A guest blogger from Plastic-Free Tuesday shares plastic-free kitchen cleaning tips By Anemieke, Plastic Free Tuesday
Since the launch of Plastic-Free Tuesday, a campaign to create awareness about plastic pollution and reduce our plastic footprint, I have been experimenting with plastic-free tools to clean my kitchen. I am so happy to share my findings with you today. Taking small steps, together we can make a big difference and help stop the plastic waste stream. Should you have other plastic-free cleaning tips, please share.
Sustainable, rubber household gloves
My hands easily become very dry and itchy while cleaning, with water being one of the main culprits. A couple of months ago I started to use household gloves. It makes a world of a difference! I no longer have dry hands. They look and feel so much better now.
Unfortunately, household gloves are almost always packed in plastic and made of plastic. Watertight household gloves are usually made of vinyl or latex. Vinyl is a kind of plastic, and latex can be either natural or synthetic.
The production process of both synthetic and natural latex gloves includes chemicals to process and dye the material. It is unclear to me exactly what chemicals are being used, but they might not necessarily be healthy for people or our planet. Moreover, latex sourced from rubber plantations is a source of deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
Thankfully, there are sustainable household gloves on the market. If You Care produces gloves made of FSC certified latex. These gloves are available through Amazon. Ideally, you would buy these or other household gloves locally. If you cannot find them in your area, ask your local sustainable shop to start selling them. If you order the gloves online, make sure to request reused packaging material and zero plastic.
Wooden dish brush with replaceable head
The best plastic-free dish brush is one made of wood and plant-based fibers, has a replaceable head, and is sold without packaging. While you would normally ditch the entire brush in the waste bin, once it is time to buy a new brush, you only need to replace the head. This saves a lot of waste, especially if you cook frequently and thus generate a lot of dirty dishes.
I found the most durable brush of this kind in a home, decoration and kitchen store that sells most of its products without packaging. It’s heaven for those into cooking and plastic-free living. The organic supermarket in the city we previously lived in also sells this kind of dish brush, but I found the quality inferior.
At the moment, I live in Beijing, China, and it was hard to find a plastic-free dish brush here. At some point, my sister (who also lived here) bought one for me from a salesman downtown. Unfortunately, the brush wasn’t of such good quality and it fell apart, so it ended up in the waste bin way too early.
Baking soda and vinegar as dish detergent
Some plastic-free bloggers make their own dish wash detergent. These recipes commonly include so-called Marseille soap or household soap. However, here in Beijing I haven’t seen any healthy, plastic-free soap. By healthy I mean a soap that does not include harmful chemicals.
Instead of making my own dish detergent, I simply use baking soda and vinegar. Unfortunately, Chinese supermarkets only sell baking soda in plastic bags, so I buy imported baking soda in cardboard boxes. Vinegar is easy to find and cheap as any supermarket sells it. I usually buy vinegar with a high acid content.
To save dish wash detergent, it is crucial to fill bowls, pots, and pans right after usage. So, right after cooking, I transfer the food to our plates and then fill the pots with warm water. This way dish washing becomes a lot easier.
To dish wash, I simply spread some baking soda in an empty (no water!) pot or bowl and then use my brush to scrub the item clean. For products made of glass, I pour a few drops of vinegar on the item and them use my brush to clean it. After brushing, I rinse the item and let them dry on the kitchen desk.
Dishcloth made of organic cotton
Disposable dish wipes might be convenient but are an environmental disaster. They not only come in plastic packaging, but also generate a lot of completely unnecessary waste. Instead, I opt for a washable dishcloth made of organic cotton that comes without packaging. When I still lived in the Netherlands, I found some of these at the same home, decoration and kitchen store where I bought my dish brush.
Here in China, I haven’t been able to find dishcloths that are not packed in plastic, let alone dishcloths made of organic cotton. So, I use some small towels as dishcloths.
Vinegar as cleaning detergent
We haven’t bought cleaning detergent for ages. Instead of buying cleaning detergent in a plastic bottle at the supermarket, I use vinegar. I just pour some vinegar on a dishcloth and use this to wipe the stove and kitchen countertop. Vinegar excels in removing grease stains. It is a fantastic tool to use after making pancakes or cooking Chinese food.
Vinegar + baking soda for a hygienic cutting board
Some foods, for example garlic or onion, leave your cutting board smelling after usage. Other foods, such as meat, leave behind potentially dangerous bacteria. In order to erase any odor and bacteria, I spread some baking soda on the cutting board. I then pour some vinegar on it. What follows is a chemical reaction with bubbles and a sizzling sound. After a few minutes, the chemical reaction is finished. I then brush the cutting board clean and rinse with warm water. The result is a clean and hygienic cutting board, ready for the next meal.
In 2013, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documents her small steps towards a plastic-free life. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. An interdisciplinary multilingual environmental scientist and sinologist, Annemieke is currently working on her PhD dissertation on animals, food and law in China.
To learn more about Don’t Mess With Dahab’s campaign to reduce disposable plastic, visit their website.