My own attempt at becoming a savvy consumer has never been only about paying as little as possible for everything: it still is more about getting value for money, minimizing the impact on the environment, and only buying what I need. Paying more for one multi-purpose product can work out cheaper in the long run than buying several seemingly cheaper items, many of which might end up gathering dust as unused and unnecessary.
When it comes to cleaning, you don’t have to fill a cupboard with harsh, potentially toxic household cleaners for every imaginable surface. Instead, my most faithful companion is now a concentrated, Leaping Bunny -certified all-purpose cleaner from a local co-operative that is sufficient for most general cleaning in my home from kitchen floors to cat litter trays. Less to buy and store, fewer containers to throw away and recycle afterwards – that’s what I like! Alternatively, you can often use just hot soapy water and a clean cloth!
There are also many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives that I was keen to try, especially to avoid the use of drain, toilet bowl and oven cleaners, which are the most toxic of the various commercial cleaning products. It’s surprisingly satisfying to see what you can do with just cheap cola, lemons, white vinegar, and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)!
(The following cleaning experiments have worked for me without causing any damage but please remember, results may vary and can’t be guaranteed to be 100% safe and effective. Test cleaning formulations in small hidden areas if possible and always use caution with any new product in your home.)
- Clean the toilet bowl with cola. No, it’s not just a joke or an urban myth, it actually works! Pour a bottle of cheap cola into the bowl, leave overnight, scrub with a toilet brush and flush. Repeat if necessary. Although I haven’t tested it myself, apparently white vinegar does the trick too.
- Unclog the drain with vinegar & bicarbonate of soda. (Please note: don’t do this immediately after using a commercial drain opener!) Pour bicarbonate of soda down the drain and after that an equal amount of white vinegar. Leave for at least 15 minutes and pour in hot water to clear the residue. You can use the same method to clean toilet bowls.
- Clean the electric oven with water & bicarbonate of soda. Moisten oven surfaces with sponge and water. Mix bicarbonate of soda with a few tablespoons of water to make a paste. Spread the paste all over the interior surfaces of your oven, avoiding the heating elements. Let it sit overnight and wipe off with a spatula and a damp cloth. Spray a bit of vinegar afterwards and wipe off. Make sure all residual bicarbonate of soda is removed to avoid unpleasant smells when you next heat the oven!
- Remove soap scum from shower doors with lemon juice. In hard water areas soap scum on shower doors can be a real problem and from my experience, the best way to remove it is lemon juice. Put juice on a sponge (or use the lemon skin) and wipe the doors. Rinse well afterwards. A fresh lemony scent is a bonus!
- Use water, vinegar & newspaper to clean windows. Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 liter of warm water, apply to windows, and use newspaper to buff up the glass for a streak-free finish.
- Remove limescale from taps with vinegar. Soak a cloth in vinegar, wrap around the tap and let sit for an hour before removing the cloth and wiping the tap.
- Swap paper towels and spray products for a microfiber duster. It’s reusable, effective, and machine washable.
- Use lemon to clean the microwave. Fill a heat-resistant bowl with water and half a lemon and zap for a couple of minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. The steam trapped inside will help loosen food gunk. Wipe clean.
- Dry clothes outside. Line drying is kinder to your clothes than the dryer and it’s free. Sunlight is also a natural disinfectant and the UV from the sun kills bacteria effectively.
What are your experiences of natural, eco-friendly cleaning methods? Do you have any tips you would like to share?