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Now for those of you who know me, you may be thinking “Kate…. talking about cleaning? WTF?” – sure, I’m not going to be winning any domestic goddess awards anytime soon (I am gunning for the Messiest Goddess though!), I can still muster up enough enthusiasm to keep our flat looking respectable. Just…
When I first de-toxed our cleaning products nearly 4 years ago, my husband may have had a small freak-out. I’m finding out this is a common reaction in most guys after chatting with others who have made the switch. I’m very lucky that my hubster is amazing at hoovering and washing up. He excels at it, even! He’s also taught me many a thing about cleaning and tidying, although I still struggle with dishwasher management! I can never seem to stack it quite right… So let’s just say, he was a little (read extremely) unsettled when I took away his favourite chemical-laden cleaning products.
It took a little getting used to. No bleach cleaning smells. No whiff of polish. Now though, we both say we couldn’t go back to regular cleaning products.
I must also confess (as some of you will already know) we have invested in a cleaner – one who uses vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, essential oils and reusables cloths. For us, having a cleaner to stay on top of things twice a month is worth the money. I swear it’s the secret to a happy marriage!
But we certainly do a bit of upkeep in between her visits. I am also a big believer that we have all become a bit too obsessed with cleanliness in this day and age. Verging on obsessive. Sure it’s a good idea to wash our hands and clean our homes and utensils and generally be careful when handing certain things (such as raw meat). But I honestly don’t think we need to spray toxic anti-bacterial everything everywhere.
Interestingly, as a result of removing all the synthetic chemical-laden products from our home, my sense of smell has dramatically improved and I feel healthier. Others I have spoken with who have also quit their regular cleaning products for something more natural, have noted an improvement in their sense of smell too. Turns out, I’m not alone!
I find I zone out a bit when it comes to all the DIY recipes out there for cleaning, and struggle to remember which products have which cleaning properties. Thank goodness for the internet…. and a book I often refer to called The Organically Clean Home*.
So here’s the very basic line up I/we use to clean our home, zero waste style.
All Purpose Cleaner:
Distilled White Vinegar + water in a spray bottle + tea tree or lemon essential oils
Recipe: 50/50 vinegar and water and 10 drops of an essential oil
Ecover Washing Up Liquid* refill mixed with hot water to create a soapy cleaner. If it’s good enough to clean plates that we can eat from, it’s good enough to clean kitchen top surfaces in my mind.
(note: don’t use vinegar if you have granite or marble surfaces, try looking for recipes with vodka or isopropyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol instead, or stick to washing up liquid)
Like I siad, I find it tricky to remember which essential oils have which properties so I stick to a handful that work for my cleaning kit. The below list are all said to hold antibacterial properties.
And these (below) are my favourite scents for laundry.
Whilst I would love to try Lauren Singer’s The Simply Co, as yet it’s not available in the UK. So for now, the next best thing for me is buying a cardboard box of Ecover Zero Laundry Powder *. I have tried making my own in the past but it didn’t work, sadly. The main ingredient in DIY laundry soap is Washing Soda (aka Soda Crystals) which I can only seem to find sold in plastic bags in the UK. But WAIT! As I’m typing this I have just found Ecodoo Soda Crystals * sold in a cardboard box without plastic here * (adding to cart to give them a go!). I have also read that you can turn bicarb soda into washing soda by drying it in a low heat oven for a while or by cooking it in a pan. I tried this and the texture certainly changes but it still didn’t clean that well when I made my own using this method. Perhaps you have had better luck? And don’t even get me started on soapnuts….. They don’t work in London, that’s for sure!
Instead of store bought fabric softener, I use distilled white vinegar that comes in a glass bottle and a few drops of essential oils* (see above). Another option would be to use the ecover fabric softener refill which would mean less plastic (the vinegar comes with a plastic lid which I can recycle) but I prefer having fewer ingredients when it comes to cleaning products where possible
When it comes to dry cleaning, I hardly ever use it any more. Most use creepy toxic chemicals (like perc) and are returned to me with heaps of plastic. Johnson’s Cleaner and Blanc both offer green + non-toxic alternatives. I simply take a reusable zip up bag with a hand written note attached saying “no plastic please!”, but I hardly use dry cleaning services any more.
