Your pick! Here are the top 3:
Stainless steel, cast iron, and glass are safest, greenest and most recyclable.
When taken to popular vote in our Facebook group, “the magical kitchen”, I believe that cast-iron would win over all three points. Any of the three are great in my opinion.
Glass and stainless steel:
With glass and stainless steel, the best method for getting crust out of the pan is to soak it with hot water. Oftentimes, using a flat edged spatula on the gooey crust once it’s soaked will get most of your pan problems taken care of.
Follow up with a scrubby of your choice. I like compostable stiff bristled dish brushes, and Skoy brand scratchy, no stick safe cloths made from recycled plastic.
Use high-heat cooking oil instead of no stick spray. No stick spray has some random chemicals in it that you don’t want in your body. All you need is a tiny smear of oil for the exact same effect. Do not take this too far-just a tiny smear 😉
Glass is obviously going to be more fragile, and not as common these days for stove top ware. I still see it both glass and stainless steel stove top cookware at thrift stores- for your greenest money saving option.
Be wary of the quality of stainless steel you find in a thrift store. If it weighs nothing then leave it on the shelf. Thicker stainless steel pans with heavy bottoms are preferred-especially if they have a copper coating on the bottom.
Also check for deep blemishes on the cooking surface, with both stainless steel and glass pans. These might make them hard to clean.
Cast iron has its own set of rules and regulations, and is different to care for than other cookware. Some people believe- and practice- that you do not wash cast iron at all.
These guys just wipe it out really well and season it with oil as needed. For me? I know a little too much about the health effects of rancidity in oils to have this method be my top choice.
Most of the people I know do actually wash their cast iron carefully, and then add oil to it afterwards, making sure the pan is very very dry before adding the oil. Others wash often, and only season their pans once in awhile. And yes you can revive a rusty cast iron pan!
In the end, it’s pretty clear. But it always depends on how you do your dishes by hand, and how efficient your dishwasher is.
And the winner is…
As long as you fill your dishwasher all the way, and it is a well working dishwasher, you’ll save a good amount of water by letting the machine do the work. So go ahead and load the dishwasher to the max!
If you insist…
If you are the type who loves to do the dishes by hand, the best water-saving option would be to fill three sinks or tubs a little more than halfway. One will have soapy water for soaking and washing, one with rinse water and one with second rinse water.
The 3rd bucket (2nd rinse) is optional, depending on how you feel about the exquisite purity of your rinse water.😉
The dirty details:
So many factors depend. Here’s the bottom line. The average automatic built in dishwasher uses 6 gallons per entire cycle of water. Energy star-rated dishwashers usually use 4 gallons per cycle.
When you do calculate in the difference between heating the water for doing the dishes by hand or with a dishwasher, and other energy used, a fine working dishwasher that isn’t too old should probably be the most energy and heat efficient.
All things considered, it will always depend on the age and efficiency if your dishwasher versus your mad dishwashing water-saving skills. I wish you the best of luck! You’ll be hard-pressed to do the number of dishes in 4-6 gallons that your machine probably could do!
Low-water dish prep:
Be mindful of how much water you use when you rinse your dishes in preparation for the dishwasher. Know your dishwasher and how well it works for you, in order to avoid over soaking before the dishwasher.
Also, spray rinse things immediately verses having to soak later. It’s a world of difference. Having a spray nozzle hose installed in your sink that actually has a lot of pressure will change your life, by the way. Invest in that upgrade in your home if possible!
To be extra water conscious, you could even save your rinse water and water your compost with it! Watering plants with it is not recommended because it might attract pests or microbes that you don’t want around your plants.
Compost! Yes! Do it! =D
Composting turns your food scraps back into wonderful, nutrient-rich dirt that you can use for many many reasons, but especially on your flower and veggie gardens!
What’s the problem with food waste, again?
Food waste is actually a huge problem in landfills, specifically because of its role in the creation of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are created many ways, and are one of the leading causes of global warming.
Food scraps in landfills directly contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming, when the food waste decomposes improperly without enough oxygen. This happens in massive quantities in landfills, because the masses are throwing too much food in the garbage instead of composting it
According to the EPA, in 2012, 20% of landfill usage was taken up by food.
That is a lot of food waste to worry about when you take it global- 35 million tons in 2012. Imagine if even half of that were composted to create dirt for vegetable growing for the masses?
