Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Looking to dive into zero waste cleaning? I don’t blame you. Conventional cleaning relies on harsh chemicals, plastic bottles, paper towels, plastic sponges, and disposable wipes. That adds up to a lot of waste, and a lot of money. You have to keep spending to replace the disposable items, like sponges and wipes, and you’re forced to replenish your cleaning products that come in plastic bottles. Plus, cleaning supplies that utilizes harsh chemicals also trigger allergies, among other health problems. Prolonged exposure can even make you sick (just ask my friend who was exposed to the smell of bleach for too long and came down with a terrible sore throat for a little over a week). Who needs that? Zero waste cleaning on the other hand, relies on natural cleaning solutions that don’t come in plastic bottles destined for landfill. The tools you’ll use can easily be reused over and over again because of their durability – saving you money. You can DIY so many cleaning solutions without breaking the bank, or sacrificing efficiency. And, best of all, there are so many amazing hacks that will keep costs down even more, while still being kind to the planet (and your own health). Without further ado, here’s my zero waste cleaning guide full of tools, DIYs and products.
This post is kindly sponsored by Turbo Mops. All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post also contains some affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.
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Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: DIYS, Products + Tools

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

List of sections:
1. Why is zero waste cleaning important?
2. How can I create a zero waste cleaning routine?
3. Zero waste cleaning tools
4. Zero waste cleaning DIYs
5. Zero waste cleaning products


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Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Why is zero waste cleaning important?

So many cleaning products are packaged in plastic – and designed for landfill. Items like bleach, lysol, dish soap, and so much more come in plastic bottles not meant for reuse. They’re designed to make you spend more and discard the bottle once it’s empty.

Worse yet, conventional products often contain harmful chemicals that can cause allergies short term, along with worse health problems over time. Ever wonder why there are ‘warning’ signs on a lot of cleaning products? That shouldn’t even have to be a thing, but it makes sense – there’s a lot of harsh chemicals in these products.

Bleach is a perfect example. Try smelling bleach for prolonged periods of time – I don’t recommend you do, but it will certainly have adverse effects. I have a friend who was forced to and she had a terrible sore throat and cough for a little over a week.

It’s not surprising considering many cleaners, disinfectants and air fresheners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are emitted into the air and harmful to our health. They’re so bad, in fact, they can even cause cancer. Is this what we want to ‘clean house’ with?

Not to mention the ingredients in these products are harmful to the environment. As if the plastic waste wasn’t bad enough, you certainly don’t want these products going down the drain. Chemicals found in cleaning supplies harm waterways and ecosystems – nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are specifically dangerous water contaminants.

While most pollutants are removed from the water in water treatment facilities before returning to waterways, nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia tend to slip right through. When they slip through, they build up and cause accelerated growth of plant life which leads to dense vegetation that clogs waterways, crowding other marine plants and animal life. Algae can start to grow, which causes animals to die off. The water no longer becomes suitable for drinking, cooking or bathing.

This is why we must, when possible, do our best to avoid conventional cleaning products. Especially those with harsh chemicals!

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

How can I create a zero waste cleaning routine?

Having a zero waste cleaning routine doesn’t have to be hard. It also doesn’t have to look perfect either. It’s totally okay if you have some plastic tools and products, as long as you’re still getting use out of them. For example, I still have a Swiffer – but I’ve made it a reusable, sustainable cleaning tool thanks to Turbo Mops (more on that later). Sometimes it just calls for getting a little creative.

I just want to say if you’re considering buying any of the items I list, please use the products you already have on hand as long as possible. If any object breaks, but is repairable, seek to mend it first before throwing it out and replacing it.

And, remember – don’t feel pressured to buy a whole new cleaning arsenal. The most unsustainable thing you can do is toss all your products in the garbage just to replace them with ‘eco alternatives.’ Don’t do that. Use up what you have, then replace it when you’re ready or it runs out.

