Cleaning Cupboard Clear-Out: The Cleaning Products You Really Don’t Need

Reusable Nation - zero waste cleaning - say no to wet wipes

Marketing has made us feel like we need these products to keep our house and our belongings at a socially acceptable level of clean, but we really don’t need the majority of the plastic bottles that are clogging up our cleaning closet.

Who here has a heap of cleaning products stashed away at the back of the cupboard that have never even seen the light of day? They made their way into our shopping baskets because we may need them one day, our parents always had it on hand or we get excited by the promise that they kill 99.99% of germs. Guilty!

Time for a cleaning closet clear-out! Let’s get on our hands and knees, go into the dark corners under our sinks and find out which cleaning products we really don’t need and promise to never buy them again.

1. Paper towels

Paper towels were invented in 1907 to prevent the spreading of a cold epidemic by replacing cloth towels in public washrooms. They became so popular that they ended up in the home and began being used to wipe up small spills that could easily be cleaned up with a fabric cloth.

While their commercial application is understandable, and they may have their place in public bathrooms, although other solutions would be better, a huge amount of their usage is in the home. Actually, about two thirds of the total use of paper towels in North American is by household consumers.

Rather than using these single-use products, which end up in landfill, use conventional fabric towels or rags made from old clothing.

To make these just as convenient, you can make a fabric towel dispenser roll, or place in a fabric dispenser similar to a tissue dispenser so you can easily pull one out for use. You can also buy ‘unpaper towel’ rolls on dispensers on Etsy if you’d rather not DIY them.

After use, simply wash and reuse!

2. A different spray for every room in the house

Since when did we need a different cleaner for every room in the house and for every surface in those rooms? Bathroom sprays, kitchen sprays, toilet bowl cleaners, floor cleaner, shower tile cleaner, sprays specifically for the stovetop and many more unnecessary, specialised cleaners go as far as the eye can see down supermarkets’ cleaning product aisles.

Soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax can replace nearly all of these for general cleaning! And diluted bleach can be used for proper disinfection.

Certain surfaces do need to be cared for differently, of course, so these ingredients are used in various ways depending on what is being cleaned. There are numerous DIY cleaner recipes online that you can follow. We recommend following these recipes closely and trying the homemade cleaner on a small, unseen section of the surface first just to be safe.

Not a do it yourself kinda person? Buy cleaning supplies in the biggest size available if you can’t fill up your spray bottle at a local coop or bulk store.

3. Wet wipes

Another product of convenience, wet wipes were only invented in the 1950s. Since then, they have become a serious problem.

There has been a 700% rise in wipes washed up on beaches in the past decade – 700%! – and they cause 93% of sewer system blockages in the UK. And, they never break down as they are made from plastic – most are polyester – and they all come in plastic packaging.

Never flush these down the loo!

Better yet, never use them again.

Use a liquid cleaner and a rag or create your own jar of wet wipes by placing rags in a glass jar of liquid cleaner. You can buy reusable wet wipes on - you guessed it - Etsy, the home of others DIYing for you.

4. Commercial toilet cleaners and rim blocks

What we flush down the loo can end up in the ocean, including the toilet cleaners we use to keep our bowls smelling fresh and looking bright blue (for some weird reason), as some of these cleaners are not broken down by treatment plants.

Avoid commercial cleaning agents as they contain phosphates and chemicals that can pollute waterways and don’t use toilet fresheners as they contain chlorine and hydrocarbons, which can be dangerous to aquatic animals.

Rim blocks, which hang in your toilet bowl in a cage, are the worst. They are made of plastic, come in plastic, are filled with unnecessary ingredients and dye, have a strong artificial scent, and tend to get mouldy. Gross.

Use white vinegar and a toilet brush to scrub your toilet (you can let it sit overnight) and remove bad stains with a brush and bicarbonate of soda. To disinfect it, use diluted bleach.

You can also DIY or buy toilet bombs (you’ll find them on Etsy and Biome, where they’re sold in egg cartons).

5. Fabric softener

Why did people start using fabric softener? Because marketers made us feel like we needed to. Who wouldn’t want softer, less static, fresh smelling clothes?

It only became commercially available in the 1960s. My mother never used it, but David’s did and for ages he argued that we had to use it. I personally hated the strong, unnatural smell it gave my clothes. I’m glad to say I’ve won this one and we no longer use it.

It’s another product you don’t need in your life.

After washing your clothes with the detergent you put in your washing machine, fabric softener is added during the rinse cycle, so it stays on your clothes. Choice says it best: “using a fabric softener is essentially soiling your clothes again by soaking them in chemicals”.

Not only does it make your laundry less absorbent, according to Choice, which is a problem when it comes to towels and cloth nappies (cause them being absorbent is kinda important!), but it also makes it more flammable.

Also, the ingredients used in fabric softeners have been linked to asthmagens – asthma-causing substances.

Choice warns that you’ll often see the word ‘sensitive’ on softeners, and although the amount of dye and fragrance used tends to be less, they've still got the same ingredients in them.

If you really miss fabric softener and want to soften your clothes and need to reduce static, put half a cup of white vinegar in the fabric softener compartment of the washing machine.

Choice has more homemade fabric softener recipes and tips on how to keep towels soft without any additives here.

Stop wasting your money on these unnecessary, polluting products! Do without or use real eco-friendly alternatives. If you only take on one change, never use wet wipes again.

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