Want a clean, sparkly home – but keen to avoid harsh, overly toxic cleaning products?
There are certain environments that really need to be super-sterile (like hospitals and labs), but when it comes to our homes, there’s really no need to bleach the life out of everything. If you do a little homework, there are lots of ways to keep your home clean and hygienic with a more planet and wellbeing-friendly approach.
Rebecca Sullivan, whose new book The Art Of Natural Cleaning (Kyle Books, £9.99) is packed with simple recipes for cleaning products you can whip up yourself, recalls being unsettled when an attempt to clean her oven triggered a coughing fit. Her nan, she says, had always used just four ingredients to clean her house – “Bicarbonate of soda, lemon, vinegar, salt and elbow grease” – and Sullivan decided to follow suit.
“Not only do they work, her homemade cleaning products are also all completely natural and edible,” writes Sullivan. “It makes me utterly comfortable having them in my home. Because remember, if it’s being sprayed in your home, it’s going to end up in your body one way or another.”
You probably have some key ingredients already
The tools and ingredients required for homemade cleaning are usually readily available – and often cheaper than their shop-bought counterparts.
“Have a raid of your food cupboard and it may well be that you have some of the key ingredients required to make your own products. Bicarbonate of soda, corn flour, glycerine and white vinegar, citrus fruits and herbs all have their key uses,” says Wendy Graham, author of Fresh Clean Home (£12.99, Pavilion). “I also buy a few key ingredients, from essential oils to a useful natural soap called Liquid Castile Soap, that has a myriad of applications.
“Tools-wise, you don’t need any special equipment – nothing more than what you would find in an average kitchen,” adds Graham, who also shares tips and info on sustainable living on her blog, MoralFibres.co.uk. “Storage-wise – a few glass bottles and jars are handy – I reuse old bottles and jars where possible, rather than buying new ones.”
And it’s not as time-consuming as you might think
While it might sound like more of an effort to mix up DIY concoctions, it’s probably not as bad as you’re imagining (Sullivan says most recipes in her book take “seconds and minutes” to make, although some need to be made in advance).
“As a working mum, time is tight, and what I have found is that making my own cleaning products isn’t much effort at all and [is] time-saving,” adds Graham. “Most of the cleaning products I make can be whipped up in seconds. And when I say seconds, I mean seconds!”
Here are two recipes from The Art Of Natural Cleaning for inspiration…
Orange all-round kitchen spray
This will clean all surfaces – kitchen and bathroom – and leave everything smelling delicious.
To make 400ml, you’ll need: Peel from 4 oranges; 200ml white vinegar; 500ml glass jar; recycled spray bottle.
Method: Tightly pack the orange peel into a glass jar and cover with the white vinegar. Put the lid on, and then leave to stand for four weeks. Gently shake the jar occasionally during this period. Strain the vinegar into a spray bottle and top up with an equal amount of water; shake briefly to combine. Spray directly onto surfaces and wipe with a damp cloth. This will keep indefinitely.
With a tiny bit of elbow grease and patience, you can have a chemical-free, clean oven.
To make enough for one cleaning session, you’ll need: 60g bicarbonate of soda; 60ml white vinegar; course salt; spray bottle.
Method: Place the bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl and add a little cold water at a time, mixing until it forms a paste. Wearing rubber gloves, take a cloth and rub the paste over the entire surface of your cold oven. Depending on the size of your oven, you may need to make a little more. Leave for 12 hours to work its magic. After that time, wipe all of the surfaces with kitchen paper and discard. Put the vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz all the surfaces of your oven. Use salt as a scourer for any stubborn stains by sprinkling it directly onto the cloth, scrubbing, then rinsing using a cloth and some warm water to remove all of the residue. Give all the surfaces a final wipe down with clean, warm water and leave to dry.
3 of the best eco-friendly cleaning products
And when only shop-bought will do, check out these top picks…
Bio-D 750ml Washing-Up Liquid with Lavender, £2.30 (available from Oxfam stores, selected independent health food stores and biodegradable.biz)
Bio-D’s 20-plus product range uses eco-friendly, ethically-sourced ingredients, and they’re now rolling out new packaging made from 100% recycled materials, in a bid to help tackle the planet’s plastics problem. This lavender washing-up liquid smells luxurious and calming to boot.
Tincture London All Purpose Cleaning Tincture, £7.50 (curiousegg.com)
The new Tincture London range from Curious Egg promises products that help look after the planet and promote wellbeing in the home; 100% natural ingredients – derived from ancient Monastic botanical recipes alongside Antimicrobial Silver Technology, with stylish recyclable packaging. This all-purpose formula can be sprayed directly onto surfaces throughout the home for gentle but effective wipe-away cleaning.
KINN LIVING Lavender Floor Wash, £5 for 500ml (kinn-living.com)
The mother and daughter duo behind KINN, Marie Lavabre and Sophie Lavabre-Barrow, apply the same ‘clean living’ ethos – ensuring products are as non-toxic and gentle as possible – to their home products as their beauty range. Add two capfuls of this plant-based cleaner to 5L of warm water, for floors that sparkle and retain a subtle scent of lavender oil.