All the Natural, Zero-Waste, and Eco-Friendly Cleaning Tools You Need

by - Monday, March 12, 2018

Ugh, cleaning. Isn’t it bad enough that we have to clean? Much less spend money on the supplies? Just the worst.

As you prepare for your spring cleaning, you can definitely have a positive impact on the environment and your world just from the kinds of products you buy. First step? Make a plan! No one ever did a job better blindfolded with no idea what they were doing. Time to look into your cleaning supplies and get going.

Lots of us know we need to get toxic chemical cleaners out of our house (and I have lots of help on how to do that). But it isn't just the cleaner that has the impact- your tools, rags, and organization all can make positive changes to your life. Getting plastic out of your house, finding more reusable tools, and more can pack a huge punch!

To make the most of your Spring Cleaning Shopping, take these FOUR steps:

1. Use what you Have- This isn’t true for every case, but you are generally better off using what you already own for cleaning before bringing more into your house. We all know where our all-purpose cleaner and windex are, but take a good look at the back of those cupboards. Other things you need might be there.

Also, simplify. Don't have 3 all purpose cleaners. Have one. Use up all of what you have before you replace it. If you aren’t going to use it now, really when are you? Time to donate it or offer it up on Buy Nothing or to a f

2. Borrow it, Get it Used, or Make Your Own- This seems like a crazy place to borrow (you probably don't want your neighbor's toilet brush) but things like Carpet cleaners can be shared or rented and you might be able to pick up a bucket or mop somewhere. Every home either has too many buckets or no buckets at all. There is no in between. Let’s make one- if you are a bucket haver, help one of us poor have-nots out!

If you want to make your own, The Refill Revolution sells bottles and containers to use (or you can reuse what you have when you use it up- we just keep at those Method bottles).  I love The Refill Revolution, because you can by cleaning supplies in bulk and return the container to cut down on plastic waste. They are AWESOME, so check them out. 

On the cleaners end, lots of the things we use can be replaced with a simple combination of water and white vinegar. You can find oodles of recipes for cleaners, window wash, laundry soap, and more. Making it yourself and using old spray bottles minimizes plastic waste, allows WAY fewer sometimes toxic chemicals into your home, and is just generally a good idea.

3. Buy Reusable- Think Unpaper towels, not wipes. Think a washable sponge, not something you can only use one. Always prioritize things that can be washed and used again. You will be shocked how much you save. 

4. Do Research on Recycling and Re-Use- Being kind to the environment, in this case, is as much about how you get rid of things as how you get them. It can be easy to just toss things, but think about whether you could donate them or (VERY IMPORTANT) dispose of them safely. There are often specific ways that your local government might want you to dispose of old cleaning bottles and supplies so that business doesn’t contaminate your community’s water. If you have children (or just children you like nearby), you should try to avoid pesticides like Round-Up (it is so bad for their brain development), but you might know someone who could use it more safely. At the same time, you might be able to re-use some of those bottles, so be sure to check out information on how to best get that stuff out of your house.

5. Buy Recycled, American, or Eco-Friendly- Don’t have time to make your own? I get that. Life can be freaking busy, and even if you can’t make your own soaps and churn your own butter, you can still do better by the environment. I have a juicy long list of recycled, local, and chemical-light options for you after the jump.

If you are looking for laundry stuff, I have a separate post on that.

If you want more information, I also really loved this article on cleaning the home in more eco-friendly ways. I love the suggestion to keep an eye out for your water-usage!

Ok, Ready? This is a lot of stuff!

Brooms and Dustpans

So, why would you buy brooms NOT made of recycled or natural material? Why make waste while cleaning up waste? Here are all the ones I can find that don't totally stink:

- O-Cedar sells a broom with 80% recycled bristles, but we can do better.
- Libman sells a broom made of recycled fiber that is made in America
This broom and this one with a bamboo handle (even better) are made in Lancaster, PA!

