We live in a small house. We have one bathroom, three bedrooms, a den, an open kitchen and dining area, and one extra room for my art room and husband’s home office. We have one closet for our washer and dryer, broom, mop, vacuum, laundry hamper and cleaning supplies. We try to be creative and use every inch of our space so it feels clean and roomy for our family of five (plus pets!).
When I began my plastic-free experiment, I counted the single-use plastic items in our home. In our one tiny laundry closet, I found twenty plus cleaning products. In the kitchen, at least ten more. Laundry detergents and cleaners, Windex, Clorox sprays, Febreze, special cleaners, mopping solutions, individual disposable toilet cleaners, and many more.
Months later, after I had used up or given away the plastic products, my laundry closet was way less cluttered. I had a neat little row of cardboard box cleaners and a big glass jar of homemade laundry detergent; I was feeling quite accomplished. Then one day, I pulled everything off the shelves and found secret stash of single-use plastic cleaners that had been hiding. I didn’t know they were there because I had not needed them - cleaning plastic-free is so much simpler!
Just by arming yourself with baking soda, vinegar and Castile soap, you can clean just about anything. Add lemon oil or a fragrance of your choice, and everything smells lovely!
Be sure to buy your ingredients in plastic-free packaging whenever possible. If you can’t find it in glass or cardboard, buy in bulk and recycle. You will be saving a lot of single-use bottles by making your own products!
Clean your toilet by pouring in some baking soda, adding some vinegar, and giving it a scrub with a natural plastic-free scrubber of your choice.
Scrub the tub and sink with baking soda and a few drops of lemon essential oil on your sponge, cloth or scrubber. So shiny and fresh!
Make an easy, multi-surface cleaner with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, water to fill the rest of the bottle, a few drops of Castile soap, and 5 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oil. I like to use citrus, and also a special cleaning vinegar.
Cleaning vinegar: white vinegar + citrus rinds, store in fridge
Dish soap: Castile soap & water, a few drops of essential oils for scent. I like to use 1/2 and 1/2 soap and water for better cleaning power.
Kitchen hand soap: pretty much the same as the dish soap!
An easy mopping solution is a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of vinegar and water, a couple of drops of Castile soap and a few drops of lemon essential oil. (seeing the pattern?)
Since I’m already saddled with a Swiffer Wet Jet, I refill the single-use bottle with this mixture, and use a reusable, washable pad. I made mine with velcro, a towel and cloth, but there are many available online.
Again with the 50/50 mix of vinegar and water, plus a few drops of essential oil for scent.
For very dirty glass, clean with soapy water first (hello, Castile soap!)
With a few easy detergent recipes, you only need a few more ingredients which all come in cardboard boxes.
Laundry Detergent: For an effective easy-to-make powdered laundry detergent, purchase boxes of Washing Soda and Borax, and a bar of laundry soap.
Grate your soap (such as Fels Naphtha, or I make my own coconut laundry bar) - yields around 2 cups. You can also chop it and then grind it in a food processor.
In a large glass jar, mix 4 cups Borax, 4 cups Washing Soda, the grated soap and a few drops of your favorite essential oil if desired.
Use 1 tablespoon up to 1/4 cup of detergent per load.
I made dishwasher tabs thanks to the recommendation of my friend, and they work well along with vinegar added to the rinse dispenser.
You can find the recipe here: Dishwasher Tabs
So think about this:
I started out with over 30 single-use plastic cleaning products, and now I’m down to:
Lemon essential oil
Laundry bar soap
When it comes to scrubbing, we avoid plastic-based scrubbers and sponges, as well as paper towels (almost always in plastic wrapping!) as much as possible. Natural sponges, wood and metal scrubbers, and cleaning cloths or dish towels work great and create much less waste. I cut up an old sheet and made lots of cleaning cloths that we grab instead of paper towels for little spills, covering food in the microwave and wiping off the counter. There are also so many cool, compostable products out there. Give some a try!
What simple, plastic-free cleaning tips and products do you love? I’m learning more everyday, so I’d love to hear from you!