Reducing Waste Around The Home

(also called "Source Reduction")

There are many less toxic alternatives to common household products. Substituting these less toxic products is one way to reduce the amount and toxicity of waste around the house without sacrificing quality of the outcome! This can be done, in some cases, by using alternative methods or products without hazardous constituents to accomplish a certain task. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Although mixtures suggested as substitutions below have less hazardous ingredients than many commercial cleaners and pesticides, they should still be used and stored with similar caution.

Household Cleaners and Alternatives

Houshold Cleaner


Drain cleaner

Use a plunger or plumber's snake.

Oven cleaner

Clean spills as soon as the oven cools using steel wool and baking soda; for tough stains, add salt (do not use this method in self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning ovens).

Glass cleaner

Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart of water. Spray on and use newspaper to wipe dry.

Toilet bowl cleaner

Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar. (This will clean but not disinfect.)

Furniture polish

Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable oil, and wipe furniture.

Rug deodorizer

Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.

Silver polish

Boil 2 to 3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2 to 3 more minutes. Wipe away tarnish. Repeat if necessary. (Do not use this method on antique silver knives. The blade will separate from the handle.) Another alternative is to use nonabrasive toothpaste.

Plant sprays

Wipe leaves with mild soap and water; rinse.


Use cedar chips, lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, or white peppercorns.

Flea and tick products

Put brewer's yeast or garlic in your pet's food; sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary, or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around animal sleeping areas.