And, if you’re tight on cash, not to worry – you can make a lot of DIYs for cheap which I list and share with you in this post. I recommend trying to find the ingredients to my DIYs as package free as possible in bulk bins. If you don’t have access to bulk bins, here’s how to find the ingredients without bulk options.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Zero waste cleaning tools

First, lets talk about the tools we’ll need to clean the house with.
Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Reusable microfiber pads
I live with my folks, and my mom has had a Swiffer since forever. It still works too! So, instead of tossing it out just because it’s plastic (how wasteful that would be!), I searched for a way to make it less wasteful. Enter TurboMops – they create reusable Swiffer mop pads for both Swiffer Wet Jet (the purple one) and Swiffer Sweeper (the green one)!
I have a Swiffer Wet Jet, so they were kind enough to send me some designed for that. It was so easy to use – it just attaches to the bottom and then you’re all set to go. They’re machine washable and can be used to clean any type of surface, which is amazing because we have a mix of wood and tile in our apartment.
After we use it, we just plop it into our laundry basket and wash it with everything else. We have two microfiber pads, so we’re able to interchange them nicely. It cleans the floor so well, and it’s super easy to use.
Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

If you have a Swiffer Sweeper, Turbo Mops also makes reusable pads for that as well. They’re designed to snuggly wrap around Swiffer Sweepers and strap together with connecting straps. You can check them out here.

Using one Turbo Mop pad is the equivalent to saving 100+ disposable pads from the landfill. If you already own a Swiffer, there’s no need to toss it out – just get one of these microfiber pads until your Swiffer no longer serves you. Then you can worry about replacing it with something plastic free.

You can count on Turbo Mops microfiber pads because they’re extra thick and offer better absorption when wet mopping and better dust and dirt trapping when dry. It also picks up pet hair effectively!

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

If you’re savvy enough, you can also pop off the cap of your swiffer cleaning solution and fill it with some homemade cleaning solution – that way it’s reusable and nontoxic. I like to use 1 cup of water, 1 cup of vinegar and a few drops of castile soap. Or, you could try adding this floor cleaner.

Swiffer makes the cap hard to remove on purpose, but all you need to get it off is to boil some water, remove it from heat, take your empty Swiffer cleaning solution bottle, invert it and put the cap in the water for 90 seconds. Then, take it out, get a rag and unscrew the top – the cap should pop right off. Then you can fill it with your homemade cleaning solution!

Be sure to check out Turbo Mops if you still have a Swiffer in good condition too. No use tossing it just because it’s made from plastic if it works!

Mop
If you don’t have a Swiffer, or yours is no longer functional, try using an old school janitor mop instead. Or, a mop with a wooden handle and removable head that can be put in the washing machine. Just as long as you stay away from disposable wet floor wipes, you should be good. You can even attach a rag tied using rubber bands or twine to a mop head to get some extra juice out of it.
Cleaning cloths
For dusting or cleaning a surface, I cannot tell you how handy rags are. They are so economical over paper towels – you can just cut up an old t-shirt, towel, pillow case, or bed sheet to make them. When you’re done using them, just toss them in the laundry hamper and give them a wash.

Unpaper towels

I really love these unpaper towels from Tiny Yellow Bunaglow – they’re great for cleaning small little spills, wiping my hands, drying dishes, etc. You can just use rags in their place, but I like to have a stash of unpaper towels around too. They’re super handy and so cute.

