Getting closer to zero waste by cutting out single-use coffee cups and plastic drinks bottles can seem relatively simple. Cleaning supplies, on the other hand, are more of a staple in our everyday lives.
Unfortunately, most cleaning products are packed, wrapped, and shipped in plastic. Additionally, due to the nature of household cleaners which often contain harsh chemicals and strong scents that can contaminate the plastic, it can be really hard to recycle the packaging, even if you do put it in your curbside pickup.
What’s more, many of the spray bottles that make up our cleaning cupboards are constructed of multiple smaller parts, using items like metal springs and non-recyclable plastics. Having this mix means that, again, it can’t go through the regular recycling process, or if it does, it will likely be diverted to a landfill.
However, it isn’t just the plastic bottles that make cleaning so wasteful, but the majority of cleaning tools as well. That sponge and scourer? Most likely plastic. And when was the last time you saw a feather duster made of feathers? Now they’re more likely to be plastic. Brooms, brushes, dustpans, bin bags… the list goes on.
However, it’s possible to reduce the plastic packaging associated with household cleaning significantly, and now there’s an increasing number of businesses and individuals looking for ways to keep their homes and offices clean while staying zero waste.
Here, we’ve gathered together the best zero-waste cleaning products available today—so you can keep your house, and your conscience, sparkling clean!
No Waste Dustpan and Brush
A dustpan and brush is an essential part of any cleaning kit, but instead of grabbing a flimsy plastic set, consider this German-made wooden set with horsehair bristles and a stainless steel pan. It also comes with a wall-mounting bracket, which gives the broom the appearance of floating, and while you might not feel like showing off a plastic model, this is the kind of eco-friendly cleaning product that you’d be proud to put on display—even after you’ve used it to pick up dust and grime.
Reusable Trash Can Liners
Chances are you’ll be generating some kind of waste while cleaning, whether it’s ultimately recycled or not. However, that doesn’t mean it should be tossed into a single-use plastic bag that will take hundreds of years to breakdown.
A staggering 310.43 million Americans reported using plastic garbage bags and trash can liners in 2019, and if you multiply this by the number of bags each person uses, you’ve got billions upon billions of these bags heading to landfill every year.
Reusable liners are the answer to this particular sustainability issue, and they can be machine washed each time you empty them so they’re not sent to landfill. They even come in different sizes so you have a bag for every green cleaning occasion—whether in the home or in your garden.
Natural Mayan Loofah Sponge Scrubbers
Most synthetic sponges and dishcloths are made of vegetable cellulose, polyester, or polyurethane, with the latter two being most common for the classic yellow sponge used for dishwashing and countertop cleaning. Not only will these synthetic sponges release particles of plastic as they are used, but they will also end up in landfill at the end of their life.
Those made from vegetable cellulose are a better option, however, they are frequently processed with so many chemicals that even when they do break down, you wouldn’t want them in your compost pile.
The best zero-waste cleaning product alternative? Natural Mayan Loofah Sponge Scrubbers. These are grown on a vine and can be used just like a “normal” sponge. They are entirely natural, so you don’t have to worry about them releasing microplastics when used or leaking chemicals during your cleaning routine. Once they come to the end of their life, simply pop it in your compost where it will break down in just 30 days!
Top Tip: If you have a bit of a green thumb, you can grow your own loofah sponges at home. Add to this a few essential oils, a little baking soda, white vinegar, and some castile soap and you have all the ingredients for your own DIY cleaning products—100% safe and packaging free! Check out these cleaning recipes here for more information on how you can turn natural ingredients into powerful cleaning products.
Plastic-Free Coconut Scour Pads
The green scouring pads found on the backs of some sponges, or sold as individual products, are a pretty common sight in most cleaning caddies. And, just like dish brushes and sponges, they are generally made out of synthetic fibers.
While they are sometimes labeled as “recyclable,” this is a reference to the plastic-types that are theoretically recyclable, however, they cannot be recycled in your curbside pickup. But don’t worry, there is a zero-waste alternative—coconut scour pads!
