For the past 50 years we have been sold the idea that we need more cleaners in our homes. We need one cleaner to get rid of something in the air, another to clean the floor, another to clean the bathroom, another to clean the windows, and yet another to clean the kitchen, to make our families safer and healthier… yet all these different cleaning chemicals can be more dangerous to us than the risk of the germs we’re trying to avoid.
Manufacturers argue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients aren’t likely to be a problem, but when we’re exposed to them regularly and in different combinations it’s impossible to accurately gauge the risks. Constant exposure to nasty chemicals can add to the body’s “toxic burden”.
Then there’s the numerous plastic bottles and other packaging that many of these products come in, and the plastic sponges and plastic fibre cloths that end up in landfill.
Over the years my concern for the environment, frugal inclinations, and my science background has led me to whittle-down my household cleaning products to just:
- Bar soap that is either package free or packaged in cardboard, and
- Kombucha vinegar which I brew myself from loose leaf tea in place of buying white vinegar.
These two cleaners used in combination with a scrub and cloth are effective, non-toxic, frugal, minimalist and zero waste.
Here’s a bit more detail…
Mostly I clean everything around the house with hot soapy water. Sometimes I don’t even use soap, just hot water, and that’s enough to lift the grime on benches or floors. I use the homemade kombucha vinegar to clean mirrors, windows, toilet bowls and the shower.
All of my dish cloths, cleaning cloths, hand towels and tea towels are made from old nappy squares or cotton bath towels. I’ve also knitted a couple of dish cloths using cotton yarn that I’ve had for years. They all get washed and reused and then composted when no longer usable.
Sometimes if I have it available I use scrunched up newspaper with the vinegar for cleaning the windows and mirrors. The newspaper gets composted when I’m done or popped in the fireplace.
I usually don’t use gloves but on the odd occasion that I do, I use a pair made from natural rubber and cotton. At the end of it’s life the rubber can be reused as elastic ties before being left to biodegrade.
I think steel and copper scourers are amazing. They last forever and can be recycled or go in the compost when your done with it. I also have a coconut fibre scrub which is still going strong after four years.
I use an old bamboo toothbrush for cleaning grout and other tight spaces.
I still have my old plastic toilet brush in one of the toilets but in the other I have a completely compostable brush (like these ones) in a reused Moccona Coffee jar.
And for the floors, I use a broom I’ve had forever and a mop with homemade sponges.
The bucket I use for cleaning is our old nappy bucket, bought 11 years ago.
So, I hope you agree that this is a very simple, frugal and effective zero waste cleaning kit which uses just a few good quality tools, and that there are many opportunities to reuse what we already have before we buy replacements.
Read next: Bar soap will not make you sick.