- Redecker Dustpans are beautiful and keep plastic out of your home. Well-loved by zero wasters because they last.
- Greener Clean sells dustpans made of Ecoflex material, blended wood pulp and recycled plastic.
-Full Circle sells a dustpan with a bamboo brush and recycled plastic bristles.


 I would never think about buying buckets, until we have been caught without one more than one time. BLERG! The best option is to re-use something (our favorite is an old fondant bucket- call a bakery! They have them!).  If you don't get some in the course of cursed grown-uphood (and you've already checked with Buy Nothing), these are your options: 

- Eco Smart makes a 100% recycled plastic one, completely with children are our future drawings. -- Leaktite also makes recycled plastic 5 gallon buckets.
- Behrens makes metal buckets in the US if you want to go plastic-free (for good reason).

Cleaning Gloves

 Here are some green cleaning gloves from If You Care.


If you are getting more hardcore about your footprint as a couple, you might decide that you will start line drying your clothes (or at least some? I am just plotting this, so no judgement here). To line dry, you will need clothespins. You can find them in LOTS of secondhand stores (and like 500 options on Ebay), since line drying isn't as popular as it once was. If not:

These ones are made here in the US!

Compost Bin

 We have green waste in Seattle, but we also compost because it is SO FREAKING important! Honestly, I hope 5 years from now, everyone composts.  It turns all of your food and yard waste into something to be used again. A banana peel can decompose in days, but in a landfill, it may never decompose. Never. Using a compost bin like this can save the world from so much waste and get you great soil to grow things! I love this. So you need two composting vessels- one for in your kitchen, and one outside to do the composting in:

For Inside: 

- We use this one from Natural Home (we liked it so much we rebought it when the first lid escaped).

For Outside:

For a composter, you are looking for something with good reviews and no discussion of smells. Since most people who compost are already environmentally conscious, most outdoor compost bins are made of recycled plastic! Huzzah! Let's look:

Good Ideas' compost bin is 90+ post-industrial plastic.
Yimby is based out of Canada and makes a spinny version out of recycled plastic.
- Forest City Models has a dual batch composter, so you can test different combinations at once.
This Spinbin looks like the most fun (and space efficient).
Mantis also sells a pretty wide variety of compost bins, so you can find one that fits your needs.
- Nature's Footprint sells shelf versions, but I can't recommend it, because I don't understand how they work (worms? Something with worms. I know it sounds gross, but if you have a yard, you already have worms too).

from Full Circle on Amazon

Dish Brush and Cloths

We don't use a dish brush or cloth specifically for dishes, but I think it is a good idea, and you have lots of options:

Redecker wood brushes have replacable heads, so it creates even less waste.
- Full Circle also sells  a wide variety of dish brushes with bamboo instead of plastic. Poke around, because this is their specialty and they have LOTS.

For dish cloths, Etsy has about a million sweet and homemade options, but you can find a few modern things too. My biggest advice is to skip microfiber- it sounds great but is sending billions of tiny plastic threads into the water.

Dust Buster

 If you want a small, hand-held vaccuum cleaner, Metro Vaccuum still makes their handheld vaccuum in the States. Also, check secondhand!

from The Refill Revolution


We really loved the Swiffer brand duster for a while, but not I think something reusable makes a lot more sense 9just keep an eye out for microfiers- it's not worth it!). Here are some good options:

-Marley's Monster has a washable and reusable duster that looks pretty jolly for a cleaning implement.
- MitsuyoDay makes reusable replacements for the actual swiffer duster if that is your thing!

Extension Cords

- These Flexy extension cords are made in America, and the design seems pretty genius to me.
US Wire sells Made in USA extension cords and cable as well!

Light Bulbs

Not technically a spring cleaning staple, but if you are trying to get your home and life in order, it might be something you need? Light bulbs are a tricky one, because you want efficiency without too toxic of materials, but that can be complex. Even since I started writing this blog 3 years ago, the answer on the "right" light bulb has changed. Perfect reason to leave those lights off when you aren't using them!

Cree bulbs are LED light bulbs which are made in the US, dimmable, and maybe my new favorite? You can find a good variety of them to get what you need.
Sylvania bulbs are made in the US as well.

