Clean your home without the waste!

Filed in Blog by on March 30, 2011 19 Comments
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When life gives you lemons ... use them to clean the zero waste way!

When life gives you lemons ... use them to clean the zero waste way!

Did you know last week was national spring cleaning week?

Neither did I; I think I was too wrapped up in climate week! I have to admit I get lured by the sunshine and I’ve done a small spring clean in the form of decluttering already, but as we are still using the open fire in the evenings there is little use in doing much of a spring clean before we’ve emptied the fire out for the last time in a season.

I’ve been thinking about how my attitudes towards conventional cleaning products have changed over the years. When I left home I was a bleach and ‘lots of sweet smelling products’ kinda gal. A different product for every job, several rolls of kitchen towel and a few pairs of disposable gloves were my best friends. I would choose a product based on its smell – the first thing I would do in the supermarket was take the lid off and give it a good sniff.

When I was pregnant with Little Miss Green I started to research some of the ingredients found in conventional cleaning products and figured there had to be a better way to get my home clean.

There was little in the way of effective, natural cleaning products back then so I turned my hand to a little kitchen chemistry and was fascinated by some of the pre war methods of house work which involved using every day kitchen ingredients such as vinegar, lemons and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).

I have to admit I was amazed by the results. Sure, using ‘natural products’ is not as good as bleach or as quick as a spray-and-leave product, but the positive benefits of getting my home clean without getting a headache, sore throat or itching eyes meant it was worth it. It felt great to clean the floor and tables with water and essential oils knowing it was safe when LMG picked things up off the floor and shoved them in her mouth.

For this year’s spring clean then I’m sticking with my tried and tested home recipes:

Bicarbonate of soda

For sinks, baths, tiles and kitchen work surfaces I use a bit of bicarbonate of soda sprinkled on to a microfiber cloth or even half a lemon! This cleans and deodorises surfaces. The I follow with a spray of half white vinegar and half water to clean any residue.

Essential oils

For hard floors I use hot water and few drops of my favourite essential oils (lemon, rose and lavender if you’re interested)

White vinegar

For windows, mirrors and glass it’s vinegar all the way – I’ve never tried reusing old newspapers for glass, but I hear it works!

Cleaning ovens

For the oven, bicarbonate of soda will dissolve grease; sprinkle on a thick layer of the powder, mist with water, leave for a few hours, mist again, leave overnight and scrape the gunk away in the morning. Finish with your trust vinegar and water spray and you’re done!

Using products like this not only means I can reduce excess packaging, but I save money AND it’s better for our environment. It also means I don’t have to give up valuable cupboard space to an array of cleaning products. Let’s face it, most products contain the same ingredients in different proportions, you really don’t need so many different things to get your home clean.

When we launched the site in June 2008, we touched on the subject of cleaning and shared 6 tips to minimise cleaning product waste.

Tell me which ‘green cleaning’ products you use and how they help you to reduce landfill waste…

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. indiebird says:

    I love all the things you say above. Simple and effective and totally life-changing! One of my top tips is one of those microfibre cloths you can buy everywhere now, dampened with a little water and one drop of mandarin or lemon essential oil makes a great duster for all the surfaces in your house and everything smells lovely and fresh afterwards. Much nicer than those horrendous furniture polishes and your yellow duster that I bet has seen better days!!

  2. Emily says:

    What a great post! We have a huge selection of essential oils in our house. My husband, believe it or not, is the resident oil hoarder and he LOVES getting down on his hands and knees each week–not as good as it sounds–to scrub the floors. Okay, maybe it is as good as it sounds! I married a man who does floors, diapers, and the dishes.

  3. Sandy says:

    try mixing 8oz of soda crystals, 8oz bicarb, grate a bar of pure soap (I make my own) and mix together, use 3 tablespoons for washing cloths ( as good if not better than non bio) I also wash floors with this. recipe via frugal queen, would not go back to bought cleaning products, apart from the price they all smell foul.

  4. Sandy says:

    sorry I mean clothes, not cloths well it is early

  5. Kate says:

    I love reading your blog because even though there are challenging new ideas, I find it encouraging that I do many of these things! Like you my shift entirely away from packaged cleaning products occurred sometime around when I had a child.
    I just bought some lemon essential oil and have been loving it for cleaning! One thing that most of you were probably smart enough to know ahead of time but I wasn’t: as lovely as it smells, lemon is not a good oil to add to bathwater as it can cause burns if it comes into contact with your skin undilluted. 😉

  6. Julie Day says:

    My mum uses Ecover limescale remover and likes it, we also use ecloths for dusting which do really work.

  7. Antonio Pachowko says:

    One of the best way to clean sinks , baths, Ovens, Toilets, windows is to use a steam cleaner with a microfibre cloth. It is amazing how much gunk it removes. Remember You can also use an old toothbrush to clean around taps, windows and grout. I hav eeven used it to defrost hard ice deposits in a freezer. It is amazing what you can do with a bit of elbow grease. For example in winter around the window (because of high humidity) I get orange and black mould growing on the silicon rubber, which is a pain to clean. I found that the only way to clean it is to pour a little thick bleach on the area of mould, leave it for a few minutes and then scrub it with an old toothbrush (not too hard as you will destroy the Silicon). it is amazing how white the silicon becomes.

  8. CarSue says:

    I like to use baking soda to deodorize rugs, especially the ones that have been claimed by the dogs. I sprinkle on the baking soda, let sit for 15 minutes or so, and then just give a good shake out in the yard for short-fibre rugs, or run the vacuum over high-pile rugs. If the rug has picked up any stains, I just dab vinegar on top with an old toothbrush , and scrub in. Works every time.

