Live Green and Earn Points


Reuse your old toothbrush as a household cleaning tool

By Shomik Ghosh |
Once you're ready to replace your toothbrush, don't just pitch it — put it to use as a cleaning tool. It's the perfect scrub brush for small spaces and delicate surfaces.
Making cleaning supplies from old household items that have seen better days helps save money, reduces waste, and decreases the demand for virgin natural resources to produce brand new products.

How to reuse household items to make cleaning supplies

  • Reuse your T-shirts and undershirts or slip an old sock onto your hand for dusting.
    • For a little moisture, try spritzing with some white vinegar. This is naturally anti-static and will help keep dust away longer.
    • Mix equal parts olive oil and vinegar to clean and condition wood furniture. Dab on as much as you need and then buff and shine.
  • Recycle spray bottles or reuse jars, jugs, and other containers for mixing your own earth-friendly cleaning products. Don't forget to clearly label the ingredients with permanent markers. Be careful not to reuse containers that have held toxic chemicals, such as commercial cleaners, as they will continue to leach and may also react with new contents.
  • Reuse old toothbrushes for dirty detail work and to get into hard-to-reach spots.
    • Keep some toothbrushes in the garage for dirty jobs like cleaning bike chains or tight spaces in your car. If your toothbrush need a little reviving for continued reuse, submerge it in a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water for 24 hours to kill germs.
    • Electric toothbrushes make great jewelry cleaners with gentle agitation. Keep the old head for that purpose and switch it out when needed.
    • A toothbrush is an unlikely—but effective—bottle cleaner. For tight fits you can even soften the neck of your brush over a candle flame and bend it at right angles to reach the bottom of narrow glasses.
    • Put some green cleaner on your toothbrush and scrub away spots and stains on upholstery, rugs and carpets, and clothing.
    • Vents, window blinds, and screens can all benefit from a cleaning with an old toothbrush and warm, sudsy water.
    • Scrub dog doo off your shoe. Not pleasant to think about but it happens.
  • Revive old sponges, even as they're demoted to dirtier jobs, such as scrubbing grimy pots and tubs.
    • To get yoour old spnges ready for new jobs: submerge the sponge in a 50/50 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water for a day to kill germs; microwave the sponge for two minutes in a solution of 50/50 vinegar and water to sterilize and deodorize (Let it sit and cool a minute or two before handling); or boil a backlog of sponges in a pot with a quarter cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of salt to sanitize.
    • Retired sponges can be placed in a dish in the back of the fridge to absorb excess moisture. Wring out and sanitize at the end of every week.
    • Sponges can be cut into cubes and made into fragrance sachets with a drop or two of your favorite essential oil. Tuck one at the back of a drawer, or hide them inside paper towel and bathroom tissue rolls.
    • If you're a gardener, try using sponge remnants for sprouting seeds or to aid drainage in pots.
  • Reuse an old paintbrush to dust delicate objects, electronics, paper lamp shades, or complex shapes where a normal rag won't go.
    • To clean the paintbrish, dip the brush in vinegar and brush away the excess on a rag; or dip the brush in a 50/50 mixture of castile soap and vinegar, allow to dry, then loosen the bristles.
    • "Paint" away dust on blinds, grills, and screens that clog up. Vinegar is a natural degreaser, and there is no need to rinse. It naturally creates an anti-static surface on plastics, too. Rinse and reuse as many times as needed.
  • Make a rag mop with an old broom or mop dowel. An old-fashioned mop clip allows you to use your never-ending supply of odd and worn-out socks and t-shirts to make a rag mop without any further effort. But if you don't have one handy, follow these steps to build a rag mop:
    1. Bind together a collection of old socks, t-shirts, etc. in foot-long strips, about 4 inches down, with tightly knotted string or large rubber bands.
    2. To protect the floor from being scratched by the raw end of the dowel, unscrew or saw the head off your old broom or mop and slide a spare sock or two over the end.
    3. Tightly wind the four-inch ends of the rag bundle around the base of the dowel with more string or rubber bands.
    4. When finished, you can rinse and put away the mop, or deconstruct it to throw in the washing machine.
  • Make a dust mop by following these steps:
    1. Use an old t-shirt and cut into a 12-inch square rag. Also, get a 24-inch piece of string or shoelace.
    2. Cut a matching set of four to six holes down two opposite sides of the rag. You will use these to thread the shoelace through and tie the rag to your mop.
    3. Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon castile soap together in a bowl and add the rag. Let the rag thoroughly soak up the mixture.
    4. Wring out your new dust-pad and hang it up to dry.
    5. When dry, wrap the ends of the rag around the expired mop pad and lace like a shoe, tying it securely at one end.
    6. Dust away! Throw the rag in the laundry and reapply soap and vinegar mixture, or make several backup pads to have handy.
    7. For dusting narrow spaces, use a single sock stretched over the end of a broom handle and secured with a rubber band.
  • Use junk mail and old newspapers to clean glass and mirrors. If folded in quarters instead of crumpled, the paper has a chance to dry out again to be recycled. Or shred it and compost.
  • Rinse and reuse sandwich bags. If not for more sandwiches, then make baggies for picking up after the dog or instant protective hand coverings when dealing with other unsavories.
  • Use old back-scrubbing brushes, soft-bristle hair brushes, and loofahs as housecleaning supplies, such as scrubbing the tub.
  • Make hand-held pot-scrubbers from mesh produce bags, used to carry onions, garlic, potatoes, oranges, and other produce. Simply cut them down, roll them up, and secure them by weaving in and out of the ball with fishing line on a needle.

Reusing household items to make cleaning supplies helps you go green because…

  • Cleaning supplies made from old T-shirts, sock, and other cloth items are an ecologically-sound alternative to disposable paper towels. After one use, paper towels are discarded and enter the waste stream. The production of non-recycled paper towels poses serious environmental risks, including pollution and clear-cutting of virgin timber.
  • Reusing household items means less materials are sent to landfills.
  • Reused items cut down on the processing of more resources to make new products.
  • It limits the pollution and waste inherent in producing and disposing of cleaning supply products.
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