Published 31 May 2021 ● Last Updated on 21 June 2021
As you walk down the aisle of a supermarket (or scroll through an online grocery app), there is no dearth of fancy looking items with promises to make your home sparkly clean and keep it smelling heavenly all the time. Lured by the prospect of a solution guaranteed to save you hours of back-breaking cleaning, perhaps you give little thought to their level of toxicity and contribution towards plastic waste. Or maybe you make the effort to go green and limit your purchases to sustainable household products, adding to a sizable bill size. Luckily for you, there exists the Goldilocks solution of low-priced AND and sustainable zero-waste cleaning products. We have drawn up a list of everyday eco-friendly alternatives for those who aspire to follow zero waste living practices and run a zero-waste household. Each of these green household cleaning products are cheap, easy to find in bulk and give results as good as their toxic and much more expensive counterparts.
Public interest announcement: We suggest you try the natural cleaners on a test surface prior to using the suggestions in this article. While we have tried and tested most of the ideas here, the reality is, materials vary, humidity and weather makes a difference and not all materials behave in a predictable manner.
1. When life gives you lemons make a lemon cleaner
As the saying goes, “When life hands you lemons use it to make lemonade” or in this case a lemon cleaner. Lemons are really versatile and easily available in your kitchen pantry. With their antibacterial and antiseptic properties and their pleasant tangy after-smell, they are the perfect ingredient to create your own homemade cleaners.
Here are a few common ways in which lemon can be used for ecological home cleaning:
- Lemons are natural deodorizers and even half a lemon kept in an open bowl can remove the odd smell which refrigerators tend to get sometimes.
- Use vinegar infused with lemon or oranges to clean your stove tops, microwaves and other small appliances.
- Rub lemon and salt on cutting boards to sanitize them.
- Scour metallic objects like pots, pans and faucets with lemon dipped in baking soda to revive their shine.
2. Use baking-soda as a cleanser
Baking soda is another great eco-friendly cleaning product to use around the house. First, it is inexpensive and usually available in bulk, which means in addition to more value for money you help in cutting down single-use plastic. Another fact which makes baking soda a fantastic green cleaning product is that it is non-toxic with no harsh additives or chemicals. Unlike other commercial cleaning products there are no known connections of baking soda to health issues.
Here’s are green tips and tricks to use baking soda for some zero-waste cleaning:
- For some non-toxic home cleaning and to unclog a blocked drain: sprinkle baking soda into the drainage hole and chase it down with an equal amount of vinegar. The fizz and splutter is the chemical reaction at work. Rinse with a generous amount of (preferably) water thereafter to completely clear the gunk. Catch a demo here. Pro-Tip: Use this process as a preventative instead of waiting for drains to clog!
- Deodorizing properties of baking soda make it a great sustainable household product for taking care of bad odors around the house. Be it a shoe rack or refrigerator, baking soda in a holed container can catch the odors easily. Add coffee beans / essential oils to increase the baking soda’s potency.
- Get the burnt food off an iron skillet with a paste of water and baking soda – scrub the paste using a scouring pad. The more you scrub, the more of your good seasoning you will remove, so don’t go overboard! Rinse and repeat if necessary. Dry and then rub with vegetable oil as usual. Have burnt food bits on a non iron pan? Here is how you can tackle it.
3. Add sparkle to your house with vinegar
Vinegar is another miracle product many of us have sitting in our kitchen cupboards. While most of us use it for salad dressing and marination, with its disinfectant properties it makes for the ultimate multipurpose natural cleaner for zero-waste cleaning. Like baking soda, it is non-toxic and eco-friendly, and the best part is, it is very inexpensive, especially if bought in large quantities, making it a must have for a zero-waste household.
Let’s look at some zero-waste cleaning tips to clean with vinegar:
- Mix it with equal parts of water for some streak-free glass and mirror cleaning.