If you are less attached to the LED aspect, you could try newcandescent lightbulbs, which are made in the US and seem to be much more energy efficient than the oldcandescent bulbs. If anyone tries these, let me know how they are!

Mops and Sweepers

 If you are an old-fashioned mop kind of family, you have a couple of options.

- Rubbermaid makes mop heads out of post-consumer recycled material here in the US.
-Unisan also makes mop heads out of 100% recycled materials.

For a more modern sweeper (like a Swiffer) or a modern mop, you can prevent the majority of your waste by getting reusable covers. We all love our swiffers, but their one time use inserts and all fresh plastic bodies aren't exactly great for the environment. In fact, they may just be the worst. So check out covers:

-Juniperseed mop pads are designed to replace swiffer pads (and I really like the color).
- We use simple crocheted pads like these from thecountryoak, ShadyCreekFarmNC, and WoodandYarnBarn.

- Finally, Bissell green sweeper instead, which has recycled parts and doesn't have any wasteful disposable inserts.

from generationMe

Paper Towels

I wrote ALL about paper towel options (and how it is way more affordable than you think!) on my Greening the Basics blog. Check it out and help me end our culture's addiction to virgin tree paper goods (because your spill is not worth a tree).

Even better than recycled paper is using Unpaper towels. These towels are made of cloth, but do the trick for all the jobs you use paper towels for now. We use the kind that snap into each other and roll up just like regular paper towels. I thought it would be a pain, but it is so easy! Here are some good ones:

- If you are starting from scratch, this 24 pack and holder could be the perfect solution.
- Marley's Monsters has packs of them without snaps to try.
- More unpapering from Etsy: fandcsewing, ThisJoyfulHomeetc, generationMe, TheEcotopia, and CreeksideKid.
- If you don't want snaps or fuss, these ones from Juniperseed would be perfect.
-Bamboo towels have great reviews. One roll lasts six months, so better, but I'd go cloth.


The average American throws out 65 lbs of textiles a year. I guarantee your rags are already in your house. Old t-shirts, underwear, and socks all work great.

- If not, at least buy 100% recycled rags, because there is no sense in doing anything else. Buffalo Industries sells boxes of recycled t-shirts perfect for cleaning.


 Sponges for cleaning and dishes have so many great alternatives to the plastic scrub or disposable sponge you use now. I could rave for days about unsponges, because they save money, are easily cleaned and WORK. Let's look:

- I LOVE the unsponges from marley'smonsters. Their design is so smart. Easily one of my favorite things in my kitchen.
- Again, etsy has tons of options so something will fit your dish-doing style: TheLittleWanderersCo, UpcycledCreationsCAD, and Huggable Earth.

If you want something a little more mainstream:
- Full Circle sells a sponge made of walnut shells that is compostable.
- Rubbits looks like regular sponges, but it is a loofah that is reusable and compostable. Perfect!
-Scoth Brite "Greener Clean" sponges are a quarter recycled paper and completely recyclable (but still plastic-wrapped. Use an unsponge).
-Full Circle makes scrubbers out of bamboo and loofah, so they biodegrade completely.
- Peachy Clean sells a sillicon scrubber (no idea if this works or not) that is made in Georgia from American materials.

Sponge Holder

 We use a soap dish for this, but one that drains probably is way more sanitary. Probably easy enough to find these used.

This one from Uncommon Goods is pretty.
Etsy options- taniajulianceramicsSawyer CeramicsandersenpotteryLightaFire, and DowdHouseStudios.


 Honestly, I would let the shower do it, but The Boy loves it. Our steamer did come in handy for hangng curtains, but I also burned the crap out of myself with it (maybe my fault). Maybe not worth it to buy? Check with your Buy Nothing if someone will let you borrow yours for the two times a year you need it. If you love steamy clothes, the Jiffy Garment Steamer is still made in the United States, and you can check their website for personal and travel versions as well.

