Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Friday 2 June 2006

Clean, green and less of the mean

I mentioned that I make my own washing-powder for our laundry – and I also mentioned posting the recipe, so without further ado, here it is, with lots of other ‘green’ tips thrown in for good measure. I am actually sort of qualified to ramble on about this, as I have run my own cleaning business in the past, and was absolutely shocked when one woman gave the orders for me to bleach the lot. Another lady telling me in which order to use the 5 separate toilet cleansers, her children constantly suffered from bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting.

  • Washing powder, not dissimilar from that mentioned by Suzie, from the recipe by Snowdrift Farm. I don’t have borax, not because I wouldn’t use it, but purely because up until now I haven’t found anywhere that sells it. My method is simple, and only uses four ingredients: household soda (not the baking variety), soap flakes, water and some drops of essential oil (I use lavender, but many citrusy/floral scents work wonders too). In a food processor add the soap flakes, and add a couple of teaspoons of water. This is important, if you don’t, you’ll be sneezing for the rest of the day as the soap flakes become a very fine powder. Whiz. Add the rest of the ingredients, shaking vigorously, pop into a large jar (kilner jars look good and are reusable). For an average load, four tablespoons will suffice, using more for jeans/cottons and less for thinner fabrics. Don’t use with delicates; make up a batch without the soda for those.
  • To make your windows sparkle, how about mixing a little water (about 1:3) and a little vinegar (2:3 – malt will do fine) in a spray-bottle and get shining. Newspaper works best when cleaning windows, as you get far less smears.
  • To clean a toilet, what about borax? Sprinkle liberally around the toilet bowl, leave overnight, then wipe ’round in the morning. All should be gorgeously shiny. Household soda crystals work wonders too.
  • Talking of household soda crystals (one of my favourite cleaners), they de-grease like nothing else. If you’ve got a greasy sink, a fatty hob, or soapy scum in the shower, mix a few tablespoons of soda into some hot water and get to work. Remember to rinse well, as soda does leave a white film if you don’t. Adding lavender (or essential oil of your choosing) makes it smell beautiful.
  • Smelly carpets? Often a problem in houses that have pets, the best thing you can do is put down whatever you’re using curently as they are almost always bad for the animals, and of course, you. Shake’n’vac is the most common cause of eye and respiratory problems in dogs, because they are so close to the ground all the time. To make a pet-friendly alternative, take a small tub of bicarb. of soda (the baking variety), add plenty of your chosen essential oil, and some salt. Leave for a couple of days, shaking often, then either shake out of the tub or seive it over the problem area, leaving it down for as long as possible. All the while keeping pets out of the room (overnight is good). Vacuum the mixture up, and your carpet should smell like new. This can be repeated often for pernicious smells.
  • If you have rugs, find a carpet-beater or a tennis racket and get beating. Pin your rug to the washing line or over a hedge. It’s great for PMS, an argument with your significant other, and also gets the rug smelling fab and dust-free.
  • Musty smell in your house? The best air freshner, is fresh air (logical thinking to me). Put down all of your noxious apricot and bilberry room odourisers, lay to waste your electricity-burning, evil-causers of false freesia-ness, and positively hurl into the dustbin your bright-pink, lewd-smelling bowls of chemical pot pourri, and make a promise to yourself: there will never be another one of [insert product name] these in my house, ever again. Now, feeling very pleased with yourself, fling open your windows (not with the heating on, think green here!), pay a visit to Adrian, and spread a little relaxing, soothing Nag Champa around your house. We love incense over here, can’t get enough of the stuff in fact – so much so that I think we’re going to have to become fully paid-up members of Incense Anonymous. On a more serious note though, there are risks associated with using aerosols and other types of air freshners. There was a marked increase in headaches in mothers, who regularly used air fresheners, and babies were found to experience more ear aches and diarrhoea than those who didn’t. If that alone doesn’t have you running to your cupboard to commit aerosol hari kari, then I’m not sure will. For me, air fresheners are a quick-fix to a simple problem. A house doesn’t smell if it’s kept clean, with regular ventilation all through the year. Opening the windows immediately upon waking (remembering to shut them if you’re going to leave the house unattended), and letting the house ‘breathe’ is the only way to defeat smells. As for air freshners that promise that they’ll kill all bacteria, just remember, we are made up of bacteria – really good, beneficial bacteria, which could be why so many people seem to suffer from allergies. Plus, there’s just something more tangible and spiritual about burning incense than simply spraying a spray; fresh-cut roses or not!
  • To take care of wooden furniture, what about using good old-fashioned beeswax? You can buy it in bar-form and melt it to make your own blend, or buy it in a tin which has had turps added, it should be applied sparingly and with a soft cloth, making sure you wash your hands afterwards.
  • To wash glassware, I’ve found that a bowl of hot water (only just bearable to put your hands in, cooler for more delicate items), with some eco-friendly washing-up liquid works wonders. Nooks and crannies can be attacked with a toothbrush. Rinse well, drying immediately with a good glass-towel.
  • Got hard floors? A bucket of scalding-water (much cooler if dealing with any floors other than laminate, tile or linoleum), with some of Ecover’s multi-purpose cleaner makes your floors sparkle. Make sure your mop-head is clean and in good working order, don’t put too much water on the floor, and if needs-be, do it by hand (a very satisfying, if time-consuming occupation).
  • I hope this helps!

    2 thoughts on “Clean, green and less of the mean

    1. Mimi says:

      What an interesting article. I could not agree more about the air freshener point! I found Borax in Boots- you might have some luck there.

      Have you seen the new storecupboard recipe section for cleaners at brocante home?

    2. Robyn says:

      Thanks for all of these ideas. I need to get started!

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