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Zero-Waste Home Cleaning

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Zero-Waste Home Cleaning

I’ve been in a relationship with this guy for a few years now and he really keeps it so exciting. I learn something new about him all the time and we’re in it for the long haul (unless someday I meet his Canadian brother… then it’s definitely over, haha!).

Sal’s Suds is probably the only brand-name cleaning product I am going to sell. I am happy, happy to share my cleaning recipes and what I’ve learned by using a whole slew of different “natural” cleaning products (see the end of this post!). It took me meeting Sal’s to really believe that just because something is chemical-free, doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. The Globe and Mail produced a great article on Sal’s Suds earlier this year and his true sustainable cleaning ability; this guy is effective and versatile. Skip to the bottom if you want the recipes, keep reading if you need to hear my whole rambly story on this topic!

The Problem with Regular Cleaning Products

A good place to start with any product (cleaner or otherwise) is to check out the product on the Environmental Working Group. This site can give you the low down on the ingredients and just how dangerous a product you’re working with is. Next, consider that you usually are doing some cleaning that might involve more than one cleaning product at a time to do your housecleaning – there is no rule or law or study on how all of this stuff reacts with each other, or how much of each you should reasonably expose yourself to in that short of a period. Definitely alarming.

Beyond the chemical exposure (and resulting correlated illnesses and disease the EWG might highlight), we need to remember that whatever product we are using goes somewhere when it is done. It is either in the air, or washed off onto the ground, or poured down the drain. What we really need is something that will biodegrade on its own, so that it isn’t lurking around our water table or your kitchen floor for the rest of eternity (until your dog or child licks it up) because you wanted that window cleaned that one time.

Finally, a tough consideration is that we buy all of this overwhelmingly in plastic. Cheap plastics will break down over time, especially when exposed to chemicals, so if you’re using that bottle of expired cleaning product that has sat in the sunshine for a bit, know that you’re probably spraying around plastics while you go about your cleaning business. And, we are just going right back and getting another bottle once our bottle is used up until the end of eternity. Think of the plastic waste one household can produce in just their cleaning products alone. Combine that with the very low rate of plastics that fully get recycled, and that’s a lot of garbage making a mess somewhere else of the mess you tried to clean up in your home. Insane!

The Problem with Natural Cleaning Products

The biggest issue for me was that they really didn’t work, and I had paid more money to have them not work. A double let down. I would start out with something and it would be okay, and I really think it was my hopefulness that kept me going for so long at trying. I would try a new brand and before I had finished the bottle, I was back buying “just one” bottle of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner, just so I could actually get the thing clean, and then try to find another natural product that would hopefully do better next time and start over. I worked my way through the Loblaws natural section, then the Canadian Tire section, and then the Terra 20 sections, and then the Well online cleaning sections. Ecomax, Method, Seventh Generation, Ecos - nope. I wanted it so bad. But the extra scrubbing and the amount of time that it was taking with no real results was trying. The pricing was also too high for the first ingredient, the one that makes up the majority of the product, to be water.

Another really disturbing feature of “natural” cleaning products in the greenwashing that comes with them. So many accessible cleaning products that are just marketed as ‘eco’ and ‘green’ are anything but. They usually, like Greenworks and Method, are just the “natural” product that a big business sells to target the demographic of people that care about this stuff alongside their “unnatural” product. Their company model doesn’t support sustainability goals or source responsibly, they just offer this product to make money off of the whole market, instead of just part of it. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to just do better, but don’t have time to care about doing a million years of research up front to see who’s being up front with you.

Next up I tried just cleaning everything with vinegar. Vinegar is one of my best cleaning friends, don’t get me wrong. She’s the sturdy gal from yesteryear that knows what’s up. But I needed something else to clean my bathroom with like a Mr. Clean or Lysol type powerful punch. A detergent. Something sudsy for scrubbing my car, my grout, my faucet. However, with little babies in the house and my real passion being sustainability, I wanted it to also fit what I was going for.

After some research, and then several months (in some cases, years) of testing this stuff, I hope it works for you!

Simplify your Life

A big part of sustainability and the simple life, for me anyway, has also been a bit of a minimalist journey. Sal’s Suds can help you get rid of the 75 bottles of very specific cleaners that you’ve got, which are all cased in plastic and really colourful and ugly and now you need a whole linen closet to stash them away kind of situation. Plus, you need like a bale of paper towels somewhere in your home that you continuously need to remember to replenish, buy, and cadge around to your basement and the kitchen and everywhere else. This consumer situation has us – well, the companies have us – returning to keep buying and buying and really, is this more convenient for anyone? Buying some cloth wipes cuts that cycle off, and so does making your own cleaners in refillable sprayers for a whole lot cheaper price tag.

I currently just keep vinegar, castile soap, baking soda, and Sal’s to make all of the home cleaning products now that I have. All of these things can be bought in bulk and there you go, a neat little row of 4 mason jars, a few amber spray bottles (the amber helps protect the contents from light), and a little stack of cloth wipes and a few scrubbers – pretty, simple, effective and sustainable.

Why I love Sal’s

“Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner is not a soap but instead is a concentrated hard-surface all-purpose cleaner. It is made with plant-based surfactants and natural fir needle and spruce essential oils (no cheap, harsh pine stump oil), without any synthetic dyes, fragrances or preservatives. It is perfect for general household cleaning (dishes, floors, laundry, etc.), it cleans and rinses with exceptional power, yet it is mild and gentle on the skin. Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner is equally effective in hard or soft water, rinsing freely, hot or cold. It is 100% cruelty-free, as certified by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, and it will biodegrade rapidly after doing its job.”

(that’s from the Dr. Bronner’s website – as a consumer that has tested this stuff, I think it sums Sal’s up pretty well!)

What’s the difference between Sal’s and castile soap?

Sal’s is a mild, synthetic (man-made) detergent, while castile is a saponified vegetable oil soap product. Castile is gentle enough to be used as a body care product (it can be used as a mild hand soap, body wash or shampoo, for example), whereas Sal’s is definitely wholly in the cleaning field.

Sal’s Suds Uses

  • Laundry soap: when I run out of detergent, I squirt 1Tbsp in my washer detergent receptacle.
  • All-Purpose Wash: a little squirt in warm water makes a good sudsy bowl to wash walls, toys, furniture, your car, etc.
  • All-Purpose Spray: a squirt in a spray bottle with a shake helps you do the same with spray
  • Dishwasher Detergent: see my blog post on this for the recipe!
  • Dish Soap: small squirt (half a teaspoon) into the warm water in your sink
  • Veggie Wash: 1 drop in a bowl of water. Let veggies soak and then rinse.
  • Stain Remover: put it directly on an old, or a new, stain. Let sit.
  • Mopping/Floors: half a tablespoon in 3 gallons of water
  • Bathroom Cleaner: see below
  • Carpet Cleaner: 1 drop in the water within the carpet cleaner; can use the all purpose spray version for spot cleaning

Other Cleaning Recipes

Here’s the goods! I will be sending these along with all of my cleaning purchases, happy to share so that others do not need to go down this long, boring road ever again. If you want to read more about how I ditched the paper towels in cleaning (and beyond), I wrote about that in the “Ditching Paper Products” blog post.

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