12 Simple & Effective Zero Waste Cleaning Swaps Worth the Switch

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One of the easiest ways to live a sustainable lifestyle is to swap out the products you currently use for zero waste cleaning products! In this post, I’ll explain exactly which sustainable swaps for the home are the best for the environment and your wallet.

zero waste cleaning swaps pin

Zero waste vs. low waste cleaning

First, let’s take about 30 seconds to clear up the difference between zero waste and low waste!

Both of those fit under the larger umbrella of sustainability, which is focused on people living in a way that the earth could sustain generation after generation.

In a low waste lifestyle, you’re making conscientious choices to create less packaging waste. You may still buy ecofriendly products packaged in compostable paper, etc.

Zero waste pushes this a little further with the goal of creating absolutely no waste whatsoever. The ideal is to create as little landfill waste as possible. Some folks even make less than a jar of trash per year!

Read: Which is Better: Sustainable vs. Eco Friendly?

Which one is best?

Both of these options are totally valid ways to live! Because our world is so consumer-driven and it’s still challenging to find affordable zero waste products without sinking in a lot of time, I recommend that people find a middle ground that really works for them.

The best diet is the one you can maintain! The same idea goes here, too.

Take one baby step up the ladder at a time. When that step feels easy, take the next one!

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef

Upgrade your cleaning products one step at a time

There are different levels when going green. There are super simple swaps and then lifestyle changes. We will help you with a good, better, best outline so you can find the right solution for exactly where you are right now!

Look for our good, better, best ratings

  • Good – safer versions of the products you already buy at the big box stores
  • Better – next-level shifts to reduce packaging and shipping waste
  • Best – the most eco-friendly, zero waste products or approaches

Zero waste cleaning supplies on a budget

Many people want to take the plunge to live a sustainable lifestyle, but they’re worried about cost!

Who can blame them? The price tags on some zero waste or low waste products are way too high!

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are affordable zero waste cleaning products that are easy to find and work great!

Don’t let cost be a barrier. So many household products contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and other harmful substances. Look up your current products at the EWG website.

It’s not just about the environment, but your own health and well-being.

Any products that are more expensive than conventional ones are often offset by the more affordable ones.

Keep reading to see how you can turbocharge your plastic-free cleaning journey for FREE, too!

zero waste cleaning swaps

1. Washing dishes

  • Good: Buy an all-natural dish soap without harmful fragrance. 
  • Better: Purchase your liquid dish soap in bulk and refill your container. 
  • Best: Switch to a dishwashing block. This type of soap is made without water and one block is usually the equivalent of several bottles!

Dishwashing blocks require a slight change in routine as you rub a scrub brush on the soap before scrubbing each dish. They last a long time and cost less than you’d think. Go on, be brave and try something new!

Don’t forget your zero waste scrub brush!

If you wash dishes by hand, this may be a trickier solution, but you can turn any soap into liquid soap with a little time!

2. Hand soap

  • Good: Buy nontoxic liquid soap free of fragrance, dyes, and preservatives. 
  • Better: Dilute liquid castile soap in your hand soap container. 
  • Best: Switch to castile bar soap.

Bar soap is extremely affordable, easy to find, and there has been a resurgence in handmade soap brands. It’s old-school cool.

I find that the only disadvantage is that used soap bars can look lumpy and worn out pretty quickly. Solve this problem by using a handmade soap saver or a vintage dish.

Simplify the switch with this zero waste cleaning kit! Perfect for a housewarming gift, too.

3. Zero waste dishwasher detergent

  • Good: Buy eco-friendly liquid dishwasher detergent 
  • Better: Look for powdered eco-friendly dishwasher detergent 
  • Best: Switch to zero waste dishwasher tablets packaged without plastic

Personally, we switched from cheaper eco-friendly powdered tabs and had to supplement them with a drying agent, liquid detergent, AND a detergent booster.  So, we decided to spend slightly more to try Dropps dishwasher tablets.

What I love about Dropps:

  • They are packaged completely plastic-free
  • Carbon-neutral shipping
  • Packaged in compostable packaging
  • Unscented tabs are rated A by the EWG (the lemon ones are a B due to fragrance)
  • They’ve replaced several inferior “green” cleaning products & we are still shocked at how much cleaner our dishes are
zero waste cleaning tips

4. Rinse agents for your dishwasher

  • Good: Look for brands with citric acid like Lemi Shine.
  • Better: Pour a couple of glugs of plain white vinegar in the bottom of your dishwasher.
  • Best: Switch to high-quality eco-friendly dishwasher tabs to remove the need for this product entirely.

