Of course, drink containers of all types make up a huge proportion of what people throw out, whether it’s water or soda bottles, coffee and fast food cups (with lids), or juice boxes. And, as has recently been noted in news articles, plastic straws are also big culprits. Smokers, I'm sad to say, are in a class of thoughtless and dirty all their own, based on the number of empty cigarette packages and butts I find everywhere.
But there are also a surprising number of household cleaning items that end up in the trash and litter I find. The most common ones are dryer sheets and wipes of all kinds, from baby ones, to Swiffer cloths, to Clorox throwaways.
I have always questioned these single use cleaning products as wasteful, and my experience on litter patrol has made me loathe them even more. I do not know if people just don’t realize the environmental costs of these convenience products, or if they don’t care.
And they apparently do not mind paying the often absurdly high purchase price demanded for them.
That extra expenditure just does not make any sense to me at all. I can only imagine that it’s because people have been swayed by very clever marketing campaigns in the same way they’ve been suckered into spending thousands on bottled water that is entirely unnecessary.
You don’t have to be that person. You don’t have to be a marketing man’s dream and allow yourself to be convinced to spend way more than you should for something.
You can cut your costs enormously in the area of personal and household cleaning supplies. And you can do it without it having the slightest effect on the quality of your life.
It’s really a no-brainer, and of course, the only sensible answer is yes.
So here are my suggestions for ways to cut your costs for cleaning products while helping the environment, too.
This is an old-fashioned idea to be sure, but it is a highly effective one that costs nothing, so it saves you money. And in eliminating single use wipes and paper products, it also helps the environment. Plus, rags give a second life to old clothing that might otherwise end up in the garbage heap, thereby doing good for the environment that way as well.
So skip the paper towels, Handiwipes, Swiffer cloths, etc. and use these tried and true cloth alternatives instead.
IMHO, the best rags are made of old cloth diapers. But beyond that, anything made of cotton, such as old towels, t-shirts, undershirts, socks, old linens, and underpants make great rags for a variety of purposes.
Simply cut them up into pieces of different sizes and store them in a bag in a convenient location. Every house in the “olden” times used to have a large rag bag hanging in a closet near the kitchen. I still have mine. But any old plastic bag will serve the purpose, too.
Rags can be used for everything from dusting to window washing to floor mopping. And they do an excellent job of it. I do not even own a floor mop. I simply clip a damp rag to the pad where a mop would go and use it to wash my floors. Done.
In addition to being outstanding for general cleaning, rags are also indispensable for taking care of spills, something a disposable cloth fails at miserably. And they are also washable and reusable.
Rags are also extremely handy to have around when you do DIY projects for your home. There’s a reason they sell bagfuls of them at building supply stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.
In short, rags are indispensable cleaning supplies.
Once when I was staying with a sister, I was shocked to discover that she used disposable Handi Wipes and paper towels for her kitchen and dish cleaning. Mom would have rolled in her grave, and I found myself wondering how we could possibly have grown up in the same household.
Other than the expense and waste, the fact is these wipes just cannot do the job of kitchen or dish cleaning at all efficiently.
Absorbent, reusable, and washable dishcloths do a much better job. There’s a reason that restaurants use what are called bar towels for wiping down tables, counters and bar areas.
Dishrags can handle multitasking, whether it’s washing dishes, wiping counters, or general cleaning far beyond anything the single use wipes or paper towels can do.
These dishrags are also better and healthier than sponges because they are easy to change out and wash. To prevent the rags from becoming bacteria factories, it’s advisable to use a fresh, clean one every day. So buy enough to get you through the time between laundry washings in your house.
You can find packages of ten or more in the grocery store or places such as Target or Walmart for very cheap prices.
Basically, all you need for household cleaning supplies are the rags and cloths I’ve mentioned already, a bucket; some scrubbing sponges; a spray bottle or two; and bleach; white vinegar; baking soda; and maybe a favorite disinfectant liquid. I like Lysol myself, but there are many generic and name brands out there.
That’s seriously it. There is absolutely no need for specialized cleaning products for the bathroom or the kitchen or the floor or whatever that take up entire shelves and closets of space. These products will take care of just about any cleaning chore around the house.
The bleach is the single best disinfectant available.
The white vinegar is a great deodorizer, window cleaner, and general cleaner and scale remover for such things as coffee machines and for removing toilet bowl stains, etc.
The baking soda is a mild non-scratching abrasive that can be used to remove scum on counter and tub surfaces or stains on countertops.
I like using disinfectant liquids for cleaning the tub, toilets and sinks in my bathroom. I typically employ the scrubber sponges for this task, as well. I’m guessing that you could just as easily use regular old dishwashing liquid and the scrubbers, and you would probably get satisfactory results as well.
The point is that you definitely do not need a lot of fancy or expensive cleaning supplies. Stick to the basics for pennies per use, and keep your household a healthier place, as well, without a lot of unnecessary chemicals.
Besides avoiding the single use wipes as cleaners, and sticking to the simple products I mention above, it’s also budget wise and environmentally friendly to buy cleaning products in large jugs, bottles or boxes, and use them with rags.
