April 30, 2014

Natural cleaning without the toxins

Shout out if you love cleaning! I hear you (or rather, I don't hear you). Getting rid of dirt and grime isn't on the top of my list of favourite past times. Just ask my 6 year old, who's earnestly designed a supremo cleaning robot invention to help me out. If only it would materialise...

Ironically, unbeknownst to most of us, this necessity to clean can actually 'dirty' our environment with toxins hidden in your everyday household cleaning products. These include fragrance chemicals, petrochemicals, nitrates and phosphates plus a raft of others with tongue-twisting names.

Chemicals, such as ammonia, quats and 2-Butoxyethano, can also play havoc with our health. Problems such as skin and eye irritations plus respiratory issues and other more acute physical ailments can start from direct contact with them, or from the residues they leave behind on surfaces and in the air.

So when you do roll up your sleeves every once in a while, there are simple ways to scrub chemical-free with sparkling results - and you need only look in your pantry cupboard.


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Using pantry basics

You can make quality cleaners from a few simple ingredients that cost next to nothing compared to the bottled stuff.

  • Bicarb soda - More than a just a good baking product, this white powder is a great deodoriser and stain remover.
  • White vinegar - A super glass cleaner (just add to hot water and use newspaper), mild disinfectant and anti-mould agent. Mildly acidic, it neutralises grease and soap residue. 
  • Salt - Great for scouring, preventing colour-run in the wash, antiseptic and disinfectant. 
  • Lemons - Use it as mild bleach (just add water), deodorant and cleaning agent.
  • Borax - It's a mild bleaching agent, pest controller and stain remover, plus fabric and water softener. It's poisonous so if swallowed, so keep out of reach.
  • Essential oils  - Lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus and lemongrass oils all have good properties, such as antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Plus they give smelly rooms a zingy fragrance. They are safest used in small quantities, and if you're pregnant, please check the labels  before using them.
  • Laundry Soap - made from vegetable oils and animal fats (rather than petroleum-based detergents), laundry soap is great for the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry (of course). Throw a bar in a bucket with water overnight to make a liquid soap; just add more water as you need, and it will last for months.

Cream cleanser recipe tip: Mix 1 part home-made soap liquid with 2 parts bicarb soda into a creamy paste. Use as needed.

Off-the-shelf products

If you're short on time and don't have the inclination to concoct them yourself,  there are a stack of affordable 'eco-friendly' household cleaning product brands available to buy at supermarkets, health-food stores and online. Everything from surface and floor cleaners, to toilet and all-purpose sprays. Look at their labels or Google their names to check for their ingredients and sustainability credentials (even the packaging they use!).

If throwing out your old household cleaning products, please make sure you do it properly. Throwing them in the garbage bin can harm the environment, so find out the date of the next Chemical Cleanout day near you. For more information, check out the EPA website: www.epa.nsw.gov.au/warr/cleanoutguide.htm


Information courtesy of Teresa Rutherford, our natural cleaning expert.

This article was written by Nicola Saltman and originally published in The Beast magazine. Thanks Nick!

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