For doing the dishes by hand, we currently use an ecover refill, as it’s available near me and means I can simply refill the bottle I already own = no waste. I tried Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap* and for us, it didn’t work, I imagine because we live in a hard water area. The Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds* on the other hand works REALLY well, but I have only just started using this. It comes in various sizes, including a bulk gallon size bottle and a little goes a long way (2 teaspoons to 4 litres of water!), but the packaging is still plastic. I feel it would last a lot longer than the Ecover refill and can be used for doing things like laundry too. I also love that it has all of the ingredients on the label, unlike the Ecover washing up liquid. I guess for now, I’ll see which lasts the longest and creates the least amount of waste over all.
I also tried a homemade liquid made from soap nuts. It didn’t do the job either and weirdly smelled like farts (!) which raised a lot of eyebrows between us for a few days until we both realised it was the homemade dish soap that was the guilty one…
For the dishwasher, I took the suggestion from some of my YouTube comments, to try a dishwasher liquid. It’s by Faith In Nature* comes in an enormous (plastic! but recyclable!) bottle which I think will last us around 10 months in total (I bought it 6 months ago and we still have almost half left). It’s not perfect because of the packaging but I assure you I have tried ALL of the homemade recipes available to me. Most left a weird chalky residue and all of them didn’t clean very well. Buying the individually wrapped tablets (even the eco ones) wasn’t sitting well with me either.
To clean the loo I sprinkle in some bicarb soda and then add a dash of vinegar which reacts and bubbles up creating a gentle fizzing action which helps to remove any stains. I simply scrub with our wooden and natural bristle loo brush. I wipe most surfaces with the all purpose vinegar cleaner and a reusable cloth. For the shower glass (we have a glass one instead of a curtain) I just use a squeegee.
Feather duster – I use this to give any surface a super quick dusting. It also looks super quaint.
Spray bottles – Ideal for holding your own cleaning spray (such as my all purpose concoction mentioned above).
Washing up brush – I have two wooden brushes with natural bristles. One is a regular brush for washing dishes and the other is for bottles*. I recently purchased new ones of these but the previous brushes lasted 2 years.
Loo brush * – I chose this one because it is made from wood and natural bristles.
Steel Wool – great at removing stubborn, baked on food bits.
Ecoegg wood pulp cloths* – a plastic-free alternative to synthetic microfibre cloths
Organic Cotton Dish Cloths – useful for wiping any spills, cleaning surfaces etc.
Organic Cotton Teatowels – Because I believe choosing organic cotton is waaaaaaay better than non-organic (most likely GMO) cotton.
Squigee – Perfect for avoiding any residue left on glass mirrors or surfaces
If You Care Natural Rubber Gloves* – because there has been the occasional time when I’ve needed to protect my hands (fishing a coin out of the loo that fell out of my back pocket for example or when cleaning the slabs on the balcony).
Dyson hoover *- most houses in the UK have carpet due to the fact that it’s often cold outside and we need to keep our tootsies and homes warm. Hence, we need a hoover. Thankfully ours doesn’t require any hoover bags and we simply empty the contents into a paper bag.
Paper Bin Bags – These are for general waste, which mostly consists of food waste that I can’t add to the worm bin (citrus peels, chicken bones after making broth for example). These bags have worked so well at replacing any plastic bin liners. We tend to fill one 25 litre bag once a month roughly (unless it gets too smelly and we have to put it out early!).
Under The Sink
I thought these might be worth a mention although, to be honest, I hardly ever use them. Citric Acid* and Borax Substitute* (actual Borax is banned by EU as it is believed to be harmful to health/fertility). Both can be used for various cleaning around the home… so I’m told. 😉 – Moral Fibres has a great post on borax substitute and how it differs from borax as well as another post with 21 ways to use the stuff! I’ve used Borax (substitue) as a laundry booster which seems to work and to make DIY dishwasher tablets (which didn’t work). Citric acid is good for de-scaling things like kettles and irons etc but I’ve hardly used it over the years.
And that’s where I’m at when it comes to my zero waste cleaning kit. Everyone is different though and it’s good to do what works for you and what’s available to you.
WATCH THE VIDEO: My Zero Waste Cleaning Kit.