Kya deLongchamps offers some valuable tips on how to get your green winter daily cleaning arsenal ready in just one afternoon
It takes just one afternoon to transform your daily household wipes, swipes and sprays to something altogether more sustainable.
Earth-friendly and at the very least far easier on the family’s delicate lung linings and skin, most of these recipes are benign enough for you to make them up with even younger children — so let’s get our green winter cleaning arsenal ready and waiting under the counter.
A 1:8 ration of white vinegar to water in a spray bottle provides not only a superb everyday antibacterial spray (not invincible but very good) but an excellent window spray. Use your mixture to apply to stains in carpeting after removing material soiling, and finish with dabs of soapy water.
To increase the germ and stain power of your vinegar spray, make up a bottle with a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda which not only cleans but deodorises. Think zero-waste by reusing plastic spray bottles, and easing up on bought in petro-chemical products as far as possible.
Never, ever include caustic soda or Borax in home cleaning recipes — they are both potentially dangerous irritants. For the loo, throw some bicarbonate of soda over the bowl, follow with a dash of white vinegar and work over the porcelain before flushing.
Vinegar and lemon juice (dissolved in plenty of water) can remove most limescale (secure pastes with a plastic bag over taps and shower heads). Don’t leave half a lemon or even a thin natural mixture of acidic paste sitting for hours on plated surfaces — they can corrode, bubble and lift the top finish.
Grungy counters? Start with a simple squirt of washing up liquid into around 500ml of water or 3 tablespoons of Castile or any olive oil based natural soap with essential oil to suit your nose. Bottle and use as standard.
For surface mung on counters and tile that won’t come off with unaided physical work, try salt shaken over the area and worked in with a cotton cloth. Pure, safe, bicarbonate of soda on a cotton rag will also give you traction and cleaning muscle to lean into the mark even on a wall tile or grout.
To make up a paste, try bicarb’ and water made up to a suitable consistency. Always rinse these mixtures off thoroughly. Keep the soft, old heads of your electric toothbrush to buzz over the grout in the bathroom and kitchen with a little soda paste.
Natural loofahs (they grow on the vine like cucumbers and are not from the sea as many think) are another weapon of choice in our household and an answer to non-biodegradable plastic scrubbers.
Cut a whole loofah across its width into sections to fit the hand easily, then flip them open to get that nice tangled, fibrous interior into contact with the counter or porcelain. Use your loofah for cleaning sinks, the bath, and even your dishes with other key natural cleaning materials. Rinse and allow to dry on a sunny windowsill. Expect about 10-12 weeks from each pad.
Essential oils are largely treasured for their mildly therapeutic scent, but some have a bit of extra antibacterial welly for cleaning jobs too. Lemon essential oil dissolved into water makes a good furniture spray to barely dampen a cloth, and the aroma just says clean. It’s a lot safer on the lungs than commercial broadcast sprays loaded with Triclosan and other toxic chemistry.
Apply sparingly and wipe up immediately. I like to make my spray just a little more nourishing for my older and unfinished raw wood with a teaspoon of olive oil. Lemon juice is another optional ingredient, but go easy with this or any acid, and keep juice mixtures off stone and marble surfacing. Never, ever soak wood — taking moisture into the grain through even a crack in the top finish can seriously damage its appearance.
The glorious smell of beeswax is completely addictive. Once you have started using it around the house, you won’t go back. Use just a golden dab to bring a low lustre to all sorts of wood. Don’t use traditional beeswax mixtures directly on the floor — a direct route to a trolley in CUH.
Surprisingly easy to make, I must admit I grab my beeswax polishes at the farmers’ market to get a fresher, different scent from various makers. Beeswax uses two core ingredients and you can make it up with just these two — olive oil and beeswax.
Here’s just one mix: 150g beeswax, 600ml olive oil, a teaspoon of grape extract and 10 drops essential lavender oil. Use a double boiler (a pan over a pan of boiling water) to melt but not boil the wax and oil, add the other ingredients, cool and pour in warmed wide-mouthed jars. That’s it. A lovely present — just belt in a bow.
Containing natural saponins, a safe surfacant that breaks the surface tension of water, the soap nut (a dried berry) is an ancient ingredient in fabric cleansing. 3-5 nuts use in your standard wash will take out all but the most stubborn deep staining without the chemical residue that can upset sensitive, eczema prone skin.
Don’t put loose nuts in the machine, use a cotton draw-string bag (supplied with the nuts) to allow them to circulate in the wash. The hardness of your water can demand twice the number of soap nuts as soft water — experiment to see what suits.
The nuts last longer on cool cycles but release more saponin in hotter water, and can be reused several times. Just take the nuts out of the bag after the wash and allow them to dry on a sunny window-sill. For scented loads — just add a few drops of essential oil to the cotton of the nut bag.
Treasure those old 100% cotton t-shirts. Rip or cut them up into handy, eco-friendly cloths and launder regularly. I use a pinking shears for a cleaner edge.
Use smaller cloths rolled and put dry stuffed into a preserving jar to create antibacterial wipes you can pinch out as you need them and then throw in the wash. A simple water/vinegar/essential oil mixture, just as for a spray is fine. Really push the cloths down as we want them damp but not swimming in the antimicrobial/antibacterial mixture.
Top the jar with the liquid, seal, shake like a mad thing, and leave out on the counter to encourage use. It’s really best practice to refresh your jar about every week to 10 days, and otherwise the inevitable tiny organisms in the air will start breeding in there.