Guest Post: Cleansing Your Cleaning Supplies Without Dirtying the Environment

Those of you that have followed me for awhile, know that I am all about having a clean, non-toxic home and body.  So many personal and home care products are LOADED with toxic ingredients these days, that it's up to US to be educated and make conscious decisions about what we use on and around our bodies!

But did you ever think about what to do with your old, "toxic" stuff when you make the switch to cleaner products?  I'll be the first to admit... I didn't really think about this.  I just wanted those toxins out of my house, so I pitched most of the half-used ones and donated the unopened items to area shelters.  But, I didn't really LOVE either of those options because they were still either 1) going into the landfill or 2) being used by other people that shouldn't be using them either.  

So I was psyched when my friend Jeriann from DairyAirHead.com offered to share some of her tips on how to dispose of your old products!

Take it away, Jeriann...

If you’re switching to eco-friendly and/or healthier cleaning and body care products, you may have reached a conundrum. You likely chose to switch to natural products because they don’t have all the junk that most commercial products do. But what do you do with the old junk?

The Obvious (and Less-Than-Optimal) Choices

Well, you could use them up. With certain products, this is probably the most environmentally friendly option, as it eliminates the option of dumping it into the water supply or throwing it in the landfill. But that does mean you’re continuing to use those products on your skin and in your home. You could make the argument that you’ve been using these things for years already, so one more month until they’re all gone isn’t a big deal. If you do decide to use them, you might alternate using them with your new natural products. This helps you get the benefits of your new lifestyle choices, while using up the rest of your old products. This is also a financially savvy option, as it means your original purchase didn’t go to waste.

If you have large amounts of cleaning supplies, you may be able to donate them or give them away. I’m not in love with this idea because it promotes the continued use of the product, but certain restaurants and organizations just aren’t going to stop using bleach, so donating it actually reduces the amount they’re buying and gives you a chance to help out an organization you care about. If you choose to do this, try having a conversation about why you’re switching, and offer to give them feedback about how your switch goes and whether their organization could feasibly switch over too.

You can also see if your city provides hazardous waste pickup. Many cities have annual days where you can put hazardous household waste out for collection. Others have drop-off points for items that are not suitable for the landfill. There are also private companies that dispose of household waste responsibly, with a focus on finding opportunities for reuse or recycling.

Some Creative Alternatives

Since I’ve stopped using a lot of body care products with synthetic ingredients and household cleaning supplies with who-knows-what in them, I’ve tried to balance the idea of not wasting things I’ve already bought with my new goal of using as many natural products as possible. I’ve found some ways to use up cleaning and body care products that don’t involve tossing those chemicals in the landfill (which can be illegal) or continuing to use them on your body or in places that your family is regularly exposed to.

Powders like foundations and baby powders can be used in many ways, including:

  • Absorbing grease out of carpets and clothing
  • Sprinkling them on knots to help loosen them, and then finish prying the rope or string loose with a pin
  • Sweeping into cracks in wood floors to prevent squeaking
  • Sprinkling around doors and windows to repel ants

Toothpaste is basically an all-purpose cleaner and is especially useful for cleaning chrome. Rub it over faucets, sink drains, and more! It can also be used to polish silver in a pinch.

Shaving Cream is another great surface cleaner. Did you ever get to clean your desk with shaving cream in elementary school? That messy cleaning time was my favorite part of the last day of school. If you’re switching to making your own shaving cream out of natural ingredients, or heck, skipping shaving altogether, then you can use what’s left in your old can to clean tile, chrome, mirrors, rugs, and furniture.

If you’re switching to green laundry soap, you can use your old laundry soaps and pre-treatments to remove sticky adhesive from jars, books, or pretty much any hard surface. This is great if you’re making your own centerpieces or home décor with jars and bottles.

Moisturizers can be great for polishing furniture and shoes. Because moisturizers are meant to be gentle on skin, they’re great for avoiding scratches while polishing.

I think Vaseline is awful. It’s literally just a petroleum byproduct that was created to make money off of waste. It’s also incredibly easy to make your own version of Vaseline for all the skin-care uses that it has been marketed for. But if you have a tub laying around, you might not want to just throw it out. Here are some options:

Use it to open stuck caps. Since Vaseline is mostly oil, you can use it to loosen tops of stuck jars and bottles. I would avoid using it on food products, but it’s a great way to open nail polish bottles or super glue containers that have gotten stuck shut!

Apply it to hinges, shoes, or anything else that squeaks! It’s a pretty good replacement for WD-40, which is another product you might be considering cutting out of your life.

You might notice that most of these tips are for body care products. Unfortunately, most all-purpose cleaning products don’t have a lot of alternative uses. Mostly they’re just alcohol or another main active ingredient, along with a bunch of synthetic stuff to keep it shelf stable, smelling good, and visually appealing. Luckily for us, that means that most green cleaning solutions are just as effective (sometimes more so), at a much lower cost.  On the contrary, it means that the best ways to get rid of them is to either use them up, donate them, or find a responsible waste disposal site that can stabilize them and dispose of them properly.

Do you have any tips for getting rid of unwanted cleaning and body care products? Share in the comments below!

Jeriann is a blogger who writes about wellness, eco-friendly topics, crafts, running a business, and writing. You can check out her ramblings at dairyairhead.com or on Twitter.