Wooden dish scrubbers
Perhaps one of my favorite cleaning swaps ever, I’m obsessed with wooden scrubbers. I love using this dish scrubber (short handle) and this wooden dish brush (long handle) to scrub things clean. Pair it with a dish washing block and you’ve got yourself some clean dishes coming your way.
Best part? At the end of their life, you can compost these scrubbers. The long handled one has a replaceable head – so you can just compost the head and keep the handle. The pot scrubber can just be composted whole. But they’ll last you so much longer than sponges, so you won’t have to think about that for a while.
Dyson vacuum
I’ve heard so many good things about Dyson vacuums – I don’t have one, but I would love to own one in the future! It’s fantastic because it’s high quality and very durable, which means you won’t have to go buy a replacement any time soon, resulting in less waste. If you can save up for this, I would recommend it. Kathryn from Going Zero Waste swears by it (she has a Dyson Animal that picks up pet hair)!
Since I have wooden floors, I’m not in need of a vacuum too much. My Swiffer does the trick most of the time. Though I do have a hand held vacuum that’s rechargeable. Dyson also sells hand held vaccums too I believe. This is definitely an investment, so be mindful of that, but handheld vacuums are typically cheaper.
Hand broom and dust pan
For those little areas that gather dust, or random things that drop to the ground, a hand broom and metal dust pan work wonders. If you have a plastic set at home – do not get rid of it. Use it until it breaks, then replace it with something more sustainable. That’s my motto. You can also try to thrift one, or get it secondhand from a friend.
Wooden broom
For bigger areas, sweeping with a wooden handled straw broom is a great choice because it’s biodegradable. But again, if you have a plastic broom – don’t throw it away just because it’s plastic. Keep it and use it until it breaks and isn’t efficient any more. When you’re ready, swap it out for something more sustainably made.
Toilet brush
If your plastic toilet brush is in good condition, keep it. But if it’s not, make the swap to a wooden toilet brush, or this one made from unbleached coconut fiber. They’re all biodegradable, which is fantastic. There’s also a wooden toilet brush with a stand.
Repurposed items
You can repurpose old toothbrushes and old sponges for cleaning around the house. Toothbrushes are great for using to clean grout and tiles, plus you can use them for scrubbing out stains. I once used castile soap and an old toothbrush to scrub out the dirt on my slippers – worked like a charm! Old sponges can be used to clean the bathroom, as long as they’re not too deformed and gross.
Definitely hold onto glass jars and shaker containers with metal lids. These will come in handy when you make your own DIYs. When an old plastic spray bottle empties, don’t be quick to throw it away either – see if you can hold onto it and repurpose it for one of the cleaning DIYs I’ll be listing below.
Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Zero waste cleaning DIYs

I only use DIYs to clean my room. Plus I make DIY cleaning products for my parents to use around the rest of the home all the time. They love them! The best part is, they’re cost efficient to make.

If you can use empty marina sauce jars, or emptied out old spray bottles to house these recipes, that’s even better! No need to buy anything new unless you absolutely have to. If you must purchase a spray bottle for one of the recipe, I recommend this one – it will ship in plastic free packaging and it’s made of glass.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Orange peel vinegar cleaner

My favorite all purpose cleaner. It’s such a great way to give orange peels a second life! You can also use lemons or lime if you have those on hand – or do a mix! It will smell amazing, but better yet, it’ll get the job done. You can use it on almost any surface and it works wonders. If you need a spray bottle,  I recommend this one. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Lavender vinegar cleaner

If you prefer the smell of lavender, or just don’t eat any citrus, you can always try this lavender vinegar cleaner. You can use it on almost any surface too, so it’s super multi-purpose. It also takes less time to make than the orange peel vinegar. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Disinfectant spray

If you’re in need of truly disinfecting a surface, look no further than this disinfectant spray. We use it on everything from doorknobs to packages. It will kill coronavirus too! Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Floor cleaner

If you have wooden floors or tile, give this floor cleaner a shot. It’s so simple to whip up and does a pretty good job – no vinegar needed, so it won’t smell either. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Dish soap

You can DIY your own dish soap so easily! This works best when paired with reusable dish cloths (they’re compostable at the end of their life). This liquid dish soap really cuts through the grease, without the harsh chemicals. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Toilet cleaner fizzies

These toilet cleaner fizzies are so much fun to make, and even more fun to use. They’re basically like a bath bomb for your toilet. Plop one in, watch it fizz, then scrub away using your handy dandy toilet brush. Done. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Tub + sink cleaner

