Washing out the plastic

I never thought I’d write a post about washing up, but this no single-use plastic journey is full of surprises… so here we go!

Take a moment to think of the plastic you could avoid if you changed the way you go about washing up. From washing up liquid to plastic scrubbing brushes, sponges to plastic-wrapped dishwasher tabs and surface spray, there’s so much un-necessary waste (bottles, tubs, wrap and more).

But the great news is that it has to be one of the quickest and easiest areas to make a change. What’s more, it doesn’t mean any costly changes, and that has to be a bonus!

Previously, like so many households, we used washing up liquid, a plastic dishwashing brush and cheap kitchen sponges when handwashing. For the dishwasher, our tabs came individually wrapped. And I’d finish up by spraying the surface down with Dettol.

What changes have we made?

  • Refillable washing up liquid– While I have every intent of making our own washing up liquid, time is short and I haven’t managed it yet. Instead we’re buying liquid refills from Splosh. It works well and doesn’t irritate my hands, so I’m a fan. If there’s any tough residue in the pan, you can help scrub it with bicarbonate of soda (which comes boxed) and add a little vinegar (available in glass bottles). It works a treat! In fact, the same combination of products can be great for keeping drains clean too.
  • Wooden brush– We’ve replaced our plastic dishwashing brush with a wooden one with natural bristles (and a replaceable head) and a coconut fibre scourer. As is often the case with natural products, they are a bit softer than our old plastic one, but we use the coconut scraper (on the right) for any tough bits and this works brilliantly. Plus, I’ve had the scraper for over a year and it is almost as good as new. You just trim off any bits around the edges that go soft from repeated use.
  • Cloths and flannels– When the last sponge in the cupboard died, we turned to cloths or flannels for surfaces and washing up. They simply get thrown in the wash whenever the next load goes on.
  • Dishwasher powder– Dishwasher tabs were replaced with a simple dishwasher powder sold as part of the Waitrose essentials range. It works really well for us and, at £3 per kilo, it’s much cheaper than leading brands. I’ve got to be honest and say that I’m sure it’s not the most eco product as a whole, but it does enable us to avoid single-use plastic while we investigate other less chemical solutions.
  • Homemade surface spray–As for surface spray, this is just a mix of vinegar and citrus peel, which I leave infusing for a few weeks to let the strong vinegar smell dissipate before using. (I simply throw any citrus peel into a big bottle, which I top up with white vinegar and pour this into my spray bottle whenever it’s running low. You can store peel in the freezer until you have enough to make up a batch.) Again, this works out at a fraction of the price of my old Dettol spray.

What difference has it made?

Perhaps the best side effect of cutting down on plastic is that we now have so few chemicals in the house and I honestly haven’t noticed any difference in terms of the general cleanliness. If I’m being really picky, the washing up liquid doesn’t always go as far as our old brand, but I tend to order in bulk and topping up is quick and cost-effective. Most importantly, it’s doing its job in keeping things clean, certainly nobody in the house has become ill and, as an added benefit, I no longer get winter bouts of eczema on my hands; something that was always aggravated by washing up liquid.

Although plastic-free living does often make life more expensive, when it comes to washing up, it’s saved us money and introduced us to more natural cleaning solutions (like bicarb, vinegar and citric acid), which have been great.

These are some easy options to cut down on plastic-waste. Do let me know if you want any more info about these products or suggestions or have any other ideas for improvements.



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