We started using grey water at the very beginning of the journey, so we needed to change our laundry powder to one that had no Phosphorous and no Sodium so that we could use the water neat in the garden. The phosphorous would have damaged the native Australian plants, and the sodium tends to make the soil repel water, and increases the salinity. Also any run-off that the plants don’t use, does not contaminate the ground water. We found, after trying a couple of NP brands, that the Planet Ark Aware laundry powder worked the best, and after reading an article in Choice, it was not made from any petrochemicals. Kim raves about it to anyone who will listen, because a 1 Kg box lasts her approximately 5 weeks for 6 peoples clothes as you only use 3 tablespoons per wash. It will probably last longer now that Adam has moved out. We also use a NP fabric softener, but don’t use it very much. When washing towels, Kim pops in a few drops of eucalyptus oil to kill of any bacteria. It makes them smell nice too.
With the laundry sorted, we looked to the kitchen. We buy an earth friendly washing up liquid for the kitchen dishes that is also low in phosphates and sodium. We stopped using the dishwasher two weeks ago and gave it a thorough clean with vinegar and bi-carb soda, then put it through a cycle. So we are not only saving water, about 8 Kwh of power a week, and caustic dish washing tablets, but we have also realised something profound. When you wash dishes by hand, and you have someone drying them with you, you actually talk to each other and everything is cleaned far better than it would have in a dishwasher. Not only do you have quality control via an instant feedback loop, you can have a laugh and a joke around at the same time. There is only one rule that we stick to, and that is that the cook does not wash up. You can shotgun for the rest of the washing, drying or putting away!
Cleaning windows and mirrors is a cinch with vinegar in a spray bottle and newspaper. Not only is it cheap, but it keeps mould away, and stops mirrors from fogging up. It gives a nice clear finish without any smell. You can throw that Windex away now! I would rather have a small child accidentally swallow vinegar than some of the other nasties kept under the average Australian kitchen sink!
About a month ago we had a bad smell coming out of the kitchen sink, so it was out with the bi-carb soda, and down the drain with about 4 tablespoons. After about a minute I followed it up with a quarter of a cup of white vinegar and let it all fizzle. Let it go for about 3 minutes and then flush with some very hot water. Our drain will never have smelled so nice, and I may have gotten rid of a lot of built up grease as well.
The last cleaning thing I can think of is that Amy gives the showers a once over with some paste made up of bi-carb with an Ejoy glove and old rags, that gets rid of the soap scum that collects there. A little bit hot water afterwards washes it all away. Oh, I forgot the toilet. We use an Earth Choice toilet cleaner that works just as well as any of the more dangerous types. It is NP and its main ingredients are water, citric acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycolic Acid, eucalyptus oil, and Sodium Laureth Sulphate.
I ensured that the ingredients were only derived from plants and were fairly safe. You can use vinegar instead, but I am yet to convince Kim.
As for washing ourselves, I just use pure soap, but Kim and the kids use a liquid soap that is one of the organic brands. We use an organic shampoo, but have heard that bi-carb works just as well in very small doses. I don’t think I will stretch my greenness or luck that far with Kim :). I shave with a pigs bristle brush, having given away shaving cream in a can, but am having trouble finding an alternative to disposable razors or blades. I don’t shave very much, as I have a goatee, so I would not use as many as the average guy. I might investigate a cut throat razor in the near future, as they last for a very long time, and you sharpen (or is it blunt-en) it yourself. Sweeney Todd eat your heart out!
Well that is about all I can think that we use. We simply questioned if things were safe for us and the planet, and made the changes slowly over the course of about a year. If you have a couple of bottles of white vinegar and a big box of bi-carb soda, you have almost all you need to clean the house up. I did get most of the tips originally from reading Greeniology. Tanya Ha has a whole chapter on green cleaning. It helped finding all the good tips in the one place, and the tips a simple to implement.
To summarise, we save so much money on cleaning products (vinegar and bi-carb are cheap), feel safe when we clean, and know that it is better for the planet. Simply green, and making a difference! All we need to do now is safely get rid of the unused toxic products that are left over under the sink.