Many of us are looking for new ways to reduce our environmental impact, whether that’s introducing more plant-based foods into our diets or reducing the amount of plastic we use. But what about the products you use to clean your home?
Chemicals like phosphorous and nitrates, which can be found in many household cleaners, pollute our rivers and seas when they are flushed down the drain. The good news is that there are tons of great eco-friendlier cleaning methods using things that may already be sitting around in your kitchen cupboards.
1. Bicarbonate of soda
Bicarbonate of soda is the queen of the cleaning world: it’s cheap, it’s green, and it has myriad uses around the home.
Bicarb is also a powerful natural deodoriser — put a little ramekin of bicarb in the fridge to absorb food smells, or sprinkle it on mattresses, carpets and other soft furnishings to remove foul smells such as those left by vomit or sour milk.
When it comes to stain removal, it’s a must-have. A scouring paste made up of half bicarbonate of soda and half water is excellent for removing stubborn stains from kitchen worktops, ovens, sinks, cookers and saucepans. A paste made from two parts bicarb to one part cream of tartar will help to remove marks when rubbed into greasy stains on clothing before laundering.
2. Distilled white vinegar
Vinegar is a wonderful traditional cleaning product, excellent for removing limescale from a variety of surfaces and for buffing windows to a streak-free shine. Make up a spray bottle of half vinegar and half water, and use it regularly on tiles, basins, baths and taps to keep limescale at bay. Always rinse thoroughly with plain water afterwards.
You can even use it for removing a build-up of limescale in your washing machine/dishwasher pipes to help it run as efficiently as possible. Pour half a cup of vinegar, in place of your usual detergent, into the detergent drawer and run the machine empty on a normal wash cycle. For a dishwasher, pour the same amount of vinegar into the base of the machine. As well as removing the limescale, it’ll help freshen up your appliance!
It’s also a good odour absorber, and a few drops applied to clothing discoloured by perspiration will sometimes restore the colour.
3. Lemon juice
Lemon juice works brilliantly as a natural bleaching agent. You can use freshly squeezed juice, but the bottled stuff works just as well.
Try removing food stains from chopping boards by rubbing them with half a lemon or a white cloth dipped in lemon juice and leaving them overnight. You’ll find it also removes onion or fish odours lingering on a chopping board, replacing it with a fresh, citrus smell. Lemon juice is also very effective on rust stains, and half a cupful added to a wash load will help brighten whites.
4. Washing soda crystals
Washing soda has been used in the home for more than a hundred years.
Soda crystals contain no enzymes, phosphates or bleach, and can be used on all types of fabric. If you don’t want to use strong solvents, enzymes or other stain-removing products, washing soda is a good alternative. It is effective at removing grease, blood, ink, grass, red wine, tea and coffee. Soak the affected garment overnight in a strong solution (follow the directions given by the manufacturer) before washing as normal.
You can use washing soda crystals on many non-fabric stains, too, such as burnt pans, discoloured chopping boards and tea-stained cups, and also for an enormous variety of other household cleaning jobs, such as clearing blocked drains or removing mildew from shower curtains by soaking them in your bathtub/plastic container.