This is the year you can do what you always set out to do: make your household a little eco-friendlier. Without spending more money (it’s less in fact) or investing much time (well done to those who cook from scratch and make all their own cleaning products, but not everyone has time for it) you can make big changes by making full use of five items you probably already have at home. Here, we look at some of the ways you can use them to make a step in a greener direction.
First of all, when we talk about vinegar for cleaning, we often mean distilled white vinegar. The acidity makes it a great cleaning product. For example, it works great to remove limescale. Your kettle or even coffee machine can be cleaned with vinegar. Just make sure you let water run through it a few more times to get rid of the smell and taste before using it again.
For your windows, mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle and off you go. Clean them first with a cloth, then dry it off with a microfiber towel.
Use the same water and soap spray on your stove. Simply let it soak for five minutes before washing it with a little dishwashing liquid to remove the grease.
Vinegar works well in your bathroom as well to remove the daily limescale that deposits itself on the fittings.
It really is a wonderful multi-tasker, however, there are certain things you should never use vinegar on because of the high acid content. So, if you’re unsure, do a little research first.
Lemons are great for cleaning and to remove bad smells. Take your plastic food containers for example. If they had smelly food in them, or the kids left their lunch in it a little too long, simply rub a lemon over the inside of the container to help remove stains (tomato sauce or curry for example) and smells.
It’s also a great way to clean your wooden chopping boards. Sprinkle the board with salt (coarse if possible), then cut your lemon in half and rub it on the board. Let it sit five minutes, scrape off the dirt and wash off.
You can clean a microwave or oven by heating up a bowl of water, adding the juice of a lemon and the lemon itself (sliced up or halved). The lemon-y steam will make it a lot easier to clean off the greasy sides of the oven or microwave.
Baking soda is an all-rounder so buy it in bulk if you can.
First of all: your drains. Run hot water down the drains, then pouring a few spoonsful of baking soda on top and let it sit and bubble away for 15 minutes and then rinse it with warm water. Doing this as part of your weekly deep clean avoids dealing with any smells that build up in the drains.
You can also use baking soda in your laundry when you wash whites, but most importantly as an all-purpose cleaner. Sprinkle it on a wet sponge and you can clean almost anything in your house from sinks and tubs to toilets.
Instead of using some chemical mix, you can even sprinkle some into the bottom of your dishwasher in between washes to eliminate odours or sprinkle it in your running shoes overnight (simply shake them out in the morning) to eliminate smells.
It’s time to ditch all those shower gels in plastic bottles. You take way more than you need each time, it flows quickly because it’s liquid, it takes up space in your bag when you travel, and it’s full of chemicals you don’t need at all when cleaning yourself.[Before you say anything, we’ll make an exception for the hand soap in shared bathrooms. Especially in winter and during flu season, a dispenser with liquid soap – ideally automatic – limits contamination.]
What you need to clean your body is soap. Good old-fashioned soap and there are so many beautiful options now with essential oils, natural ingredients, and when applied on a wash cloth or bamboo brush are just as soapy and bubbly as any shower gel.
Lastly, check your washing machine and dishwasher: Are you still using tabs wrapped in plastic? Swap them out for simple powder or liquid.
You will cut down on plastic in general, but also be able to choose the exact dosage you need depending on how much you are washing.
As for your dishwasher, we all know this dissolving plastic never dissolves completely, stays stuck somewhere and the detergent doesn’t reach everywhere.
Of course, this is just the beginning; as always you can do a lot more. If you want to start with some easy swaps, these five items should be top of your list. Then, if you want to go further, you can look at making your own laundry detergent, which is actually quite easy and the ingredients (baking soda, washing soda, soap flakes, borax) are readily available. You will however need to invest time actually making it. There is also an even easier method which is buying laundry bars aimed at hand washing and diluting them in warm water and storing it in jars, but even that will take up a little time each month.
With vinegar and lemon, you can also make your own cleaning products and fill they into spray bottles. Once you are ready to take that step, check out the different mixtures online and you’ll have your homemade product ready whenever you need it.