Zero Waste Cleaning EVERYTHING you need to know!

I love to clean! I really do. But a lot of my cleaning products come in plastic packaging, so if I want to clean the planet at the same time as I clean my home, I opt for zero waste cleaning products to get the job done.

Cleaning our homes should not come at the expense of the planet. Aside from the plastic contamination you also have the risk of being exposed to some of the nastiest chemicals on the market today, it’s why green cleaning and choosing eco-friendly cleaning products is more important than ever.

A zero-waste kitchen and zero waste cleaning routine go hand-in-hand and there are certain criteria I follow when choosing what kinds of products I use in the home.

How to pick zero waste cleaning products

Where is it made?
How far does the item have to travel to get to my home? Is it local? Or being shipped from another part of the world?
Is it made of natural ingredients? Is it non-toxic?
What are the ingredients? Are they listed on the bottle? Is the company transparent about what they are using and where they are souring the ingredients from?
Is it certified organic?
This is especially important if the brand is claiming to me organically, third-party certifications matter. having said that, getting certified is really expensive for smaller brands, so there are other things we can look to.

Is it vegan?
Is the product plant-based and made without any ingredients derived from animals or insects?
Is it cruelty-free?
Do they avoid testing their products on animals?
Palm oil-free?
Does the product contain palm oil? Palm oil is something I like to stay away from, it’s responsible for major deforestation and even though there is RSPO certified palm oil, it’s certainly not perfect and comes with a great deal of controversy.

Are ingredients sustainably sourced?
Does the company source its ingredients sustainably and ethically?
Does the company use environmentally-conscious packaging?
Is the product packaged using recyclable and/or compostable/zero waste friendly packaging? This is especially important when it comes to zero waste cleaning. There is actually a new movement called Blue Beauty which highlights the need for more minimal packaging.

In this blog I am going to cover zero waste cleaning accessories and tools, zero waste cleaning companies I love and of course I will share some of my favourite zero waste cleaning brands too. So let’s get to it!

Zero waste cleaning supplies: rags and cloths

You need the right tools for the job! Let’s start with what I use to actually clean my home. The first thing is to ditch paper towels, why you ask, well, because it’s really really bad for the planet.

Reusable Paper Towels – normally made from cellulose and also known as Swedish Cloths. I cannot live without these and I cannot stress enough how freaking amazing they are to clean the home. They are reusable, machine washable, dishwasher safe and equal to up to 15 rolls of paper towels. I have at least 6 of these, they last a while. Use them for the sink, the stove (inside and out) inside the fridge, the floor, to wash dishes you name it! And the best part, they are 100% compostable. Switching to paper towel alternatives will help you save money and reduce waste.

A woman washing a dish with a Swedish cloth.

Some of my favourite brands include KLIIN, and Ten & Co, they come in a variety of sizes and can last anywhere between 5 and 6 months, depending on how you are using them. They can be washed 100 times, I normally air dry them.

HUCK TOWELS: You can use these to dry off raw meat, clean up after using meat in the kitchen, Once used rinse with super hot water and toss in the wash. You can basically use these for most cleaning jobs in the house. Have at least 24 of them. They are super cheap and you can even buy them second-hand.

UNPAPAER TOWEL, these are mini cloth towels that attach together with a snap so you can still have them in a roll on your counter and keep them accessible. 2 rolls are perfect. These are great for cleaning up spills, drying hands or countertops, cleaning windows and much more. Some are my favourite brands are Marley’s Monsters and Karen Leone Designs.

A roll of unpaper towel.

Tea Towels: I bet you have a ton of these lying around your house, they are ideal for drying hands, glasses, dishes and cutlery. Have at least 8.

Rags: use what you have, cut up an old t-shirt, an old cotton sock, or old towels which are great if you have a baby or a messy pet, and mopping up messes. Cut them up into sets of 12.

How I use all of the above: I have baskets in key areas of the home, one labelled clean and one labelled dirty, this way your family knows exactly what to do with the dirty ones. For my reusable cloths, I have a mesh bag hanging on the inside of my cupboard under the sink for my dirty cloths, then I toss the bag in the washing machine. For more soiled, greasy cloths, I soak them in baking soda, then toss them in the wash!

I keep the kitchen and bathroom cloths separately when washing. You can use colour coding, eg: green for the kitchen yellow for the bathroom.

Zero waste cleaning supplies: brushes and sponges

Like paper towels, those yellow and green sponges are the worst. They are made from two types of materials (plastics) and because of that they cannot be recycled, so they end up in the garbage further polluting the environment. They also cost you money, think of how many times you throw these out in a year! There are so many great replacements.

