes that eat organic matter, like sweat, food, grease, and grime. I do not use Biz to make homemade detergent, but I do use it as a booster.

Homemade detergents have a bad rap because they typically contain soap, which creates buildup (and may not get your clothes clean). Clean clothes require water, surfactants, and agitation. I use Arm & Hammer detergent for everything, including cloth diapers. Arm & Hammer is owned by Church & Dwight. I do not use Tide because they are owned by Proctor & Gamble. Church & Dwight brands do contain disposable plastic, but unlike Proctor & Gamble, they are not one of the biggest disposable plastic waste producers in the world.

RELATED CONTENT: The Biggest Disposable Plastic Producers in the World

12. Apple Cider Vinegar

<img src="apple-cider-vinegar-in-glass-bottles.jpg" alt="apple cider vinegar cleaning products homemade">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Apple cider vinegar can be used for cleaning, personal care, and food products. I use apple cider vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner for toothbrushes, mirrors, and a deodorizer. For personal care it can be used as a facial toner, hair wash, and deodorant. For food products, it can be used in salad dressing, in canning, marinade, and sauces. I purchase apple cider vinegar in glass bottles.

13. Epsom Salt

<img src="Epsom-salt-cardboard-carton.jpg" alt="epsom salt cleaning products homemade">
Image credit: Amazon.com

Epsom salt should not be confused with table salt. It should be used for external use only. It can be used for bath soaks (particularly feet), scrubs, splinter removal (epsom salt/warm water mix soak), and in the garden. I purchase epsom salt in a cardboard carton.

RELATED CONTENT: See my favorite zero waste deodorants here.

14. Castile Bar Soap

<img src="castile-bar-soap.jpg" alt="castile castille soap cleaning products homemade">
Image credit: VitaCost.com

This hardworking soap is one of my favorite things. I prefer Castile bar soap in lieu of the liquid version, which comes in disposable plastic. The bar soap is more labor intensive because it requires grating if you decide to boil it down to liquid. I use Castile soap in its bar soap form in bathrooms and I grate the soap to make a liquid dish soap. See my dish soap recipe below.

Dish Soap Recipe
1/2 cup of grated soap
4 cups of water
1/2 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin
1 tablespoon of washing soda
10 to 20 drops of essential oil of your choice (I use tea tree oil)
Grate bar of soap. Add grated soap and water in sauce pan over low/medium heat until all soap is dissolved. Add vegetable glycerin, washing soda, and stir well. Cool for 1 hour before placing in a container.

15. Vegetable Glycerin

<img src="Vegetable-glycerin-in-bar-soap-base.jpg" alt="Vegetable glycerin soap bar cleaning products homemade">
Image credit: BulkApothecary.com

Like most items on this list, vegetable glycerin has many uses. I only use vegetable glycerin to make liquid soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. Vegetable glycerin comes in various types of packaging. I purchased a large container in disposable plastic, however, that container will likely last me several years. You can also purchase it in bar form (which I assume would be melted in your soap base).

16. Spray Bottle

<img src="amber-glass-spray-bottle.jpg" alt="amber glass spray bottle homemade cleaning products">
Image credit: Amazon.com

I’m currently using old plastic spray bottles, which is the second mantra of zero waste (REUSE). Prior to becoming a minimalist and a zero waster I purchased all manner of cleaning products. How nice to reuse these old disposable plastic bottles (and temporarily save them from the landfill). Eventually the spray nozzles go bad and I will replace the plastic ones with stainless steel or glass versions. The amber glass ones are especially pretty!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my 16 favorite low waste cleaning supplies. If you have any suggestions drop me a tweet at @msquare1.

 




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