Our Favorite Ingredients & Tools For Zero Waste Cleaning

Are you looking for more Zero Waste Swaps specific to cleaning? Fear not, we have you covered with our preferred cleaning products and tips. 

It comes as no surprise that most of these products are part of the traditional home remedies. 

Indeed, a Zero Waste attitude often boils down to going back to basics, the simple and natural ingredients that have been used for centuries.  

No need for you to throw away your current products made of plastic as long as you try to reuse/recycle them. 

However, in case you’re looking for additional tips, or you just emptied your last jar of soap, have a look at the below plastic-free cleaning products.

Together, we can make a difference and significantly decrease home waste while favoring cheaper alternatives  with Zero Waste cleaning products.

Zero Waste Cleaning Ingredients

Cleaning Ingredients

Black Soap

What you need to know about black soap (or African Black Soap) is that it is a 100% natural and biodegradable cleanser fantastic for both the skin and the house.

It is antibacterial, moisturizing, helps soothe irritation and fight acne; we recommend you take a look at this Healthline article in case you are looking for an extensive list of benefits for your body. 

Bear in mind that if used for cosmetic purposes, black soap is best used in the form of an oily, grainless texture.

When it comes to cleaning, we recommend buying the liquid version as it is easier to dose. 

It is an excellent stain and grease remover, and can be used pretty much anywhere in the house, including your garden;

  • Kitchen and Bathroom; use a bit of black soap on a sponge and use it to scrub the sinks, appliances, cookstoves, and even floors.  It is also extremely efficient to properly clean your cutlery!
  • Garden: use it for the barbecue rack, and also to repulse insects from your plants. Have a look here for a few tips.

How can you be sure of the quality of the black soap you are buying? It might seem obvious, but make sure that it was indeed produced in Africa; it is composed of a multitude of plants that typically grow on the continent,  such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark. 

Once sun-dried and roasted, water and oils (coconut, for example) complete the mix. Contrary to what you might think, African Black Soap should not be black, but dark brown. 

Lastly, because these soaps are made in Africa, make sure there aren’t any additional artificial ingredients which might be easy to find somewhere else.  

If you see too many additional ingredients, odds are you should question its authenticity. 

If any, it might be because the soap was fabricated elsewhere in the world, and did not follow a traditional African recipe).

How can you be sure of the quality of the black soap you are buying? 

It might seem obvious, but make sure that it was indeed produced in Africa; it is composed of a multitude of plants that typically grow on the continent,  such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves, and shea tree bark

Once sun-dried and roasted, water and oils (coconut, for example) complete the mix. Contrary to what you might think, African Black Soap should not be black, but dark brown. 

Lastly, because these soaps are made in Africa, make sure there aren’t any additional artificial ingredients which might be easy to find somewhere else.  

If you see too many additional ingredients, odds are you should question its authenticity. 

If any, it might be because the soap was fabricated elsewhere in the world, and did not follow a traditional African recipe).

Castile Soap

Just like Black Soap, Castile Soap is a versatile and vegetal only soap, originating in the region of Castilla, Spain.

You can dilute it in water (a third of liquid soap, two-third of water) with a few drops of your preferred essential oil as homemade dish soap.

It is essential to mention that you want to avoid a white film residue on the objects you clean, by doing the following:

  • Dilute and spread properly on a slightly wet sponge
  • Do not combine vinegar with castile soap as the vinegar will trigger a reaction, i.e., changing the soap back to its original oils. 
  • The same with lemon, for the same reasons as above

Sommiere Clay (Powder), A.K.A Fez Soap

If you are not sure how to remove stains on curtains or rugs (even old ones), cover them with Sommiere Powder for a few minutes (the duration depends on the size), then scrub or shake the cloth as adequate.

If you have pets at home, then the following is good to know:

  • Sommiere clay is naturally absorbent and will be particularly handy (and safe!) when removing your animal waste
  • It will eliminate odors
  • Leave the powder on the stain (for example, on your couch) for at least one night, to maximize its benefits.

It works with clothes too. Here is how to make your own Plastic Free Washing Powder:

  • Combine Sommiere Powder (5 tablespoons) with Marseille Soap (1 tablespoon), as well as a bit of warm water
  • Cover the stain(s) with the above mix and scrub it
  • Wash it as usual with the rest of your laundry in your washing machine 

If you want more information on how to make your own Zero Waste Laundry Detergent, have a look at our article here.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda can be used extensively for cleaning the house, together with warm water. 

Bear in mind that there is a limited added value to mixing vinegar and baking soda, as they neutralize each other’s cleaning power. 

You could envision combining them in case of drains, for example, as their ‘fizzy lifting’ reaction might come in handy.