We stopped wasting money on rinse agents when we switched to better dishwasher tablets. Our spoons are finally sparkling! You have no idea how many products we tried to get this result.

Read: The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up a Real Food Zero Waste Kitchen

Join our 5 Days to Green Challenge!

In just 5 days, I’ll share the most important principles of a real, liveable sustainable lifestyle. It’s easier than you think!

Sign up for the FREE email challenge below.

5. Zero waste laundry detergent

  • Good: Find all-natural laundry tablets like this one
  • Better: Buy nontoxic and eco-friendly laundry detergent powdered in bulk
  • Best: Spin some soap nuts around your washer (for real!) 

Personally, we’ve used Biokleen laundry detergent for years! It’s strong, effective, and has no artificial fragrances. Each box lasts us almost a year! Plus, since it’s powdered, we aren’t paying to ship water across the country.

If you want the convenience of laundry tabs and powdered detergent combined, there are zero waste laundry detergent tabs available, too.  

6. Fabric softener

  • Good: Buy fabric softener refills to reduce plastic waste.
  • Better: Order zero-waste fabric softener pods. 
  • Best: Skip this product completely. 

We haven’t used fabric softener in years. I first stopped using it because the fragrance bothered me and then it started to irritate my sensitive skin…

Fabric softener really isn’t necessary. It can even cause your towels to be less absorbent! It can take a little getting used to, but the ultimate zero waste fabric softener is to use none at all. 

7. Dryer sheets

  • Good: Order hypoallergenic, naturally scented dryer sheets to reduce carcinogens.
  • Better: Switch to wool dryer balls. They last forever, are inexpensive and help increase your drying speed.
  • Best: Skip the dryer entirely and line dry your clothes.

We keep 6 wool dryer balls in your dryer at all times. They last for a very long time!  We also pull a lot of products out of the washer to air dry, especially blankets, sweaters, and pants. 

Read: How to Find the Best Eco Friendly Mattress for Your Budget

ecofriendly mattress guide

8. Zero waste glass cleaner

  • Good: Buy an eco-friendly window cleaner in a spray bottle.
  • Better: Pour some white vinegar in a reusable spray bottle.
  • Best: Wet down a towel with water, wipe it over the surface, and use a glass polishing cloth for a streak-free shine. 

We literally recommend only ONE microfiber cloth (despite the concerns over microfiber) because of how effectively it dries without the need for anything else except water. 

We’ve tried most of their products and this is the one that works better than cotton. When we find a completely plastic-free alternative, we will be sure to let you know!

We are all about living simpler, cleaner lives. 

We want to shrink our carbon footprint while saving money and eating real food. Stick with us on this journey so you can do the same! We’ll send you a special gift right away to get you started on your journey.  

Enroll now!

9. Cleaning spray

  • Good: Buy an all-natural cleaning spray brand instead of the highly fragranced grocery store stuff.
  • Better: Order your cleaning products as concentrates
  • Best: Dilute a tiny amount of Sal Suds or castile soap in a spray bottle and refill as needed. 

We looked into all of the eco-friendly cleaning solutions before and noticed the best ones are really expensive. Even the concentrates cost more to refill a bottle than to buy a brand new one from Target! 

We have a passionate love affair with Sal Suds because one bottle cost us about $12 and it takes one tablespoon PER Gallon to dilute for cleaning. This means our one 32 oz. bottle will last a very, very long time.

Get the printable Sal Suds cheat sheet from Dr. Bronners to see all the ways you can use it around your low impact home.

sub out castile soap

Since Sal Suds is not generally offered on tap at bulk refill stores, you do end up buying it in a plastic bottle. If you want to avoid new plastic completely, you could use liquid castile soap from your bulk shop instead.

easy zero waste disinfectant

If you need something a little stronger, you can add a spray nozzle to your bottle of hydrogen peroxide! According to the EPA, it is a safe zero waste disinfectant.

zero waste cleaning sal suds review

Read: 31 Practical & Affordable Ways to Set Up a Zero Waste Bathroom

10. Mopping solution

We scored an electric steam mop for $5 at our local thrift store and bought a reusable pad to replace the missing one. Since this product simply uses water to clean, we do not need any additional products. 

When we do mop, we use our beloved Sal Suds! We also use it to clean out the litter box, scrub the shower, clean the counters, wipe down the fridge shelves, etc. It can even be used in a carpet cleaner! 