Toilet Brush and Plunger

The worst of cleaning, and honestly the options didn't blow me away. Apparently no one really wants to think about this work.

- Redecker Wooden Toilet Brush is all wood instead of plastic. Supposedly great for longterm use. I love the one with a stand even more.

Trash Bags

 I did this research for my "newish Apartment" wishlist, and it is a tricky business. Looking for garbage bags, be sure to inspect reviews and what they really mean by "biodegradable." If it is plastic, it cannot and will not biodegrade. It just breaks into tiny pieces that will pollute the water and cannot be cleaned up.

The best solution is to either reuse paper grocery bags for your trash OR to just not use a bag at all (it sounds gross, but if you are tossing green waste separately, it actually should be a pretty dry bin.

If those won't work, I would recommend either biobags (here's a 13 gallon version) for green waste and recycled plastic trash bags for everything else. Because garbage bags never need to be made of fresh plastic. Here are your best options:

Hefty Renew  makes 65% recycled plastic trash bag, and sends a message to the mainstream market.
- Webster Earthsense Bags are made of 75% recycled material.
- Seventh Generation is a pretty safe bet.
If You Care sells 97% post-consumer recycled trash bags


Tubtrugs, perfect for holding cleaning supplies, is made of 100% recycled (and non-toxic for those of you who are organic) materials. Perfect for a garage or basement organization?


 Well, these turned out to be a bummer (most mainstream sweepers are no good, and Oreck used to make 2 versions in the US, but I can't find any evidence this is still the case), but all is not lost!

Maytag makes all of their vacuums in the US.
Shop Vac has earned my loyalty by continuing to manufacture their (well-loved) sweepers in the United States!
- Metrovac also has my love for their Made in USA vacuum cleaners.

All the Natural, Zero-Waste, and Eco-Friendly Cleaning Tools You Need

Want more green cleaning tips? Check out our Green Home page! So filled with ideas and tips!

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  1. Great article! You should check for the best cleaning products.

  2. Most people don’t get the importance of maintaining the environment especially when it comes to cleaning. You may find used cleaning gloves and even used detergent bottles thrown all over with people not caring the effects that these non-biodegradable elements to the environment and the people around us. A small kid may suffer adverse health effects by picking a plastic bag that had detergent chemicals and starts licking it. I appreciate you trying to tell people of how to keep clean and at the same time maintain the environment.

    1. So true. I think all of these issues get lost because companies REALLY don't want us to talk about them. Important to keep bringing it up.

  3. I use a lot of rags, in lieu of disposable products like paper towels. I have saved so much over the years and it is great for the environment too.

  4. I totally need to crochet some swiffer rags! This is a great list!!

  5. This is such great information! I wish we could have a clothes line but apartment living does allow for it. I do crochet my own dust clothes and wash clothes though

  6. This is like the ultimate guide for green products! I had no idea all this stuff was on the market! The only thing green I use in my house is probably vinegar for cleaning.

  7. I was just thinking this morning, “I wonder what kind of sponge Barbara uses to wash dishes.” Now I know! Excited to switch up my cleaning routine now!

  8. I love this! I am always looking for ways to be more eco-friendly in everything that I do.

  9. It's good to have all these eco-friendly options, especially when you have little kids. Thanks for sharing, these are great tips. I try to use as few chemicals as possible.

  10. This is timely. One of my NY resolutions is use more eco-friendly products. We will definitely do these and choose more reusable items. Thank you for sharing these tips. It is very much needed.

  11. This is such a great guide for cleaning. I use old shirts to clean and use vinegar water. Great article here , thank you for sharing .

  12. This is great thank you! I've been making my own natural cleaners for the last few years and it feels not only better for our health, the environment but also it just feels so empowering! Nowing that you can make these simple changes yet make such a big difference. Thanks for shairng!

  13. Hi, this is an awesome write up! But cant help but notice that you mentioned The Refill Revolution which I heard has gone out of business. I tried clicking into their website and it turned out its not working. Are you familiar with the zero waste store the Conscous Merchant? I personally love their selections. :)



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