I’ve tried various different zero-waste cleaning recipes and DIY cleaning ingredients over the past few years. Some work better than others. So to make things easier for you, figured I’d compile a list of my favorite DIY zero-waste cleaning recipes and tips.
But, before diving into these recipes let’s take a few minutes to explore why and when you might consider using some of these ingredients and which ingredients I believe you should always have on hand.
1. Distilled White Vinegar.
White vinegar, probably the most popular DIY home cleaning ingredient, is a great everyday all-purpose cleaner.
Use: windows, mirrors, glass, floors (not waxed wooden floors), faucets, and cupboards. Shouldn’t be used on surfaces like natural stone, waxed wood, cast iron or aluminum.
Benefits: Vinegar can be used to clean windows; kill mold and mildew; get rid of soap scum; and sanitize kitchen counters and cutting boards. 1 Vinegar can inhibit growth of and kill some food-borne pathogenic bacteria. 2
Cons: Vinegar does have disinfectant activity. It’s an acetic acid, which has the ability to destroy bacteria and viruses but, it’s not a great disinfectant and has been proven to be less effective than commercial disinfectant cleaners (Journal of Environmental Health). If you’re looking to do some deep cleaning to disinfect best to get a store bought cleaner such as Seventh Generation Disinfectant.
NOTE: Vinegar is NOT effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
2. Hydrogen peroxide.
Use: Hydrogen peroxide kills mold and mildew, sanitizes counters and cutting boards, and removes stains from counters. Use it to disinfect high-touch areas such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, remote controls, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. 3
Benefits: Hydrogen Peroxide is an effective disinfectant that will kill viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other germs. According to the CDC, concentration of 3% hydrogen peroxide can inactivate rhinovirus — the respiratory virus that primarily causes the common cold — within eight minutes.
Warning! NEVER MIX HYDROGEN PEROXIDE with VINEGAR! It creates a pretty toxic chemical (PERACETIC ACID) that can be pretty corrosive and harmful to your health if not handled correctly.
Tip: Before disinfecting any surface with hydrogen peroxide clean the area with soap and water. Once you’ve done so, you can pour or spray hydrogen peroxide on the surface and wipe with a clean towel or sponge. Leave hydrogen peroxide on the surface for at least one minute before drying to give it enough time to kill pathogens.
Note: Store hydrogen peroxide in a dark bottle or keep your spray bottle out of direct sunlight. Hydrogen peroxide is light-sensitive and its potency is reduced if not stored properly.
3. Baking Soda.
Use: The versatility of baking soda makes it a great kitchen cleaner. Not only can it remove tough stains, it also helps eliminate foul odors. Combine it with water to clean countertops, stainless steel sinks, microwaves, range hoods and cooking utensils.
Benefits: Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, absorbs odor (is deodorizing) and is slightly abrasive so is great when it comes to cleaning those tough spots. It’s known to be the partner-in-crime to white vinegar in the DIY cleaning world.
Here are 25 ways you might consider using baking soda, outside of baking.
TIP: Ingredients I recommend for an effective zero-waste cleaning routine: glass spray bottles, white vinegar, castille soap, citric acid, baking soda soda, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, alcohol (vodka works fine too!), witch hazel, old rags, microfiber cloth
5 DIY Zero-Waste Cleaning Recipes
Zero-Waste Cleaning Tips
- Always clean before you disinfect! Soil and grease interfere with any disinfectant’s germ-killing abilities.
- Keep an old toothbrush to scrub the counter and those hard-to-clean tile corners.
- Consider investing in a microfiber cloth. These are not only reusable but, according to the EPA, help to remove organic matter (dirt, oils, grease) as well as germs (up to 99%) from surfaces. (Note: it does create microplastics in the wash — we will talk about that in a future post).
- If you want to use a sponge, microwave it for two minutes every day (make sure your sponge is wet and doesn’t contain any metal), or put it in the dishwasher every time you run it.
NOTE: The zero-waste cleaning recipes below are meant to be used for your every day messes. Best to use a disinfectant when it comes to cleaning anything that revolves around bodily fluids, etc. You can read more about the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting (plus a list of my favorite eco-friendly cleaning brands) here.
1. ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER
- 3/4 cup of vinegar
- 1 1/2 cup of water
- 24 drops of essential oil of choice (I like using tea tree oil)
Directions: Combine ingredients in a glass spray bottle and spray/wipe down as needed.
2. TOILET BOWL CLEANER
- Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap
Directions: Squirt a bit of Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap around the edges and inside your toilet bowl. Let sit for a few minutes, then scrub away using your toilet brush and flush. I’ve found this works just as well as conventional toilet bowl cleaners when it comes to your simple cleaning sprees.
3. GLASS CLEANER
- 2 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 10 drops essential oil of choice
Directions: Combine ingredients in a glass spray bottle and spray on window/glass as needed. I recommend using a microfiber cloth to avoid streaks. Spray a bit of hydrogen peroxide on your mirror. Wipe down with cloth. Creates a streak free and spotless mirror in no time! (Recipe courtesy of Wellness Mama)
Did you know?
Hydrogen Peroxide is a great natural disinfectant to keep on hand. If you have a sprayer nozzle just place it on your store bought bottle (you know, that little brown bottle you find in almost every single grocery store?) and spray away! Use it to clean your kitchen/bathroom sinks and counters, shower, cutting boards, etc. NOTE: wipe down after spraying.
Quick tip to clean your mirrors?
Spray a bit of hydrogen peroxide on your mirror. Wipe down with cloth. Creates a streak free and spotless mirror in no time!
4. UNCLOG YOUR DRAIN
- Boiling water
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
- Distilled white vinegar
1) Boil 1 cup of water on stovetop (or in microwave).
2) Squirt a bit of dish soap down the drain followed by boiling water.
3) Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain. followed by 1 cup of distilled white vinegar.
4) Let mixture fizz and work its magic. During this time boil 2 more cups of water.
5) Once mixture has stopped fizzing, pour the boiling water down the drain. Rinse with hot water.
Recipe courtesy of Clean Mama.
5. DEEP CLEAN YOUR OVEN
- 3/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup warm water
1) Stir together the baking soda and warm water to make a paste (note: a large oven may require more paste).
2) Using paintbrush, or old rag, spread the paste throughout the oven’s interior (try your best to avoid bare metal surfaces and the oven door).
3) Let it about 8-12 hours. Remove the paste with a plastic scraper/spatula, wetting as needed. Wipe with a damp cloth, repeating to remove streaks. (recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart)
Other posts that might interest you:
14 Non-Toxic Cleaning Brands (+ the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing)