20 DIY Reusable Products to Replace Single-Use Disposables

Did anybody else make a trip to the grocery store in March only to find the shelves pretty much bare?

If you really needed toilet paper, paper towels, bleach wipes, or other single-use cleaning items, good luck trying to find them! I’ve only hit the grocery store a couple of times since my state’s shelter-in-place order began, and I have yet to see them on the shelves–there’s also no flour or sugar, because I guess everyone else in my state is doing a lot of baking while quarantined, and they must be using their extra time to cook beans from scratch, too, because all of the dried beans are also gone.

And the ones who aren’t baking and cooking beans have taken all of my favorite brands of frozen pizzas!

Even when there’s not a global pandemic causing supply shortages, it’s, of course, the best idea to not have to rely on single-use, disposable products, but having all of your reusable supplies in place and feeling comfortable using them does make a supply shortage of disposables a LOT easier to bear. I mean, that anxiety ball in the pit of your stomach already has plenty to be anxious about without worrying about rationing toilet paper, amiright?

Fortunately, for every single-use disposable, there’s a DIY reusable option, and often one that you can make from supplies that you already own. DIY reusable products are far more eco-friendly, of course, but they also can save you a LOT of money, are often better for you, and honestly, I think they’re often much more convenient to use.

So check out my list, below, of my favorite DIY reusable products to replace single-use items. You’ll find a lot of my own tutorials for the things that I use, but you’ll also find a lot of tutorials from crafters who’ve got their own great ideas for how to replace disposables. Check them out, find something to replace, and maybe you’ll give your anxiety ball one fewer thing to worry about.

Cleaning Supplies

Between plastic cleaning bottles and harmful chemicals, traditional household cleaners should be a thing of the past. Here are some DIY projects to opt for more eco-friendly options.

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Even if you’re not eating detergent pods, they’re still pretty bad for your watershed. Instead of infusing our water resources with microplastics, this list of DIY detergents use eco-friendly and natural ingredients.

Disinfecting Wipes

These homemade and reusable disinfecting wipes substitute rubbing alcohol for bleach. It’s still not a substance that you want to let your kids mess around with, but it won’t dissolve your fabric wipes, so you can wash and reuse them.

DIY Dryer Sheets

diy dryer sheet

Instead of buying artificially-scented dryer sheets, make your own!

Dust Wipes

These DIY dust wipes are saturated with a homemade cleaning and polishing mixture, to replace both paper towels AND aerosol furniture polish.

Rags

The other afternoon, I spent about half an hour ripping a very battered, holey cotton sheet into a fabulously bountiful stash of cleaning rags. Any damaged clothing is also fair game to be used as a rag, including holey underwear, torn or stained T-shirts (if I don’t want to use them as sewing fabric!), holey or stained socks, and leggings ripped beyond repair.

Laundry Stain Remover

The ingredients in this DIY stain remover aren’t quite as gentle as most of my other DIY cleaners (ammonia isn’t a toy!), but put this recipe into a reusable spray bottle and you’ll be able to ditch your store-bought spray-on stain removers and stain sticks.

Reusable Cleaning Wipes

Homemade Cleaning Supplies: Cleaning Wipes

You don’t need to pull out a store-bought bleach wipe for every mess. These reusable cleaning wipes are saturated with castile soap, essential oils, and water, and they’re all you need to mop up many spills. Bonus: after you’ve used them, toss them in your household laundry and use them again when they’re clean!

Wood Polish

Don’t landfill another empty can of furniture polish! This DIY wood polish will keep your wood furniture in tip-top shape, and is gentle enough that you could use it on your skin, if you wanted to.

Food Items

Make single-use napkins a thing of the past with these DIY projects.

Bowl Covers

The bowl covers in this tutorial will keep bugs from investigating during picnics, but to make them airtight for genuine food storage, substitute waxed fabric or upcycled vinyl tablecloths for the bandannas.

Cloth Napkins

diy napkins

My tutorial is designed for making cloth napkins from fat quarters, but you can, of course, cut larger pieces of fabric down to size.

Lunch Box Cloth Napkins

lunchbox napkins

When you’re out and about, you don’t need a giant cloth napkin! Instead, make a set of these smaller cloth napkins that are perfect for picnics and day trips and school lunch boxes.

Reusable Snack Bag

Replace those single-use plastic baggies with a set of sewn and reusable baggies. The tutorial does call for waterproof fabric; if you don’t want to use PUL-laminated fabric, see my tutorial for waxed fabric, below.

Waxed Fabric

The process is simple, the results are natural (although NOT vegan), and when you're finished, you'll have a sturdy, water-resistant fabric that you can sew into whatever you like.

Cotton fabric painted with beeswax creates a waterproof fabric that you can use to wrap sandwiches or other lunch box treats. No more disposable plastic sandwich baggies for you!

Bathroom

One of the places in your home that causes the most paper waste is probably the bathroom. Here are a few projects to reduce that.

Cloth Tissues

I don’t expect you to start carrying around a handkerchief, but you also don’t have to keep using paper tissues! These flannel tissues are small enough that you don’t have to feel like you’ve got to carry one around forever to re-use, and they’re easy to store and easy to wash.

DIY Face Wipes

Use these small flannel wipes to replace cotton balls or other single-use, disposable face cleaning wipes.

Mason Jar Foaming Soap Dispenser

mason jar foam dispenser

Foaming soap is actually as easy as pie to DIY, and a foaming soap dispenser made from a Mason jar is not only far lovelier than any plastic bottle of soap, but it also doesn’t have to be discarded and repurchased when it’s empty–just make another batch of soap!

Reusable Toilet Cloths

Toilet paper doesn’t have to be an essential supply and something else that you have to worry about trying to buy. Plenty of people use homemade toilet cloths, and especially when they’re combined with a bidet system (which it’s also quite possible to DIY), they’re easy, efficient, eco-friendly, and money-saving!

Baby Care

Between diapers, wipes, and training undies, there are plenty of opportunities to ditch single-use baby items for DIY reusable products.

Cloth Diapers

There is a WHOLE WORLD of DIY cloth diapers out there (trust me, because I used to live in that world!). I could go on for hours about the many ways in which cloth diapers are superior to disposable diapers, the many types of cloth diapers there are to choose from, and the many ways to sew them. But I have other things to do with my day today, so instead read this summary of cloth diapering, and then see how soon you get sucked into the DIY cloth diaper world, too!

Cloth Training Pants

Disposable pull-ups are even more expensive than disposable diapers, and I have a LOT of opinions about their efficacy for enabling toilet learning (spoiler alert: my opinions are negative). These DIY cloth training pants are washable, and allow your kid to feel when they’re wet.

Reusable Baby Wipes

You moisten these with your own homemade gentle cleaning blend (baby soap and a bit of olive oil is a common mixture), so you know exactly what’s touching your baby’s skin. And they’re washable and reusable, so you can’t run out!

I’m sure that I’m leaving out SO MANY great DIY products that can replace our single-use disposables. What have you made that you can share with me in the comments below?

Better yet: what single-use disposable product do you WISH you could replace? Maybe we can crowd-source a solution!

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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