Two wallet-friendly, eco-friendly cleaning essentials that work

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Shower cleaner. Toilet bowl cleaner. Disinfecting wipes. Mopping solution for the floor. Mirror spray. Scouring cleanser. Dust cleaner. Fabric softener. Laundry detergent. Oven cleaner. Cooktop cleaner. The list of cleaning products is endless. These products typically come in plastic and contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment. Thankfully, it is easy to replace many of these with just two products that are cheap, eco-friendly and come with less or no plastic!

When I started my plasticminimalism journey four years ago, many products in my life were easy to find plastic-free. It took relatively little effort to bring my own bag when buying apples or nuts, but to get rid of household cleaning products took a little more thought and experimentation because I still wanted to live in a clean place. I was so used to those twenty-four different cleaning products under the sink that manufacturers make us believe we need.

By now I rarely buy specialized cleaning products, the exception being dish-washing soap. This not only saves me tons of money but is also much better for the environment because I am no longer pouring all kinds of harmful chemicals down the drain and because the alternative products I use come in less or no plastic. Today I want to share with you my two favorite products for household cleaning: baking soda and vinegar.

Baking soda
In many countries around the world, baking soda is easy to find and cheap. In the US the price for a lb (450 gram) is about 70 cents, less if you buy a larger box. In the Netherlands, the best place to buy baking soda are Asian supermarkets, for example this one). Some AH supermarkets have also started to sell baking soda. The price is around EUR 1,60 for a small box.

Baking soda is a chemical called sodium bicarbonate. It can be harmful if you ingest too much at once, so don’t eat it spoons full of it straight from the package! In terms of environmental impacts the biggest concern is its extraction (mining) but we do have plenty of sodium bicarbonate, so it is not a scarce natural resource. Other than the adverse effects of mining, I am not aware of other negative environmental impacts.

Vinegar
Vinegar is basically an acid liquid and a perfect degreaser. I use distilled vinegar for cleaning the surfaces in my kitchen, for cleaning mirrors, as laundry softener and as pre-laundry soaking cleanser to get the smell out of my stinky sport clothes.

Vinegar is easy to find all over the world. In the Netherlands I used to buy a very concentrated version at the Chinese supermarket (the small bottle on the left in the picture below). In the supermarket where I bought this, it was standing next to all other kinds of vinegar and soy sauce. It costs only a couple of euro. I like it because it comes in a glass bottle (with a plastic cap) and lasts forever because you use only a little bit, mixed with water. Be careful if you opt for this product though because concentrated vinegar is very acid and therefore can be harmful to your skin and is toxic if ingested without diluting it.

Here in the US, I haven’t been able to find concentrated vinegar. The next best thing to do is to opt for large containers. I switched from liters to buying a gallon (about 4 liters). While this is still plastic, buying a large package means less plastic per unit vinegar.

Plastic-free cleaning tools to give the bathroom a good scrub. I still struggle a bit with plastic-free scrubbing tools, since I bet the bristles on this brush might be plastic still… I think it could be good to find a tough sisal or hemp rope scrubber (or knit one myself? πŸ˜‰) We have a tutorial for a DIY one on our Pinterest boards, I think I should get into it! What are your thoughts on plastic-free cleaning? πŸ›πŸšΏπŸ’§πŸŒŽ #PlasticFreeTuesday #cleaning #bakingsoda #woodenbrush #vinegar #essentialoils #bathroomfloor #plasticfree #chemicallow #noplastic #ditchthebottles #plasticvrij #plastbanta #plastikfrei #environmentalfriendly #downthedrain #plasticfreecleaning

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How to use baking soda and vinegar?

I use baking soda and vinegar for lots of different cleaning tasks. Here are some ideas to start with.

Vinegar for a shiny mirror
I can’t stand a dirty mirror, so I clean the one in the bathroom almost every day. It only takes a minute or so and the bathroom looks much more shiny with a bright, stain-free mirror. For this, I take a page from an old newspaper, pour a little bit of vinegar on it and rub the mirror clean with this. It may sound funny to use a newspaper page, but it actually works pretty well and reduces waste because the newspaper I use come from the paper recycling bin in our apartment building. The downside of using a newspaper page is that it takes a bit more vinegar compared to using a paper towel or cleaning cloth, so in that sense it may be better to simply use a cleaning cloth.

Vinegar + baking soda for a clean cutting board
Some foods, for example garlic or onion, leave your cutting board smelly after usage. Other foods, such as meat, leave behind potentially dangerous bacteria. In order to erase any odor and bacteria, I spread some baking soda on the cutting board. I then pour some vinegar on it. What follows is a chemical reaction with bubbles and a sizzling sound. After a few minutes, the chemical reaction is finished. I then brush the cutting board clean and rinse with warm water. The result is a clean and hygienic cutting board, ready for the next meal.

Baking soda as scouring cleanser
For the sinks in the bathroom and kitchen, I use baking soda. I even use this for the kitchen counter. I simply sprinkle some baking soda and then rub the sink/counter with a dishcloth. The same goes for the shower cabin. For cleaning the toilet bowl, I sprinkle some baking soda in it, use the brush, pour some vinegar over it, wait for a minute, and flush.

Get out of your comfort zone, try vinegar and baking soda!

It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and change habits, but once you have used these two products a couple of times, chances are that you won’t miss the 127 different cleaning products that you would otherwise use. This will save you money, reduces your plastic waste, and is better for our planet.

If you don’t have vinegar and baking soda at home yet, put it on your shopping list and start experimenting! For more cleaning tips, check out our Plastic-Free Cleaning Guide.

What is your favorite eco-friendly and plastic-free cleaning product?
We always love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.

Happy Plastic-Free Tuesday!

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About Author

Annemieke

In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards a plastic-free life. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is an environmental scientist and sinologist. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China while working towards her PhD dissertation about public health incidents and law in China.

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