  9. LJayne says:

    I’ve been using natural products since I got pregnant with my eldest – who just turned 8. Like you I got very concerned about all sorts of aspects of our life.

    My number 1 cleaning spray is in an old spray bottle and I half fill with warm water, half with vinegar (ordinary cheap value malt from Mr Tesco!) and a good slug of Ecover washing up liquid. The warm water ensures the w-up liquid dissolves properly and then you can use it whenever. Tables, surfaces, the floor, the ceramic top of our cooker, the uses are endless.

    The one commercial product I still use a little is HG’s mould spray. I’ve tried bleach on mould as described by someone earlier but it just doesn’t do the trick for us. So just a couple of times a year I tackle our problem areas and make sure all is properly ventilated etc. It also comes in a recyclable bottle 🙂 Otherwise for washing clothes, washing up liquid etc., I use Ecover.

    We had our windows professionally cleaned on the outside recently and when I asked the guy doing it for his trade secret to his mixture he said it was simply Ecover washing up liquid with very little water as he carries it around with him so that people don’t have to be in when he comes. He said he used to use Fairy but it trashed his hands.

    Have always damp dusted because you get a better result.

    I know people think I’m weird but I don’t care! I know my children are better off for not having breathed it all in.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @indiebird: Oh yum, mandarin essential oil is divine and I’m totally with you on the e-cloths; smashing things!

    @Emily: Your husband is most definitely adored by me too LOL! Loving those essential oils…

    @Sandy: thanks for sharing the recipe Sandy; otherwise known as ‘laundry gloop’ – is that right?

    @Kate: Ah yes, undiluted lemon oil can be a bit potent. ouch! I learned the hard way too! Not good on sunny days either (even when diluted) as it can sensitise the skin 😉

    @Julie Day: Never used the limescale remover; I’ll look out for it (although we find vinegar and lemons are pretty good for that too)

    @Antonio Pachowko: Yep, elbow grease is the best tool for cleaning anything! I would love a steam cleaner, I’ve heard friends rave about them. Anything to look out for when purchasing one?

    @CarSue: Bicarb is wonderful stuff isn’t it? I love how it deodorises so well. I’ve got a few cat accidents stories I could share and how bicarb came to the rescue 😀

    @LJayne: Like your multipurpose recipe Lesley – thanks for sharing! I found Fairy trashed my hands too, and I’m not the only one to say that; there’s something in there which most certainly does not give you hands as soft as your face as the ads would have you believe!

  11. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Mrs G

    I have a vax steam cleaner ( V-084 ) that can be generally bought for £30-40. The link is below
    What information you are generally looking for is the Steam pressure (should be around 6 bar) and steam temperature (around 120 DegC) and the Maximum flow rate of steam (so you need a larger flow rate for bigger jobs). You also have a choice of handheld (good for cleaning Ovens, freezers and sinkS)or upright steam clear (used for cleaning carpets and matresses). There are loads outthere and should be available from any electrical supplier.

    Hope that helps.

  12. We use soap nuts for our clothes washing. Windfall fruits are collected from soapnut trees across the Indian subcontinent. The seeds and fruit pulp are removed and the fruit cases are sundried, so it’s a pretty environmentally sound product. You use a few at a time in the washing machine (in a sock), then after a couple of washes, you just put them on your compost heap.

    Apparently you can boil them up with water to make a general household cleaner and use them in the dishwasher (in the cutlery tray), but I’m still working my way through old cleaning products so I haven’t tried them like that yet.

    I’ve found two suppliers so far, although I’m sure there are more: and

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: That does help – thanks Antonio 🙂
    @Julia Goodfellow-Smith: Hi Julia, thanks for adding your comment about the soapnuts; I know some of our readers love them. In my experience they don’t work well with hard water, but in soft water areas I expect they are fabulous – a real zero waste option 🙂

  14. Teresa Lewis says:

    Even before Ecover and microfibre cloths along with information on alternatives I hated using bleach and cream cleanser so used mostly washing up liquid thinking at the time I was being just lazy as cream cleanser took a lot of rinsing off. Sometimes not even washing up liquid just hot water. When it came to cleaning the fridge after defrosting it was sodium bicarbonate and a few drops lemon juice in water for the microwave as I didn’t want my fridge and microwave smelling of chemicals.

    Occasionally I used air freshener and cream cleanser for deep cleaning but couldn’t stand the smell.

    I must admit I used special window cleaning solution for the windows and it made me want to sneeze so soon switched to crumpled up newspaper.

  15. Teresa Lewis says:

    All these chemical cleaning products used to make me feel sick so I was reluctant to do the cleaning and put it off which meant needing to use them more. I clean more often now as I don’t feel sick using green products and distilled vinegar and because they are less effective than the harsh industrial cleaners so you need to clean more often. Even when I was young I used to descale the kettle by pouring in diluted malt vinegar and putting the kettle on and leaving overnight.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa Lewis: Sounds like you’re a natural at the green cleaning Teresa!

  17. Teresa says:

    @Mrs Green: Except when it comes to using too much kitchen paper for spills. I should be using my splatter screen more often when cooking and not wanting to put a lid on the frying pan or sauce pan because I want to steam off some excess water.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: I find that a job too. I ditched our full fat fryer because I couldn’t stand clearing up all the mess. Do you find the splatter guard really works and how do you clean THAT when it needs it?

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