This week's instalment of our waste reduction series will focus on something quite a few of you have requested - eco-friendly cleaning habits and products!
Following on from the first week's article on reducing bathroom waste, the follow-up deep-dive on the same subject, the third instalment in which we took a look at how to reduce waste when it comes to feminine care, and the fourth instalment which brought us into the realm of kitchen waste. The fifth which delved further into food waste, while last week we looked into the masses of waste generated over Christmas. This article contains links (of the non-referral kind, so no kickback, no sponsorship) to some of the products discussed, but other brands and options are available - and will usually be carried by zero-waste shops, such as Ouni. Many can also be found in regular shops and supermarkets.
When you walk down the aisle of cleaning products in a supermarket you can virtually see no products that don’t come in plastic bottles or some other form of plastic packaging. Moreover, do most of these cleaning products contain rather harsh chemicals which are not only bad for the environment but also potentially harmful for your health. Considered with what is on offer in normal supermarkets changing your cleaning routine to an eco-friendlier one seems almost impossible and it is indeed harder to change this aspect of our lives than some of those described in previous articles.
The best way to go about this change is to start small — you don’t have to throw out all your cleaning products but when buying new ones look out for eco-friendly products, containing natural ingredients. Additionally, opt for bottles that can be recycled or even better, refilled. By using the latter, you are still creating waste but you are prolonging the lifetime of the bottle, which is more positive than using it only once. Do note that most bottles come with a little warning that says how many times it can be refilled before they are no longer considered safe, so make sure that you respect those signs. When you are ready for the next step, you can invest in some glass spray bottles which you can refill in packaging free shops, this cuts out plastic bottles and is therefore more sustainable.
Note from editor: another option is to use BioStein - from personal experience, I can attest to its surprising cleaning power. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, ideally around the kitchen and bathroom, and I'm yet to find something it won't render spotless. A bit expensive, but lasts for ages.
Furthermore, there are some options for products which come not in form of a spray or liquid, such as laundry detergent or dishwasher tablets. As an alternative to laundry powder or pods, you can get a ‘laundry egg’, this is a recyclable egg-shaped case containing natural mineral pellets. These pellets clean your laundry and contain no chemicals, making them a good solution for people with sensitive skin and allergies. The egg is simply put in the washing machine with your clothes, the pellets can be used for 70 washes before they need to be replaced.
Another option is to use soap nuts. These are reusable nuts that grow naturally on the Sapindus mukorossi tree, and can be found in eco shops or online.
There are not that many alternatives for dishwasher tablets, so it is best to look out for those that come in plastic free packaging. Some online shops which specialise in zero waste and eco friendly products, also offer solid soap bars that can be used in the kitchen and bathroom, however these are slightly harder to get.
Making your own
If you want to take it a step even further you can try and make your own cleaning products. All-purpose cleaner can, for example, be made by mixing white vinegar and water in a 50/50 ratio together in a spray bottle, optionally you can add essential oils to make it smell nicer. Unfortunately, most white vinegar comes in plastic bottles and making this not a 100% sustainable method but definitely cheaper. Moreover, vinegar cannot be used on all types of surfaces, such as granite or marble, as it would damage them.
As an alternative to vinegar you can make a spray with citric acid, this might sound dangerous but it is naturally occurring in food, biodegradable, and safe to use. To make the spray you mix 500ml hot water with 2 tablespoons of citric acid and fill the mixture in a spray bottle, again you can add essential oils if you like. This spray also functions as all-purpose cleaner and can be used on various surfaces. As with every cleaning product you still have to be careful with the homemade products and do not use them carelessly. In addition, bicarb is a useful ingredient to clean a variety of things around the house or to unclog drains.
Tools of the trade
© Michelle Coppiens / Pixabay
Not only the cleaning products but also the utensils you use to clean are often not environmentally friendly. Look out for things that can be reused, try to swap disposable cloths with cotton cloths that can be washed and do the same with sponges and brushes. If you buy something disposable make sure it can either be recycled or is biodegradable. Buying a wooden scrubbing brush to clean your floor might feel like going a step backwards but it really only is changing your habits.
Questions? Comments? Further suggestions for living an eco-friendly lifestyle? Leave a comment below!