Spring may not officially start until 20 March but with lockdown driving us all to boredom, and the weather (dare I say it) warming up a bit, perhaps now is the perfect time to start spring cleaning.
It benefits your home and is great for the mind but spring cleaning is not always great for the planet. Many cleaning products are crammed with harsh chemicals and toxins that pollute waterways and marine life. Not to mention all that plastic that most conventional cleaning products come in, as well as single use products that are marketed for convenience with no consideration for the environment.
Luckily nature has blessed us with a multitude of ingredients that will leave your home beautifully clean and fresh and there are a wealth of wonderful reusable products out there.
Read on for five tips for natural and eco-friendly cleaning:
1. Avoid cleaning wipes.
Cleaning wipes might seem like a convenient option, but their terrible impact on the environment outweighs any time saved. Most wipes are made of plastic microfibres meaning they can take 100 years or more to break down. Some are marketed as flushable but still contain plastic. These do not break down if flushed down the toilet and clump together in sewers along with fats and oils tipped down sinks to create ‘fatbergs’. Fatbergs cause huge problems in UK waterways and cost around £100 million per year to clear.
Despite plastic pollution being at the forefront of many people’s minds recently, the Marine Conservation Society reported a 400% increase in the amount of wipes found along the UK coastline in the past decade. You can use reusable cleaning wipes or any rags such as old clothes instead. Simply wet them and use with a solution of your choice if required, then wash them when needed and reuse over and over again. You can also use natural loofah cleaning pads or coconut fibre scrub pads for tougher to clean areas.
If for any reason you do opt for wet wipes of any kind, please don’t flush them, even if they say flushable.
2. Brilliant baking soda.
Baking soda can be used to clean almost anything! You can add a bit of water to form a paste and use it to clean your kitchen and bathroom. It’s great for removing grease and can be used on sinks and ovens. You can also use it to neutralise odours, if your fridge is smelling a bit dodgy, pop a cup of baking soda in the fridge (with a drop or two of lemon essential oil if you like) and it will absorb the odour. Remove or change it after about a month, the best bit is you can then reuse it to clean your toilet or sink. You can also pour some baking soda in the bottom of your bin or even in shoes to remove odours. Add a few drops of essential oils and you can use it as an air freshener too. It’s easy to find baking soda in a cardboard box so it’s 100% plastic free too.
3. Vinegar shine.
Vinegar is another wonder product for cleaning, especially glass, mirrors and things like taps to get them shining bright. White distilled vinegar is best. Vinegar is also great for removing glue for example on sticky labels. You can even combine with bicarb to create a DIY cleaning solution: Add 2 tablespoons of bicarb, 2 teaspoons of vinegar, a squirt of dish soap if you have it and water in a reused bottle. This makes a pet safe spray cleaner that really works. (Some essential oils including citrus and tea tree which are often used in cleaning products, may not be suitable for pets.)
But for all it’s merits, vinegar is acidic and can damage some materials. Don’t use it on hardwood floors or surfaces like marble and limestone. It may be best to avoid using in dishwashers/washing machines too as it could damage rubber seals.
4. Lemon squeezy.
Another gift from nature, that can be used to clean pretty much anything are lemons. This natural cleaning agent can be used to descale the kettle, clean the toilet, the microwave, taps, almost anything! I love to use it on wooden chopping boards too. Just add a bit of coarse salt on the surface, and use half a lemon, flesh side down, to rub the board. Food stains and odours will disappear in one go! Speaking of odours, you can use lemons to stop your fridge and bin smelling too. Be sure to change them at least weekly though otherwise they will go mouldy. You can combine lemon with bicarb for extra cleaning power too.
Having said that, I only use lemons for any of the above if I need to use them up. If not, I go for one of the other options.
5. Use natural, biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.
I’ve always hated cleaning, not because I’m lazy, or enjoy living in a pigsty – but because I have sensitive skin. My hands would always end up sore and red. So I went on a quest for natural cleaning products. Finding plastic free wasn’t my only motivation for sourcing the products I use, they had to be natural with no harmful chemicals involved. No nasties for people or planet, for water or aquatic life.
Here are some of my favourites:
Planet Detox was one of the first natural cleaning brands I tried, and you can get a pretty good idea what they stand for just by the name! They truly live and breathe it too. All of their products are made in the UK from their base in Devon. Their products are 100% natural and plastic free and they vet their stockists to make sure we don't use any plastic either.
My favourite products are the bathroom and kitchen cleaning bars. These little soap bars are AMAZING. You just rub them directly onto the surface you want to clean and watch the magic happen. They even work really well for cleaning greasy ovens. I can’t recommend these products enough.
They also have a range of other brilliant products including toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, carpet freshener, laundry powder and washing up powder.
Did you know that 90% of a typical bottle of cleaning product is just water? Only the remaining 10% is actually cleaning solution and is normally full of toxic chemicals.
Oceansaver aims to change that and reduce all that waste with their dissolvable pods. They are small but mighty as well as being plant based and non-toxic. You can simply use a bottle you already have, fill it with warm water, drop in a pod and shake until it dissolves. They smell lovely but not overpowering like their toxic counterparts. I would often find myself coughing when using cleaning products before I switched to natural alternatives, but these are much kinder to us, and the planet.
We have a range of options from OceanSaver including bathroom cleaner, kitchen degreaser, anti-bac cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, floor cleaner and glass cleaner.
At just £1.50 a pod, they are superb value too.
Similar to Oceansaver, Neat offers cleaning refills in little glass bottles. The Neat Bottle for Life is a stylish, durable aluminium bottle with silicone base so it doesn’t slip. It looks so good that it actually makes me look forward to cleaning. Then, simply choose from two delicious smelling scents or the unscented version, and pour the concentrated solution into the reusable bottle. Give it a shake and spray away. The concentrated solutions are natural, biodegradable, vegan and cruelty-free.
Living Naturally Soap Nuts
Soap Nuts (technically berries) have been used for thousands of years by people in India for cleaning as they contain saponin, a natural cleaning agent. They are the only cleaning product that literally grows on trees. They are incredibly sustainable because the ‘Sapindus Mukorossi' tree grows in arid soil with no need for chemical fertilizer or pesticides. Plus the tree produces fruit for 90 years with a long harvest season of six months. They are harvested by local people in India providing a sustainable income for the communities.
Soap nuts can be used for laundry, simply pop a few in the little muslin bag (provided) and put in the machine. Some people say they only work on a hot wash but I never use anything above 30 degrees and they work fine. They don’t smell of anything so if you like a scent, simply add a few drops of essential oils of your choice. You can also reuse the soap nuts around 3-4 times so they are incredibly good value. Then when you’re done, pop them in the compost.
You can also get Soap nuts in powder form for laundry and also for your hair and skin!
Soap nuts are as natural as it gets and are kind to your clothes, your skin and the planet.
For the full Vida Eco Shop cleaning range, click here.
Have you tried any of the tips or products above? What are your favourites? We’d love to hear your eco cleaning tips too so please get in touch and let us know.