Designed for dishes but useful anywhere that requires some elbow grease, they are made from waste coconut coir and natural rubber latex, meaning they’re 100% biodegradable and plastic-free! What’s more, there’s a tree planted for every pack sold.
You’ll need some dish soap to accompany your loofah sponge and coconut scourers, but liquid soap in single-use plastic bottles is not the way to go. No Tox Life Vegan Dish Block is a cleaning powerhouse!
Offering a rich lather for dishes, pots, pans, and even fabrics, the 5.9 oz. block cuts through grease and grime easily, while also protecting your hands with a little added aloe vera. Long-lasting and 100% zero waste, the soap bark extract leaves a subtle minty-fresh smell wherever you use it.
Your Dish Is My Command – Truman’s Dishwasher Bars
Like many other cleaning products, dishwasher tablets often come in either a plastic tub or plastic bag—neither of which are likely to end up recycled. So, if you’re not into washing dishes by hand, but are also sick of throwing away all that plastic, it might be time to look into Truman’s dishwasher bars.
They are packaged in compostable and recyclable materials, as well as avoiding the toxic chemicals you might not want on your tableware, making them a great zero-waste cleaning product that’s both better for the environment and your health!
Totally Taylored Reusable Paper Towels
Kitchen towels are designed to be used once and trashed—a far cry from the no-waste cleaning products you’re looking for. However, a little stack of absorbent towels sitting near the kitchen sink is very convenient when cleaning, especially when mopping up spills as you go.
That’s why Totally Taylored Reusable Paper Towels offer a reusable alternative to conventional paper towels, with their upcycled fabric on one side and bamboo double loop terry on the other. Coming in a pack of four, these towels are designed to be used, thrown in the laundry, dried, and used again over and over without falling apart.
Dropps’ Sensitive Skin Laundry Detergent Pods
Liquid laundry detergent often comes in big, HDPE bottles, which will most likely end up in a landfill or the ocean. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HDPE plastics had a recycling rate of 31.2% in 2017, which is ever so slightly higher than PET, but still worryingly low.
Dropps have introduced detergent pods with no dyes, no enzymes, no chlorine bleaches, and, most importantly, no plastic. Instead, they pack and ship it in a 100% recyclable, re-pulpable, and compostable cardboard box, making for one of the best zero-waste cleaning products on the market.
Stain Remover Bar
While there are many core zero-waste cleaning products out there, it’s the little things that can often cause the biggest problems. Like those small stains that, scrub as you may, just aren’t going anywhere until you turn to a single-use plastic spray bottle of ultra-harsh chemicals.
That’s why it’s great to see zero-waste cleaning brands branching out into the myriad of other cleaning supplies we use on a daily basis, such as SoulShine Soap Company’s laundry stain remover. Small-batch, handmade, and completely plastic-free, this stain removing bar could make the perfect accompaniment to those zero-waste detergent pods!
Veles All-Purpose Cleaner
Our list of the top zero-waste cleaning products wouldn’t be complete without including the innovative Veles cleaner. Available in a reusable aluminum bottle, with enough cleaning fluid to last about three months, it can be used on ceramics, glass, chrome, fiberglass, stainless steel, and plastic (and probably other materials if you test them first!).
The refills, which should be good for about six months of cleaning, are shipped in glass bottles. What’s more, 97% of the ingredients of the cleaning solution are derived from food waste, which represents a massive problem in the United States. This is the kind of zero-waste cleaning product that looks at each and every aspect of its production—from the packaging to the design to the sourcing of ingredients for a truly sustainable, natural cleaning alternative.
For more innovative zero-waste products and tips, subscribe to zerowaste.com today or chat with one of our TRUE Advisors to get further insight into how your business can work towards zero waste. Alternatively, check back in with the blog for simple zero-waste ideas and guidance!
*We only feature products that we recommend and believe help you on the path towards a zero waste lifestyle. This post contains affiliate links – If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. See our full policy here.*