I need to start this post by saying that I am not someone who loves to clean. I do, however, love having a nice cosy and clean home. The chores of housework, by definition, is not something I relish doing but the end goal makes the journey less tedious. This is particularly true if I apply a little planning and research into making the tasks more appealing (ie. easier and quicker).
The need for research comes from another place too. I am more aware than ever of the impact our throw away culture is having on our environment. I think we all are. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you can’t help but see the messages from TV shows like Blue Planet. Plastics rule the world and our planet is drowning in it.
I am also becoming more aware of the effect chemicals have on our health. The trend for cleaning accounts on Instagram has seen a massive surge in product endorsements. Everywhere I look there are sprays and disinfectants, each with their own weird sounding ingredients.
Downsizing my cleaning cupboard
I decided early on in my quest for a cleaner home that I wanted to use more eco-friendly products, not only for the environment. I didn’t want a cellar full of cleaning products for different things and I didn’t want to spend money on expensive branded items. What I wanted was to have simple, effective methods and products made from as few ingredients as possible.
So, I started to research. I already had a few books on cleaning that contained recipes for homemade cleaners so I started there. I built a store cupboard of basic supplies and started mixing.
My basic store cupboard
This is by no means an exhaustive list but most of the products I have made so far use a combination of these ingredients.
- Bicarbonate of Soda – a.k.a. baking soda, sodium bicarbonate. Cheap and non-toxic (it’s an ingredient in whitening toothpaste), it’s a substance that can be used as a gentle scrubber. It also helps to deodorise. Mix with water or vinegar to make a paste. Sprinkle it on a cloth and use it to wipe down chopping boards. Great for average levels of dirt. Pick up a box for £1.80 for 500g in Wilko or Robert Dyas.
- Distilled vinegar – Vinegar means “sour wine”. Apt considering it’s rather unappealing smell. It’s made from alcohol that has been fermented a second time. It’s a great descaler, good for cleaning windows and a gentle cleanser and natural disinfectant. Mix with essential oils to make it smell a little better. You can pick up distilled vinegar for around 40p a bottle in most supermarkets
- Borax substitute – Borax is a naturally occuring mineral found when salt water evaporates. The borate family of chemicals are considered harmful to health when inhaled and so it is banned in the UK and EU for this reason. It’s a natural cleaner, more abrasive than bicarb and can deodourise so it’s good for cleaning the toilet. Robert Dyas sell this for £1.80 a box.
- Epsom salts – not actually salt but a compound of magnesium and sulfate. It’s great for softening water and easing sore muscles in a bath. A great abrasive cleaner. Mix it with lemon juice to make a scrub or add to homemade cleaning tablets.
- Essential oils – not only smell amazing but have their own natural cleaning and disinfecting properties. Experiment with combinations. My favourites are lavender or lemon mixed with peppermint.
- Washing up Liquid/Dish soap – such as Fairy Liquid. You can buy vegan-based soaps that have a vegetable oil base. Castile soap is nice but expensive and cannot be mixed with vinegar else it curdles. I like the Ecover liquid soap.
A couple of basic cleaner recipes
General non-abrasive cleaner
I use this everywhere in my kitchen to get rid of daily dirt and gently disinfect.
Mix 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle. Add a squirt or two of liquid soap and 10 drops of essential oil (I like lavender for this one.
I keep a jar of this by my sink ready. Mix about a cup and a half of bicarbonate of soda with 20 drops of essential oil (I use lavender and peppermint). To use, sprinkle a spoonful or two into your sink. Spray with the non-abrasive cleaner (above) and wipe with a cloth. Rinse and dry.