As an over 30 mama, I don't think there is anything I love more in my life right now than being awake before everyone else in my home, in a clean kitchen, with the coffee pot perkin' up a real stinky good dark roast. When I'm trying to decide on that 'happy place' we tend to try to find to calm ya right down, this is actually where I go. In the winter, this routine also had a little beeswax candle obsession to glow up the darkness outside the windows and make me feel like I'm the only person on the Earth. I can still have the coffee, the candles, and the early morning, but you know one way to really throw it all off and kill that nourishing vibe?
A kitchen that didn't get cleaned up the night before. A bunch of plastic bottles with blue and red and neon yellow syrup and a real funky chemical stink under that sink to deal with it. Now that I've entered the simple life, it really keeps the calm and that all sounds real gross.
Who's with me?!
Anyway, here's the routines that we've whittled it down to that really make the low waste/zero waste thing a reality in this space. If you've done any swapping, you'll understand when I say that knowing you're also kinda doing good with all of these things you have to do anyway, adds this extra level of satisfaction and happiness in the simpleness of a quiet kitchen and a big cup of coffee. It's like - hey, I'm just such a great lady, cleanin' this counter and not causing asthma for the fam and just keeping the frogs alive - go me! Yeah! But all sarcasm aside (this might end up a bit of a sassy post, maybe); it really does add to the feeling of a calm, conscious home and I'm not giving it up.
Under the Sink
First, everything under there got pulled out and used up. If I hadn't used it in a year, I wasn't going to ever use it and it went to some place or someone that would use it. Honestly, everything under my sink was what my mom used to have under her sink; I'd never given this stuff any thought, which is exactly what companies want of you - for you to buy it and just keep buying it and not ask the big questions. I decided that I didn't want to have anything in there that needed a poison control number taped up somewhere else. I didn't want a collection of bottles or throw-away plastics. I watched a ton of zero-waste youtube videos and figured out how to make my swaps. Here's what's under there now:
1. Cloth Bins - Clean + Dirty
So, as I mentioned in my "Ditching Paper Products" blog, a great way to get rid of paper towels is to use a cloth or plant fibre (Ten + Co., for exmaple) version. This allows an endless reuse of the product and a full biodegrade of the product at its end of life. Under our sink, we have a basket for clean cloths and a basket for dirty cloths. The dirty cloth bin is a wire style basket to allow wet cloths to hang on the sides and dry without making anything gross. It took me about five months of walking dirty cloths to the laundry room every time to figure this out, which is embarrassing hah, but here I am, passing that tidbit along and really impressed with how long it took me to figure that one out.
There are some who really love the beautiful matching unpaper towel sets that Cheeks Ahoy makes (I really do, too). Leah, the founder, just posted a video about how to roll them up onto an old paper towel roll tube and have them displayed in such a pretty way. So that's another option.
Our family actually just uses old tea towels and burp cloths. I'm the happy mama to two very unruly boys and and an unruly husband - - unruly in the sense that they make really gross messes easily and happily. I believe that someday I will be able to have pretty cloths, but I also know that's unlikely, honestly. Using old cloths is giving new life to something existing already rather than buying new and using further resources, so it's a cool option as well, and no one is sad if you really ruin them later. The thicker old tea towels have also been really useful for my Cuban mop, too.
2. Bulk Dishwashing Tabs/Detergent + Vinegar
I love a good crock from the ol' Value Village. I really just love all vintage dishware. So we also have a thrifty canister to store homemade dishwasher detergent (recipe on the blog) or the bulk dish tabs we have from the Unscented Company (we just mix it up because that's how we spice it up around here - and to avoid build up in the washer). If it breaks - and I know it will; see above for who I live with - I know that I still didn't add anything new to the waste cycle and no packaging with these options.
As well, as I wrote about in my Dishwasher Options blog, we use bulk vinegar in an upturned bowl in the top shelf of the dishwasher to swap out the rinse aid. So there's a jug of vinegar down there, too.
3. Castile + Baking Soda + Lemon Essential Oil
These guys make up the ingredients needed for the sink cleaning recipe below. Lemon essential oil is a very economical essential oil that is awesome in the kitchen for its cleaning properties. We also store this here for any time we want to remove a label from a jar to reuse - it has worked far better than any Goo Gone attempt I've ever made. Try it! You'll be yelling a big "HAH" out into your kitchen by yourself as you consider how you've really hoodwinked big business out of using their chemically-goo.
Castile, Vinegar, Lemon EO, Baking Soda, Vinegar All Purpose Spray
4. Sal's Suds
Sal's is a good guy really anywhere. But, you can also use a drop of Sal's in a sink full of water to soak your veggies in after bringing them home, then rinsing and then letting dry (on one of your Ten and Co. large sponge mats, right?! Right.). He could also stand in as dish soap or a stain soak (if you're like me and don't have a laundry sink, so you bring stained laundry to your kitchen sink to wet them). We typically use apple cider vinegar for our fruit and veg wash (same principle - just dump a splash in the sink) but Sal's is a good option for under the sink as well.
