5 Easy Plastic Free Swaps that Don't Cost A Lot of $

Getting rid of disposable plastic doesn't have to cost a lot of money, or take a lot of time.  Here are five easy (and cheap) ways to ditch disposable plastic.

5 Easy Plastic Free Swaps That Don't Cost a Lot of Money

1. Ditch paper towels

Switching from paper towels to reusable dish cloths in the kitchen is a great way to reduce waste and save money.  Dish cloths clean better and last way longer.  Just throw them in the laundry when they're dirty, and you're good to go.

DIY: Cut up old towels into squares
BUY: Pack of 6 dish cloths - $3.99

2. Clean with vinegar and baking soda

Don't believe the marketing hype-you don't need a different cleaner for every surface of your home.  Vinegar and baking soda work wonders for household cleaning.  I keep a spray bottle of vinegar (half vinegar/half water) that I use to clean pretty much everything in our house.  Baking soda works great for surfaces that need a scrub--the toilet, stovetop, etc.

DIY: The Zero Waste Chef makes her own apple scrap vinegar!
BUY: 2 lb. box of baking soda - $1.29 | 16 oz. glass bottle of vinegar - $1.29

3. Swap out your shampoo and conditioner for a solid shampoo bar

Like cleaning products, we are constantly told how many different personal care products we need.  Ditch the plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles for a solid shampoo bar.  Reducing the amount of products you use is a big money saver.

BUY: Shampoo bar by Aquarian Bath - $7.50

4. Say no to produce bags

Let your produce go naked.  You don't need tiny plastic bags for your fruits and veggies at the grocery store.  They will be fine in your cart, I promise.


5. Use mason jars to store and freeze food

You don't need plastic freezer bags to keep food fresh in the freezer.  Wide-mouth glass jars work just as well, if not better.  If you are freezing loose items (e.x., whole strawberries), freeze on a cookie sheet for a couple of hours first, and then pour into a jar.  If you are freezing liquid, leave a little bit of space at the top of the jar to allow the liquid to expand.  No more buying plastic baggies!

DIY: Save wide mouth jars from food items (tomato sauce, raw honey, etc.) to use in the freezer
BUY: 12 wide-mouth pint jars - $10.99

Most of these things you can DIY or find locally (except maybe the shampoo bars)--I added links for price info.

The only ingredient you need to use in your dishwasher detergent

The ONLY ingredient you need for homemade dishwasher detergent | Cellist Goes Green

After trying several different recipes for homemade dishwasher detergent, I was left feeling frustrated by my sort-of-clean dishes, and the multiple ingredients (and time) needed for making these recipes.  If you do a quick search on Pinterest, most results for homemade dishwasher detergents call for a mix of washing soda, borax, salt and citric acid.  Lots of ingredients for a less than reliable result.  Our flatware particularly was coming out less than clean.

I continued to search for a solution, and stumbled onto a very interesting article from Little House in the Suburbs.  The author did some research into ingredients used in commercial dishwasher detergents.  Several interesting points were made, including the fact that salt reacts with stainless steel, which is probably why my flatware was not getting clean. 

The ONLY ingredient you need for homemade dishwasher detergent | Cellist Goes Green

So what do I use in my dishwasher now?  Washing soda.  That's it.  It gets the dishes AND silverware clean.  I don't need multiple ingredients, and I already have washing soda around because I use it to make laundry soap.  I throw some vinegar in the rinse compartment, and that's it.  A much simpler solution!

What does everyone else use in their dishwasher?  Has anyone else had problems finding a reliable recipe for dishwasher detergent?

DIY Laundry Detergent

I have been using soap nuts to do our laundry since we stopped using disposable plastic in 2013, but I have been wanting to give homemade laundry soap a try.  Whenever I've used the homemade, natural bar soap I buy to remove stains or pretreat really dirty stuff, it has always worked amazingly well.  (It's the same soap we use to wash the dishes!)  So I decided it was time to start using it for all of our laundry.

