10 Smart Ways to Minimize Waste When You’re Cleaning

published Apr 22, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Sylvie Li

Keeping your kitchen clean is an important part of a healthy home — but so many of our cleaning habits have the opposite effect on our shared home, planet Earth. (All those chemicals! All those paper towels!) Fortunately, you can still effectively clean your space without taking a toll on the environment — you’ll just need a bit of strategy and, in some cases, a little extra time.

Here are 10 simple-but-powerful ways to minimize waste — and help our planet — while keeping your kitchen clean. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni

1. Use a reusable mop head.

Single-use mop cloths are convenient, but throwing something away after one use is wasteful (not to mention expensive). Instead of relying on single-use cloths, choose a mop with a head you can wash and reuse each time.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels.

As easy as they are to grab in a pinch, paper towels are also inherently wasteful — think of all those trees that have to be cut down, plus the energy used to manufacture and transport the towels. And the space your used ones take up in the landfill. Swap out your roll of paper towels for a more absorbent and less environmentally harmful option, like a microfiber cloth. If giving up paper towels isn’t for you, check out these sturdier, washable bamboo towels

3. Choose concentrated cleaners.

Concentrated cleaning products are an easy and surprisingly effective way to reduce waste and save money. Buying one big jug of all-purpose cleaner that you dilute at home, for example, requires less plastic and overall energy than buying multiple, already-diluted bottles.

4. Use water sparingly.

It may seem pretty obvious, but it’s so easy to waste water when you’re washing dishes or filling up a mop bucket. Instead of mindlessly running the water, pay close attention to how much you’re using for each chore. Also, consider filling the sink with soap and water rather than running the faucet while you hand-wash each individual item. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. DIY some household cleaners.

Your kitchen pantry is probably already full of powerful cleaning ingredients, such as white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. Instead of buying products that waste plastic (and contain potentially harmful ingredients), research ways on how to use these essentials as everyday cleaners in reusable spray bottles.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

6. Follow the instructions on cleaning products.

When you’re using store-bought cleaners, always make sure to follow the instructions on the product label to prevent misuse and waste (and, ultimately, having to re-buy the product prematurely). Bonus: You’ll probably end up with a cleaner kitchen if you use your cleaning supplies the right way!

7. Use tools that are compostable.

While you’re supposed to throw your sponge away every week or so, that can be super wasteful! Instead, try a compostable sponge. And compostable tools in general. This way, you can do something good with your scrub brushes when you’re done with them. Just don’t throw away your old cleaning tools before you’re actually done with them, or you’ll only create more waste. 

8. Reach for a pair of reusable cleaning gloves.

Certain kitchen jobs require cleaning gloves, but single-use plastic ones aren’t exactly great for the environment. When you finish your package of gloves, invest in a pair of reusable household gloves, which you can rinse and dry before using again.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

9. Try soap nuts.

Soap nuts, a type of berry husk that releases a natural surfactant, can clean your dishes, laundry, and more. Try using a few in your dishwasher in place of wasteful dishwasher pods — you might be surprised by the sparkling results! You can even boil them in water to make an all-purpose cleaner (and they usually come in a cotton bag to reduce plastic waste). 

Credit: Faith Durand

10. Stop buying wipes.

All-purpose and disinfecting wipes might be fast, but the waste isn’t worth the convenience. Rather than buying container after container of wipes, choose spray bottles and wipe with reusable cloths. Glass bottles are usually the most sustainable option, but if plastic is your go-to, make sure to recycle the bottle (if you can) or reuse it at home for something else (such as a DIY cleaner).

Do you have earth-friendly tips for cleaning? We’d love to hear your ideas; share your thoughts in the comments below.