As readers of this site may already know I am taking the challenge to live Plastic Free for July (thanks to the amazing initiative of Western Earth Carers who invented Plastic Free July). In a previous post (click here to see it) one of my 5 Steps to going plastic free was to make your own cleaning products. It is fun, easy and SO much better for the environment.
If you want to investigate all the dangerous chemicals we use in our homes (and the effects they have) then see my preivous post about it here but I can sum it up in a nut-shell. Lots of chemicals we find in home products are linked to major health issues such as cancer, fertility defects, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. These are then they are poured straight down the drain into our waterways and oceans where the creatures are ever so delicate. Needless to say, it wreaks havoc on our ecosystems. And worst of all, these products come wrapped head-to-toe in single-use plastic packaging. Yuck. There is a better way… in fact there are lots of better ways!!! (Another benefit is that they are a lot cheaper than the nasty chemicals too).
Your Eco Cleaning Essential
There are a few ingredients that you cannot live without if you want to make your own cleaning products. I try to get most of my ingredients from ‘eco stores’ like Planet Ark but if you aren’t near their every single one of these can be found in supermarkets.
Note: I am aware that some of these come wrapped in plastic – namely the lids of the Essential Oils and the Washing Soda packet. I am trying to source alternatives. Looks like I will be filling the Dilemma Bag. :(
- Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda) - This miracle powder does everything. It cleans, deodorizes, scours and softens water.
- Lemon Juice - One of the strongest food-acids around and effective against most household bacteria.
- White Vinegar - Another hero. Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, stains and wax build-up.
- Borax (aka Sodium Borate) – Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors, changes light globes. (Might not do the last thing actually)
- Washing Soda - Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Be carfeul though – washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
- Cornstarch AKA Corn Flour - Can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
- Soap - Unscented soap in is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. I buy a natural soap bar and grate it before using.
- Essential Oils – The ‘essential’ Essential Oils for basic house-cleaning are lavendar, lemon and Eucalyptus. Most of these oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and they smell bloody lovely. I always keep a lavender by the bed to help me nod off (and to keep mosquito’s away!) .
- Olive Oil - A great alternative furniture polish (the most basic will do!)
Easy Surface Cleaner
This can be used on any type of counter – I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, wooden furniture/boards. The only thing vinegar shouldn’t be used on is marble as it can damage the surface.
- Bicarb Soda
- Vinegar (in spray bottle)
Note: White is most versatile but Apple Cider can be used on surface darker than the vinegar
- Sprinkle Bicarb Soda over the surface
- Spray Vinegar over the surface (do a little jig while you hear it fizz)
- Wipe off with a damp sponge/cloth
If it is a particularly stubborn stain: Make a paste with the vinegar and bicarb and leave for 15 minutes before wiping off.
This is care of the Plastic Free July website. Thank you! :)
- 1 Cup borax
- 1 Cup baking soda
- ½ Cup salt
- Mix ingredients and store in a reusable and resealable container.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the soap compartment.
- Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse agent compartment.
Gentle Microwave/Oven Cleaner
- 1 x lemon
- Microwavable container
- Slice up lemon and place in water
- Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes | Bake in Oven on 200C (390F) for 40 minutes
- Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside (once oven is cool). The mess will wipe off really easily without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.
Strong Oven Cleaner
- 3/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
- 1/4 Cup Salt (table is fine, sea salt is better, Kosher is best)
- 1/4 Cup Water
- Dampen the oven surfaces with sponge and water.
- Mix bicarb soda, salt and water to make a thick paste
- Spread throughout oven interior – liberally on tough mucky areas
- Let sit overnight
- Remove with spatula and wipe clean.
- Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots
Window or Mirror Cleaner
- 1 Cup White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 3 Cups Water
- 1 Cup Lemon Juice
- 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
- 3 Cups Water
- Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water
- Pour into a used spray bottle
- Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)
My Crazy Bathroom Cleaning Technique
Whenever I do this I have ‘Maniac’ playing in my head and fully pretend that I am Alex Owens from Flashdance – get my head shaking around and stomping my feet. This is of course not necessary but neither are cupcakes 99% of the time – they’re still fun though.
- Bicarb Soda
- Vinegar (in spray bottle)
- While you shower in the bathroom you intend to clean close the door, cover bath and shower plugs and allow the room to steam up
- Have bicarb in a shaker and put on a shower cap
- Sprinkle bicarb everywhere (sink included) – 3Tablespoons should be enough for whole room
- Spray all over the room with vinegar
- Use a damp sponge to scrub surfaces, sinks and towel racks
- Use old stockings to clean around taps
- Use on old toothbrush for corners
- Even do the walls! Use a broom
Tip: You can upcycle a shaker out of anything… e.g. an old coffee tin with holes in the bottom or a plastic bottle with hole in the lid or just use an old Parmesan shaker.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle
- Spray onto areas with mold
- Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower/bath
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Mix Bicarb Soda and Vinegar
- Pour into basin and let it set for a 10 minutes
- Scrub with brush and rinse
Clothes Washing Powder
- 1 Liter Boiling Water
- 2 cups Bar soap (grated)
- 2 cups Borax
- 2 cups Washing Soda
- Add finely grated bar soap to boiling water and stir until soap is melted (do this on a low heat)
- Pour the soapy water mix into a large, clean bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
- Add 6 Litres of water and stir until well mixed.
- Cover bucket and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry (You will need to stir the soap each time you use it as it does gel – maybe a fun job for kids?)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- Pour oil and lemon juice into a jar
- Stir to combine
- Dip a dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture
Unclog a Drain
- 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
- 2 Cups Boiling Water
- 1/2 Cup Vinegar (if stubborn clog)
- Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by the boiling water.
- If it is reeeeally blocked chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover – allowing the crazy fizzing which means it is breaking up all the gunk.
- Flush that with 2 litres of boiling water
- For pet stink and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas.
- Blot with an cloth until moisture is absorbed.
Natural Air Fresheners
All that commercial air fresheners do is mask a smell and/or coat our nasal cavities. I don’t like the idea of that especially when you read the ingredients you find in them. So here are some really simple and natural ways to… well… freshen your air!
- Mix a bit of Bicarb Soda or Vinegar with Lemon Juice in small dishes around the house – this will absorb odours!
- Keep a spray bottle with water and 10 drops of lavender oil by the door. Spray before guests come in so they get a beautiful, relaxing welcome!
- Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase
- Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
- Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking.
- To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
- If you grind your own coffee keep the grounds on the counter
- Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove before guests arrive. (I then use left overs in my tea!!!)
- Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room
- The greenest tip of all… Get some houseplants!