Hope you are all having a great holiday so far! This post was originally published in December 2012, and had a great response from readers. If you have any eco cleaning tips, please feel free to share in comments.
Just for the holiday break, I am allowing Anonymous comments. If you do choose to leave a comment using this method, please leave your first name, so that when I reply, I don’t have to guess or make up a name (which I will). Cyber hawkers and spammers will be deleted instantly.
Now on with the story.
What would you say if I said I could save you at least $20-30 off your fortnightly shopping bill by following some simple cleaning tips?
Just by using natural cleaners that you can make yourself, you will save money, and keep nasty chemicals out of your waste stream that would otherwise make its way into our waterways. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
We started using grey water at the very beginning of the journey to water the garden, 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 for us. Earth Choice came in at second when we can’t source Aware.
After reading an article in Choice Magazine, we found that it was not made from any petrochemicals, but there are probably similar brands now around the world. Kim raves about it to anyone who will listen, because a 1 Kg box lasts her approximately 8 weeks for 4 peoples clothes as you only use 3 tablespoons per wash. We also use a NP fabric softener, but don’t use it very much, and have been substituting with white vinegar in the last two months with great results. When washing towels, Kim pops in a few drops of eucalyptus oil to kill of any bacteria. It makes them smell nice too.
I believe that Seventh Generation also have a good product rain in the US and Canada.
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 still use the dishwasher occasionally when we have a mountain of dirty dishes. We use bi-carbonate soda (baking soda) instead of dishwashing powder, and vinegar for the rinse aide.
We have found this to be very effective, even on some of the tougher dirt. To get rid of a smelly dishwasher we give it a thorough clean with vinegar and bi-carb soda, then put it through a cycle. So we are not only saving a fair bit of water, and about 8 kWh of electricity 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!
Lemons and bi-carb soda are also great for getting rid of stubborn burnt on food at the bottom of pots and pans. When life gives you lemons, scrub a pot with them (or make Limoncello)!
Cleaning windows and mirrors is a cinch with white vinegar in a spray bottle and the free local newspaper. Not only is it cheap, but it keeps mould away, and prevents mirrors from fogging up. It gives a nice clear finish without any smell. You can throw that Windex away now!
We also use white vinegar as an anti-bacterial to wipe the kitchen surfaces when dirty. Stubborn stains are dealt with by a paste of water and bi-carb soda. I would rather have a small child accidentally swallow vinegar than some of the other nastier cleaning products kept under the average kitchen sink! If I have an abundance of lemons, I use one cut in half to clean chopping boards before giving them a coat of olive oil.
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 of the white powder. 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 have 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 my daughter Megan gives the shower a weekly once over with some paste made up of bi-carb and water, with an micro-fibre glove and old rags, which 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 bi-carb soda to clean it as well, with a little white vinegar in the final flush.
As for washing ourselves, we all use pure, home-made soap. I even wash my very short hair with it. Kim uses an organic shampoo, but I have heard that bi-carb works just as well in very small doses.
I shave with a pigs bristle brush, having given away shaving cream in a can (just use our home made soap to lather), 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 blades 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 asked the question to see if the answer was that if things were safe for us, they would be safe for the planet. We 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: How to Live Well, be Green and Make a Difference. Tanya Ha wrote a whole chapter on green cleaning. It helped finding all the good tips in the one place, and the tips were simple to implement (I even met her once (more like stalked), and got my copy of this book autographed).
We save so much money on cleaning products (vinegar and bi-carb are cheap as chips), we feel safe when we clean, and know that it is better for the planet.
Simply the simplest and greenest products we could find make a hell of a difference!
Do you use a natural green cleaner? Do you have any tips that you can share? I am sure readers would love to know.
Good Morning! Our journey to becoming green and sustainable is still in the early stages. I have not approach my hubby yet about figuring out how to get the grey water from the washing machine, as it is down stairs below ground level. I am sure there is a way, but we’ve been working on other areas at the moment.
Love all of the tips on green cleaning. Haven’t purposely bought any “cleansers” since our journey started and have been using up or converting over to vinegar as a cleaner. Works great.
Thanks for the blog posts even during the holidays! Enjoy!
Gavin Webber says
Hi Catherine. Vinegar is one of nature’s little secrets. So many commercial cleansers can be run down once you start using it.
I am sure hubby will figure out how to get the grey water to the garden without too much fuss. Storage container and a little solar powered pump might work?
Hi Gavin, We moved away from commercial household cleaning products several years ago. The switch came about out of concern for our personal well being and the environment. I was inspired by writings found on Just Like My Nana Made, Down to Earth as well as your blog. Our ‘product’ range is very similar to what you and Kim are using – bicarb, vinegar, soap, water etc. I will never go back to commercial products. I have noticed that by using the list of basics to clean household surfaces are actually easier to keep clean as dirt doesn’t seem to bind to them in the same way it does when commercial cleaners are used. I am also very pleased that I now only need one small cupboard in the laundry for storing my cleaning ‘range’. Whichever way I look at it, changing to green cleaning has been a win-win all round.
Gavin Webber says
Hi Jane. Great effort, and I bet you save so much money when shopping. Bi-carb and vinegar are just so cheap!
Ooooo this is fun. Im going to be anonymous today just to see if you can work it out. This is a great post and i would love to use vinegar in the house but for its smell. Lucky for the environment all the other nasty smelling stuff is out also. I do have Hubby and Sons approval on eucalyptus oil though and use it liberally. Shhh i have been known in the dead of night to clean the stove top with bi-carb and a few drops of vinegar but i get rid of all the evidence before they find out. Im going to check out Kim’s recommendation for laundry. Either that or give making my own a go. I was also just given a bag of lemons so im going to whip up a lemon curd and try making some citrus cleaner.
Gavin Webber says
Dearest Lynda, guessed it was you in a heartbeat. Your humorous style is unmistakable, and I think that the reference to your family gave it away.
Nice try, but you will have to do better than that to trick old Gav! x
Lynda D says
Got it in one – though i did drop enough hints. I was making allowances for your age. LOL Hope you are enjoying your break. Im at work in this massive factory on my own and finding it hard to get motivated. You can tell – im reading blogs not balance sheets.
Suzanne Holt says
Antibac Microfiber cloths are great because all you have to use is water and they last a very long time.
bio cleaner says
basking soda, lemon, some vinegar -all you really need, except someone to do the cleaning!
You don’t actually need detergents,etc for washing and cleaning – they help with tough jobs but most areas in the house can be cleaned/washed with water, a cloth and rubbing – rubbing being the main ingredient! If I can’t remove dried-on dirt I leave a wet cloth on it for an hour – then it just wipes off. I have also used plain cold water, (in a twin tub washing machine), to wash my clothes for years. I don’t usually have smelly sweaty or dirty clothes so cold water wash, spin and hang on line gives me clean fresh clothing. If my clothes are stained or have dirty areas I rub with a bar of soap, (any type), and scrub with a soft brush to loosen stain and wash in plain cold water which is usually adequate. If very stained/dirty I will pre soak in Napisan or a pre laundry soaker, (whichever is cheapest/on special), for 24 – 48 hours then plain water wash. I very rarely fail to renovate the article.
‘Natural’ does not necressarily mean safe. The safety data sheet for eucalyptus oil, (available from the manufacturer of the product), is an eye opener and it should always be kept out of the reach of children. It is neither possible nor necessary to sterilise, (‘kill bacteria”) household items and linens.
We use Fair Trade soap nuts and have recently installed a Grey Water Gator as well so are washing the clothes and watering the garden all at once. We also use vinegar, lemon and bi-carb as mentioned here and find them to be fantastic.
Hi Gavin, I started to use home made green cleaning products about a year ago and will never go back to the commercial and chemical detergents. I went to a green cleaning workshop organised by the city of Perth and got a good (and cheap) laundry detergent recipe that I have been using with success :
“1 cup washing soda
1 cup bicarb
8 drops pure essential oil (for example eucalyptus or lavender)
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap or pure soap flakes (Lux for instance, unless you make your own)
Mix all dry ingredients then add liquid ingredients gradually. Blend well. Transfer to a sealed container and shake well. Use up to 1/2 cup per load.
Reduce soap amount for front loader. 1/2 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle is a great fabric softener”
Hope this helps !
Gavin Webber says
Thanks for the tip Isabelle