How to Stop Using Plastic at Home – Part 3: Let’s Go Shopping!: Cleaning

Joseph Winters writes in Grist: “As the plastics industry ramps up production, plastic pollution continues to accumulate in the environment at an alarming pace. Up to 199 million metric tons of plastic is already swirling in the oceans — strangling marine life and leaching toxic chemicals into the food chain — and a study published earlier this year predicts this number could quadruple by midcentury. Meanwhile, plastic — most of which is made out of oil and gas — is also taking a toll on human communities. Production facilities located in majority-Black and low-income communities emit hazardous air pollution, contributing to wildly elevated rates of cancer and respiratory disease.

“Much of the problem is driven by unnecessary single-use plastics — products like plastic bags and utensils that are designed to be thrown away after only a few minutes of use. One estimate from 2018 found that single-use plastics accounted for between 60 and 95 percent of the planet’s marine plastic pollution.”
And, according to a recent study, plastic recycling may be a fairy tale.

This is why, when we shop, we want to avoid products packaged in plastic as much as we can. This does limit our choices, but we can still get our house and laundry clean by choosing products packaged in cardboard or glass and reusing the plastic bottles we have by filling them with our homemade (and environmentally friendly) cleaning solutions.

I’ve been using cardboard-packed laundry products for some time. I’ve got hard water and no water softener, so I add a scoop of Borax to the washer before each load. Borax is a natural salt mined from the dried up edges of salty lakes. It has the same effect on water as laundry products labeled “Oxy…” and sold in a plastic tub. But Borax is sold in a cardboard box which can be recycled easily. Washing Soda is a similar boxed product you can use.

Rather than those many brands of detergent only sold in plastic jugs, I use laundry soap. Yes, soap, flaked so it can easily dissolve in water. It requires a little more work if you wash in cold water. You need to dissolve a scoop in a cup of warm water first. But it gets clothes clean, and they actually feel softer when they come out of the dryer. If you want to use a familiar brand, Tide laundry detergent also comes in a box.

You can also find laundry detergent in bottle-shaped cardboard containers. They are plastic lined, but they can still be recycled as cardboard the way lined milk and juice cartons are. Or, better yet, you can take them to Koko the Shop or Reuse Revolution to refill them again and again, so that even the lining is not single-use plastic. These two stores can also help you refill dish detergent and body lotion bottles.

And rather than sheets or bottles of fabric softener, use wool dryer balls. You can even make your own. Lots of instructions for DIY dryer balls online.

Dishwasher detergent is available in cardboard boxes, too, in both eco-friendly and popular commercial brands.

As for spot cleaning laundry and spray cleaning kitchen and bathrooms, save those spray bottles from your current products and make your own eco-friendly cleaning products to refill them. There are many recipes on the web for DIY cleaners. One thing to consider about the recipes you find if they call for “essential oils.” Essential oils are made with or by petrochemicals and their only purpose is to make the product smell nice. You can do without the smell, or you can squeeze a bit of fresh lemon into your product. The lemon juice also helps cut grease. Of course you can find commercial “eco-friendly” cleaners from Ecos or Seventh Generation, but then you are buying another plastic bottle, and why would you want to do that?

I will continue the plastic-free shopping series in a couple of weeks, but right now I am on vacation, so over the next weeks I will instead share recent articles on climate change and the environment that cover some of the most important issues. Good information for all of us who want to care for creation.
Thanks for your commitment to caring for God’s creation!

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