Zero waste cleaning products & easy DIY recipes for your low-waste home.
Let me ask you a question:
How safe are your household cleaners? Which products are non-toxic and waste-free?
When I first began my zero waste journey, I had no idea either. I bought name-brand disinfectants and sprays. I also picked them based on scent.
Can you blame me? I’m a sucker for fresh linen and citrus smells.
To top it off, I didn’t know that household cleaners companies don’t have to disclose their ingredients list. This means that that “fragrance” you love so much may be toxic and you wouldn’t even know it.
But great news: I’m here with some tried-and-tested zero waste cleaning products.
All of my DIY recipes are super simple and you can easily tweak them to make them your own.
Let’s start with how I make my own household cleaning products.
An intro to zero-waste cleaning
Sadly, we’re exposed to very toxic chemicals in our homes.
Listen to this: household cleaning products make up 10% of all toxic chemicals exposure in the United States. So if you have children and/or pets, this is particularly important.
Don’t take a chance with toxic chemical exposure.
Here are some easy-to-make and non-toxic cleaners for your home.
1. All-in-one, universal spray:
This multipurpose spray is an essential cleaning supply in my household. Want to know the secret?
All you need is:
- a jar for storage
- a bottle spray, lemon peels (for scent)
- white vinegar
If you prefer non-citrus scents, feel free to craft your own. Think herbs, aromatic leaves, even cinnamon cloves! The possibilities are endless.
I prefer lemon because it’s a natural antibacterial and antiseptic substance.
You know what else? I love the idea of repurposing uneaten food scraps before composting.
Lemon is a staple in my household, so what better way to get more use out of it?
Here’s what you do:
- Add lemon peels into a jar of white vinegar and cover.
- After about a week, remove the skins and dilute the mixture with water to your preferred potency.
- Transfer mixture into the spray bottle and you’re set.
I personally don’t measure the ingredients meticulously. Start with a 1:1 ratio for the vinegar and water, then adjust as needed.
Simple, right? And it smells fresh because of the lemon, not like rubbing alcohol or strong disinfectant. Who wants to smell the inside of a bleach container? Yuck!
Here’s another secret--you can also use essential oils instead of fruit peels (10-20 drops per cup of vinegar-water mix should be enough).
Another easy product you can make is dish soap. We should pay attention to what cleans the surfaces that touch our food, right?
Well, I’ve tested out many dish soap recipes, and I’m very happy with this one.
2. Easy-to-make dish soap:
You’ll find that most dish soap recipes require castile soap. So, what is this magical substance?
Castile soap is a natural, toxic-free soap made of vegetable oil (usually olive oil, but other variations use coconut, avocado, or even almond oil.)
To top it off, the soap is biodegradable and has zero animal products. It is perfect for people trying to achieve zero waste cleaning.
Additionally, it’s perfect for people who care about water pollution. Why pollute waterways when we have so many great alternatives?
News flash: you don’t have to!
You can purchase castile soap as a solid bar or as a liquid. It’s good to have both for whatever you’re making, but they’re pretty much interchangeable.
For my dish soap, you need:
- ¼ cup grated castile soap
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp washing soda (Purchase washing soda or make your own at home. To make, pour a half-inch thick layer of baking soda onto a baking sheet. Make sure the temperature is at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the sheet in for an hour. Stir twice and then let the soda cool. Store remaining washing soda in an air-tight container for later use.)
- Optional: 10-20 drops of essential oils
Here are the steps:
- Let the water boil, then add the castile soap.
- Add in the washing soda and stir the mixture.
- Remove from heat and let it cool.
- Add in the essential oil(s) and transfer into a dish soap bottle.
- Enjoy washing dishes with your zero waste cleaning soap.
Alternatively, I recommend this zero waste dish soap if you’re pressed for time.
This solid bar fights grease and grime, but that’s not all. It’s great for washing fabrics and cleaning off hard surfaces.
For me, what makes this soap shine is that it’s made with aloe vera. I absolutely love how soft my hands are after I use it.
One last DIY I’ll share with you is laundry detergent.
3. Non-toxic Laundry detergent
- 1 bar grated castile soap
- 2 cups washing soda
- 1 ¼ cup baking soda
- Optional: 10 drops essential oil for scent
Most homemade laundry detergents use borax, but it’s optional.
Borax is a natural mineral, yet its effects on humans are inconclusive.
My honest opinion: if you have children at home or you have sensitive skin, I would skip it.
For this recipe, there’s just one step:
- Mix everything and put it in a safe container.
For each load, I use about 1 tablespoon and add more for dirtier/larger loads.
This recipe is not only super easy to make, but it’s so much cheaper than cashing out every other week.
For the three recipes above, the ingredients I listed are just rough guidelines. Add in more/less per ingredient to see what works for you.
Zero Waste Cleaning Essentials
The truth is, almost all cleaning products are either packaged in plastic, made of plastic, or made for single-use only.
Think about it--disinfectant wipes, sponges, scrubbers, and laundry detergent containers. The list goes on.
