No need for all that plastic when there are plenty of sustainable alternatives.
No need for all that plastic when there are plenty of sustainable alternatives.

With these tips, you’ll be cleaning more sustainably.

Raphael Knecht
Zurich, on 06.08.2020
When you’re tackling household chores, certain products seem unavoidable. Take a closer look, and you’ll discover that many of them are terrible for the environment. Switch to clever alternatives to make your housekeeping more sustainable.

After dinner, I wrap the leftovers in cling film, pop them in a sealable container and place that in the fridge. It doesn’t occur to me that both the cling film and the container are bad for the environment. Nor does it occur to me that beeswax cloths and preserving jars are viable alternatives. When it comes to cleaning, tidying and other household tasks, it's the same: sustainability is neglected. I take some time to think about all unsustainable items I use on a regular basis to keep my home clean and tidy. It’s quite a list. I’m genuinely shocked. After a bit of research, I soon realise that the road to betterment isn’t too far. Just a few simple tricks and alternative products have helped me make my housekeeping eco-friendly.

Many things you use for housekeeping are anything but sustainable.
Many things you use for housekeeping are anything but sustainable.

Taking the cloth

They’re available in all kinds of colours, patterns and shapes: paper napkins. Personally, I use them during every meal. They’re brought out for visitors, my family and even when I’m alone. Paper napkins are loyal companions. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them the worst environmental sinners out there, but there is room for improvement. The fact is, I use lots of them, they’re not free and they end up in the rubbish after use. So what’s a sustainable alternative? Cloth napkins. They’re reusable, are fine to use for guests and are machine-washable.

Henrik (1x, 40 x 40 cm)
Kela Henrik (1x, 40 x 40 cm)
Gracie (1x, 45 x 45 cm)
10.10was 12.50
Broste Copenhagen Gracie (1x, 45 x 45 cm)
By (4x, 45 x 45 cm)
house doctor By (4x, 45 x 45 cm)

Roll with it

There’s no denying that kitchen roll is very handy. More often than I’d like to admit, it’s also my weapon of choice when it comes to wiping spills. Kitchen roll is very absorbent, doesn’t tear even if it’s soaking and can just be chucked after use. Again, this isn’t the worst product for the environment. After all, we’re talking about paper and cardboard and not microplastics. However, there are great alternatives for kitchen paper. Cotton dishcloths serve the same purpose, are absorbent and are machine washable – just like paper napkins. Old, used dishcloths are a great substitute for kitchen roll. This gives a second life to old cloths and lets you use new ones to dry your hands. Another option is to go for washable and reusable cleaning cloth.

Used dishcloths are a great alternative to kitchen paper.
Used dishcloths are a great alternative to kitchen paper.

Squeaky clean without chemicals

All those warning symbols on chemical cleaners for windows, toilets or the kitchen will give you an idea of how toxic the contents are. No matter how effective you clean with them, toxic also means harmful to the environment. Remember that there are eco-friendly alternatives out there to help you keep your home spotless. Beside the ecocleaners available in many shops, there are plenty of household items that double up as cleaning agents. Like combining sparkling water and vineger, to make an effective homemade solution to combat clogged drains. Or whip out a TwistOut-Stick. Burnt food is removed with coffee grounds: simply pour the grounds into the burnt pot or pan, add hot water and let it soak for 15 minutes. Ta-dah! All shiny and new again! By the way, the same method also works wonders on vases and pots. Citric acid removes lime scale from coffee makers, kettles and taps. Or try using vinegar, it also does a great job.

Brilliant hacks for *fast and effortless cleaning**


Bag of tricks

Plastic bags don’t take up much space in your bag and are available everywhere. Instead of taking a new bag each time you go shopping, remember to bring your own cloth carrier bag. Small bags for fruit and veg are a sustainable alternative to the rustly bags in supermarkets. Bringing your own bag is a great way to reduce plastic and reuse your shopping bags. Personally, I try not to chuck any plastic bags I might have. Instead, I use them until they fall apart. Only then, do I switch to an eco-friendly alternative.

There are sustainable alternatives to carry food products.
There are sustainable alternatives to carry food products.

Lunch from a can

It’s insane how much plastic is used for a ready-made salad from the supermarket. Like a babushka, I work my way through multiple layers of plastic until I finally reach the edible parts inside. Next time, I’ll prepare a salad at home and take it to work in a glass container. That’s cheaper and better for the environment. Or simply bring along an empty lunch box and ask the person behind the takeaway counter to put your lunch in that instead of the plastic container. This also works if you’re going for a buffet lunch. It can be a bit weird to ask at first but our planet will be grateful for the effort.

lunch box
Küchenprofi lunch box

The best thing since sliced bread

Are plastic chopping boards really more hygienic than wooden ones? No, they're not. It’s just a common myth that's still going around. With proper care and depending on the type of wood, wooden chopping boards are just as hygienic as their plastic cousins. Boards made of oak, larch, bamboo or pine, for example, have a strong germicidal effect. On the one hand, wood is quick to remove moisture from the surface, making it hard for mould to grow. On the other hand, these types of wood even kill germs. What’s more, with the right care, these sustainable alternatives to plastic chopping boards also last forever. All you need to do is coat the board with a bit of cooking oil, such as rapeseed, every couple of months. This will keep your wooden board hygienic and pretty for longer.

Wooden chopping boards are just as hygienic as plastic ones.
Wooden chopping boards are just as hygienic as plastic ones.

Know other killer hacks for planet-saving housekeeping? Maybe you’ve discovered effective and eco-friendly products for a clean home? Thanks for sharing your tips in the comments field below! If you'd like to get more tips and tricks about housekeeping and want to stay up to date on food recycling, follow me by clicking on the «Follow author» button.

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Raphael Knecht
Raphael Knecht
Senior Editor, Zurich
When I'm not stuffing my face with sweets, you'll catch me running around in the gym hall. I’m a passionate floorball player and coach. On rainy days, I tinker with my homebuilt PCs, robots or other gadgets. Music is always my trusted companion. I also enjoy tackling hilly terrain on my road bike and criss-crossing the country on my cross-country skis.

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