8 clever cleaning hacks that are zero waste and toxin-free | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 13, 2024

When the average person reaches for their cleaning supplies, they are likely opening a cabinet full of plastic spray bottles, solutions, and solvents that employ harsh chemicals to make everything sparkle and shine. However, there are many alternative ways to clean the house without chemicals and extra waste.

Try your hand at DIY cleaners

Common household cleaners often contain chemicals that are harmful to humans, pets, and the environment. Once these dangerous chemicals are used to clean the home, they also get into waterways which upsets the balance of our ecosystems. 

Instead, you can avoid these chemicals and the plastic bottles they come in by making your own surface cleaner with vinegar and lemons. The acid in this combo will easily tackle most greasy countertops and disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces. without the toxic residue.

However, vinegar and lemon shouldn’t be used on grout as they can degrade them over time, nor should they be used on natural stone like marble. 

To make the vinegar and lemon cleaner, fill a large glass jar with white vinegar and store it in the fridge. Throw in leftover lemon rinds (or full lemons if you have extra ones on hand) and wait a couple of weeks. Then you can remove the lemon pieces and strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. Mix equal parts water with the lemon-vinegar solution in a spray bottle and voila! It’s ready for use.

Try baking soda

Baking soda is another common household ingredient that can be used for non-toxic cleaning. It’s wonderful to deodorize and dissolve organic compounds and is perfect for stainless steel surfaces like the kitchen sink. 

All you have to do is sprinkle a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge and use that sponge to wipe the tub, toilet, fridge, or even painted walls. 

Baking soda can also be boiled in water (one tablespoon per liter of water) to clean tarnished silverware. Once the solution is boiling, add the utensils and a sheet of tinfoil. The tinfoil helps facilitate a chemical reaction that cleans your forks and spoons. Remove the pot from heat and let it rest until the silverware is restored.

Combining baking soda and white vinegar is a powerful combo great for tackling greasy pans. Boil a cup of water and a cup of white vinegar in a pan, remove from heat and then add a tablespoon or two of baking soda. The mixture should sit until cool enough to handle, then can be used to scrub the pan with a bristle, sponge, or steel wool. (Just remember that non-stick pans shouldn’t be cleaned with heavy-duty tools).

Baking soda can also be used to de-clog a drain, which you can read about here.

Ditch the paper towels

Paper towels, though convenient, rack up a very high environmental cost. Manufacturing just one ton of paper towels requires a whopping 20,000 gallons of water and 17 trees. At the end of their lifecycle, paper towels end up in landfills each year. Instead of purchasing disposable paper towels, look into reusable options like microfiber cleaning cloths.

Bring back the broom

Instead of plugging in the vacuum, use brooms to sweep away the debris on hard surfaces when you can.  In addition to saving electricity, you get an excellent core workout!

Try Castile soap

Many conventional soaps on the market are animal-derived, but Castile soap is a vegetable-derived soap that is non-toxic and biodegradable.

The popular Castile soap brand Dr. Bronner’s touts Castile soap’s many uses on its packaging. It can be used as dish soap, body wash, laundry detergent, floor cleaner, and so much more.

Reusable Swifter pads

In the same vein as the paper towels, instead of purchasing wasteful containers of disposable Swifter wipes, look for reusable pads that fit your mop at your local hardware or home goods store.

If you’re feeling crafty, you can make your own low-cost pad by securing a rag to the mop with rubber bands. Use your reusable mop pads with the all-purpose lemon and vinegar cleaning solution, or a Castile soap mixture.

Let the microwave clean itself

Microwaves are prone to food splatters. Luckily, there’s no need to spend time scrubbing these food stains off. Simply fill a bowl with water, the juice of a couple of lemons along with the lemon halves, and microwave for three minutes. Once they’ve been heated up, let the mixture sit for five more minutes so that steam fills the machine. Then all that’s left to do is wipe the walls clean with a cloth, no scrubbing or chemicals necessary.

Crack a window

If you’re looking to refresh a stuffy, musty room, don’t reach for a canned air freshener. These air fresheners typically contain harmful chemicals which are linked to all kinds of problems like migraines, breathing difficulties, and asthma. Instead, rely on some good old-fashioned fresh air by opening a window to air out the room.

In a windowless room, you can use a homemade spray made up of one part water, two parts rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of your favorite essential oils for added fragrance. 

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