March 1, 2012

Zero Waste Cleaning & Laundry. ~ Bea Johnson

An alternative guide to your cleaning disposables

House cleaning agents:

– Castile Soap (in bulk): a gentle natural soap that can be used on floors, kitchen sink, dishes, hands, dog, body, hair.

– Homemade all-purpose Cleaner (see recipes) for the weekly house cleaning, baking soda in a Parmesan shaker ($1.99 unpackaged at Cost Plus) for scrubbing jobs hydrogen peroxide for mildew (use sparingly since it’s not available in bulk)

House cleaning tools:

– Metal Scrubby. It works wonders on stainless if used in the direction of the grain
loofah, natural brush, or a homemade scrubby knitted out of sisal twine for light scrubbing (loofah is a veggie, and you can grow your own!)
– Feather duster for speed dusting. Use an old toothbrush for hard to reach places.
– Microfiber cloths for every thing else (counters, floor, fridge, mirrors, etc.).

Cleaning Household Items:

Floors: Sweep with a natural bore bristle broom and wash with a wet microfiber mop and a few drops of Castile Soap. Compost your dust bunnies! We sold our vacuum cleaner: For the better, it saves on energy costs and storage space and we do not miss buying accessories or repair pieces.

Windows: Microfiber cloths are great, just add water. No window cleaner needed.

Un-washable messes: Turn clothing items you can’t donate into rags to clean up wax,auto grease,glue,caulk (use sparingly since they end up in the landfill!)

Dishwasher: Two options for the detergent (liquid in bulk from Rainbow or powder in a recyclable cardboard box such as Seventh Generation) and white vinegar as a rinsing aid.

Air: Let plants absorb toxins and clean your air. I do not like to have objects sitting on the floor since they make floor cleaning more painful, but I have found a vertical wall planter that is ideal (picture above).

Laundry: Wash once a week only (to save time and dryer energy costs) with eco-friendly detergent (the one that has worked best for us is powder from a recyclable cardboard box such as Seventh Generation), using cold water cycles as much as possible. Savon-de-Marseille, dishwasher detergent, lemon or hydrogen peroxide work great on stains.

Drying: Dry on a line when possible. If you use a dryer, compost the dryer lint and forgo dryer sheets (you should not be wearing synthetic static clothes anyways). I personally have not found the heavily packaged, but reusable, dryer balls to be very effective.

Ironing: Iron very few things only (for us it’s men’s dress shirts, dinner napkins and handkerchiefs), use a homemade starch in a stainless spray bottle (see recipes).

Dry Cleaning/shirt laundering: Find a dry cleaner that has joined the sustainable world (Clean Look in Mill Valley for example). One that offers a reusable garment bag or nothing instead of plastic. And please do not settle for compostable bags, they are a real greenwashing ersatz.

Ready, set, Clean Green!

*Originally published at The Zero Waste Home.

Edited by: Jill Barth & Brianna Bemel


Bea, of The Zero Waste Home, says “Refuse, Refuse, Refuse. Then reduce, reuse and recycle (and only in that order).”

Meet Bea and her family in this video: Second Act: The Johnson Family

Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle a few years ago, Bea’s life and that of her family has completely changed… for the better. They now not only feel happier and eat healthier but also lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff, and action instead of inaction.

Today, Bea participates in media and speaking engagements to share her stories, tips and the benefits of Zero Waste living. She also provides home consulting services on decluttering, living simply and waste reduction.

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