Ultimate Zero Waste DIY Guide

Learn how to make your own simple cleaning products, household items, and food staples to decrease packaging and industrial waste!

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in your face wash or hamburger buns and wondered what all those words mean? Triclosan? Sodium laureth sulfate? Butylated Hydroxytoluene? What IS all this stuff in our food and personal care products?

Many store-bought, processed products contain chemicals that are harmful to our health as well as the environment. Read more about cosmetic chemicals here, and food additives here.

Luckily, many everyday products and foods can easily be made at home with just a few simple, natural ingredients. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find many of these ingredients in the bulk section – check out our Package-Free Grocery Shopping Guide to learn how to shop zero waste in the bulk. Cut down on packaging and industrial waste as well as exposure to toxins by trying your hand at homemade products!

Cleaning

All-Purpose Household Cleaner

  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part warm water

Combine water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Use on any household surface except granite and marble.

For more cleaning recipes, view our post on Non-Toxic Household Cleaners.

Personal Care Products and Toiletries

Image from My Food Odyssey

Deodorant

Image from Ritely

  • 1 part coconut oil
  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part pure aloe vera juice
  • 2 parts arrowroot powder

Mix ingredients together (melt coconut oil in double boiler first if desired). To scent the deodorant, add 10-20 drops essential oil(s) of choice, such as lavender, lemongrass, geranium, etc.

Face Wash

Image from Hello Glow

  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • A few drops warm water

Apply honey to fingers and warm it between them. Add a few drops water if needed to make it a spreadable consistency. Rub onto face. Rinse with water and pat dry.

For more zero waste skincare tips, click here.

Hairspray

Image from Whole New Mom

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-3 tbsp sugar (the more sugar you add, the stronger the hold)

Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Add sugar and stir. Transfer to spray bottle. View full instructions here.

Click here for a texturizing/volumizing spray recipe.

Lip Balm

Image from Going Zero Waste

  • 3 tbsp grated cocoa butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Melt cocoa butter in a double boiler. Add olive oil and stir. Pour into container or tins and allow to cool at room temperature overnight. View full instructions here.

Makeup Remover

Image from iHerb

  • Coconut oil or olive oil

Rub coconut or olive oil onto eyes and face. Rinse with water and use reusable cotton rounds or a reusable cloth to wipe off.

Moisturizer

Image from Organic Beauty

  • 6 tbsp shea butter
  • 6 tbsp safflower oil (or other carrier oil such as sweet almond oil or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder

Pour ingredients in bowl and mix with hand blender (melt shea butter in double boiler prior to mixing if it is too hard). Transfer to jar/container and enjoy! View full instructions here.

Mouthwash

Image from Going Zero Waste

  • 1/4 cup pure aloe vera juice
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 2 tsp xylitol
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Mix ingredients together. Add 2-3 drops peppermint essential oil or extract to flavor if desired. View full instructions here.

Shaving Cream

Image from Zero Waste Nerd

  • 1/2 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pure aloe vera juice

Melt shea butter and coconut oil together in a double boiler. Add aloe vera juice and stir to combine. Put in refrigerator until solidified. Whip mixture for 2-3 minutes with a stand mixer or hand blender. Transfer to jar/container and enjoy! View full instructions here.

Bonus: This recipe can also double as moisturizing body butter!

Toothpaste

Image from The Hearty Soul

  • 1/2 part xylitol
  • 1 part baking soda
  • 2 parts coconut oil

Mix ingredients together. Add peppermint essential oil or extract to flavor if desired.

Food

Image from trashisfortossers

Beans

  • 1 pound dried beans (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, etc.)
  • Water
  • Salt to taste

Rinse beans in a colander and remove any shriveled or bad beans. Place in bowl and cover with a few inches of water. Allow to soak overnight, 10-14 hours. After soaking is finished, drain the water and rinse beans. Transfer to large cooking pot and cover with about an inch of water. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook at a simmer, covered, for 1-3 hours. Stir beans periodically and check for done-ness by tasting one or two. When just barely tender (but still too firm to be done), add salt if desired. When beans have reached your desired firmness, remove from heat and allow to cool in the cooking liquid. Drain the liquid after cool, or store beans in the liquid. View full instructions here.

Bread (no-knead)

Image from It’s Always Autumn

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups warm water

In a bowl, mix flour, salt, yeast, and water together and stir until combined. Cover with lid, plate, or reusable food wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours. Turn dough out onto floured surface and shape into a ball. Allow to rest uncovered for 30 minutes. While dough is resting, preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place Dutch oven (or other oven-safe baking dish with high sides) in oven to warm. After dough is finished resting, remove baking dish from oven and place dough in baking dish. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing. View full instructions here.

Hamburger Buns / Dinner Rolls

Image from Taste of Home

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
  • 2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 to 3.5 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in oil and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes. Add egg, salt, and flour and stir to form soft (not too sticky) dough. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead 3-5 minutes (until smooth and elastic). Divide into 8 pieces and shape each piece into ball. Place 3 inches apart onto greased baking sheet(s). Cover with towel and allow to rest 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake 8-12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Slice in half to use as buns, or serve as is for rolls. View full instructions here.

Mustard

Image from A Little Insanity

  • 1 cup dry yellow mustard powder
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Whisk together mustard powder, salt, turmeric, garlic powder, and paprika in sauce pan. Stir in water and apple cider vinegar. Bring mixture to boil, stirring regularly. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and let sit uncovered for 1 minute. Cover with lid and allow to cool. Transfer to airtight container and store in fridge. View full instructions here.

Nacho Cheese Sauce (vegan)

Image from Going Zero Waste

  • 2 full carrots
  • 2 red potatoes
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper (red or orange)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/2 of a small onion (red or yellow)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 tbsp of each: black pepper, kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, nutritional yeast

Chop vegetables into strips or cubes. Bring 3 cups of water to boil and add carrots, potatoes, bell pepper, jalapeno, and onion. Boil for about 20 minutes (until potatoes are tender). Pour veggies with water into blender and add garlic, cashews, and spices. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more seasonings as desired. View full instructions here.

Tomato Sauce

Image from Going Zero Waste

  • 2.5 pounds of tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Dash of sugar, basil, oregano, and thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, basil, oregano, and thyme. Place tomatoes over herbs and olive oil mixture cut side down. Roast for 30 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then remove skins from tomatoes. Put tomatoes (with olive oil mixture from pan) in blender and blend until smooth. View full instructions here.

Tortillas

Tortilla Chips

  • 6 corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 tbsp. oil (olive, vegetable, sunflower, or peanut)
  • Dash of salt
  • Lime juice, chili powder, and/or cumin (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut tortillas into sixths and place in bowl. Pour oil over tortilla pieces and mix gently. Spread tortilla pieces on baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, or until browned. View full instructions here.

Vinaigrette Dressing

Image from Kitchen Treaty

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar of choice (white wine, balsamic, apple cider, etc.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of black pepper

Mix together ingredients in jar, screw on lid and shake to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. View full instructions here.

For more food recipes, check out these articles from The Zero Waste Chef and Going Zero Waste.