The arrival of COVID-19 has sent a surge in the consumption of cleaning products worldwide. It is estimated that in the UK alone, over 6.6 million pounds was spent on additional cleaning products in the first week of March lockdown. That’s an increase of 74% just in the UK. But sadly, that also means a surge in plastic waste and toxic chemicals polluting our environment. But, there is a different way of cleaning efficiency without a heavy price on the planet. Since 2014, I’ve not bought a single cleaning product - also saving money in the process.
What made me first pay attention?
Following the birth of my son in 2014, I found myself obsessively cleaning my family bathroom. It needed to be clean and safe for my new born baby boy. However, while cleaning the bath I suddenly started uncontrollably coughing due to the overpowering fumes from the household chemical spray bottle. After grabbing a glass of water and sticking my head out the window to catch my breath, I looked at the label. Seeing terms like ‘Warning, Flammable and toxic’ printed in large text with a whole list of chemical ingredients I couldn’t pronounce (not to mention my dried chapped hands afterward), immediately raised concerns and questions for the health of our family.
Already making a start on reducing our plastic waste, this drew my attention to the cleaning products we were complacently using in the house. Looking under the kitchen sink I found dozens of half-filled bottles of various products: glass cleaner, bathroom spray, kitchen cleaner, cream scrubs, bleach, drain unblockers, polish, washing detergents, laundry conditioners, oven cleaners. No joke, it’s one of those cupboards you have to close the door as quickly as possible so nothing falls out. I already knew about the risk of mixing chemicals due to the work I was doing in agriculture so why did I need all of these, surely clean is clean regardless of the type of surface?
The research revealed…
I started my research and was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of information available. By simply entering ‘eco-cleaners’ into your internet search browser, you’ll see hundreds of posts on the web. At that time with a newborn, I soon became overwhelmed and just wanted something basic that I could make quickly with very little fuss! In the end, I opted for a well-reviewed book that I could easily sit down and read when I had the time. I soon found I could easily make my own cleaning products with minimal effort using very basic natural safe ingredients. As full-time working parents the thought of spending any free time painstakingly making cleaning products was not how we wanted to spend our time, so it had to be quick and practical to work for us as a family. It also needed to be safe for our dog.
Keeping it simple
Over the years, I’ve tweaked and developed different cleaning products to help suit our lifestyle. But ultimately, the base formula has always stayed the same. I now have only three reusable glass spray bottles of cleaning detergent under my sink. These are also teamed up with a few basic ingredients that I’ve shared below including their natural safety benefits:
Lemons: an eco-cleaners’ best friend
- Not only do they smell super zesty but they are an amazing cleaning agent.
- The acid in lemons acts as a natural bleach and is also antibacterial.
- The lemon juice is brilliant for degreasing ovens and countertops.
- It’s effective at removing stains, especially when teamed up with bicarbonate of soda.
- Using half a lemon and coarse salt you can use this to scrub your chopping boards and copper pots to perfection.
- Lemons leave glass super sparkling clean.
- Using a rag or flannel securing half a used or new lemon to the end of your tap joined together with a clothes peg can be a great natural descaler (overnight works best).
- Lemon slices in some water in the fridge or for a short blast in the microwave will disperse away any lingering smells. See - they really do everything!
White vinegar or not to white vinegar?
White vinegar is the most acidic of the vinegar family, making it a great cleaning product. Dilute half of it with water for the best long-term results. Also, you don’t want your home smelling like a chip shop! Partner it up with lemon juice to get a fresh zesty fragrance and the following benefits:
- It can dissolve soap scum and limescale left by hard water.
- It can dissolve the glue left by all those hundreds of stickers your kids or grandkids have decorated your house with.
- It can get rid of stubborn stains like grass or odor from sweaty armpits.
- It can remove dog or cat urine out of carpets and can also deter pets from using the area in the future.
- Giving mirrors and windows that extra shine
- It can remove dried in red wine stains… who knew??
BICARBONATE OF SODA IS NOT JUST FOR CAKES!
When my 25kg bag of bicarbonate of soda turned up at my door, I soon realized I had not fully read the product description when I ordered it, however, I’m so glad I didn’t because bicarbonate of soda has become my go-to ingredient for most cleaning things, along with lockdown baking! Just look at its uses:
- Baking soda is packed with antacid properties and commonly known as a great alkalizing agent.
- It has antiseptic qualities which makes it a great additive to any cleaner.
- Due to the small grainy particles, it makes a great scrub and exfoliator.
- Used in isolation or mixed with white vinegar and or lemon juice /orange oil it can remove stubborn stains on household surfaces, clothing, floors, walls, windows.
- It can be used as a deodorizer in the fridge or sprinkled in those smelly trainers you keep leaving by the front door!
VODKA. NOT JUST FOR SHOTS AND MIXERS!
With a high alcohol content, this ideal beverage mixer also doubles up as a good household cleaner. Use it as a:
- Glass and tap cleaner. Due to its solvent qualities, it leaves surfaces streak-free.
- Surface refresher. Mixed with water and one of your favorite essential oils, it is a great way to spritz and refresh your linens and cushions.
- Room diffuser. Mixed with Sweet almond or sunflower oil. Pop in some reeds.
- Clearing out musty smells. Add some to your washing machine drum and put on a cycle.
- Mattress disinfected. No other ingredients needed. Spray onto your mattresses every three months.
TEA TREE OIL IS NOT JUST FOR YOUR FACE. THINK FLOORS TOO!
No eco-home is complete without tea tree oil. This oil has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it an excellent cleaner. It has been used for hundreds of years to help treat cuts and wounds and to prevent infection. Although this ingredient is also commonly found in many beauty products, don’t be fooled. It has cleaning superpowers:
- Add to white wine vinegar to make a great kitchen/ bathroom cleaner.
- Add 1 drop to 200ml of water and give your toothbrushes a tee tree bath once a week for 10-15 min before air drying to prevent bacteria from growing.
- Add 1 drop to 200ml of water to help disinfect your dishcloths or sponges once a week (be mindful to avoid touching wooden handles as this can cause splitting).
- Use a few drops with a mild detergent to eliminate pet smells (and potent gym clothing!)
- It deters ants, spiders, and other bugs coming into your home.
- Add a few drops to your washing before an empty hot cycle. Leave the door open to dry completely and your machine will look and smell brand new.
- It cleans and deodorizes your bins.
- Mixed with a few other ingredients such as alcohol, vitamin E, and Aloe Vera gel, it makes an effective hand sanitizer.
Thanks for reaching this far in my post! I hope you’ve learned something about a few natural and eco ingredients that can make a huge difference to reduce your household chemical and plastic waste. Why not try my fool-proof all-purpose cleaner recipe? It’s made in only 3 steps, with 3 natural ingredients. If you’re on the lookout for a decent plastic-free scrubbing brush, look no further.
Guest post by Yvette
Yvette is a motorbike riding, tattooed woman, working full-time in the tech industry. She is an advocate for supporting small and local businesses and dreams of a world where we can all live our modern lives sustainably.