So what can we do?
We at EcoRoots proudly offer plastic-free, zero waste cleaning products.
First, make a list of all the cleaning products in your home and start from there. We also ship all our products 100% plastic-free using eco-friendly and recyclable shipping supplies.
I have a few recommendations to give you ideas:
This versatile dish scrubber is made of beechwood and Mexican plant fiber. And look no further! It’s package-free, plastic-free, and compostable!
I mainly use it to clean my cookware, but it’s also great for removing fabric stains. That’s because it’s made of flexible, yet extremely durable union fibers.
So if you’re looking for a plastic-free alternative to a dish scrubber, here is your answer.
There are some great plant-based loofahs you can order online if there are none available at your local store. Believe it or not, a lot of these are actually gourds that were left to grow and then dry.
The result? A tough, fibrous “loofah” used for cleaning dishes and other surfaces. Amazing, right? They are literally nature’s dish scrubbers and the answer to our zero waste cleaning woes.
Let me remind you why the dishwashing soap block is so great. It’s made of vegan ingredients, is plastic-free, is biodegradable, and it’s sulfate and paraben-free.
How can it get better? Well, you can use this soap for cleaning hard surfaces and fabric, not just dishes.
Store it on our 100% bamboo soap dish, which is plastic-free and biodegradable.
Yay for sustainability!
Let me tell you, this brush is great because the bristles are made of sisal, a type of Mexican agave that is thick and long-lasting. It also means the brush is completely compostable.
Say goodbye to plastic handles and bristles!
In the United States alone, we generate about 13 billion pounds of paper waste a year--just from paper towels.
Basically, we’ve been suckered into buying paper towels for sanitary and convenience reasons.
Let me tell you why we need to ditch paper towels.
First off, paper towels cost money you could be saving. Second, paper towels aren’t really recyclable. Lastly, research has shown that they don’t make a difference in preventing the spread of bacteria compared to hand towels or hand air dryers.
So make the switch to reusable towels, beeswax produce and food wraps, cloth napkins, or all of the above. If you want a more comprehensive list, check out this post about paper towel alternatives.
Personally, I have a stash of reusable cloth napkins I bought secondhand for different uses--wiping down the kitchen, drying hands, drying dishes, etc.
Zero waste laundry detergents
If your schedule is crazy busy and don’t have time to try out my laundry detergent, here are some great brands I discovered.
The cool thing is, these detergents are zero waste and cost-effective.
For sensitive skin and user-friendly instructions, try Dropps.
For truly natural laundry detergent, check out NaturOli which are dried soapberry nuts. In a nutshell, they release a natural cleaning substance when tossed into your machine. Nature will never cease to amaze me!
For a very cost-effective alternative, try Terra Wash. A sachet of magnesium can be used 365 times. Yes, you heard that right. A sachet of magnesium that lasts for 365 loads!
This has zero toxins, and all the components are compostable.
It turns out, baking soda is to cleaning as salt is to cooking. Most homemade cleaners and soaps call for some variation of baking soda.
For instance, the DIY laundry detergent I described above calls for washing soda, which is made from baking soda.
Besides using it as a fridge deodorizer, try it as a cleaner.
Plus! You can mix baking soda with water to clean pretty much your entire kitchen--utensils, counters, sinks. You can do the same for your bathroom. Get those pesky mildew and grout stains out!
Another idea is to soak your sponges in baking soda and water to remove smell and grime, lengthening your sponges’ lives.
A cool trick I’ve learned is using baking soda to remove mug stains! It makes sense. We use baking soda to whiten teeth, so naturally, it works for cleaning ceramic and glass.
Honestly, I can go on and on about baking soda but just remember: if you need something cleaned, you can most likely use baking soda instead of toxic chemicals.
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a naturally-occurring compound that we usually use in baking but is a versatile cleaner.
The key word here is naturally-occurring.
So now let’s get into why zero waste cleaning and natural cleaners are so important.
Zero waste cleaning--will it make a difference?
You’re probably asking yourself, why am I going through all this trouble to make my own soaps and cleaners? Why am I buying wooden products and plant-based cleaners?
Well, zero waste cleaning is just one part of committing to be plastic and waste-free.
Instead, ask yourself: How can I make sure my home and family are safe from harmful chemicals? How can I limit plastic in my life in the long run?
By switching to zero waste cleaning, you’re removing toxins from your home.
Bottom line is, those DIY cleaners will help remove pollution in your home and in your body.
Furthermore, switching to plastic-free cleaning tools means you’re helping remove plastic from landfills and oceans.
Remember, even something as simple as ditching paper towels makes a huge difference.
So don’t doubt that zero waste cleaning is making a tangible positive impact. It is!
Let me know which ideas you decide to try out, and how you made them your own. I’m always trying to improve my recipes, and I would love your feedback.
Until then, I hope that my guide to zero waste cleaning is a good starting point for you. I know it’s a little daunting to make so many changes, but it only gets easier from here!