How to clean your kitchen plastic-free

To kick off our discussion on REDUCING the amount of plastic waste from household cleaning and personal care products, we have a guest blogger! It is an honor to have Annemieke, founder of Plastic Free Tuesday, discuss her 6 plastic-free kitchen cleaning tips here on Don’t Mess with Dahab.

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. Water is one of the culprits. Therefore, 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. 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 me 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 can’t 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. Saves a lot of waste, especially if you cook frequently and thus generate a lot of dirty dishes.

The most durable brush of this kind, I found in a home decoration & 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.

Dish brush

At the moment, I live in Beijing, China. Here it was hard to find a plastic-free dish brush. 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… it fell apart… so it ended up in the waste bin way too early.

Plastic free cleaning and other tools II

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 here. 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. Any supermarket sells it. I usually buy vinegar with a high acid content.

To save dish wash detergent, it is crucial to fill bowl, 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.

Baking soda

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 decoration & kitchen stuff 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, here in Beijing, I use some small towels as dishcloth.

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. Fantastic tool after baking 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.

Many thanks to Annemieke and Plastic Free Tuesday for all their hard work in spreading awareness and practical tips regarding plastic! Be sure to check their site for more great info and inspiration:

Plastic Free Tuesday





8 thoughts on “How to clean your kitchen plastic-free

  1. Great post! Baking soda is a wonderful, multipurpose ingredient. I use it to clean my stainless steel and enamel pots and pans. It works like magic. But I haven’t combined it with vinegar for cutting boards. I’ll try that next time. Thank you!

    • We’re still working on finding baking soda in bulk, otherwise it comes in small plastic packages. We can get washing soda in bulk and I’m still researching what I can do with that. I usually spray vinegar on my cutting boards so I’ll have to try it with the baking soda, too!

      • Cool! I found your recipe for dish soap on your site. 🙂 Will have to try that! Right now we can get both dish and laundry soap in bulk so I’ve been slow to work on other alternatives. I’ve heard that in Cairo it’s easy to get baking soda in bulk so we have to check a few of the spice shops here and see if they can get it for us. Fingers crossed!

      • That’s great you can get so many things in bulk. One of the bulk stores I shop in carries bulk detergent, I noticed the last time I was there. My daughter had been making it, but she’s back at school now and I’m almost out. I was so happy when I found baking soda in bulk. I use it for so many things. Good luck on your baking soda hunt 🙂

  2. Thanks for the invite to share my plastic-free cleaning experience here with you!

    Here too little things like finding baking soda in bulk can totally make my day. I don’t think I will find baking soda in bulk here though. Like in Dahab, I can only find it packed in small plastic bags. I have to travel across the city to an expat shop to buy baking soda in cardboard.

    I would not be surprised though if baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) actually comes from China (and is then shipped to the US and then shipped back to China to be sold in the expat store…).

    • Thank YOU for sharing such great tips! I think in Cairo it would be easy to find the imported baking soda packaged in cardboard. We have some bigger markets that carry more imported goods about an hour drive away from Dahab. I wonder if they carry it in boxes. But I hate to think of the soda doing all that traveling to get back to us on this side of the world!

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