Submitted Date 03/02/2019

As I tried to think of what else I should come up with for helpful topics on zero waste, cleaning crossed my mind a multitude of times.

This is something I’m still experimenting with. I find learning about all these things fascinating… and what I think some people new to zero waste could find gross.

Let’s talk about cleaning products for a second. Ever noticed how many products there are out there for specific items? There are wipes for surfaces, floors, hands, different soaps for different things (there are SO MANY different soaps!). Powders, liquids, sprays, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, the shower, toilet bowl, tub, tile, sink, glass, metal, etc.

So. Many. Things.

So. many. chemicals. In. Plastics.

I think some have gotten accustomed to believing the smell of chemicals or bleach equals “clean”. Which I get, I know some people who adore the smell of bleach because of it’s association with ‘cleanliness’. That good ol nose-hair-burning smell that makes you think of all the dying and suffocating bacteria and germs, cause, you know, bleach smells like something that would definitely kill something.

I can tell you right now, that making your own cleaning products does not mean it won't clean just as well. The first step is realizing how you don’t need so many products to clean things. They’re all just assortments of chemicals. You can definitely make your own concoctions for cleaning different things if we wish, they’ll all get whatever it is you want to clean, clean in the end. We don’t need so much stuff.

Two routes. One, that can be helpful for anyone feeling squeamish about making their own cleaning products: buy bulk cleaning products. Unfortunately, it is a struggle to find stores that offer bulk products like so. I used to have the privilege of living near a store called “Refill Madness” that had an abundant supply of cleaning products to put in your own containers: dish soap, laundry detergent, laundry powders, etc. Since I’ve moved, I decided to try and make my own products. However, I do know that some Whole Foods offer laundry detergent in bulk, too (but you also can DIY this!) Either way, I have found that you still don’t need a bunch of different cleaning products for a bunch of different things. Yes, laundry is another topic, and I wouldn’t use dish soap for laundry, but you get what I mean, right?

I’ll start with introducing you to my favorite thing to make because it also helps me use up food scraps!

I drink lemon water all the time, so I have a lot of lemon peels.I've yet to try my hand at composting in my small studio apartment, but I have heard that citrus isn't the best for certain kind of composting (? worm bins ?), so finding some fun ways to use up citrus peels can be for everyone, composting or not! (right?) You can use oranges, limes, etc, any kind of citrus. All you need are those scraps and some white vinegar. White vinegar is usually the go-to for me with projects like these. It’s cheaper than most other varieties, and you can buy a huge bottle that'll last you a good amount of time and leave you with a huge bottle to reuse. I really don't recommend apple cider vinegar, unless you really really wanna. I just think that stuff is better for other things, because of it's pricey standpoint and what not. (just a girl tryna help others save some cash, can you blame me?)

So here’s the super simple way I do what I do:

I add my citrus scraps to a medium sized jar after juicing them. Once the jar is full, I fill it up to the top with vinegar. Warning: Don't fill your jar up all the way to top with vinegar if you're using mason jar canning lids or any silver coating. Sadly, the vinegar will corrode the lid, and it will probably rust over time

So now what? You just let that baby sit for a week. Yes, about a week at most, or longer, whatever fits your needs. Sometimes I like to let this sit longer because it'll smell more lemony. I've never used this before waiting one week, (I'm sure it works just as fine), I think prolonging in the wait time is for the smell. I don't personally love the smell of vinegar, and after one week it smells like heavenly lemons! I can't imagine how good orange peels soaked in vinegar would smell like. So, what to do after letting it sit for a week? You pour half or less in a spray bottle and you fill up the rest of the bottle with water. Simple!

Spray this on any surface from wooden countertops, floors, steel, porcelain, even windows. It's an all-purpose cleaner. If you really need to get rid of some scum you can dust baking soda on anything and spray this ontop to scrub it away. My fake tiny studio apartment kitchen is all steel, and this stuff cleans it so well, I can't explain how amazing it shines back at me. I love the smell, and just want to continue using this on everything, even when I'm done wiping anything down. I can't wait to try soaking oranges.

One thing that's my absolute staple (for cleaning or beauty) is castile soap. I buy Dr. Bronner's. If you're lucky enough to find this offered in bulk there's a huge assortment of scents to choose from. My favorite in bulk stores is mixing half rose with half almond for a face cleanser, but I usually always buy Dr. Bronner's lavender in a big bottle and it lasts me forever. Forever enough to where I can still refill it at my hometowns store during visiting on holidays and still have half left. I use this as a face cleanser and cleaning agent. If you really don't want to buy the bottle, you can buy Dr. Bronner's block soap and grate that down to melt and use it in cleaning products as well. You can mix some tablespoons of this with water and baking or washing soda for dish soap.

Want to make your own laundry detergent too instead of buying bulk? Same recipe, add some essential oils if you wish, too.

Or just use castile soap and water for literally anything. Cleaning floors, dishes, etc. If you really really don't want to get castile soap or make your own things, vinegar for anything is just as cool.

Occasionally I like to clean my sink and tough surfaces by boiling some hot water, sprinkling baking soda and adding vinegar to it so it bubbles up and then pouring hot water on top. Perfect for steel surfaces and sinks.

It's all about some experimentation, but I highly recommend starting off with an all-purpose citrusy cleaner :)



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  • Mary Jaimes-Serrano 1 year, 3 months ago

    Melanie, thank you for sharing this wonderful information. I will be trying this. Where I live there are not a lot of options for buying in bulk, but we are hoping that will change soon. In the meantime, I will have to try your suggestions. I am intrigued to try the orange as well as lemon. The smells of both are so refreshing. Thank you again.

    • Melanie Sue 1 year, 2 months ago

      Glad you are intrigued! Yes, I really love that citrus smell, especially orange! :) Hopefully in the near future bulk stores will become more popular.

  • Tomas Chough 1 year, 2 months ago

    You really know your way around this stuff! I'm always interested in peoples DIY methods. They're usually very insightful and based on their own experience. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!