Swedish Cloths like the ones mentioned above are a great replacement. If you need something with a little more scrubbing power, here are my top picks:

Non-Abrasive Scrubbers: These are fantastic for cookware, ceramic stovetops, sinks, tubs, tiles, and more. They are biodegradable and tough on dirt. I keep two of them in my bathroom, they are great for helping to get rid of mildew that can develop around the bathtub. The ones I have are from Life Without Waste (who are part of 1% For The Planet), in Canada, you can find them at Well.ca and in the USA grab them at Earth Hero, a really fantastic online zero-waste store.

A bunch of zero waste cleaning sponges and brushes.

Coconut Husks: Boy, do I love these! They are made from coconut husk! I have both the brush and the Scours, both from Eco Coconut. The brush is super durable and can be used to scrub pots, pans, dishes and hard-to-reach places too. The hands are made from FSC certified wood and the bristles are made from sustainably farmed coconut husk’s which is the outside of dried coconuts! The scrubber is ideal for cleaning pretty much anything in your home.

Both are naturally antibacterial, easily removes mold, perfect on hard surfaces. Find EcoCoconut in Canada at Etee and in the USA at Ecococonut.

Other notable zero waste cleaning tools are brushes from Burstenhaus Redecker, it comes with a long handle, it’s made with natural fibre bristles is perfect for cleaning pots and pans. It works hard at scrubbing those hard-to-clean sticky food residues. It comes with a replacement head, so hang onto the handle. I’ve had mine for 2 years and have yet to replace it. You can find it at Well.ca in Canada and at EarthHero in the U.S.

I also use and love my dish scrubber, it’s small and great to use with block soap (more on this later). It’s ideal for pots and pans. Well.ca carries them and so does EarthHero.

Loofah’s also make cleaning without plastic easier than ever! And for heavy-duty scrubbing, think floors, decks etc. I use the Sayula Scrub Brush, it’s tough and gets the job done.

Zero waste cleaning supplies: soaps and cleaners

I’ll get to DIY cleaning recipes a little later on. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned the concoction of chemicals present in some of our most popular cleaners. Honestly, most of them are so unnecessary and actually do more harm than good. It’s why so many of them come with warnings on the bottle. Green cleaners have come a long way baby! They work, they are cost-effective and safer for you and the planet.

Refillable soap options: We’ve seen some real innovation in the cleaning space with more and more companies offering refillable cleaning options right at home. I think this is going to continue to grow as consumers demand better options from brands.

Along with refillable options, there are other products that can help you clean your home with zero waste.

Block Soap: I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about these, but boy was I wrong. Block soap is just that, a huge block of soap. It’s a sudsy, non-toxic plastic-free alternative that works like a charm, just make sure you choose the right one for the job.

These are ideal for removing grease and grime on dishes, pots and pans and there are so many great ones to choose from. They typically come in two sizes. Big and small and are really easy to use. You simply remove leftover food and grease, wet your brush, sponge or scrubbers. Then rub the top of the block to create the suds, then wash and repeat as needed. Cost-wise they are definitely more expensive than what you’d buy in a plastic bottle, but they can last up to 6 months, so you will end up saving money and reducing plastic in the home.

Where to find block soap:

Zero Waste Mvmt is one of my go-to’s for zero waste dish soap! There is so much to choose from. Their block soap is vegan and made with organic ingredients like coconut oil.

Meliora’s Organic Castile Dish Soap uses organic ingredients like coconut and sunflower oil to create a solid, concentrated Castile dish soap that works hard to leave your dishes clean and residue-free.

Probably one of the most innovative zero-waste soaps I have founds has to be from Etee. It comes in a compostable beeswax pouch. You cut the pouch, add the soap to a mason jar, then add water and voila, you’ve got dish soap. I use it and love it. It comes scented and unscented.

A man pouring dish soap into a mason jar.
Image: Etee

Zero waste cleaning supplies: mops, dust pans etc.

I’ve got a HUGE GUIDE on ZERO WASTE MOPPING (includes brooms) with a ton of DIY ideas too, I hope you give it a read. Essentially you want to avoid single-use Swiffer pads like the plague. LOL!

Dusting: If you have a feather duster, great, do not toss it. I use rags to dust my home. If you have microfiber cloths in your home, put them to good use. The fibers actually trap the dust which makes them ideal. You can also use cotton cloths. Work from top-down and left to right.

For vacuuming I use Dyson. This is a personal choice based on what type of device you are used to using. You will also need a bucket, if you have a plastic one, use it, otherwise consider something like metal which might last a little longer.

All the items I have mentioned above are fantastic zero waste alternatives for cleaning.

Other places to find zero waste cleaning supplies

I’ve alreay listed a ton on this blog post, but there are quite a few more that deserve a mention!