Our land has been fried by pesticides, herbicides and GMO plantings. Some farming practices across the world actually involve spraying edible crops with sewage, because there is no access to acceptable fertilizer or compost.
Incorporated as part of a waste/farm management system on a national or international level, 16-32 million tons of compost would create miracles. More could change the world forever.
Besides all of this, our landfills are filling up at an alarming rate, and 20% or more space every year would really really help the Earth out! Not that we should be filling it…
So guess what? You can opt out of that cycle at any time, and switch it up to help save the Earth!
You can still compost!
If you have no use for compost, (hello, apartment dwellers) that’s okay! Don’t panic! Here are some ideas:
You can offer it up on a platform like Craigslist for free in the garden section.
Do you have a gardening, composting friend that you could gift it to?
Otherwise, take it to a local community garden or park, and just put it with the dirt with their flowers or trees.
If you see that they have mulch going (wood chips over the flower beds or by the trees) do not lay your compost down over the mulch. That would just be rude. 🤓 Find a place with bare dirt.
There are several ways to compost, but my #1 instant compost start up suggestion for everyone is actually vermicomposting. Yep, that’s composting with worms in your kitchen!
I know- worm composting sounds like it would be the most complicated. But it’s actually the least complicated and fastest, plus the least smelly!
Imagine all of those food scraps, and how much space you realize they take up in your trash can. You know how smelly those get after a couple days? No more of that with worm composting!
You can probably even switch to paper trash bags once you have no food waste in the garbage!
No more plastic bags because of composting? OMG! It’s another miracle! Plus, you’ll take your trash out less, and it will smell much less, probably not at all. Rinse anything with food in it prior to trashing it for best results. Combine this with recycling, and your trash output is going to be nearly nothing really fast! How good will that feel?
Its just a little bin in your kitchen- it has some worms and a couple other crucial starter ingredients in it. It sounds gross but it’s really cute. The worms eat all of your leftovers and turn them back into dirt- in about 2 weeks, flat- without ever smelling up your kitchen at all.
Be sure you get the right kind of worms for kitchen composting. The best ones for vermicomposting are called red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) and redworms (Lumbricus rubellus). These little fellas prefer compost to soil, and are easy to keep alive. You can purchase these worms easily, or see if you can get them from a friend or off Craigslist, etc.
One ingredient laundry soap:
Laundry soap can be easy to make! But since the recipes I like the best call for Dr. Bronner’s (or other brand) Sal Suds, and you can just add 2 tablespoons to your laundry instead of detergent, I choose that as a seriously fantastic laundry soap.
Just two tablespoons of Sal Suds in the a laundry makes it nice and clean and soft. Less less packaging yet!
Another instant switch is a little nut… called a soap nut!
These amazing little guys suds up in water and do a great job cleaning your clothes. The best part? You can reuse each soap nut several times, and you can find them in fully compostable, non-plastic packaging. Plus, you can compost them when they won’t suds anymore!
And now, the literal difference between detergents and soaps: The ultimate simplicity of it is that detergents typically contain chemical compounds. Soaps do not necessarily, and are usually alkaline. So you can call it laundry soap from now on!
1) Dry synthetics Fabrics separately.
You can add a few spritzers of vinegar water to your dryer load to reduce static cling.
Ground that static:
2) Run dry clothes through a metal hanger. To do this: hang a plain wire metal hanger, or hold it in one hand by the hanger part. Thread the garment in question through the the triangle shaped hole that is the middle of the hanger.
Make sure the garment touches the metal wire on the bottom of the hanger a bunch as it passes through. You are running the wire along the garment as much as possible, essentially. If needed, do this a couple of times! Voila! This is my favorite trick- it works really well, and is 100% available just by upcycling something else!
3) You can purchase many styles of dryer balls. These balls tumble around with
your clothing and reduce static and fluff the clothes that way.
Many people are satisfied by upcycling tennis balls for this purpose. Others are concerned about the rubber in the balls heating up and getting into their clothes smell.
The most natural, effective, compostable, and renewable/reusable option seems to be wool dryer balls. Be sure you get them from a sustainable and humane source. All animal products are always in question around here. You can even get them made out of scrap wool- the most sustainable option of all.
Out and about:
4) If you’re out and about and you have noticed static cling, you can put a safety pin near your armpit on your sleeve to help, and also apply lotion to your skin. Supplement and health food stores usually have sample lotions you can use without buying!
5) A fine mist of distilled water might help in a pinch as well, but sometimes water makes static worse as the evaporation cycle comes about.