- Vinegar contains 5 to 10 % acetic acid which makes it very effective in removing thick soap scum and mildew which tend to gather in showers and tubs. Create a solution with equal amounts of water and vinegar – regularly spray it over damp/dark corners that tend to catch mold.
- Another tried-and-tested use for vinegar is to use it for descaling faucets, fixtures and even appliances like electric kettles.
- Are you a lockdown or a lifetime yogi? Mix vinegar and water in a 1:4 ratio in a spray bottle. Add 2-4 drops of essential oil (a mix of tea tree oil for its antimicrobial properties +Lavender for fragrance works the magic). Spray more cleaner onto your mat than you think you’ll need, and using a clean towel, rub the cleaner into the mat in circular motions. Let the mat dry in the sun if possible and store as usual.
- As mentioned in point 1, infuse vinegar with citric fruits for a simple eco-friendly cleaning solution.
4. Enhance your cleaning routine with essential oils
The word essential oil usually conjures up images of relaxing massages, zen music and pleasant aroma. However, they are useful for more than just their fragrance. Many essential oils have properties which make them a great addition to any DIY cleaning solution. Add a few drops (and not more than a few drops) to boost the cleaning power of your DIY cleaner.
Here’s an overview of few essential oils and their natural cleansing properties to help you begin your zero-waste cleaning journey:
- Lemon: Lemon essential oil is exceedingly versatile. Its antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties make it a perfect green household cleaning product. You can use lemon essential oil to deodorize your refrigerator and to cut through grease and grime around the house.
- Lavender: In addition to its relaxing and pleasing scent, lavender essential oil has antibacterial properties and the ability to disinfect surfaces. The perfect ingredient for a DIY cleaning recipe.
- Peppermint: Apart from its uplifting minty scent that makes your house smell fantastic, peppermint lavender oil is very effective in repelling bugs like ants, spiders and cockroaches.
- Tea tree: Tea tree essential oil kills bacteria, insects, and has natural properties that prevent harmful molds and bacteria from growing in your home.
- Sweet Orange: With its antifungal and antibacterial properties sweet orange essential oil works very well to break down grease and oil.
5. Clean anything and everything with castile soap
Castile soap is considered a natural cleaner as it is a plant-based soap made from vegetable oil. An interesting piece of trivia about this green cleaning product is that it is an ancient soap and has been around since the 11th century! Before using castile soap as a homemade cleaner you should know that since it is a hyper-concentrated form of olive oil, it needs to be diluted pretty heavily before use.
Here are several reasons why it is an awesome eco-friendly cleaning product:
- Castile soap is super versatile and can be diluted for a range of uses from cleaning laundry to dishes.
- It allows people to buy a single product with a wide range of applications instead of multiple products with specific and limited uses.
- It is totally natural and 100% biodegradable – a perfect companion for your zero-waste living practices.
- Castile oil is often available in large quantities and as refills, making it a great value for money green cleaning product.
6. Reuse old things as cleaning tools
All of the above green cleaning tips and products would be incomplete without the use of eco-cleaning tools to accompany them. If you are working towards a planet-friendly lifestyle, the objects which you use to clean around the house are as important as the homemade cleaners you use. Most cleaning sponges are made of plastics and microfibres, which means, with time and use you add tiny bits slowly but steadily to the environment.
Here is a list of eco-cleaning tools, easily available at home, with immense potential to help you succeed at zero-waste cleaning:
- Instead of a plastic sponge use a dish rag to clean around the kitchen.
- The faded t-shirt which is too worn out to donate can be used for dusting and keeping those surfaces clean.
- Use old worn socks or foils for scrubbing and scouring.
- Your old toothbrush can be used to get all the nooks and crannies, and the old towel which you planned to discard can act as a mop head.
- Once you have made your homemade cleaner, pour it into reusable glass spray bottles instead of plastic bottles.
Achieving your cleanliness goals at home does not have to be difficult, toxic or expensive. All you need is the right green cleaning tips and products to help you take the first step towards zero-waste living practices.