This amazing DIY tub + sink cleaner is a soft scrub that cuts through so much grime. I’ve used it to clean the stove, stubborn grease on pans, and get out tea stains on my mugs as well. It’s super versatile and you’ll be amazed at how your sink and tub sparkle after using this stuff on it. Who knew baking soda, castile soap, water and essential oils could do so much? Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Dishwasher detergent

If you’re not in the mood to hand wash dishes, this dishwasher detergent will do the work for you. Just add it into your dishwasher like you normally would and let it do its thing from there. My dishes always come out so spotless afterwards. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Liquid laundry detergent

If you’re into liquid laundry detergent, this DIY will make you a whole bunch load. It starts off as gel but liquefies rather nicely so you’ll get a lot from it. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Powder detergent

Prefer powder detergent? This was one of the first DIYs I ever made on the blog so it holds a special place in my heart. It also works amazing! I really love using it for hand washing my dedicates in the sink too. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products
Air freshener

This air freshener lives in my bathroom. My parents demand I make it all the time, they love it so much. It’s so easy to make, and it smells way more pleasant than conventional air freshener (which tends to bring on sneezing and coughing fits for me). Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products


Produce wash

You gotta clean your produce too! This produce wash is only one ingredient and makes all the difference. Check out the full DIY here.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Zero waste cleaning products

Sometimes, DIYs don’t cover it, or you don’t have the time to make them. For those moments, I recommend these zero waste, ethically made all-natural products.

Eco Nuts
I love using Eco Nuts to do laundry – they last for such a long time and really help me save money. You just toss a few into the laundry machine and can reuse the same ones up to ten times. Check here for a closer look at my zero waste laundry routine.

Wool dryer balls

These wool dryer balls are amazing for cutting drying time down and acting as a natural fabric softener. If you’re talented enough, or have free time, you can definitely try making your own. I’m not, so I love these Smart Sheep dryer balls.

Stain remover stick

Huge fan of this stain remover stick because lets face it, stains are annoying. I prefer relying on an actual stain stick – I’ve tried DIY stain removers and they don’t often work for me. I love this one from Ethique.

Dish soap block

I love pairing this dish soap block with my wooden dish brush – it’s honestly a lot of fun to do dishes with it. It works amazing and I love how it lathers up. It’s also unscented and fragrance free, so it’s a great option for those who are extremely sensitive to scents. I keep it on this bamboo soap dish.

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

Ready to get cleaning?

So, I hope this guide helps you realize low waste cleaning is absolutely attainable. And remember, don’t feel pressured to run out and buy all these things at once. In fact, hold off unless you absolutely need something ASAP.

Keep all your tools until they break – and even then try to repair it. Once you can’t repair them any more, replace them with something better – perhaps something on this list.

Make a goal to slowly transition at your own pace. You don’t need to change everything all at once. Budget it out if you have to. The cool part about most of the DIYs I list is that you only need a few select ingredients for them – and once you have them, you can make almost all of the DIYs at once.

Remember that any swap is better than no swap. They all add up! Imagine if all of us simply swapped out our dish soap for something non-toxic, what a difference that would make. So never underestimate the power of individual action!

Zero Waste Cleaning Guide: Tools, DIYS + Products

What did you think of this zero waste cleaning guide? 

For more cleaning tips, be sure to check out my zero waste spring cleaning tips.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share it! If you like my content, sign up for my newsletter to get notified every time I write a new blog post. To support me even further, please consider buying me a cup of tea to help support my blog.

By Ariana Palmieri

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.

0 comments

  1. What an easy to use, comprehensive guide to zero-waste cleaning. This is so useful! I make DIY cleaners with vinegar, lemon, oranges, essential oils and I also use baking soda in my home. I am sharing this on social media.

  2. I'm so happy you enjoyed it Deborah! 🙂 I love DIYs so much – affordable and so efficient. ^_^ What you use sounds amazing too – those really do make up the basics of zero waste cleaning honestly! You don't need many more ingredients. 😀 Thank you for sharing it!

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