Zero Waste Cleaning for Beginners

I’ve always been a baby steps person. From going vegan in my diet, to going ethical in my fashion, to going cruelty free in my beauty routine. When you perceive something as an enormous change to your current lifestyle it can seem threatening and nearly impossible to wrap your mind around. For me it always helped to frame it as “one day at a time, one category at a time”.

The newly popular #zerowaste movement can be a very intimidating lifestyle change too. I’ve seen videos of people bringing loads of Tupperware to pick up their family’s takeout or putting their week’s worth of trash into a mason jar. While this is so admirable it feels like level 5000 to me. So I’m going to do some zero waste installments based on the little categories we’re tackling in our household lately. Today I’m starting with how to be more zero waste while cleaning!


Make your own cleaning solutions.

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My cleaning caddy

Instead of buying and discarding a new plastic bottle each time you run out of cleaning solution, consider making your own! You can either re-purpose spray bottles you are using up or purchase glass or plastic bottles that you will label and refill. Incorporate nice labels to create a theme and look forward to using your cleaning supplies (as much as you can, right?).

We are currently making our own:

  • Window/ Glass Cleaner- White Distilled Vinegar and water, 1:1 ratio in a spray bottle.
  • Degreaser Spray – Using leftover orange (or any citrus) peels, let them soak in a tightly closed container of White Distilled Vinegar for about 2 weeks then add the solution to a spray bottle 3:1 with water. Careful: I’ve read that this is not safe on real stone countertops.img_2421
  • Disenfectant Spray- Dissolve 1 Baby Bit per cup of hot water to make a cleaning solution. We like to use this on any toys that could or would go into our baby’s mouth as well as when we wipe down the coffee machine each night. Baby Bits last forever! We originally bought them to use with cloth wipes but realized they have innumerable uses.img_2774
  • Mopping Solution- As you may well know, you can clean ANYTHING with Dr. Bronners Castile Soap. For example we keep a bottle of Dr. Bronners Lavender in the shower to wash ourselves, our bathroom, our baby, and even the dogs with. However, we just discovered Dr. Bronners’ Sal Suds which is a much heavier duty concentrated cleaning product. So far we are only using it to mop but the cleaning uses are endless. Here is a great dilution cheat sheet for every use you can imagine and more.img_2773

Replace your paper towels

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This has been a game changer for us! We still keep paper towels around for really gross messes (ya know like dog or baby vomit). But we purchased a multipack of cleaning cloths from Target and they take care of almost any dirty surface you can imagine. The set came with 2 microfiber cloths, 2 heavy duty scrubbing cloths, and 2 smooth glass and mirror cloths. Not only do they work extremely well but I love using them because they are my favorite colors (blue, teal and grey!). So make sure to invest in something that you’re excited to actually use.

I like to dedicate each cloth to certain tasks so I can stretch out their use for about a week without cross contamination. This is something you don’t have to think about with paper towels! Ex. One for wiping down crumbs and food on kitchen counters/oven/microwave, one for wiping down the coffee machine, one for drying water off of clean dishes, one for mirrors and windows, one for wiping down the bathroom sink, etc. We just use them until they’re ready to be thrown into the wash and wash them on the delicate cycle.


Mop With a Machine Washable Head

I am horrified to think of how many Swiffer cleaning pads and solution containers we threw away while using that system! Not to mention the continuous cost of buying it all. Toward the end, we were hacking it by spraying our own cleaning solution and attaching microfiber cloths to the Velcro, which worked just fine. Eventually it broke…

A big part of the Zero Waste lifestyle is to invest in quality items rather than repeatedly buy cheap ones which will inevitably break and need to be thrown away.

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We recently saw a Shark Genius Steam Mop on sale for $99 instead of $129 and went for it. It has 2 removable, machine-washable covers. So far it’s amazing! With 2 dogs and a baby who is about to start crawling all over our floors- it was a must. We plan to use our own cleaning solutions with it , of course.

Another option would be to purchase a quality traditional mop with a removable, machine washable head.


Vacuum With Reusable Canister and Filter

The next time you’re in the market for a vacuum, invest in one with reusable parts. This is becoming more commonplace as vacuum systems evolve. It’s very nice to avoid the hassle and cost of buying bags and filters for your specific model. There is also something SO satisfying about seeing the dirt and grime rise out of a HEPA filter or seeing the lump of dog hair fall out of your vacuum canister into the trash. Or is that just me?


DIY Your Carpet Powder

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When I met my husband he was a big fan of Arm and Hammer odor eliminating carpet powder for pets. He’d sprinkle it all over the couch, the papasan, the rugs and vacuum it up 15 minutes later. Not only was it heavily fragranced and tested on animals but I didn’t think it was great to use around the new baby.

I started making our own carpet powder by just mixing baking soda with essential oils in a mason jar, shaking it up and sprinkling it wherever necessary. Use 15 drops of essential oil for every 1 cup of baking soda. My husband is just as happy with it and it seems to do the trick!


I’m sure that we will discover new ways to be more Zero Waste in our household cleaning routine as we go. I love that the zero waste lifestyle often goes hand-in-hand with frugality, minimalism and being exposed to less chemicals and plastics.

If you have any tips on Zero Waste Cleaning please let me know in the comments below!

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