Household cleaners packaging

Filed in by on June 10, 2008 17 Comments

cleaning products - all in plastic packaging

Have you cleaned your house recently? How many different products did you use?

When you go into a shop to buy supplies, the choices can be overwhelming. There are products for cleaning the sink, bath and toilet. Others to clean mirrors, tiles and windows. Further products for your kitchen work surfaces and floors. Not to mention bleach, laundry products and air fresheners!

In addition, the majority of cleaning products come in plastic bottles. Some products arrive in blister packs. This can contribute to the amount of landfill waste you throw out each week.

This is a difficult challenge to overcome. You want a clean house, but you don’t want the disposal of containers and packaging afterwards.

Here are 6 tips to minimise the amount of waste you produce through use of household cleaners.

1- Refill your containers

Companies such as Ecover offer a refill service. For a reduced price, you can take along your empty washing up liquid, fabric conditioner, multi surface cleaner and laundry liquid bottles for refill.

In our local farm shop, you get a huge, bank account happy pound off a washing liquid refill. Not only do you stop plastic containers going into the landfill, but you save yourself some money in the process. That’s the sort of win-win situation I like!

To find details of your nearest refill location, check out the Ecover Website.

2- Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk reduces the amount of waste you have to send to landfill. I’m not talking about buying an entire case of small products as this is counter productive. I’m talking aboutbuying products in large containers.

It is estimated that buying one large container of something (say 5lts of fabric conditioner) uses 40% less plastic than buying five 1 ltr containers of the same product. Hook up with a friend and share if you cannot afford this option or don’t have storage.

3- Try to avoid buying over packaged goods

Dishwashing tablets that come individually wrapped in plastic create more waste than a box of loose powder. Think about your choices and have a look at what you will be left with to dispose of once you’ve finished the product.


Keep it simple sweetheart. Instead of buying different products for different cleaning jobs, opt for multi purpose cleaners. We tend to have just one bottle of multi purpose cream cleaner at Chez Green that we use on kitchen worksufaces, the hob, bath, sink and shower. It saves time on the housework as you’re not looking for the ‘right bottle’. It saves cupboard space too!

5- Use washable cloths

Instead of thin disposable cloths, invest in a few eCloths which can be washed and reused over and over again. The beauty of ecloths is that they attract dust and dirt which means you can use less products to clean your home with. In fact, they can be used with just water. Hard to believe I know, but it’s absolutely true!

6- Spray, don’t plug!

If you use air fresheners then steer clear of the plugin ones which are made from brittle non-recyclable plastic and often come in blister packs and the gel ones which also come in plastic. Opt for spray air fresheners (aerosol cans can be recycled at many local recycling facilities across the UK). For more natural ways, try using an oil burner or pot pourri.

7- Go au naturelle

You can use kitchen ingredients as effective and safe cleaning products too. Three of my favourites are fresh lemons, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).
White vinegar can be used to clean mirrors and glass. Add a tablespoon to a bucket of water to clean hard floors and keep a vinegar spray in the bathroom to spray over the tiles. Soaking your showerhead in vinegar will remove limescale, as will using it in the kettle occasionally.
Fresh lemon juice is a good stain remover and has a mild bleaching property. It will help dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. In the kitchen it is antiseptic, so good for cleaning cutting boards. Using fresh lemons is a true zero waste product!
Bicarbonate of soda is a versatile cleaner. It works magic on a burnt saucepan and you can use it to clean your hob and oven. It’s great on baths and sinks too. In addition, bicarbonate of soda eliminates odours.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (17)

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  1. I hate buying refills because, well, they still come in plastic. The other day, we used up a spray bottle and I didn’t want to toss it because the sprayer worked so much better than the empty spray bottle nozzles I’ve bought. So I added mostly water, a bit of a simple liquid soap and some orange essential oil. You know what? It works just as well as the stuff that was in there before and cost me pennies.

  2. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Ellen,
    Great to see you; thank you for taking the time to drop in and leave a comment.

    I was referring to a refill service – do you have them over there? You take your old containers and get them filled from huge 25 litre drums of products.

    Your cleaner sounds lovely; I love the smell of orange essential oil; it’s so uplifting…

  3. Oh! How perfectly useful. Here, you can buy a larger refill container. But no, not normally easy to find a place you can go and get refills. I also make my own deodorant: save Weleda glass bottle and refill with alcohol and EO – ones that don’t burn pits, reapply as needed. Anyway, I wonder how you’d get that refill station idea to catch on here.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi again Ellen,
    You’d think that a refill station would be a no brainer wouldn’t you – it’s a win win situation for all involved, surely?

    What alcohol do you use for your deodorant? I use distilled witch hazel and some vegetable glycerin for the base. I’ve never tried alcohol……….

  5. Blush. To be honest, rubbing alcohol is one of those products I’ve never researched to know if it matters what the source is. I buy almost nothing in the mainstream supermarket but I have bought this there. If I happen to see some in a health food store, I’ll get it, taking it on faith that perhaps there is some reason I am not yet aware of. Witch hazel is a product that has always left me a bit mystified!

