Household products, Non-toxic living

Cleaning Power! (almost zero-waste)

Our family started on a journey of zero-waste, but it has also turned out to be a quest for zero-toxins as well. One place where I found I was exposing my family to many unwanted toxins was through our commercial cleaning products. I’m going to write a full post on what I found when looking at the ingredients in my commercial cleaners, but I thought that first I should write about an awesome replacement (Update: See that post here). I don’t want to tell you everything is terrible without being prepared to offer a good replacement 🙂

And that awesome replacement is: Lemon-vinegar all purpose cleaner! You can make this yourself with 2 ingredients and a little patience. We’ve been using it for the past 4 months or so and it works great.


By all-purpose, I really mean it. I use this for disinfecting the toilet, countertops, tile floor, pretty much anything that needs disinfecting. There is good evidence that vinegar kills germs. There is research showing it kills the influenza virus and it kills the tuberculosis bacteria, which means it likely kills anything else you may not want in your house.

All that research is on plain vinegar. This recipe adds lemon because: A) It smells  great! and B) It really works better! Many commercial products add lemon oils for a good reason. This is a way you can do it cheaper and with less waste.

Here is the “recipe”:

  1. Put lemon peels in a glass jar and cover with vinegar. I started with the peels from 2-3 lemons and about 5 cups of vinegar, and then added lemon peels over the next few weeks as I used them in my kitchen.
  2. Wait 2-3 weeks
  3. Dilute it with water in a spray bottle and start cleaning! 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

Store the concentrate and only dilute 1 spray bottle bottle worth at a time. I leave the peels in the concentrate.

This is what it looks like after about 4 months.

This is almost-zero waste because vinegar can be bought in glass jars (recyclable forever) with a plastic lid (meaning, it will eventually be in a landfill or the ocean). I buy lemons at a produce stand where I can get it without a sticker.

I did a smaller batch with orange peels and a sprig of rosemary and that also turned out great.

Soapy water (use unwrapped bar soap!) and scrubbing is still the best cleaning agent there is. (And of course you are scrubbing with a cloth rag, not a paper towel, right?) You physically wash dirt and germs away when you scrub. I sometimes use baking soda to scrub the bathroom counters because the extra grit makes it go faster. Scrubbing might not kill 99.9% of the germs, but that is probably better anyway. Our world is full of good bacteria and disinfectants kill them too :(. This vinegar spray is a disinfectant, so it might be stronger than what you want to use on a weekly basis.

But if there’s poop on the floor (not that this ever happens at our house…), I’m killing everything and pulling out this lemon vinegar spray!


Another great non-toxic low-waste cleaning product is this tub scrub by Going Zero Waste. It helps for those jobs that need a little more grit to wash the grime away.

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