Zero-Waste Cleaning Hacks You Can Start Using Today

Susannah Shmurak

by | Updated: February 2nd, 2023 | Read time: 5 minutes

Looking for new ways to minimize waste? Take a closer look at your cleaning supplies. If your cleaning cupboard features a long line of plastic spray bottles and single-use cleaning tools, you’ve found a trove of targets for your efforts to cut the waste in your household.

If you’ve already switched to green cleaners, you’ve made an important shift for the health of the planet and your family. These strategies for trimming waste when you clean offer loads more ways to make your cleaning routines even more eco-friendly.

Person in Apron Holding Zero Waste Cleaning Supplies in Canvas Bag

Zero Waste Cleaning – Get Started Guide

Take stock of your bottles

Stroll down the cleaning aisle of any grocery store and you’ll find hundreds of plastic bottles containing sprays, scrubs, wipes, and polishes. Most premade commercial cleaning products come packed in plastic, and even many of the ingredients we need for making greener DIY cleaners usually come in plastic containers. Since avoiding single-use plastics is a top priority for eco-conscious consumers, finding alternatives is a critical first step to cutting the waste from your cleaning regimen.

Unless you live near a zero-waste store with bulk liquids available, green cleaners’ go-to white vinegar may remain something that you’ll need to get in plastic jugs. However, you can eliminate many of your cleaner bottles by simply turning on your tap. Read the label on your liquid cleaning products, and you’ll find water at the top of most of the ingredient lists.

Instead of buying liquid products, try using solid ingredients and adding tap water yourself. This simple swap lets you skip not only the plastic bottles, but also the eco-footprint of shipping all that heavy liquid. Doubly good for shrinking the eco-impact of your cleaning supples!

Instead of liquid dish soap and detergent: Choose a bar soap for handwashing dishes and a powder for the dishwasher.

If you’re a fan of castile soap you can buy it in bar form and use it for many different cleaning tasks.

Instead of bottled scrubs: Replace the prepackaged scrub with a simple paste made of baking soda and water, which does a fantastic job cleaning porcelain and stainless steel sinks, as well as bathtubs, grout, and toilets. Baking soda can even tackle stuck-on food in your oven, a perfect low-waste DIY oven cleaner.

Used coffee grounds can also be used as a scrub for pots and pans, mugs, and sinks before heading to the compost. Citrus peels work well for shining metal surfaces.

Instead of liquid laundry detergent: Likewise, in the laundry room use a powdered detergent rather than a liquid one. You can also try using soap nuts for one of the lowest-waste ways to clean your clothes.

Instead of fabric softener: Dryer balls help soften fabric (and let you skip the bottle of fabric softener) while also reducing the amount of time it takes for clothes to dry.

Here are more ways to make your laundry room more ecofriendly.

Replace paper and other disposables

If you want to slash cleaning waste, think reusable for everything you use to wipe and scrub, from counter cloths to floor mops. Want the convenience of paper towels without the paper waste? Give reusable paper towels a go.

Skip the disinfecting wipes, which not only come packaged in plastic, but are themselves made of plastic fibers. If you like the ease of a ready-to-go wipe, you can make your own with squares cut from a worn out t-shirt.

Cleaning cloths can be washed and reused hundreds of times. When they’re falling apart, any cloth made from natural fibers like cotton can go in the compost. (Polyester cleaning cloths are made of plastic and should go in the trash.)

Need to replace plastic-fiber dryer sheets? Making your own from pieces of old clothing is a snap.

For really dirty jobs, cut worn out clothes into rags for cleaning your floors, tubs, and more. They can then be washed and used over and over again.

Replace any plastic-based sponges and scrubbers with sponges made from plants. Unlike their plastic counterparts, these biodegradable products can go in the compost when they’ve worn out.

Loofahs can be sliced and used for all sorts of cleaning tasks. Their rough surface makes them especially helpful for scrubbing away grime.

For next-level zero waste cleaning, try growing your own loofahs. Contrary to most people’s assumption that loofahs come from the ocean, they’re actually easy-to-grow squashes you can plant in your vegetable garden. Like other plant-based cleaning tools, loofahs can be composted when they’re no longer useful.

The 5 Rs of wasting less

As you target more ways to cut waste from your cleaning practices, keep in mind the 5 Rs of low-waste living:

  • Refuse: What can I do without?
  • Reduce: How can I use less? Can I find products with minimal or no packaging?
  • Reuse: What do I already have that I can use again?
  • Recycle: What can go in the recycling bin rather than the trash?
  • Rot: What can I compost instead of sending to the landfill?

Getting disposables and plastics out of your cleaning supplies will help you significantly lessen the waste you generate as you wash, scrub, and mop.

Cutting waste from our cleaning routines is just one of many ways to reduce the amount of trash our lives create. Some others to explore:

Tips for Low-Waste Living on the Go

How to Reduce Plastic Waste

Simple Ways to Replace Plastic Bags

Low Waste Habits You Never Thought Of


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