Eco + Amour
Green and Frugal Use code THEECOHUB15
Zet Zero Co. Use code ECOHUB10
Life Without Plastic
Well Earth Goods
Eco Roots
Package Free Shop

DIY zero waste cleaning tools

One of the best ways to reduce plastic in the home is to make your own zero-waste cleaning products and it’s way easier than you think! First, let’s break down the common ingredients you will need to make them. Just a quick mention, yes some of the items below do come in plastic packaging, but you are still reducing when you make your own. One bottle of Castille soap can make dish soap, hand soap, an all-purpose cleaner and much more. So you end up having to buy way less of these items, all of which come in plastic. Some bulks stores to carry the below too.

Baking soda: (sodium bicarbonate) used as an abrasion and to get rid of grease and grime. It’s also great at getting rid of odours, is antibacterial and can be used in a wide range of applications.

Washing Soda: The technical name is sodium carbonate, its similar to baking soda but is more alkaline which makes it a great cleaning agent. If you have hard water, which can do wonders for boosting your whites.

A bunch of zero waste cleaning sponges and brushes.

Vinegar: This is one of the most versatile ingredients to have in the home. It’s great for windows and glass and can be used in a lot of DIY recipes. It works on most surfaces with the exception of granite and marble.

Sal Suds: This is one of Dr. Bronner’s most popular items. It’s made for tough cleaning jobs and is more of a detergent than a soap.

Castille Soap: The recipes are endless! This vegetable-based soap is fantastic for grease and grime. It’s by far one of my top go-to’s for cleaning my home.

Hydrogen Peroxide: When I was a kid my mom used this if I fell and scraped my knee. It’s a fantastic disinfectant and who knew it could be added to a clean caddy! You can use this for stains, boost your laundry and clean your home! It’s in a dark bottle for a reason, you need to store it in a cool, dark place, it’s sensitive to light.

Rubbing Alcohol or isopropyl alcohol is typically used as an antiseptic, it can be used to kill germs and freshen old linens.

Essential oils: these are concentrated oils derived from plants that have been used for eons. The best oils for cleaning are lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, grapefruit, and orange. All of these have antibacterial and antifungal properties, plus they smell amazing!

Spray Bottles: You will need a bunch of these. You can either repurpose what you already have or you can invest in glass amber bottles, like the ones you see in the photos in its blog post. You can find them on Amazon or Green and Frugal (use code THEECOHUB15) here in Canada.

DIY zero waste cleaning recipes

DIY ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER

Ingredients:
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp liquid Castille soap
about 1 1/2 cups water
spray bottle

Instructions:
Add the baking soda and water to the bottle. Give it a good shake, then add the castile soap. You can add some essential oils if you like. I use this on the stove and kitchen and bathroom sinks.

SINK SCRUB

Ingredients:
1 cup baking soda
¼ cup castile soap
1 tbsp hydrogen peroxide

Instructions:
Mix into a paste
Apply, Scrub, Rinse

Amazing for sinks and tiles in bathroom and kitchen!! Honestly, this is one of my best recipes, it’s easy to make and works so well!

GLASS CLEANER

Ingredients:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1 tablespoon cornstarch
10 drops essential oil (lemon, orange or grapefruit)- optional

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients into a glass spray bottle. Shake well before each use.

Final thoughts on zero waste cleaning

Before you decide to buy anything on this list, go through your home and see what you might already have. If you have a plastic bucket, use it, no need to replace it if it’s in great working order, the same goes for everything else. The idea of living a zero-waste life is to create as little waste as possible.

I also like to buy new things as I run out. So use up what you have and slowly make the transition to a more zero waste cleaning routine.

A QUICK PSA – do you clean or sterilize your cleaning tools? It’s a good idea to do this at least once a month. For kitchen tools like these, soak them in 1/2 cup of vinegar and warm water in the sink. 15 mins are all you need. ⠀

And don’t forget about bigger tools like the vacuum canister and filter, check with the manufacturer to see how to clean those correctly. If you use a mop with a cloth head you can throw that in the washing machine. The same goes for all your cleaning cloths. Make sure you wash those separately from your bath towels as they have more bacteria. ⠀

For your brooms take them outside and give them a good shake to get rid of debris in the bristles. For a deeper clean, mix a bucket of hot water with two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid, swish the broom through the solution and then rinse with cold water. Hang the broom with the bristles pointing down to drip dry.⠀

For your bucket, add a cap full of Castille soap to it, fill it with hot water swish solution around the interior of the bucket. 

And finally cleaning your home comes with taking out the trash! Try to choose environmentally friendly compostable and biodegradable trash bags!

Have I left anything out?

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