The cowboy way:
6) The honest to goodness, #1 way to avoid static cling is to line dry everything.
Add some vinegar to the rinse water to soften the water, and dry your clothes out in the shade- preferably with a breeze for the whole dry. It’s better for the colors anyways.
If your clothes are smelling like vinegar, think about adding some essential oils to the wash water also.
You can also partially dry your clothes in the dryer before line drying to get wrinkles out. It will still save electricity!
Easiest, most effective non-toxic DIY cleaners:
I won’t get too far into the ins and outs of the fun world of DIY home cleaning products here in the FAQ (oh, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!) But to answer the FAQ, I will tell you that the most simple to obtain options are still the best!
Dust with a damp, hot rag. Rinse it often. Good to go! If you want to clean your floors, carpets and much more with just steam, you can actually buy a multi-use steam cleaner.
Beyond really hot water? Salt, baking and washing sodas, and vinegar will clean most of your home, but sometimes you need to add lemon juice or essential oils to add a little kick!
Make sure the salt is dissolved in the water to avoid scratching surfaces. And or tough jobs you can add some castile soap. I have never found this necessary, but it does add a little soapiness.
Back to the future- this recipe will clean most of your house!
Here is a starter recipe that you can add essential oils, castile soap, and more to, that will clean almost everything on your house-cleaning list.
Equal parts water and vinegar. You can dilute this down to one 1/2 cup vinegar to two cups of water if you want a more gentle product.
A yummier vinegar smell:
That vinegar smell, though! Ok, I hear ya, but hear me out- you can actually make herbal vinegars that smell good! Besides helping it smell amazing, many herbs also add to the cleansing capabilities of your concoction.
If you feel extra crafty you can steep rosemary sage, rose, lavender, and many other herbs in your vinegar for two weeks or more, before using the vinegar to make your cleaning product. Strain your vinegar really well and keep it in the fridge.
Some cautions about using vinegar as a cleaner:
Do not mix vinegar with bleach ever! It creates toxic chlorine gas! Don’t do it! Stop and think about the last cleaning products you used on the surface you are about to put vinegar on. Could they have had bleach in them?
Do not use vinegar on granite or marble. It can etch up the surface! That’s pretty important not to do…
Don’t leave vinegar sitting very long on latex grout. It might dissolve it.
Check the internet for the exact item you are trying to clean, and make sure that it is safe. I can’t find much that’s not okay to clean with baking soda or washing soda. But I don’t know what you’re trying to clean!
Essential oils for cleaning:
Essential oils also make for delicious smelling cleaning products, and add major cleaning power for sure. Different oils have different cleaning properties.
For 8 ounces of liquid cleaner, you will want around 40 drops of essential oil of your choice. That will make it smell strong to overpower the vinegar, and help with cleaning power.
When adding essential oils, keep in mind smell combinations if you have used an herbal vinegar to create your cleaner. Shake your mixture really well before use.
How to use this recipe for cleaning:
For everyday use, you can just spray it on the surface you want to clean- then wipe it off. Rinsing before and after is suggested if you’re doing something like a sink. If you prefer, you can wet a rag with the cleaning solution instead, and go around wiping things like your dusting!
For tough jobs, let the solution sit on for several minutes. For scrubbing action, try adding some baking soda or the scrub powder mentioned. For surfaces that don’t damage and are really tough, like rusty cast iron, you can also employ a salt scrub.
Be very careful what surfaces you choose to try a salt scrub on. Scratchy!! As usual, an internet search is your BFF here.
Scrub powder recipe:
Mix equal parts cream of tartar and baking soda. Then add about 15 drops of essential oil. Use stronger oils for disinfecting areas, like tea tree in the toilet for example.
Add small amounts of water to make a paste when you’re going to use it!
A few of the best essential oils for cleaning are lavender, tea tree, orange, peppermint, lemon, sage, lemongrass, and rosemary. Any that smell good to you will be great! These ones are among the highest in antimicrobial activity.
Some tougher options:
For actual disinfecting, there are many options. It has been proven that a strong white vinegar solution will kill most bacteria if you leave it on for about a minute and rinse thoroughly, potentially treating it again.
If you feel very “traditional” because you are working with some freaky germs, go ahead and use hydrogen peroxide as a safer bleach alternative with antimicrobial effect. At the very least, look for eco-friendly non-chlorine bleach at a health food store or online.
You can disinfect without deadly chemicals- it’s true!
