Spring is the season of renewal, and with it comes the time where everyone cleans a little more than usual.
With most of us at home these days, now is a great opportunity to make some easy changes to your cleaning routine!
What’s the problem with regular cleaning products?
It’s easy to overlook how much plastic is involved in the cleaning of your home, vehicle, or outdoor spaces because of how infrequently we go through cleaning products.
They create a lot of waste
Whether it’s sponges, dusting kits, or disinfectants, most cleaning supplies are only used a few times before being disposed of.
Since the 1950’s, over 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste has been created worldwide - most of which in the last two decades. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that only about 9% of what we recycle actually ends up being recycled properly.
This means cleaning product remnants and their plastic bottles often end up in landfills, oceans, lakes, and forests where they can leach harmful chemicals into the environment.
More often than not, store-bought cleaning supplies come wrapped in plastic packaging too - a double hit for our environment.
They aren’t good for us, or the planet
When you look at the label of a cleaning product there are often many warnings about the harmful chemicals they contain.
Ammonia, phosphorus, and nitrogen are commonly found in many cleaning products and are classified as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by the Environmental Protection Agency.
These VOCs are released as cleaning products are used and negatively impact our health. They often cause eye, throat, or skin irritation as well as headaches. Chemicals in most cleaning supplies are also toxic if ingested and can be dangerous for small children.
After being used, these chemicals are washed down the drain and though they go through water treatment facilities, some of the contaminants still end up in our oceans, rivers, and lakes.
They’re really expensive
A Swiffer-style mop with disposable mop pads costs roughly $20-25 upfront, plus $10-20 every time you need to buy a new box of mop pads. If you mop your floor once a week, this could cost you up to $1,000 a year!
A wooden-handled mop with a washable head costs roughly $40, with no need for replacement pads because its head can be reused.
If you’ve already got a Swiffer-style mop, consider using your own rags instead of buying disposable mop pads or look for a reusable mop pad. You’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars a year and our planet the waste.
What can you do?
Luckily, there are many alternatives to disposable, chemical, and plastic cleaning products.
Here are some simple ways you can start transitioning your cleaning routine to be more eco-friendly!
Repurpose where you can
One of the 5 R’s of zero waste living is Repurpose!
Give old sheets, towels, or even t-shirts a new life by cutting them into something that can be used over and over.
Cut smaller textiles into dishcloths for washing dishes. This is a much more eco-friendly option than microfibre cloths or sponges since you can throw them in the wash instead of into the trash.
Cut larger textiles to the size of paper towels and roll them back to back onto your paper towel holder. This gives you easy access when you need something to clean up spills.
If you have textiles that are stained or ripped, cut them into rags that can be used again and again. This is a great alternative to cleaning with paper towel.
Make your own cleaning products
Save an empty bottle and DIY your next batch of cleaning products.
Making your own cleaning products is a great way to reuse empty bottles instead of sending them to the landfill.
They can often be made with common household ingredients, which means they’ll also be chemical-free!
Some of our favourite DIY recipes are:
Great for cleaning windows and mirrors.
2 cups Distilled Water
1/2 cup White Vinegar
10-20 drops Essential Oil (Optional -
EOs help cover the smell of the vinegar.)
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle (washing and reusing one from an old cleaning product is best!). Swirl together and use immediately or as needed with your reusable rags.
*Do NOT use acidic cleaning products on granite or marble.
Great for scrubbing sinks, tubs, and tiles.
1 cup Baking Soda
4 tbsp Castile Soap
4 tbsp Distilled Water
10-20 drops Essential Oil (Optional)
Mix together baking soda and castile soap until a paste forms. Add water slowly until you get your desired consistency. Store in a sealed container to use as needed with your reusable rags.
*Be sure to rinse well to remove residue.
Great for cleaning just about anything.
1 tbsp Baking Soda (dissolved in water)
1/8 cup Castile Soap (or a little less)
2 cups Distilled Water
20-30 drops Essential Oil (Optional)
Dissolve baking soda in water. Add castile soap and essential oil (if using). Pour into a spray bottle (washing and reusing one from an old cleaning product is best!). Swirl together and use immediately or as needed with your reusable rags.
*Be sure to rinse well to remove residue.
Be mindful of how you buy
If making your own cleaning products isn’t your thing, consider finding a refillery that allows you to use your own containers.
If you’re purchasing from a regular store, opt for cleaning supplies that come in a paper box rather than a plastic bottle.
Regardless of where or how you purchase, look for biodegradable cleaning products to help protect our waterways!
Here are a few Greater Vancouver stores that offer refills for cleaning products such as dish soap, laundry soap, and disinfectants. Some of these also sell plastic-free cleaning supplies like scrubbers and cloths.
If you know of more refilleries (in Vancouver or in your own neighbourhood) please comment below with their location and the products they offer!
Choose reusable and compostable options
Minimize plastics and disposables wherever you can.
Choose a mop with a washable head rather than single-use pads. Swiffer-type floor mops can continue to be used with rags and some DIY cleaner.
When buying a vacuum, purchase one that doesn’t require the use of bags and instead has a removable canister that can be emptied. If you already own a vacuum, choose compostable bags when available!
There are many options for brooms and kitchen dish scrubs with compostable bristles and wooden handles. Choosing these over their plastic alternatives ensures they will break down instead of living forever in our landfills.
If you already own these products, continue to use them until the end of their life, then choose a plastic-free option to replace them.
Use old bathroom products for cleaning
If you have bathroom products that have reached the end of their lives, repurpose them for cleaning.
Old toothbrushes can be used to clean hard to reach or tough spots such as the grout between tiles!
Remember that these changes take time to become habits, if it seems overwhelming choose just one or two tips to try. And, if you still have products that can be used, finish these off or donate them to a friend before buying all new products.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a little bit more about eco-friendly spring cleaning! We hope that our tips help support your zero waste lifestyle and we’d love to see how you put these tips into action!
Share your photos on social media and tag us @yourlifeunpacked and leave your eco-friendly spring cleaning tips in the comments.
Ready to make your home a little more eco-friendly?