11. Cleaning towels

You could take this even further by buying or finding secondhand towels!

 Our cotton towels are so handy that we pretty much eliminate the need for paper towels. We keep them on hand for pet emergencies and cleaning up bacon grease. We just found these bacon sponges though, and may not need to buy paper towels ever again!

Reusable paper towels? I don’t think they’re worth the fuss. A basket or drawer full of cleaning cloths will help you clean up without waste & less effort!

Our Favorite Organic Kitchen Towels

We snagged a large pack of organic cotton flour sack towels that we use for hand towels in the kitchen. They are perfect: large, absorbent, easy to clean, and they match everything.

diy toilet bowl cleaner

12. Zero waste toilet cleaning

Struggling with hard water stains? Be sure to check my zero waste toilet cleaner recipe for my go-to product for clearing those rings!

Our DIY toilet spray is a great non-toxic alternative to Poo Pourri, too!

Be sure to green your TP, too.

One of the very first posts we ever wrote was about eco-friendly toilet paper. It’s so easy to find an appropriate replacement! 

TL;DR: Look for recycled TP or bamboo brands like this one.

ecofriendly toilet paper who gives a crap review

Make Shopping for Sustainable Cleaning Products Easy with Grove Co

One of the easiest ways to get the zero waste cleaning products, clean skincare, and tree-free paper products you’re looking for is to shop at Grove Co! 

Grove Co has been an online source for green products for years. They sell tasteful, beautiful, and effective cleaning products and tools. I especially love their metal cleaning bucket and those gorgeous glass spray bottles.

Get your plastic-free cleaning starter kit for FREE! 

Jumpstart your green cleaning routine with their FREE Move Beyond Plastic Gift Set for new customers on orders of $20 or more!

You’ll get:

  •  2 Grove Co. Reusable Glass Cleaning Spray Bottles
  • Grove Co. Matte Cleaning Caddy
  • Grove Co. All-Purpose Household Cleaner Concentrate
  • Grove Co. Walnut Scrubber Sponge
  • Grove Co. Glass Cleaner Concentrate
  • Free Shipping

They offset shipping so it’s carbon neutral and they use recyclable aluminum for all of their concentrates. I’ve used Grove Co for years and think you’ll love what you find! 

Send me my free plastic-free cleaning kit!

Zero waste cleaning swaps

There are so many other ways to green your home! We love using natural cleaning products and find them to be a perfect starting point for beginners. Which of these swaps are you going to try?

When you’re ready for more sustainable living tips, check out…

Easily Find the Best Eco Friendly Mattress for Your Budget
Clean, Sensitive Skin Friendly Skincare
39 Simple, Intuitive Ways to Reduce Your Waste
How to Be Sustainable in Everyday Life

zero waste cleaning swaps pin

More Zero Waste Cleaning Resources

Wild Minimalist will walk you through 9 super easy DIY cleaning recipes to replace common household cleaners!

Permacrafters has plenty of great cleaning strategies about how to make the most of the cleaning tools you already own, what to look for when buying new, and how to repurpose things you already own!

Looking for more information about sustainable cleaning throughout your whole home? Going Zero Waste has an ultimate guide to zero waste cleaning that will walk you through every inch of your house!

What’s your swap?

Choose 1 swap you’d like to make. Maybe you want to ditch the fabric softener or stop buying dryer sheets. Snag a bottle of Sal Suds to serve as your go-to cleaning agent.

Tell us below in the comments!

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    1. Libbie, I love that! I think I was just on your website at the same time I was on yours, LOL! Hopefully this post helped share some options for wherever you are in your journey right now. Have a wonderful day!

  2. Thanks for sharing these tips at the Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop

    I like that you included a good, better, best so we can ease into some products and test the waters.

    Ridge Haven Homestead
    Homestead Blog Hop
    Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop

  3. Great post. I stopped using dryer sheets when the repair man explained how they gum up the dryer. I now use wool balls and they work wonderfully (except when I drop one and have to chase the cat to give it back!!) Thanks for sharing at My Big Fat Menopausal Life’s Share the Wealth party!! Hope to see you on February 1 too!

    1. Helen, that’s another great reason to skip the dryer sheets! You hit the nail on the head with the only problem – chasing them down when they roll out. I’m usually a little quicker to it than my cat, but I’ll find one shredded somewhere eventually, I’m sure! Thanks for sharing!

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