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

If you search "homemade laundry detergent" on Pinterest, you will get about a million and a half different recipes, many of which require several ingredients.  And then there's the whole borax controversy (borax does seem to be relatively safe, you just don't want to ingest it).  I wanted something simple and effective, so I picked the two ingredients I thought would be most important and experimented with the ratios a little bit until I got something I liked.  And it works!

Homemade two-ingredient laundry detergent: A zero waste, plastic free option | Cellist Goes Green

Two-Ingredient Laundry Soap

2 cups washing soda
1 bar of natural bar soap


  1. Grate the bar of soap
  2. Measure out the washing soda and mix with the bar soap shavings
  3. Put mixture in jar

That's it!  I use about 1/4 of a cup in each load.


Will it work in my HE washer?
Disclaimer-my top-loading washing machine is from 1998.  I looked up the serial number.  I have no plans to upgrade, and I'm hoping we can celebrate its 20th birthday soon. :)  So I can't really offer any first hand advice here. 

That being said, if you do some googling, most of the homemade detergent recipes say they are safe for HE machines, you just have to use less.

What kind of soap should I use?
I use a handmade soap from Barclay Soap Co on Etsy.  It has very few ingredients, all of which are natural.  It has done very well cutting grease when I wash dishes, and I've found it to be much more effective than Dr. Bronner's.  Look for a soap without synthetic ingredients (especially synthetic fragrance).  And look for one that's not formulated to be super-moisturizing (that's great for you, but not at getting dirt off your clothes).

What is the difference between washing soda and baking soda?
You can actually make washing soda from baking soda!  They are closely related, but washing soda is a stronger ingredient and should not be ingested.  Dr. Karen S. Lee has a great post about it here.  And while it shouldn't be ingested, EWG gives it an "A" as a safe cleaning product.

I'm having a hard time finding washing soda
Sometimes washing soda can be hard to find locally (you can make your own from baking soda!).  I did manage to find it at a local grocery store, and another local hardware store will have it shipped to the store if you order it online.  I would call ahead. 

Also, this message board thread suggests you call the number for the washing soda (1-800-524-1328), and if you give them the UPC code (33200-03020) and your zip code, they will look up what local stores have sold it recently in your area. I called, and they were able to give me the information.

You can also find it on Amazon, but it costs a little more.

Why did you switch from soap nuts to homemade laundry soap?
I liked using soap nuts, and they did work well.  But I've been really impressed by how great the natural bar soap I've been using works when I've used it to hand wash or pre-treat clothes.

I also already order the bar soap in bulk on Etsy for washing dishes, and I can find the washing soda locally, so it is one less thing I have to order online.  (I could not find soap nuts locally).  So that means less packaging from shipping.

Washing the dishes without plastic

Washing the dishes without plastic | Cellist Goes Green

There are alternatives to the plastic sponge and bottle of dish detergent.  Look for items made of natural materials that can be composted at the end of their life.  Here are some suggestions to get started!

Use a wooden dish brush with natural bristles that can be composted when it has reached the end of its life.

I use this one from Life Without Plastic.  It has replacement heads, which I compost when they are worn out.

Use dish cloths.

My sister knitted me some dish cloths from organic cotton yarn that I also use to wash dishes.

Use a copper scrubber to get off tough spots.

We use this one from Life Without Plastic.  They can be recycled after they are worn out.

Use bar soap instead of liquid dish detergent.

I buy bar soap made for cleaning dishes off of Etsy.  You do not need a plastic bottle of detergent to get your dishes clean!  It is a natural bar soap (no artificial ingredients, fragrances or dyes) that is not super moisturizing so it can cut through the grease.  Early on, we had been using Doctor Bronners, but this soap works much better, just as well as conventional liquid dish soap! (I also use this bar soap when I have clothes that need to be hand washed:)

Make your own dishwasher detergent.

I use this recipe, which requires baking soda, salt and citric acid.  The citric acid came in a large plastic bag, but we still have not finished it over a year later, so I consider it a success.  I might try this recipe when we run out, because it uses just lemons, salt and vinegar.

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