Zero waste DIY: A couple of kitchen cleaners

So you guys, here’s where my minimalistic tendencies might get in the way of my quest for zero waste alternatives on the DIY front: I gravitate towards oddball recipes and techniques (just because I want to see if they actually work), but I’m too entrenched in minimalism to just go for any ol’ thing I see.

Do I have to buy bottles of something in order to make it, or can I get it in bulk? Is there special equipment involved? Ingredients I’ve never heard of? And the biggest question of all: Exactly what do I do with this after I’ve made it?

Case in point is this “cloth plastic wrap” tutorial I keep seeing – take a cotton towel and cut it to size and sprinkle with beeswax and then bake to form the “wrap.” Seriously, WHAT?!, that is so something I want to try. Except … how do you store it? And what if it doesn’t work, how am I supposed to get rid of it?

So in the end, I couldn’t do it. And anyway, you know what I use in place of plastic wrap right now? Plain ol’ kitchen towels and plates, like so:

No sense in reinventing the wheel.

No sense in reinventing the wheel.

But if someone ELSE wants to try it and then post findings in the comments or, even better, photos and a tutorial on Facebook, that would be awesome. Because I so want to know how this one turns out.

Moving RIGHT along.

One thing I’m really excited about is finding homemade alternatives to purchased, disposable products. I’ve been collecting ideas on my Pinterest board and have been itching to try a few (maybe we need to start a Simple Year Pinterest board? Kerry or Tracy?). Since I’m starting with zero waste reductions in the kitchen, I decided I may as well start here with cleaners. It’s not just my cupboards and refrigerator that are going to need overhauling.

All-Purpose Cleaner

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon castile soap

Mix that around in a spray bottle and go to town. (I can’t find my source, you guys. I’m sorry.)

I went nuts and made a double batch.

I went nuts and made a double batch. That’s an old 409 bottle I’ve had forever.

I can get castile in bulk (I like peppermint-scented), and although I’m not a stranger to making my own cleaners, I literally just learned that you’re not supposed to mix castile and vinegar because Bad Things Happen (that’s science):

… Vinegar is an acid and the castile soap is a base. They will directly react with each other and cancel each other out. So, instead of getting the best of both (the scum cutting ability of the vinegar and the dirt transporting ability of the soap), you’ll be getting the worst of something entirely new. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever. – Lisa Bronner

Lisa is Dr. Bronner’s granddaughter (that guy who’s name is on the bottle), so I’m assuming she knows what she’s talking about. Let’s all make a pact right now to never mix the two again.

Results: Well, I’m sold. Not only does this smell better than the concoction I was previously using (mixing vinegar and castile, oops), it worked very well without having to use a lot of product, and with a double batch costing me roughly 80 cents, I mean, what’s not to love? Success!

“Soft Scrub” Sink Cleaner

6 tablespoons baking soda

2 tablespoons castile soap

1.5 tablespoons water

Mix and store in a jar. (Source.)

I halved it and made it as written above. It also calls for vinegar, but we just learned you DON’T DO THAT! Technically I was supposed to add essential oils, but I don’t own any, so I added another half-tablespoon of water to make up for any lost moisture. I suppose that means this doesn’t have extra antibacterial boost or smell or whatever. Ah, well. If I feel the need, I’ll just splash around some white vinegar afterwards; that’s a natural disinfectant.

Marshmallow fluff-like!

Marshmallow fluff-like!

Results: I was not expecting something so perfect. It did not take much to clean my sink at all. It also passed the “no separating into its various parts” test when I stored it under the sink. So okay, the scratches are still there, but they’re still there with the purchased stuff I usually buy.  As for cost, I know it’s 39 cents an ounce for my castile, so there’s roughly another 80 cents, plus … what, like maybe 25 cents for the bulk baking soda? (That’s a generous estimate.) Seriously, go make this right now. See? I told you!

THEN I stumbled on an article touting various uses for vodka, and was intrigued about the claim that it can get stickers off of jars. Not waxed cloth weird, but weird enough. I allowed myself to go for it after being so good and practical earlier. (Source. Be warned, there’s a popup that’s hard to make go away.)

Results: WHAT IS LIFE? So not only did this work, it worked really, really well, and I can’t say I even had to try that hard to get the residue off – it was literally the work of a minute. These admittedly weren’t terribly difficult tasks, so you bet I’m going to try this the very next time I have a glass jar I want to reuse. Amazing. I’m amazed.

Will I be able get this sticker residue off my cute little jar?

Will I be able get this sticker residue off my cute little jar?

Super extreme closeup to prove YES!

Super extreme closeup to prove YES!

How about on this lid? That black smudgy stuff is sticker goo.

How about on this lid? That black smudgy stuff is sticker goo.



