There are so many disposable products out there to clean your home besides the actual plastic containers of commercial cleaning products.
Before I knew better, I felt smug cleaning my home with all the disposable wipes because I was soooo efficient. I bought my kitchen roll in bulk from Costco because the rolls were bigger and it “saved” me money.
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When I moved to the UK, I found nothing had to change because I could get the same products here. Lee had a bucket and mop for the floor and we just replaced the mop head every few months and we bought the mega packs of sponges because they were ridiculously cheap.
I look back now and cringe at the waste. I also feel foolish about the money I “saved” because now I don’t have to buy anything at all. Now that is saving.
All that waste. Every week.
When I think back to the way my mom cleaned house when I was a kid it was simple. She had some rags and a bowl to dilute her favourite cleaner. She had another spray for dusting and more cloths. And that was it.
To think she had it right way back then before the age of convenience that led to the place we are today; drowning in rubbish and polluting our world with recycling that never gets recycled.
Unfortunately, like me she fell for the convenience of the wipes and the superior disinfecting powers they all seem to hold. She goes through disposable Swiffer floor cloths often from cleaning up dog hair from her floors and she even has the duster with disposable dusting heads.
She is not alone. The cleaning industry itself in the UK is worth £7 billion pounds so the fact is we are buying and disposing of a lot of cleaning products. (This also includes the money spent on the cleaning services we use, so even if you don’t buy the disposable products personally, your cleaner probably will).
So now we have to wake up and realise that all the convenience in our lives (even beyond cleaning products) are stripping the planet of resources at a rate faster than she can make them. We have so much “recycling,” we ship it to other countries to “recycle” but it just ends up polluting poorer countries and then we blame them for them for “their” pollution ending up in the oceans.
There must be a better way and looking back to older generations will have many answers.
Now going back to the ways of our grandparents doesn’t mean giving up on the advances in cleaning (and life), it just means being mindful about what we use to clean our homes. There are plenty of non-disposable tools to use that will still leave your home spick-and-span and the best part? Save you money.
So here are my 4 favourite cleaning tools that I use every week (sometimes every day) with nothing to throw away and nothing to buy.
I know, on the surface this looks like I go around saying zero waste and then throwing away the floor cloths after just bashing my mom for doing the same, but no.
My reasoning for going eco-friendly on this cleaning tool was actually a money saving manoeuvre on my part. I thought why spend £30 a year on refill cloths when I can buy these microfibre cleaning cloths for £3 and be done forever?
Now microfibre, as I came to find out, was not the best alternative because the microfibers from the cloths are what ends up in our water ways as microplastic, but it still is a step in the right direction as I’m not throwing anything away.
In the meantime, I will continue to use the cloths because there is nothing wrong with them and grabbed myself a Guppyfriend to wash them in to try to prevent the microfibres leaving my washer.
If I was thinking in terms of not wasting anything back then, I would have repurposed old socks that Lee occasionally gets rid of. Just slip them on and you’re ready to clean. Old shirts and towels can be cut into rectangles and attached as well if you are short on old socks.
You fortunately can learn from my mistakes.
2. Spray Mop
I learned from my mom how to clean floors. She always got a bowl of hot water and her favourite cleaner and got down on her hands and knees to wash the floor by hand with a cloth.
I thought it was crazy when she could just get a mop. Then I saw what happens when you exclusively use a mop when my grandma needed help cleaning her house. Mops can’t get in the corners. (This is also apparent in pub bathrooms.)
My grandma couldn’t get on the floor to clean but using a mop meant that hard to reach places forever went uncleaned.
I can’t bring myself to clean by hand every week with my two nuggets running around, but I aim for every other week.
On the off weeks and during the week if there’s a big spill, I use my spray mop.
I love it. I can fill it with my own cleaner saving me money and the cloth it comes with can be washed which saves me waste.
Unlike traditional mops where you have to have a bucket with cleaner which gets dirty as you clean, I am constantly spraying clean product on my floor and then mopping.
It also takes less space because it’s all in one piece as opposed to a mop and bulky bucket. This also has a convenient hook so I can hang it in my cupboard under the stairs.
I’ve had mine for about 5 years already and still love it.
3. The Shark
This was a big purchase for us. Spending hundreds of pounds on a vacuum.
Up until now I have always had a cord. I’ve had upright vacuums as well as canister ones, but found them to be huge pains in the asses on stairs and too heavy to lug around.
I saw advertisements on TV for a cordless vacuum and decided I wanted one, but which one?
We made it to a shop and Lee and I had narrowed it down to the Dyson and the Shark. We spent a good 30 minutes emptying the canisters on the floor to compare the sucking power of both and the ease of use. Both were amazing.
Neither vacuums require bags so the only waste was the dirt, dust and occasionally a toy that was sucked up by accident.
My family has been a Dyson family for years and I was leaning towards the Dyson because it was familiar and I knew it was a quality product, until it was time to talk battery.
Not battery life, battery.
The Dyson has one battery and you charge the entire unit when it goes flat.
The Shark however came with two batteries so if one ran out you popped in the other. More importantly, when those batteries come to the end of their life, I can replace the battery.
When the Dyson’s battery comes to the end of it’s life, you’d have to replace the entire vacuum.
If I am spending a lot of money, I want it to last and that battery problem swayed me to buy my Shark. I just don’t appreciate that Dyson would make you spend a bunch of money on a vacuum without a means to make it last forever.
In the end Lee and I didn’t mind spending the money because it was a quality purchase that was going to be around for years and years and I do think you should do the same when looking for big purchase items; get the best quality you can afford so it will last.
4. Tea Towels
Ok, so not a major “tool” but tea towels are compact workhorses. These will replace your kitchen roll.
My tea towels cost maybe a fiver, but save me almost £40 a year just on kitchen roll. This may not seem like a lot but if you add this to the money I save making my own cleaning products, it brings me to about £300, and that’s a nice chunk of money.
If you get the cotton, flour sack towels they are especially good for hand drying dishes if you needed to because they don’t leave behind any lint. They are absorbent for spills and great for cleaning glass with my homemade vinegar cleaner. I use them for everything I use to use kitchen roll for.
Tea towels don’t take a lot of space in terms of storage or washer space. I just toss them in with my towels and now have an endless supply of kitchen roll.
A little bonus is that since I don’t use kitchen roll, I don’t have the extra holder on my worktop which helps as I work towards a minimalist kitchen.
I know kitchen roll is a paper product and the tube can be recycled, but using trees to wipe up spills or clean worktops is just a waste of resources they need to be created.
According to Mike Berners-Lee author of How Bad Are Bananas a cheap recycled piece of paper towel creates a 10g carbon footprint…I used 2 packs of Costco’s Kirkland brand of kitchen roll which would create 1.92kg carbon footprint a year plus the waste of throwing them away.
It’s not a huge amount when compared to air travel, but when you multiply that by the UK population of 67 million people, suddenly it’s not such a small footprint.
Kitchen roll can’t be recycled and they are individually wrapped in single-use plastic, which we are trying to avoid in our efforts to reduce waste.
So, this one little change has the potential to make a huge difference in your efforts to cut back waste.
With my own homemade cleaning products and these 4 tools, I can get my home clean with minimal waste, whilst saving money.
If everyone makes small changes for themselves, it will add up to big changes for our planet.
What are your favourite zero waste cleaning products? Let me know in the comments below what has made your life easier and saved you money.
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