Sink, tub, shower:
I use clean, natural commercial dish soap to get soap scum out of my bathroom areas. I use the same container over and over, and buy my dish soap in bulk. I still wash my dishes with dish soap, and it doesn’t take much to do the tub and sink, so I am still saving a purchase by making the products I do buy work double-duty.
Then, when it’s time, I literally wash my tub as if it were a humongous bowl.
1) Warm the tub with the hot water spray. 2) Squirt dish soap on. 3) Scrub it like it was a great big bowl, adding more water and squeezing the rag if you need more suds.
4) Pay special attention to problem areas. Rinse the rag at least half way, and run it over the tub again. 5) Then rinse it and watch it shine! This whole process should take under 5 minutes and take very little elbow grease, if any.
I use olive oil in my bath, which leaves ugly, dirty-looking rings of oil in the tub. If I had a guest, they would think I was the filthiest person in town when they saw my tub right after a bath, but it’s just the effect of the olive oil.
Regular commercial spray cleaners don’t help very much with oil. With hot water and dish soap I don’t even have to try hard to scrub it off. Just wipe it away and rinse!
You are saving 2 packages every time you refill your same soap dispenser and use it to clean your tub, and saving a purchase, too!
For cleaning your shower walls and tub efficiently with low water, I have a solution! I highly suggest getting a low-flow, high pressure shower head that’s on a long hose. It’s so fast and easy this way, and they are quite awesome to use for every shower, too!
Very hot water cleans mirrors really well, and all you have to do is this: wipe your mirror with a very steamy and clean hot rag. Then, wipe it with a very dry and clean towel.
There will be streaks. Use a dry part of the towel to remove more moisture. The steaks that remain will disappear in a few seconds when it dries. If there is any lint left behind, simply wipe it away after the mirrors dry- no trash, no product, no packaging. Game over, shiny mirror, everybody wins.
Floors and walls:
Mop the floors with a strong vinegar solution and your choice of essential oils. Add the recommended amount of Sal Suds if you want to suds it up a tiny bit. If you are looking for a more traditional disinfecting experience, you can mop with hydrogen peroxide and water.
Use hot hot water on your walls. A dilute bucket of hot soapy water does great for greasy or visibly dirty walls. As always you can add essential oils here. I recommend a light rinse wipe after the soapy wipe down.
For the toilet:
Try a combination of equal parts cream of tartar and baking soda, plus about 20 drops of essential oils as a scrub cleanser for the toilet.
If you want a gel-like cleanser for your toilet, you can mix this powder with olive oil. Try mixing 1 part olive oil and 2 parts cleansing powder, and adjust from there.
Upcycle a ketchup squirt bottle, or any squirt bottle you can think of, and store the toilet bowl cleaner in it, clearly labeled. Shake thoroughly, and apply it to your toilet with a simple squirt! Watch out for the old “clogged squirt hole” fiasco.
How to use dry powder cleaners for toilets:
Upcycle a sprinkle container (like parmesan, sesame seeds, crushed red pepper, etc.) with large holes, and sprinkle the dry powder onto the moistened toilet brush. Then apply the brush to the dry parts of the toilet and scrub, working your way down into the bowl. Add more powder as needed.
How to clean with essential oils:
The easiest thing to do is just to add the oil to your cleaning product!
For 8 ounces of cleaning product, you will want about 15-35 drops of essential oil to make it smell good and add to the cleaning properties. Always shake your cleaning product well before use to mix up all the ingredients!
You can also mix essential oils with vinegar and/or water for an effective, simple mix. Or with other oils for cleaning wood.
The best essential oils for cleaning:
Most essential oils are antibacterial and/or anti-fungal to one degree or another. Adding them to your homemade cleaning products is highly beneficial.
Orange and lemon oil are great for wood conditioning, and they are both fabulous degreasers for dishes and walls as well.
The strongest oils for disinfecting are tea tree, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, and eucalyptus.
These are very strong oils that you will want to be extra careful with when mixing. Specifically, you don’t want to get them in your eye or touch them too long.
A few cautions with essential oils and first aid:
Pure essential oils can damage your skin and mucous membranes like your eyes nostrils. Be sure to wash your skin if you get drops of pure, strong essential oils on your it. Lavender is reasonably safe and less of a concern than other oils.
If you get essential oils in your eyes, rinse and flush your eyes with water for 15 minutes, and get in touch with your doctor right away if irritation persists.