Three up, three down! I’ve not had so much fun cleaning my kitchen in a long time.

Next up: Well, that’s still kind of up in the air, to be honest, but probably another grocery cart check-in, and a wrap up of the reusable mug challenge.

23 Responses to Zero waste DIY: A couple of kitchen cleaners

  1. I love how often you’re checking in. I will definitely try the vodka method next time — I’ve been using baking soda and vegetable oil so far, and that works, but it requires a bit of scrubbing, then soap. Your method sounds easier.

    • It’s almost TOO easy with the vodka. I use basically cheap rocket fuel though, so I’m not sure if that has something to do with it. 🙂

  2. YES to the pinterest board idea. I don’t facebook, so it’d be nice to keep up with this project on a site I do use. Plus, think of all the great ideas that would end up on there with all the different projects!

    • I just want to make sure there isn’t already one for this site — and if not, I’ll make one! It would be great to have a place that everyone could access for ideas.

    • I like to think that everything fits here. 🙂 Thanks for sharing! Food waste is something I will have to tackle very soon anyway, so I’ll give it a look.

  3. there is a microbiologist mommy who tried various cleaners, swabbed areas before and after, grew bacteria out in petri dishes and hydrogen peroxide in a dark spray bottle was the clear winner over vinegar, norwex antibacterial towels, essential oils (people clean with young living’s thieves blend), bleach plus water & lysol. I’m too lazy to find the link. 🙂 trust me 🙂

    • I guess that would make sense, as we use it to disinfect wounds. I’d never have thought to use it on the counters, though. Never stop learning!

  4. I love tea tree oil for removing sticky stuff and permanent marker. Definitely gonna try vodka!! (for stickers too lol)

    • LOL. I have vodka because I make homemade vanilla, and every time I’m at the liquor store buying what is basically the cheapest, crappiest bottle available, I always want to explain WHY I’m getting it, but I figure that would just make it worse (like, yeah right lady, SURE you’re making vanilla). I have no idea if the cheapness of the stuff is why it worked so well for me, but I’m not ruling it out! I’ve never heard of using tea tree oil for that. Good tip!

  5. I bought Abego (beeswax cloth) wraps (sent from Canada to Australia). I seldom use them :s Mum wanted some so thankfully I found someone who ‘experimented’ in Australia and bought them at a local craft style markets. I should ask if Mum uses them – as she will NOT use cling film! I’ve converted her!

    • Oh, EXCELLENT. How do you store yours? How about your Mom? Do they actually work? I cannot let this idea go!

      • One is in the freezer for the Pyrex that’s lid died, without slipping etc (I good and smoothed it one when I put it on).

        I store mine the drawer with (gasp) the cling film, aluminium foil etc. We have had that cling film since we started living together (2.5years) so it’s not like it gets use much. Anyhow, I store the bigger ones folded, the small one no point in folding. Rinse in warm (but not hot) water when soiled. Try etsy, I reckon someone near you will be making them.

        Oh, I was having an issue with the stove, and whilst looking for the receipt of the parts, I found the Abeego invoice from years ago – complete with a lovely handwritten note from the people who own the company. So sweet!

        • Interesting! I was wondering if you could fold them. Warm water, that sounds doable… I’m still not sure if I’ll go there, but it’s been great fun to think about! (I still have a drawer of foil / cling wrap / baggies. That’s on the shortlist. Like you, we’ve had it forever, and I hate to just throw it out because that seems even more wasteful somehow.)

  6. Love this post and your recipes. Thanks for sharing them. I too, often frequently ask, “yes, but what if this doesn’t work/breaks/I’m tired of it–like with the beeswax wraps. I’m bookmarking your site to come back and read more soon! 🙂

    • Right?! Having to think about how you get rid of things makes a big difference on what you bring in!

  7. I found a great sink cleaner online somewhere…
    1 c baking soda
    1 tablespoon tartaric acid
    1 teaspoon castile soap
    Water to make it the consistency you want (Usually about 1/4 c, but seems to depends on your area and the baking soda you’ve used).
    Mix the first three ingredients then add some water. If you add too much it’s just a bit runny. If you add too little, just use a wet rag to clean… but be careful. It expands for the first hour or so! So make it in a big tub. I find this cleaner so good and cheap and I use it on everything -kitchen sink and bench, stove top, bathroom, anything that is a durable surface really. It’s good for the scum that builds up in baths and showers!

    • Craft fair — a lady makes them out of bits of yarn and sells them, I’m not even kidding, for a quarter. I love them for scouring! They’re super sturdy.

      Thanks for sharing your recipe — I had to look up tartaric acid (turns out it’s more commonly known as cream of tarter. Never stop learning!); I’ve never seen a cleaning recipe with it included before. I’m intrigued! Adding this to my list to try!

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