*Updated with new tips and tricks from Wise House followers*
Like it or loathe it, we all have to do a spot of housekeeping now and again! In this second in my Eco Living series I share the steps I’ve taken towards achieving a more natural way of cleaning our home.
In the West, its the norm to use an arsenal of cleaning products, egged on by advertisements promising the destruction of 99.9% of bacteria. Their message is misleading, as quite a lot of that bacteria is actually good for us. These days our guts are generally short on the bacteria needed to keep us healthy and the toxins found in most cleaning products are linked to an array of health issues. Michael Gove recently highlighted the problem of indoor pollution, focussing on candles, to the horror of Jo Malone and Diptique candle lovers (an issue easily solved by swapping to many of the natural candles available, like Parkminster).
That's isn't to say we should avoid cleaning practices altogether. It just means a return to the old simpler ways of cleaning, using a few effective natural products and a healthy dose of common sense like; wash your hands before you start preparing food, don't chop raw meat and vegetables on the same chopping board and don't use the same cloth for cleaning the toilet and the kitchen sides!
Step One: Reduce your range of cleaning products
- Distilled white vinegar is the boss of natural cleaning products, and we always have a few bottles kicking around the house! It has too many uses to list here, but think of it as the ultimate multi-purpose spray that can be used for almost all surfaces (natural stone and granite prefer water and a gentle dish soap).
- For extra midly abrasive cleaning power, add bicarbonate of soda. This helps in greasy areas, like the tidemark around the bath. I buy vinegar in bulk and decant into old squirty bottles. Fill with half vinegar, half water and a couple of spoons of bicarb.
- Lemon juice is effective in bringing the shine back to metal taps, plugs etc and for freshening up sinks. (My mum always has a lemon floating around in her sink!). Old toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning the grouting between tiles and difficult to reach places.
Tips from Wise Followers:
- Add citrus rind for extra cleaning power and a nicer scent (particularly if you don't like the smell of vinegar, which almost immeditely fades BTW so your house will not smell of fish and chips!).
- 'I use citric acid to descale my kettle and toilets. I plunge some of the water away from the toilet, then pour in the now warm, rather than ceramic cracking hot, citric acid water I used in the kettle. Leave to sit a while (overnight is perfect), a good scrub and it's sparkling.'
- 'I use soda crystals to clean oven and drains, brown vinegar to descale kettle and the following recipe for absolutely everything else: Juice of one lemon, 1 cup of white vinegar, 2 cups water, 10 drops peppermint oil. Mixed in a spray bottle. Best recipe ever!'
- 'Bicarbonate of soda is useful for lots of things as it nutrilises smells, so excellent for cleaning the fridge chopping boards, baby sick, cat sick/poo/wee!'
Step Two: Kit yourself our with reusable and biodegradable cloths.
- Carry out an audit of the cloths that you have in cupboard and drawers at home. Do a bit of a 'Marie Kondo' and get them all in one place. 100% cotton dishcloths are great, as they can be washed and reused for years to come and actually improve with time. I also have a batch of old tea towels, which get used as towels, cloths, dusters, kitchen towel etc. We sell organic cotton plant-dyed cloths at The Wise House, if you find yourself short.
- I chose to stock a range of natural scourers and sponges in the shop; to give customers an alternative to the ever popular double-sided scourer sponge. The None Sponge is one of our bestsellers. The coconut scourers are really effective at heavy duty cleaning, whilst being totally scratch-free. Coconut is naturally anti-bacterial and is seen as a sustainable material that biodegrades at end of life. I also started stocking loofah sponges, typically used in the bathroom! They make effective natural sponges for washing-up.
- Use reusable cotton kitchen towels instead of paper towels. Anything throwaway uses up energy and resource in its manufacture, and is wasteful as a result of its limited use. Cotton and/or bamboo towels do a great job of mopping up spills. We sell cotton unpaper towels in sets of 10 and 20 (but if you have plenty of tea towels, small cloths, old tops at home, then these will work just fine).
Step 3: Switch to natural laundry powder and washing-up liquid
- I use a natural, unscented laundry powder made and sold in the UK by Bio-D who sell a range of eco-friendly cleaning products. I buy their whopping great 12.5kg box of basic Washing Powder (also available in 1kg and 2kg paper bags). There are plenty of natural laundry powders on the market, just do a search online.
- Bio-D also sell large tubs of washing up liquid and dish washer tablets.
- For stain removal, I keep a box of baking soda/soda crystals on standby. Castille Olive Oil Soap is also a great stain remover (as well as being a lovely, gentle soap for your skin). Also remember that the sun is an amazing stain remover - give the stain a rub by hand, and pop the garment in direct sunlight. It works like magic to bleach the stain out. Bio-D sell a box of Laundry Bleach, ‘to remove stains and keep whites light and colours bright’.
- To keep your washing machine clean and fresh, do an occassional hot wash with a combination of white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda/ soda crystals. Don't forget to clean our the filter and leave the door open in between washes.
Tips from Wise Followers:
- 'A dash of white vinegar can be added to your wash to soften fabrics, particularly jeans and towels.'
- 'Running a load of towels with a vinegar wash instead of detergent cleans all the gunk from towels and leaves the washer clean.'
In conclusion, gather all of your cleaning products together in one place and work out what you actually need. You should be able to reduce your kit right down to reusable and biodegradable alternatives, that are far better for your health and much kinder to the environment.
Cabbages & Roses - Guide to Natural Housekeeping
If you have any more tips you'd like to add, then please leave in the comments section below.