Zero Waste Spring Cleaning Guide
March 07, 2022

Zero Waste Spring Cleaning Guide

In Charlotte, NC we are lucky enough to already be feeling that Spring is in the air! The sun, the warmer temperatures and the birds singing make me want to open the windows, put some music on and start a deep house cleaning! 

Spring cleaning has many advantages: it helps remove allergens, declutter your home, hence your mind, save money and give you a sense of satisfaction.

Getting ready for spring cleaning

My friend Paule shared with us how she has been practicing spring cleaning since her childhood and how she gets prepared for it!

“As a genX female and the oldest sibling of 5, up until I moved away from my parents house to go to university, I have been helping my mother with all kinds of chores including weekly cleaning. As a family, we all needed to chip in to make the workload bearable for everyone.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been happy to help with cleaning chores, even at a young age. Living in a tidy environment has always been important to me. As a teenager, I was expected to help my mother with the spring cleaning of our home.

My spring cleaning routine has evolved throughout the years as I have learned to adapt it to each home I have lived in…but I still cherish the way I feel after a full day’s work and even more so after the whole house is completely decluttered and clean!

Here are the 5 steps that I follow to get ready for spring cleaning. Of course, each family is different and, depending on if you live alone in an apartment or in a house with little ones, you will adapt those steps to your needs.

1. Make a list of all the rooms you wish to clean in your home and estimate the time it will take you to completely declutter and clean it. I recommend starting with a room that has much clutter or work to do so the following rooms feel easier. Personally, I like to start with the bedroom and end with the kitchen.
Another tip of mine is to start with all the closets and drawers, or wherever you store your belongings as these areas are usually closed-in spaces that will remain clean and tidy a bit longer. 
I usually keep an updated word document with all the rooms listed, the date when I will tackle this room, the amount of time it will take to complete i.e. half a day for a bathroom or for a series of drawers-closets to sort out, clean and put back stuff in, one day for a whole room, 2 days for the kitchen.

2. Decide on a schedule that will suit your lifestyle

I usually block two weeks during the year where I will go through the whole house. Of course, it will depend on the size of your home and family as well as your disponibility. If decluttering and cleaning are not the things you enjoy the most in life, find a partner to help you or think about the reward you’ll get once one big task is complete: chocolate, a glass of wine, an episode of your favorite series…

3. Commit to your schedule and adapt or modify if needed in the event something unexpected comes up

Be kind with yourself if things don’t go as expected and take more time. It has taken me many years to refine my own routine and adequately evaluate the time I need to complete each task.

Remember this is a process and do not forget to pat yourself in the back for those small achievements! You will improve over time, I’m sure!

4. When day one approaches, make sure you have all that you need in your spring cleaning kit

All-purpose cleaner, window cleaner, rags, brushes, old toothbrush for hard to clean areas, duster, vacuum cleaner etc… Valerie will talk about those below.

5. Day one is here, start by decluttering!

Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity to sort through your belongings in order to declutter your interior.

Have some empty bins or reusable bags ready, this will help you with the organizing phase as you will most certainly be left with less things.

When going through your belongings, I recommend to make piles:

  • Things to keep. Think about the “spark joy method” by KonMari ;-)
  • Things to repair or parts you can reuse
  • Things for sale. If you don’t remember when was the last time you used those rollerblades, it’s probably time to pass them to someone else.
  • Things to upcycle: for example, transform your used tablecloths or sheets into rags.
  • Things to recycle: make sure to check your county’s recycling program to avoid wish cycling.
  • Things to donate: do you need those 3 can openers? Your family, friends, local thrift stores or Facebook Buy Nothing Group will be happy to get one of them. Don’t we say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?
Decluttering piles

It can feel overwhelming. You can decide to go room by room in a sequence or declutter all your home first and have all of the non-desired items out of the house before you start cleaning. If you are new to decluttering, you can also decide to start with 5 minutes at a time. It’s a personal choice, whatever works best for you!

Thanks to Paule for sharing those important tips as the preparation phase is as important as the cleaning itself.

Once your space is decluttered, it’s time to actually start cleaning! Do not jump on the paper towels and the last miracle cleaning products! 

Cleaning products can be toxic

The shelves of our stores are filled with products of all kinds: scented cleaners, sprays, wipes, plastic brushes... These products are usually expensive not super effective and most of them pollute the ambient air of our homes. 

Do you know that these toxic ingredients are absorbed by the human (and animal) body by inhalation but also by the skin? Not to mention that they ultimately end up in our wastewater and affect aquatic ecosystems. 

Studies have shown that some ingredients contained in cleaning products increase the risks of headaches and skin irritation in the short term and cancer and asthma in the long-term. 

