a waste not week: cleaning and hygiene edition

A few weeks ago we wrote a post that has some tasty details about what our eating habits look like on this zero waste journey of ours (view that post HERE). This discussion was prompted by two questions we have been asked a few times; is zero waste hard? and does it take a lot of time?

The bulk of the time and prep definitely goes into how we eat, but there are many other household realms where we’ve had to find a new zero waste procedure! Our cleaning and hygiene solutions have come about steadily and gradually since we began the project in December, as we slowly ran out of old cleaners and products.

I was personally skeptical as to whether our homemade solutions would work as well as their store bought counterparts, but all in all we’ve been pleasantly surprised that the pretty much all of these changes have fallen under the category of “incredibly simple, just be patient enough to adjust the ratios until you’re happy with the result.” In all cases, our first attempts have worked *well enough* and we’ve just continued to tweak things from there.

In fact, in many ways, this post is merely an ode to baking soda.

the true hero of the story: the ever versatile baking soda!


Cleaning and Hygiene Zero Waste Swaps

Below is a list of what we have had to replace so far, and what we’ve replaced it with. The time and preparation component to these switches are significantly less than with our food prep.

  • all purpose surface cleaner: water and a rag, and some baking soda if there is more than dust to remove

We use old clothes/socks/dish towels, etc as household rags, and simply dissolve the baking soda into water to make an effective cleaning solution. 

  •  dish soap: grated vegetable glycerin soap and a tiny little bit of washing soda (we hand wash)

We buy our vegetable glycerin soap in bulk, packing free, at Bulk Barn. We grate about 3-4 tablespoons of it, plus 1/2 teaspoon washing soda into HOT water, and so far this has proven the most effective at cutting the grease, if we have pre-rinsed all of our dishes (we continue to tweak). We also have cut down substantially on the amount of oil we use in cooking, so we simply don’t have as much grease to deal with when it comes time to wash the dishes. Ratios are roughly represented in the banner photo for this post. 

  • glass cleaner: a clean rag and plain old water, add some vinegar if there’s “gunk” (dog nose prints, anyone?)

Water is generally more than enough for mirrors, etc, but for anything requiring it, mixing a tiny bit of vinegar into some water, washing, and then going over it once with just water works perfectly. Turns out it’s more about your cloth technique than the washing fluid itself. 

Jesse makes our apple cider vinegar, using the apple scraps from all the applesauce we eat. Check out the process HERE
  • laundry soap: vegetable glycerin soap and washing soda, boiled together

We use a variation on zero waste chef’s dish soap recipe found HERE; we didn’t really like it as a dish soap mixture, but find we like it for laundry. We make it a bit more watery, and without the essential oil (that way it’s 100% zero waste). We use 1/4 – 1/2 cup per load of laundry, and it works great – no residue, and our clothes come out scent-free. 

laundry soap…. okay, it looks a little gross. But whatever, it works really well!
  • toothpaste: depends who you ask!

Cass uses straight baking soda (you adjust to the taste), and Jesse uses a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil (seems a bit less rough on the teeth, and has a smoother taste).

  • deodorant: you guessed it, baking soda

After Jesse’s initial [hilarious] trial and error, we settled into just applying a baking soda a cornstarch mixture with an old makeup brush, a la talcum powder. Honestly, my body has been *thanking* me for finally switching off of antiperspirant, and baking soda seems to do the trick in odor control (I keep asking people to sniff me, and if they are to be trusted, I pass inspection). 

same stuff, different brushes, different destination.
  • shampoo/conditioner: more baking soda, followed by apple cider vinegar

The “no-poo” method is a fairly well known one, and I swear by it. My hair was nasty and greasy for about 3 – 4 weeks while I transitioned cold turkey from using shampoo and conditioner to only water washing, but now I am so thankful I did. It’s way less maintenance, and my hair is just so healthy and natural feeling. I water wash my hair with warm water every other day (sometimes every day), and I use a baking soda rinse, followed by and apple cider vinegar rinse about once every few months, mostly if my hair somehow came into product (I now use absolutely no gel/hairspray/leave-in gunk in my hair). Jesse rinses with baking soda and vinegar only a bit more frequently than I do.

Baking soda: dissolve 2 tablespoons into 2 cups of water, pour on your hair and lather. Rinse out. Apple cider vinegar: dissolve 2 tablespoons in one cup of water, and work through your hair. Rinse. I promise you won’t smell at all like vinegar once you’ve rinsed (that was my worry as well). 

tooth brush upgrade! bamboo, biodegradable, AND all the packaging is compostable (even the internal wrapper). The bristles themselves are not compostable. 

So What’s Left? 

There are a few odds and ends we haven’t used up entirely yet, and therefore haven’t yet had to replace in a zero waste way. I haven’t tackled any makeup swaps yet (though I’ve completely ceased using foundation when I ran out long, long before we began this project), as well as lotion. We just found compostable silk floss today at The Better Good (most conventional floss is nylon, or nylon-coated, and therefore won’t biodegrade), so we’ll post back on how that goes for us!

compost-friendly floss! We’ll have to see if the actual container is reusable in some way, too…

There has also been some, *ahem* discussion on toilet paper. We have completely done away with paper tissues (hello reusable hankies!), and our rags have made paper towel completely obsolete since day one. Jesse is determined to venture into toilet paper alternatives at some point (which means it will surely happen), and I am content to have that be one area that I’m happy being 90% zero waste. 😉



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s