A Guide to Zero Waste Cleaning

Reader Contribution by Ariana Palmieri

Switching to zero waste cleaning is not only great for the planet, but also better for your wallet and your health. Conventional cleaning products contain a bunch of questionable ingredients. I mean, just look at bleach: That stuff will make you cough and sneeze your head off. It can’t be good for you. Plus, one quick walk down the cleaning aisle reveals tons of plastic packaging everywhere. From sponges to detergents to spray bottles—it’s all plastic. Thankfully, it’s easy to fix that! You can save money, help the planet (and your own health) by switching to greener, more natural cleaning supplies. Here’s how to clean, waste-free. 

Zero waste cleaning is both rewarding and aesthetically pleasing!

Rags, Wooden Brushes, Mops and Brooms 

First things first, take a look at the cleaning tools you’re using. You probably use a lot of paper towels, sponges, disposable cleaning wipes, and a Swiffer, right? But that’s a lot of waste, if you think about it. Try swapping it out for more sustainable, reusable options.  

One big game changer for me has been using rags. You can make your own rags to cut down on cost pretty easily — just cut up an old shirt or sheet you no longer wish to use. You can use these to wipe down surfaces. The best part is they’re reusable and washable.

For items that need a good scrubbing, there are all kinds of wooden brushes you can get. They’re not only beautiful, but also compostable at the end of their life. For the sink, I wash dishes (and clean the sink) using a wooden pot scrubber. There are so many other kinds of wooden brushes available though, ranging from wooden toilet brushes to wooden hand broom and dust pans. You just have to know where to look. Life Without Plastic and Wild Minimalist sell a bunch you’ll fall in love with. 

Also, consider investing in a mop and bucket – it cuts back on waste compared to a Swiffer you have to keep changing. If you must use a Swiffer, use a rag in place of a disposable with it. 

A wooden broom is also a good idea to sweep up dust. More power to you if you find one with plant-based bristles! You can get a wooden pan or a metal pan to match.  

All-Natural Cleaning DIYs 

When you’ve assembled your plastic free cleaning tools, you’ll now need your actual cleaning DIYs to put them to use.  

For general cleaning, I recommend using an all-purpose spray, one that will be effective in any room of the house. I recommend my orange peel vinegar cleaner or my lavender vinegar cleaner. They’re very similar, but with varying scents. They’re excellent to use on almost any surface and can be used to clean a variety of things, such as tables, counters, mirrors, windows, baby toys, etc. Also, the orange peel cleaner is a great way to give orange peels a second life! 

For more specific cleaning needs, here are some DIYs to keep your house spotless: 

Find more DIYs I use to keep my home clean and fresh smelling (I totally recommend them!).  


It’s also important to develop a low waste laundry routine, as this also counts as cleaning. As a general rule, I recommend swapping out disposable dryer sheets with wool dryer balls, and traditional detergents with DIY ones (or soap nuts). This will help you reduce waste and prevent polluting waterways, as conventional detergents do. 

Here are some laundry detergent DIYs: 

For a more in-depth guide, here’s my personal zero waste laundry routine


To get stains out is a tricky thing. It depends on the kind of stain. Generally speaking, I recommend using a stain stick of some sort to get stains out. I personally love Ethique’s stain stick and it also doubles as a laundry bar to hand wash items in the sink. However, you can also try using baking soda, lemon juice, coconut oil or vinegar to remove a stain. Here’s a stain removal chart I reference often for more specific stains. 

This is how I clean without creating waste, and it totally works for me. Will you give these tips and DIYs a go? How do you keep cleaning low waste? 

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