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6 easy household cleaning swaps to make chores better for you and the planet

Photography By Fanette Guilloud, @pleasantstate, @blueland
Published 30.03.22

On average, we spend over 23 hours a month cleaning the house.

That’s not including all the extra tidying up if you have kids, a shedding dog or a bunch of friends over for a dinner soiree (kudos if you tick all of the above). 

All that work takes time, but it also takes (often chemical-heavy) products and cash and can have a real environmental impact. 

But, your cleaning sesh doesn’t have to be an expensive, time-consuming, toxic downer. In this week’s Swaps instalment we’re looking at ways to make those 23 hours better for you and the planet. We ditch the single-use plastic, introduce better packaging and show you how to make your own concoctions. And, just for good measure, we’ll even throw in an upbeat playlist to make your domestic duties a little more entertaining.



Paper towels are the MVP of most kitchens. We use them for every conceivable job: shooing crumbs off counters, cleaning up spilled 7am cups of coffee, wiping down mealtime mess, absorbing tears shed during midweek breakdowns (oh, just me?). While they might appear to have a seemingly low carbon footprint (paper breaks down, right?), en masse the average US household consumes 80 rolls per year. That all adds up, especially with most of it ending up in landfill.

Luckily your house is probably full of free alternatives you haven’t noticed before. That shirt that’s ready for the bin (but you don’t want to send to landfill) is the perfect candidate. Cut it  into rectangles, or go one step further to create your own sturdy DIY towels that can be rewashed and used again and again. If you don’t have unwanted fabric at home, you can opt for these knitted organic cotton dishcloths that are super absorbent and ideal for scrubbing tougher marks. 

If you are particularly wedded to the paper towel experience, you can buy a biodegradable dishcloth that is washable and feels similar to paper towel when wet, or a compostable sponge and scourer option perfect for washing dirty dishes. 


If you look in your cupboard right now, how many cleaning agents would you see? The average family will accumulate more than 30 bottles of cleaning supplies annually; that’s more than one bottle every two weeks. Most of those use single-use plastic. But, multipurpose cleaners are making it easy to cut back on product and money (making your life 10x easier).

Koh’s universal cleaner does the job of multiple products by tackling dirt, grease and grime on every household surface. It also comes in a large 4L container so you can easily refill your reusable spray bottles. Keeping on the refillable train, Zero Co’s multipurpose cleaner comes with a bottle and refill pouches which are made from recycled materials diverted from landfill. Plus, it throws in a postage-paid return mailer so you can send the pouches back for free to be cleaned, refilled and reused. 


According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, more than 90 per cent of a typical bottle of cleaning product is simply water. So, why not just add your own at home? That’s what Ethique wants you to do with its naturally derived and sustainably sourced concentrate bars that come in a compostable box. It saves 700ml of water and a plastic bottle from being manufactured. All you need to do is snap the bar into small pieces, add water, whisk and pour into a bottle you already have at home.


Other services which do dissolvable concentrates worth checking out include CHANGE and Pleasant State. CHANGE’s dissolvable tablets are one of the most cost-effective multipurpose cleaners out there, coming in at under $2 a refill. Plus it offers an essentials cleaning kit with everything you’ll need for under $50. Pleasant State’s waste-free and non-toxic cleaning bars won a Clean + Conscious award last year and they no doubt got brownie points for their amazing Australian lemon myrtle scent. 


Just like dissolvable cleaning bars, you can get dissolvable tablets for your dishwasher. While you can easily find tablets in the supermarket, they often come in a single-use plastic bag and are individually wrapped in PVA. Cut all that out with Blueland, which sends dishwasher tablets straight to you in compostable paper pouches for a petroleum-, artificial dye-, paraben- and ammonia-free wash – which, according to many reviewers, leaves no residue (dreams do come true).




If you’ve already banished single-use plastics and want to take it one step further, why not make your own cleaning agents from natural ingredients you probably already have around your home?

Multipurpose cleaner: There are multiple recipes for a basic spray and wipe solution. But the classic is to simply mix a cup of vinegar with a cup of water and add some essential oils (if you’re not a fan of the pickle smell). Or, you can add lemon peels to the water and let it sit (and lightly ferment) for a week. When you’re ready to strain and use, the lemon will have passed on its natural antibacterial and antiseptic qualities.

Oven cleaner: Baking soda is also a fantastic oven cleaner. Just add 5–10 tablespoons to a glass with equal parts soap and vinegar. Before you get scrubbing, warm your oven up by setting it to 50°C and turning it off once it reaches the right temperature. Spread the paste in the warm oven and leave overnight. The next day, just clean the mixture off with warm water and let dry. This solution also works for cleaning washing machines, coffee makers and irons.

Something more hardcore: If you’re looking to make your whites “white” again, baking soda (our star) and hydrogen peroxide make a powerful team. Borax is also a great solution for not only helping whiten, deodorise and soften your wash, but also for a whole range of household chores that need that something “extra”.



We’ll admit cleaning the floors is no-one’s favourite chore, but someone’s got to do it. If that person is you, opt for a wooden dustpan and broom. Or if that’s too much work, grab a vacuum (honestly, more our style). In terms of which one to buy if yours is on the brink, why not compromise between a broom and a power-chugging vacuum with a manual sweeper. 

When it comes to mopping the floor, Koh’s spray mop is perfect to use with its universal cleaner which we’ve previously mentioned. It comes with reusable pads that you can wash more than 200 times.  


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