Zero-Waste Kitchen: Towels, Napkins, and Rags

At the Davis Food Co-op, there are many designs of kitchen towels! Or buy some pretty fabric and make some yourself! Stick to 100% cotton or linen to ensure that they are commercially compostable once they’ve run their course. 

Carry a cloth napkin with you! Then you can avoid paper napkins when you get takeout or during your lunch break!

Making your own Rags

Materials:

  • Old Cotton Shirts
  • and/or Old kitchen towels
  • Good scissors
  • Needle or sewing machine and thread (optional)

Hold onto your old 100% cotton T-shirts and cut them into rags! Old kitchen towels that are stained also make great rags! Start by cutting off the sleeves and cutting out any seams. The best rags are 6-8 inch squares. Start by making the larger rags, and use the sleeves and odd spots to make small rags. Do not worry about making every rag a square, these are not for show and any shape will do! The small rags are great for small messes and for cast iron care!

Use up the whole shirt! There is no need to cut off the bottom hems.

Cut your kitchen towel into 2 or 4 rectangles, depending on how big you want them. it is nice to have a variety of sizes! Use your needle and thread or sewing machine to hem the edges. Fold ¼ inch of each side in and use a simple stitch to hold it in place. A zig-zag stitch will work the best to stop strings and runners from coming loose. 

Two rags from one very old dish towel. I folded the raw edges over and used a cross-stitch on my sewing machine to keep it from fraying.

Tips:

  • Keep a separate bag for dirty rags. The rags are often covered in oil from a cast iron, dust from the bathroom, and various kitchen messes that you do not want staining your clothes! Once your stack is running low, it is time to wash them all including the bag! 
  • The great thing about using cotton, if you ever clean something that seems to gross to keep the rags, toss them in your city compost bin! 

Why this Makes a Difference

More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA. At the Davis Food Co-op alone, 4,491 units (single rolls or multipacks) of paper towels were sold in 2019. Rags are a great way to limit or completely stop your need for paper towels!

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Zero-waste Home Cleaning Tips

There are many things that we could all do in our homes to be a little more environmentally friendly. Ditching products that come in single-use plastic or contain harmful chemicals is a great first step. A total rehaul of your cleaning supplies and routine is not only overwhelming but unnecessary. After all, it would be wasteful to throw out functional cleaning supplies only to replace them with better versions. This guide is meant to help those who are interested in transitioning to more natural products and less wasteful solutions for taking care of their homes. We hope that you find some of these tips helpful!

There are a lot of simple swaps that many of us can make:

  • Use what you have. It can be very tempting to buy new eco-friendly cleaning products. But if what you currently have is still functional, we urge you to use it until it no longer works in order to stem waste.
  • Avoid single-use materials. Instead of buying paper towels, use reusable cleaning cloths. You might not even need to buy cloths as you likely have old clothes or towels lying around that you can cut up and use as rags instead of throwing out. 
  • Repurpose whatever you can think of. Instead of tossing out an old toothbrush, keep it for cleaning nooks and crannies. 

Conventional cleaning products can contain a myriad of ingredients that are irritating to the skin, eyes, and throat. Unfortunately right now, irritating products such as bleach are the most reliable at keeping you safe from bacteria that can get you sick. It is important to be adequately sanitizing surfaces that things from outside your home have come in contact with to prevent the spread of disease. But for everyday cleaning in many parts of your home using such strong products is unnecessary. Gentler solutions are suitable for areas where there isn’t a  concern about outside contaminants.

Below we have outlined two cleaning products that are two simple to assemble yourself and will hopefully bring extra joy to your cleaning routine!

Simple All-purpose Cleaning Spray

We promise that this cleaning spray will have you saying goodbye to the mists that you usually purchase to clean surfaces in your home. This recipe will keep your surfaces clear of toxic compounds and save you the guilt of buying single-use plastics. 

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • The essential oil of your choice(optional- we love using lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus)
  • Spray bottle(preferably glass, but if you have an empty plastic one lying around you can repurpose it for this spray)

Assembly:

  1. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water
  2. Fill the remaining half of the bottle with distilled white vinegar
  3. Add in about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice to give the solution a pleasing scent
  4. Shake well to combine ingredients

Instructions on how to use:

  • Shake and spray on any surface of your choice!(You do not want to use this on granite or marble as vinegar can damage these surfaces)

Toilet Cleaning Fizzers

Unlike conventional toilet bowl cleaners, these fizzy toilet bowl cleaners are made with non-toxic ingredients and easy for you to assemble yourself. While these little fizzers are doing their thing in the bowl they are releasing their active ingredients, which work to neutralize odors, disinfect, and remove stains. 

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid 
  • 25 drops essential oil of your choice(we love using lemon, orange, or eucalyptus)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 orange or lemon zested (optional- will make these look more appealing and won’t clog your toilet*)
  • You will need a silicone mold of some sort to press the mixture into to give these fizzers shape

*It’s a good idea to always zest fruit before juicing it even if you don’t need a zest for the recipe you are following. If you save zest in the freezer then you will always have it on hand when you do need it and you will waste fewer parts of the fruit!

Assembly:

  1. Combine citric acid, baking soda and orange/lemon zest in a large bowl, mixing them well.
  2. Add the oil you have chosen to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine, adding more if you’d like a stronger scent.
  3. Add water a little bit at a time, mixing with your fingers until it holds together when squeezed but isn’t soaked. You want it to be just damp. Don’t add the water all at once, this will cause your mixture to fizz right away and make a mess. 
  4. Press the mixture into the mold of your choice firmly*. Make sure to press out all the air and compact it together nicely. It might bubble up a bit – if this is the case, consider adding it back to the bowl and putting in more dry ingredients. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water to it.
  5. Place your mold into the freezer and let the toilet fizzers harden, this part only takes about two hours but you can leave them longer if you want to be sure that they’ve set. Store them in an airtight container such as a mason jar.

*If you do not have, or do not want to use, a mold you can keep this mixture as a powder in an airtight container and use it that way. 

Instructions on how to use:

  • Drop a fizzer into your toilet bowl and let sit for five minutes. Once enough time has passed scrub and flush the bowl. 

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