5. All Purpose Spray
We also keep a spray bottle of 1/2 cleaning vinegar (check out my recipe to infuse this to make it citrus-y) and 1/2 distilled water. This guy comes out to spray off the counters or stove when needed, the floor after a yogurt drink spill or dog barf clean up, or just to clean out something gross at the sink. She's handy for cleaning out the microwave or the fridge, too. If you're not into making your own, we also have a lovely scented option from the Bare Home in a spray bottle and in bulk refill, too.
Sink-Side Dish Cleaning Options
So, there's a few different ways you can go about setting up your dishwashing station to decrease your waste. There's the ol' fashioned liquid dish soap method, and the new-fashioned dish washing block method.
Liquid Dish Soap
If you're looking to pick something up that's liquid based, try to go phosphate-free and artificial scent-free. Phosphates are naturally occurring, but are not great washed down the drain into our water systems - this ingredient is common in dish detergents and soaps and cause algae blooms, species loss and its only purpose is to make your dish soap super sudsy and make you think everything is awesome-clean. Nobody needs floral scented dishes. No one. Seriously. Think about what it takes to make ceramic or glass or plastic smell like "Spring Meadow" (just took that right off the Tide Pods package). You're just ingesting that. You are breathing it in as you clean. Your food will sit on it. Just no!
So, the next thing to consider (once you've picked something safe for your dishes and ya body - if you need good options, try checking out the Bare Home and the Unscented Company), is the plastic. If you want to reduce your waste, a refillable dish soap liquid is a must. You can get the Unscented Co. soap in a plastic bottle if you'll feel safer with that, and just keep refilling it so that it can have a real long life instead of a disposable one. Or, you can grab a pretty Bare Home pump bottle (and a matching hand soap if you wish) to put up beside your sink; or get any of these things in an amber glass pump bottle to keep refilling. I used to keep a mason jar of hand soap and a mason jar of dish soap under the sink, but since vastly reducing the number of cleaners we have, I just have a little mason jar party in that old closet for all of my refill stuff and then I don't have as much clutter around my home.
So, this is the new thing in the zero-waste movement. Dish bars. They are so freakin' pretty. So pretty. So useful and efficient. They last for a few months, and there is no packaging whatsoever with them. Right now I have a small and a large - so, like 3ish months and 1 and a halfish years for each, but this really depends on how much you're washing dishes.
So, how do you use these bars? The bars can be bought individually and put on a try or a vintage plate, or whatnot, but there's also a little bamboo tray you can put it inside. You can either wet a dish brush, scrub a little soap off the top of the bar, and then clean your dish; or, you can fill up your sink with water and then just suds the bar up inside and set it off on the tray when you're done. The little pot scrubbing brushes we have can be set on top of the bar when not in use (ugh, pretty); or you can use a long handled dish brush. We keep another little vintage find at our sink with a dish brush and our straw cleaning brushes inside. The dish brushes we have for you are all compostable, with plant fibre bristles, so there's no worry about any micro-plastic breakage and waste headed down the drain afterward. The long handle dish brush heads can be popped off, composted, and then a new head attached to increase the longevity of the wooden handles. Genius.
Cleaning the Sink Area (and the Stove Too)
Sinks be getting gross. All day, all the time. The lady that I found this recipe from (Clean Mama on IG) does this clean every night. Bless her. Bless the future me that will achieve this (maybe) someday. I really usually just feel provoked to do it before I soak my veggies in there.
1. Wet the Sink - just spray it a bit, the water helps the soak to work that you'll be putting on there.
2. Sprinkle BS - we use a spoon to sprinkle a healthy dose of baking soda on the sink surfaces.
3. Drizzle on the Castile - this is where I enjoy having a plastic bottle of this stuff that I refill, because the spout on the cap is so ideal for drizzlin'. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.
4. Drip Drop the Lemon EO around - add about 10 drops of lemon essential oil in there. It smells good but it's also a good cleaner. You'll figure out how much or how little of all of this stuff you need after you do this once. There's no real perfect number of drops, so you just do you here, okay?!
5. Let sit a bit. Like five minutes ish.
Bit** of scrubbing
6. Wet into a paste - I use my dish brush but some like to use a sponge for this (we have biodegradable options here, too!). I get the dish brush wet or spray just a bit of water on the sink (luckily we have the spray style nozzle on our faucet). Get the baking soda and castile and essential oil all pasty and mixed up and scrub around your sink. Then, I leave it awhile. We have a white cast iron sink (this was really my only request when we did our kitchen, but she's high maintenance) so sometimes there's gross stuff and stains that need extra paste-time. You'll know.
7. Scrub again and rinse out your sink. Everything is safe to wash down the drain. You can spray it out with your vinegar all purpose cleaner too, if you'd like a Level 4 on this, alright? Okay.
Bonus - - all of this stuff (besides the lemon EO) is bulk refillable. These containers can all be refilled !
Stove Cleaning Tweak
We use this same recipe to clean off the surface of our stove as well; just use far less water (and really all of the ingredients) to make it happen. You'll see that a baking soda paste is really the other secret all-purpose recipe (mixed with castile she's real good, but even just bs and water works great) that you'll keep coming back to.
Well, there you go! Send me your questions and I'll work at getting the details added where I am missing them. Happy Swapping!