Despite the quantity of US citizens out at bars and not wearing masks, there is very much still a global pandemic going on. So when it comes to cleaning, there are a few simple tips and tricks to fill your home with less waste.
I’m going to keep it short and sweet, and I’m not going to endorse any specific products here, because there are always better options and some of the more effective cleaning products don’t have my endorsement when it comes to their toxicity. Besides, mama wants a paycheck if she’s going to drop a name brand for something she doesn’t love.
Here are my top five tips for cleaning your home sustainably:
- Don’t use disposable paper towels.
At first I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make this switch. Then because of everyone panic buying, I found myself out of paper towels with an inability to replace them.
So I just…. didn’t replace them! We use cloth napkins during dinner, and rags to wipe our counters. We ended up buying some recycled-paper paper towels for cleaning our toilets and any dog-messes, since we don’t like keeping those in our system. However, since we’d already broken the paper towel habit by force, we’re reaching for them a loooooot less.
On top of our laundry we keep a basket labeled ‘Dirty Rags’, and just make a habit out of tossing any used rags or napkins in there. That way, when we do laundry, it’s hard to forget to wash them.
2. Separate your waste
I don’t have the luxury of composting in my current living state, but hair and food is compostable! If you can compost, do!
I cannot stress this enough: find out what can actually be recycled in your area. Try to repurpose or reuse first, but if you need to get rid of something that you can’t donate, make sure you’re putting it into the proper waste stream and doing so properly. By that I mean don’t put your recyclables into a plastic bag if they shouldn’t be, check which number plastics can be recycled, and check that anything labeled “recyclable” is able to be recycled through your curbside program and doesn’t need to be taken to a specialty program.
The ideal hierarchy of getting rid of things you no longer want is:
- Repurpose – This includes mending an object, composting food or hair, or giving an object a new life
- Donate or re-sell – if you don’t want it maybe someone else does!
- Recycle – either through curbside recycling or a specific program
- Trash – *insert sadface*
3. Keep your dishes sustainable
I’ve written about this on Instagram before, but if you have a dishwasher, use it! It may not seem like it, but it actually uses less water than hand-washing your pots and pans. Make sure it’s super full before you run it, and run it without the heated dry to save some energy.
That being said, don’t put things in the dishwasher that will make them less useful. If you put knives or nonstick pans in the dishwasher, you’ll end up needing to replace them sooner, and that’s not sustainable. No, I don’t care if it’s labeled dishwasher safe, I’m begging you to listen to me *stares at my boyfriend’s ruined pans longingly*.
4. Buy concentrated cleaner
I’m not on team vinegar for cleaning. Sorry, not sorry. The EPA has specified that they don’t believe vinegar is sufficient for anti-viral cleaning – just anti-bacterial. THEREFORE, if you’re buying an anti-viral cleaner recommended for eliminating coronavirus strains, you can buy it in the concentrated form.
When you buy a concentrated cleaner, you essentially pour a small amount of it into a bottle and top it off with water. That way, if you’re using a plastic bottle, it will last much longer since you’re diluting every use with water, rather than letting the factory do that for you and waste shipping emissions! I bought a few cheap spray bottles when I first got these, and they’re still going strong. If your budget allows, I’d recommend glass spray bottles, since glass is 100% recyclable at its end of life.
5. Replace your tools (EVENTUALLY)
DO NOT go and replace your plastic toilet brush, plastic dustpan, plastic Swiffer (oops, product name) right now just because you’ve read this blog. However, next time you’re due to replace one of those cleaning tools, think about the product’s end of life. That is to say, when your broom needs to be replaced, pick one whose deathbed doesn’t have to be a landfill. If you get a wooden one, you could burn it, or potentially compost it depending on whether or not it’s waxed.
Basically, when your plastic stuff has to go to landfill hell, replace it with something that doesn’t have to die the same way. R.I.P., guys. I’ll do better by you in the future.
I hope this helps! I didn’t include anything about laundry in this post, but I’m hoping to write a fully separate article on that one in the coming weeks. Exciting stuff, right? In the mean time, let me know on Instagram @lowwastelottie if you have any questions or other suggestions you love!