Zero Waste cleaning
Cleaning isn’t fun. Well, there are people who enjoy it, but I am not one of them. I do love being in a tidy, spotless environment, but man do I hate the process it takes to get there.
Growing up with a cleaning freak such as my mum (love ya), you would think I’d pick up the habit of mopping the kitchen floor twice a day and hoovering the hoover.
Tell ya what: I haven’t. I only clean my house when it gets to inhuman conditions of filth. (To be fair, my personal “inhuman conditions of filth” alarm goes off before anyone else's, at least outside of Italy. According to every single flatmate I've had in London and Edinburgh I was always “the clean one” - aka the only one who would bother exhuming the vacuum cleaner from the depth of a forgotten storage closet or possessing enough elbow grease to scrub the toilet seat.)
As much as I make fun of my mum for her obsession with everything spotless, I did grow up in an immaculate house and I do appreciate it.
I also didn't use to have an opinion about the fact that every surface seemed to need a different product to be cleaned: a spray for glass, a separate one for windows, wax for wooden floors, bleach for ceramic, spot-proof goo for stainless steel sinks, pine-scented scourer for the toilet, a magic potion for mirrors (has anyone ever managed to get those suckers properly clean??), not to mention the obscure General Cleaner, which seemed to be reached for every time there was no time for proper deep cleaning, and made you wonder why you would have anything else but that in the first place.
Anyway. Guess what all these products come in? Plastic. And guess what they are full of? Sh... Chemicals.
Not to sound like my Grandmas (although they are the perfect example of someone who was not presented with any of these flashy last-generation commodities when they were in school taking home economics), but back in the days as little as a few drops of vinegar, a sprinkle of baking soda and some elbow grease would get the job done.
Swapping from conventional cleaning products to the god old traditional ones goes hand in hand with my obsession for making my own everything, and it fits into my efforts of not spending my money on companies I don't want to support.
So after this very extensive introduction, let me show you HOW I CLEAN MY HOUSE.
After a lot of research and experimenting, I came up with my own recipe for a cleaning product that I feel works best for me. It’s made with:
1 part apple cider vinegar
This normally comes in glass but I cut the middle man and purchase it in bulk at Commonsense.
3 parts water
From the tap!
I forage mine from my garden/the street/whenever I find some, but if you don’t have access to it you can always add a few drops of lavender essential oil.
I go through a few lemons a week due to my current obsession with lemon & ginger tea, so I save the peels and replace them once they lose the flavour.
A few drops of tea tree oil
Tea tree oil works great as a disinfectant. It smells horrific but you won't notice since all you will smell is ACV.
I mix everything together and let it sit for a while in a jar that I keep in the fridge. Then I pour some of it in an upcycled container with a pump head (a spray top would work better but this is also fine). I keep what's left as a backup in the fridge and I keep it topped up so I never run out (not that I've ever had a cleaning emergency, but you never know).
I use this on absolutely everything. On stains that require a little bit more insistence, I pour baking soda straight on the spot and scrub the shit out of them.
Chemistry fun fact: did you know that baking soda reacts with ACV and spills everywhere? There, I’ve just saved you from finding out yourself.
As for bushes and sponges, I have a variety of options.
For proper scrubbing, I've been using these two babes:
They work great. The bristles are made of bamboo, they are strong and durable but not abrasive, and the body is wood which makes them 100% home compostable. I use the big one for the kitchen and the small one for the bathroom.
As an every day clean-after-yourself method, I’ve recently purchased these magnificent wipes which are also 100% home compostable, you can wash them up to 300 times in your washing machine and even sterilise them in the microwave.
I was SO excited when I found them at Good Housekeeping (check them out if you are in Wellington, the owners are lovely!). These are possibly the closest Zero Waste item to a regular, "convenient" product that I've been using so far. So stoked.
I also have this coconut scrub that it’s supposed to be for the dishes. I haven’t used it yet, I just got it because it's cute. You can also find this at Commonsense.
After I've scrubbed and brushed with my ACV concoction and adorable brushes, I use some cotton towels to wipe everything dry. (I used to use microfibre wipes but I never liked them, plus microfibres are the devil anyway.)
To mop the floors I also use apple cider vinegar that I mix with some hot water and a few drops of peppermint essential oil, so that the house smells fresh and minty and not like a vineyard at harvest season. When I remember I also add some washing soda.
This has been working fine so far. All the ingredients I use are simple enough that you could eat them and they would taste terrible but they wouldn’t kill you. I love it that I can make all my cleaning products myself and that I no longer get lightheaded when I scrub the bathtub with bleach.
I hope this was helpful and inspired you to ditch the shitty plasticky conventional cleaning products. Mopping and scrubbing is always going to suck, but we can try and make it a little bit more bearable by making sure we are doing it in a sustainable way.