A gallon of bleach that will easily last a year or more costs as little as a penny per ounce. Simply dilute the bleach a bit with water and dip a cloth rag in it, and you have a washable, reusable disinfectant wipe that can be used over and over again.
Compare that to a box of 125 bleach wipes that costs $7.99+ and adds non-biodegradable trash to our landfills and waterways besides.
It’s a no-brainer to get the more economical product.
The same applies to any cleaning product. Just purchase it by the largest container available ---to cut down on plastic container waste --- and use it as you need it in smaller spray bottles or with cotton rags.
It will last a long time, save resources, and save you money besides.
Honestly, do we need to wipe down surfaces constantly with Clorox wipes?
The answer is no.
One of the reasons these single use products have exploded in use is that people are overly paranoid about cleanliness. But the truth is that bleach or disinfectants are called for only in those instances where the surface has been contaminated with something such as raw meat, or someone has thrown up somewhere, or there is poop on it.
In those cases, by all means, pull out the bleach or disinfectant and scrub away - but most of the time a simple wash with soap and water will do the trick.
Or even just plain water.
For example, our floors do not need disinfecting. We don’t eat off them or lick them, after all, so why do they need to be germ free?
Heck, they don’t even need soap. In fact, floors, wooden ones in particular, last much longer if the only thing used on them for cleaning is a broom or vacuum and a damp mop or cloth.
Seriously. A little water goes a long way.
So skip the expensive and wasteful floor pads and special attachments a la Swiffer, and save yourself some money by going old school with a bucket, hot water, and some rags and/or a mop.
While we’re on the topic of floors --- the technology associated with microfiber dusting cloths is a wonderful timesaver, particularly if you own a house with a lot of hardwood floors and have pets.
They can also be used to dust. All without chemicals or added cleaning products.
But there’s absolutely no need to use the wasteful and expensive Swiffer-style throwaway kind of microfiber wipes when you have available reusable and washable microfiber cloths.
Don't go out and buy dozens, but have 2-3 on hand and simply clip them to a mop pad to use them on the floor. They make very fast work of floor cleaning.
Or just hold them to do your dusting and cleaning.
Shake them out outside periodically during the cleaning and/or at the end when you’re done, and wash them every now and again when they get very dirty.
This method has the added benefit of being scentless and allergy-friendly, a big issue in many households.
Liquid soap and body washes may be very popular, but they are hardly the least expensive body care products on the market. So you are probably spending many times more than you need to for these hygiene items that we use every day.
They are also worse for the environment due to their packaging and sometimes their ingredients. This is particularly true of washes that include scrubbing or exfoliating components.
Those sloughing agents are all too often tiny plastic beads that are completely non-biodegradable and end up in our waterways and oceans.
So the best approach is to skip the expensive bath washes and similar products in their wasteful plastic containers and with their dubious byproducts.
Instead, use old-fashioned bar soap. It’s much cheaper and produces almost no waste products. If you want a scrubbing effect, use soap with loofah scrubbers of various types to achieve the same effect for you.
Related article: Why the Little Things Do Matter When It Comes to a Budget
But even if you are committed to using liquid soap products, you can save money and generate less waste if you avoid buying new dispensers every time you purchase it.
Aside from the plastic container itself, the pump device uses unnecessary resources and ends up in the landfill. Instead, buy the soap in large containers for refilling a reusable dispenser.
You’ll save money doing this, and also stop contributing to resource use and waste.
Skip any type of new-fangled and heavily marketed detergent or soap pods, due to their waste and their much higher cost.
Buy laundry or dishwashing detergent in the largest size you can to minimize packaging. Look for packaging that is recyclable, such as #1 & #2 plastic or cardboard.
Really, it only takes seconds to measure liquid or powder laundry or dishwashing detergent out, so why would you pay the much higher cost for this convenience?
Liquid or powder detergent costs a fraction of the pods and has far less packaging. The pods are typically manufactured with just a few to a package. They also often come in non-recyclable heavy plastic bags, while regular detergents come in recyclable containers or boxes.
It’s a no brainer to buy the cheaper, more environmentally friendly option.
I honestly don’t understand why people feel the need for this product at all. It’s entirely unnecessary.
All it does is make towels less absorbent and add unnecessary and unhealthful scents to your laundry. And the individual sheets are not biodegradable, so they are unnecessary waste.
I have a young friend who was forced to move because her apartment happened to be located directly over the laundry room in her complex, and the pervasive smell of fabric softener from the dryer vents made her ill.
And I have carpooled with children who reeked so heavily of fabric softener that I needed to open all the windows to air out my car after they got out. I could see where constant exposure would give you a headache or make a person sick.
If you must add something to your wash, make it white vinegar.
Otherwise, skip this whole step altogether. You’re doing yourself and the environment a favor.
They are also healthier in terms of their ingredients, particularly for those who struggle with allergies. And finally, they help reduce waste in terms of packaging that ends up in our dumps and landfills, and in terms of money spent on stuff we don’t really need.
Give these basic ideas a try and see if you aren’t happier with the reduced cupboard space taken up by cleaning products, and the reduced expense.