I’ve always considered myself to be an extremely clean person. Then Covid-19 arrived and my obsession went off the charts. I expect many of you can relate to washing your hands 37 times a day, using sterile technique from that doctor’s YouTube video to disinfect groceries and wiping down surfaces every hour. Whether these precautions are necessary or overkill, they make me feel safer. My biggest concern is that the uptick in cleaning has also led to a serious increase in waste. Empty bottles of soap and cleaning solution and piles of crumpled disinfectant wipes haunt my dreams. Jokes aside, plastic waste is a major global problem. More than 8.3 billion metric tons have been produced over the last six decades and only 9 percent of it is recycled, according to a 2017 study published in Science Advances. The majority of it ends up in landfills or in the oceans, where it takes centuries to break down, killing wildlife and resulting in tiny, toxic particles called microplastics – truly the stuff of nightmares. This realization set me on a path to become a mean, green cleaning machine. You can also green your cleaning routine by making the following easy swaps.
Hand Soap: Swap Plastic Bottles for Tablets
Since the pandemic began, I’ve been going through hand soap at an alarming rate. I had already transitioned to buying bulk-size refill bottles and pouring it into stylish reusable dispensers, but those bulk options are still made from plastic. So, I did a little more research and discovered Blueland.
This woman-owned company was founded with a mission to eliminate single-use plastic bottles for cleaning products. They sell tiny concentrated tablets that are mixed with water in reusable “forever bottles” to create nontoxic cleaning sprays and hand soap.
The hand soap starter set ($16) will replace your current sink-side sitch with an unobtrusive glass bottle and three foaming hand soap tablets in various fresh scents. Refill tablets start at $2 and take up less space than a bottle of soap. The products ship in cardboard packaging and the refill tablets come in compostable wrappers.
Disinfectant: Swap Wipes for a Reusable Spray Bottle and Cloths
Everyone is already rationing single-use disinfectant wipes because they’re even more precious and scarce than toilet paper right now. But the waste – plastic containers, shrink wrap and wipes themselves – should be a concern, too. Enter Force of Nature: This gadget turns a capsule of salt, water and vinegar into a non-toxic disinfectant (sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid, to be exact). If you’re skeptical, I get it. I was. But this solution is approved for hospital and ICU use. It kills 99.9 percent of germs. I was sold when I saw that it’s on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19.
The starter kit is a bit of an investment ($56 with a web promo code), but the refill capsules are just 80 cents each, which is less than a bottle of spray or a container of wipes. Once you get your starter kit, making the solution is extremely simple. Just fill the electrolyzer with water, plug it in and add the contents. Turn it on, wait 10 minutes, pour it into the provided reusable bottle and spray away.
The only downside is that the solution is for use on hard, non-porous surfaces and needs to stay on said surfaces for 10 minutes to disinfect them before you wipe it off. That means it’s great for counters, bathrooms and floors, but less convenient for doorknobs, and it definitely can’t be used on groceries unless they’re sold in a hard, completely sealed package. It’s recommended to wipe any food contact surfaces with water after wiping off the disinfectant. Each 12-ounce batch of the solution is only potent for two weeks, but given how much we’re disinfecting these days, that really shouldn’t be a problem.
You’ll still need to rely on single-use wipes for some of those trickier uses, but Force of Nature can handle most disinfecting jobs. To take it a step further, I use rags and cloths for cleaning. I keep a bag of ripped up old T-shirts and towels in my laundry room and grab one whenever I think about reaching for a paper towel. I put the dirty rags in a trash bag in the laundry room until I reach a critical mass, and then dump them all in the washing machine and wash on the heavy duty setting (hot water, extra rinse) to make sure they’re fully clean.
In the kitchen, I swear by Swedish dishcloths, which are nifty, compostable, sponge-like cloths made from cotton and cellulose. I use these to clean counters because you can use soap or disinfectant, and then just wash them and ring them out under running water like you would a dish sponge. Local culinary marketplace The Cookery sells Now Designs Swedish dishcloths ($6.99) in a variety of cute patterns.
Dishwasher & Laundry Detergent: Swap Plastic Jugs for Pods
In an attempt to eliminate waste from plastic jugs of detergent, many folks may already be on the pod train (though hopefully you’re not eating them). The next thing to consider is: What kind of container are your pods coming in? Chances are, it’s a plastic tub.
Dropps is covering all the bases with recyclable, repulpable and compostable packaging (no plastic!), non-toxic ingredients, and free carbon-neutral shipping (they offset 100 percent of carbon emissions from shipping). Their laundry and dishwasher detergent pods are compatible with all machines and come in a variety of formulas, from fabric softeners to scent boosters. Pods start at 19 cents per load if you buy in bulk.
Learn more about these products below, and start cleaning greener.
Force of Nature: www.forceofnatureclean.com
The Cookery (offering shipping or curbside pickup): 4017 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.cookeryshops.com
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content and to get a monthly print edition delivered to your door. Support local journalism and start your membership today.