Children exposed to toxic substances in household cleaning products may be more predisposed to cancers later in life. 

Manufacturers are not obligated by U.S. law to list all ingredients in consumer products.  Here are the ingredients to stay away from: benzene, toluene, xylene, methanol and ethylbenzene.

Products that are labeled "green" do not necessarily mean that they are safer.

Transition to Clean Cleaning Products

The good news is that you don’t have to use those toxic products to make your home fresh and clean! 

You can either make your own products with ingredients you already have at home or buy sustainable cleaning products from your local Zero Waste store.

DIY Cleaning Solutions

Simple ingredients such as liquid soap, baking soda and white vinegar are great against grease, mold, stains and odors.

The all time favorite DIY all-purpose cleaner recipe is super simple: mix white vinegar with water and clean pretty much all your surfaces, except porous ones like marble or granite. It’s great against limescale.

Recipe for white vinegar all-purpose cleaner: Pour 1 part of white vinegar and 1 part of water in a spray bottle, shake! It’s ready!

If you prefer scented vinegar: warm up white vinegar (not boiling), carefully pour it into a glass container, add oranges or citrus peels, let the liquid sit for 24-36 hours. Strain the mixture, compost the peels, your scented white vinegar is ready.

Note: white vinegar is made from corn and the vast majority of corn produced in the US is genetically modified. It’s cheap but it’s ruining the planet, like a lot of other cheap things. Ekologicall offers organic distilled white vinegar in bulk.

Baking Soda is another cheap and efficient cleaning ingredient, mixed with a bit of water it creates a paste that will whitened and deodorize your surfaces like the oven or your bathroom sinks, bathtub and shower. It also works on smelly rug. Vacuum your rug, sprinkle baking soda on it, let it sit for an hour or more and vacuum again. Repeat if needed.

Liquid soap such as Castile soap is multi-tasks, a few drops in a bucket of hot water and you can clean pretty much everything around your home: floors, tiles, hardwood floors, ceramic, marble…

Note: You will see a lot of recipes using essential oils in DIY cleaning solution recipes. I strongly discourage you from using essential oils in your cleaning products. Why? Because essential oils are not sustainable. Did you know that it takes around 10,000 pounds of rose petals, 250 pounds of lavender, and 1,500 lemons to produce a single pound of each essential oil? Massive production often means pesticides. There are currently no organic certifications specifically for essential oils. They also require (fossil) energy to be produced and transported. Many essential oils come from plants listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. That is the reason why I prefer to use essential oils parsimoniously and for health purposes only.

Refillable Cleaning Products

If you don’t feel like making your own products, check our people and environment safe cleaning products. We sell all-purpose cleaner, castile soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, organic white vinegar... by the ounce. You can refill your own containers again and again and avoid adding more plastic bottles to the landfills.

Person refilling a container with detergent

Laundry Detergent 

Make sure to wash your winter clothes before putting them back in your wardrobe, otherwise you won't appreciate their funny smell next winter.

At Ekologicall, we offer several different laundry detergent options that are non toxic:

  • laundry powder
  • laundry strips
  • laundry pods
  • concentrated liquid laundry detergent

We also recommend to air dry your laundry or use wool dryer balls in the dryer instead of the expensive, wasteful and harmful dryer sheets.

For more tips, check our Switch to a Zero Waste Laundry Routine blog post.

Cleaning Tools

Old t-shirts, towels and sheets are perfect to make rags. 

If you have plastic brushes, use them and choose more eco-friendly alternatives when it’s time to change them.

Forget about disposable wipes, live like they never existed :) Have you checked our washable and reusable duster?

What to do with the cleaning products that you already have?

Zero Waste does not mean throwing away all the products you already have and buying new ones. If you have some “not so clean” cleaning products around your home, you have 2 options:

  • Use them up, keep the bottles and refill them with natural products. While using the rest of your “traditional” cleaning products” make sure to ventilate the room you are cleaning by opening windows and doors. Never use cleaning products in a small, enclosed space.
  • Donate them. If you don’t feel comfortable using those products anymore, donate them to someone who will use them.

We have created a list for cleaning every nook and cranny of your home, you can download it here.

Now that your home is clutter free and clean, you can relax. 

3 simple tips to keep everything organized and clean

  • Designate a place for everything and return items to where they belong. Think hooks for the keys, catch-all trays, and storage boxes
  • Next time you want to buy something, ask yourself if you really need it, how many times you will use it. Always prefer quality over quantity
  • Spend a few minutes everyday to tidy up

Now you can fully enjoy the new season with a clear home and mind! 

Do you practice spring cleaning? Share your tips with us in the comments below.