If you have kids, there are two situations for which baking soda can be added to your list of great Zero Waste Cleaning tips:

  • Old toys: give them a fresh clean by removing the residues of your little ones’ greasy hands (use a damp sponge previously dipped in baking soda)
  • Crayons on walls: the same technique to remove your kids’ drawings from the walls

Lemon & White Vinegar

These easy-to-find ingredients are beneficial to clean the house ecologically. However, it is recommended to alternate with good old soap and warm water.  Thus, lemon and white vinegar alone will not help you wipe out germs, even though they will be useful in shining and cleaning surfaces such as windows and floors.

When it comes to vinegar, feel free to use it in the below contexts:

  • unclog a drain
  • remove mineral deposits
  • clean appliances such as microwaves and stoves
  • remove mold
  • disinfect to a certain point, but as mentioned above, be aware that it does not kill all germs and bacteria

As for lemon, its primary added value is its scent. To continue the journey towards Zero Waste Cleaning, we particularly recommend:

  • When washing the fridge, add half a lemon squeeze for each cup of warm water.
  • For an all-purpose spray bottle: mix two cups of white vinegar, two cups of water and add half a cup of lemon juice. It will naturally help with grease removal while keeping a fresh smell.

The list of ingredients for a Zero Waste home should be short; castile soap, baking soda, lemon, and vinegar.

Zero Waste Cleaning Tools

Microfiber Cloth

Rags and cleaning tools

One of our significant changes related to Zero Waste Cleaning was to switch from disposable paper towels to washable rags and cloths, ideally made from microfiber. Why microfiber? 

If you chose the right quality, no need for soap or vinegar or anything else. Its the material itself which will allow a smooth cleaning of pretty much all surfaces in the house, including greasy stains!

One of our milestones towards Zero Waste cleaning was to buy H2O Home’s pads, sponges and cloths. The pads are handy as they dry fast, scrub on one side and absorb on the other. 

We were astonished to see that we could clean our windows (even after some works in the house!) with their windows kit and… hot water. 

The French brand promotes slow and responsible consumerism, which is totally in line with our Zero Waste Principles.

Rags, Sponges & Scrubs

Natural Sponges

No need to use disposable paper towels anymore. To clean all types of surfaces, we recommend scrubbing a bit of soap (Castile, Marseille, or Black soap) on a damp rag or sponge to remove dust and absorb liquid(on tables for example).

To make it even better, chose microfibers versions, as detailed above.

In terms of natural and ecological sponges, they are not only affordable, but they are also free of microplastics (typically present in the yellow and black sponges sold in the supermarket), which end up in oceans and therefore swallowed by sea creatures (that end up on our plate).  

We all have our ‘ecological weaknesses,’ so even if you like the plastic versions, it is feasible to find sustainable alternatives! Just to name a few:

  • Natural Sponges made of 100% wood-based cellulose
  • Coconut Scourer: it is naturally antibacterial and is made from coconut fibers 
  • Heavy-duty sponge i.e., recycled sponge scourers: perfect if you like the conventional ones, but you want to try a sustainable cleaning option

Metal Or Wooden Cleaning Tools

Heart Shaped Soap next to a Brush

Whenever you need to replace an existing cleaning tool, simply think of ‘Zero Waste Cleaning’ and avoid plastic or other non-recycled materials.

For example, dish brushes made 100% out of wood are compostable at the end of life and, therefore, biodegradable.

We particularly recommend Vegan-friendly Bamboo brushes as they last longer than most sponges. Another easy Zero Waste Swap for you to directly help tackle plastic pollution!

Dishwasher Pads Or Detergents

We have been trying for a while to find the right DIY dishwasher pads recipe since these are ridiculously expensive (we use the ones from our local organic shop). 

However, you will find that most online articles refer to a rather long list of ingredients that we tend to not have at home. Therefore, we kept things simple, and it worked! 

Once you make your dish soap (see above, with the Castile version), you can use it for dishwashing, whether you are a fan of the pads or liquid option;  

You can add half of the dish soap and half of the baking soda powder, directly in the tray and go to work.

Cleaning tools should be polyvalent. Opt for sustainable materials: easily washable or compostable, or both.

Final Thoughts

We particularly appreciate washable microfiber cloths for all-purpose cleaning in the entire house. 

And, we love African Black Soap since it is used both as cleaning soap for home and includes multiple benefits for all types of skin.

It was beneficial to transition from a ton of products and rags (five for each home space!) to Zero Waste Cleaning while making the most out of natural ingredients.

Lastly, to continue on the Zero Waste journey, why not avoid buying whenever possible and let your curious-self try out new things?

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