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Rubbing alcohol. Hmmm, I don’t know what that is either. I have tried cheap vodka in the past, but I have such a strong sense of smell that this was all I could smell, and I didn’t like it.
    As far as I am aware, witch hazel is simply an infusion, a bit like a floral water. It’s astringent though, so not suitable for all skin types as it can be too drying (but no more than alcohol I would guess)

  7. Silvia says:

    Hi! Sorry for my poor English! I’m writing from Italy, I knew about ZeroWaste some months ago, thanks to Beppe Grillo’s Blog, and I started MY zerowaste, together with my husband. I don’t buy water in plastic bottles (it’s one of vary bad Italian uses), I’ve found natural products for householding with refill service, I buy only products with no packaging or not overpackaging and so on… It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s funny too! Sometimes when I talk about it with people or friends they look at me as if I was mad… but someone has decide to follow me πŸ™‚ Thanks a lot for your blog! Ciao ciao, Silvia

  8. Layla says:

    lol glad this topic was resurrected!! & Nice to see you here, Silvia!! Glad to see people inspired with this!!
    (& don’t worry, most people here think I’m a bit mad too! – but guess what, a few friends are actually interested too!! and one couple has decided to follow me too.. So YAY for that!!)

    Mrs Green, I’ve used just vinegar for cleaning bathroom sinks etc & it works just fine! (with a sponge to ‘rub’ with, just a soft cotton cloth didn’t work so well..)

    I’m curious about these homemade deodorants too!!
    so far I still have some crystal to use, but am not happiest with that, as it ‘chisels a mountain away’, no? (haven’t really found out how it’s made/obtained, just sort of figured this-?) – and there’s still some plastic/packaging too!
    In winter and with loose clothing (or non-close-contact encounters) one may go without any anyway.. Depends a lot on what you eat too..

    We don’t have a refill service here either! Is that in a normal shop or a health food store?

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Silvia: Hi Silvia, welcome to the site and I’m so glad to hear of all the things you have been doing in Italy. It’s lovely that someone has been inspired by your example and I’m pleased that you are enjoying your zero waste journey. It sounds like you have some great strategies in place and as you say, it’s not even that difficult! Well done to you and your husband πŸ™‚

    @Layla: I can imagine you have inspired many people, Layla as you are so passionate about this topic and have lots of creative ideas. Vinegar is excellent as a cleaner. I would use more of it, but Mr Green really does not like the smell. For that reason I use more bicarbonate of soda. No smell at all to that πŸ™‚

    I don’t know where the crystal deodorants come from. Like you, I know that my body odour is directly linked to my diet / mood and hormones. So it’s a good indicator or my physical and mental health.

    But if I need a little help in that department I use one neat drop of lavender essential oil under my arms and I have made a deodorant spray from a variety of essential oils dissolved in a combination of witch hazel and vegetable glycerin. It smells heavenly and costs a tiny amount to make. I’ve put lemon and coriander in it, along with some other oils.

    Refils are usually found in health food shops here, but our local farm shop does them too. It’s an organic one, so is more forward tings than some places.

  10. Poppy says:

    I found a product today that ticks a couple of boxes with regard to the waste from household cleaning products. It’s not perfect, but may help those of us who can’t quite survive without our sprays!

    It’s called i-clean and refills come in the shape of small sausages of liquid in disolvable plastic that you put into an existing bottle whole, add warm water and shake. That’s it, job done.

    Left overs are a piece of cardboard that can obviously be recycled and a small piece of PET plastic, which we can’t currently recycle, but we may be able to when our super duper Tesco recycling machine comes online.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Lovely – thanks Poppy; have contacted them for more info πŸ˜‰

  12. Jane says:

    Aerosols and aluminium foil can go in our ‘Food & Drinks Cans Only’ (!!!) street banks. Check our your Council to see if this is the case with you too. Roll your clean aluminium foil into a ball as you collect it to make it easier to deal with.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Ha! How weird; but thanks for the tip. It’s a little like the cardboard banks which accept tetra pak cartons…

  14. KIKI says:

    just to mention I use white vinegar instead of fabric softner. Two small caps do wonder.
    I also use the bicarb soda and vinegar for cleaning as well as lemon and haven’t looked back since.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @KIKI: Hi Kiki, welcome to the site and thanks for leaving a comment. Vinegar instead of fabric conditioner works wonders doesn’t it? Glad you’re finding green cleaning is successful for you πŸ™‚

  16. Kiva says:

    Reusing cloths is a big one. As is refilling containers. It just takes a little more time out of our lives, but it makes such an impact on the amount we waste to do things this way.

  17. Fred Johnson says:

    Window Cleaning
    How about using water to clean all windows and mirrors! You just need a spray bottle(reusable many times) and 2 micro fibre cloths (1 cloth to get the dirt off and a second shining cloth to get marks, smears etc off)
    I have used this for years and it works brilliantly. The initial cost is more than most cleaners, but once you have the equipment each clean is free and you just pop the cloths in the machine and wash. Saves lots of money, uses zero chemicals and no single use plastic packaging!πŸ˜€

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