Green Cleaning - Castile Soap
A few years ago I ended up in the Accident and Emergency Department as I'd had a rather bad allergic reaction to a cleaning product - I'd been scouring the tile grout in the bathroom with it and although I'd ventilated the room, it clearly wasn't enough and I suffered the consequences. My face, arms and hands were swollen to almost twice their normal size and I felt awful. Thankfully I was well looked after by our brilliant NHS staff and I learned not to do it again. But it did make me think more about what products I use in my home. I chose to switch to more environmentally friendly versions of multi-surface cleaners, washing powders and bleach that were readily available at the supermarket and I felt that I was doing what I could to make my home more green and free from toxins. Yet if you dig a little deeper into these eco brands sadly you'll discover they are not all that they claim to be as several are owned by large chemical companies with dubious ethical practices (read the article from the Ethical Consumer here). I don't really want to hand over any more cash to these kind of businesses so instead I've chosen to find alternatives as well as making my own cleaning products.
When you start dipping your toes into natural cleaning it can be really overwhelming as there is a staggering amount of information out there. Online there are recipes galore for glass cleaners, stain removers, washing powders and kitchen surfaces and many of them talk about using distilled water, reverse osmosis water, sodium borate, glycerine and distilled vinegar. My head was spinning trying to work it all out and when I started to make a list of everything I needed to buy I almost quit before I began. I persevered though and opted to start simple, breaking down what I really wanted or needed to make and eventually I discovered what worked for my home. I thought I'd share my recipes and list of ingredients on here and hopefully you'll find some of these ideas useful too. Although buying one or two of the ingredients can seem initially quite costly, in the long run you'll find that you will actually save money. And as an added bonus you'll find you use a lot less plastic too.
This is the first post in what I plan to be a little series on Natural Cleaning and it's my absolute favourite product to clean my home with - castile soap. Made purely from vegetable oils (so vegan friendly), castile soap is biodegradable, non-toxic, safe for pets and kids and best of all it can be used eighteen different ways around the home. It contains no synthetic preservatives, detergents or foaming agents and I use it to clean kitchen worktops, showers, floors and appliances. It's perfect for controlling dust mites, killing aphids from houseplants and washing muddy dogs too. It's also a shampoo, body and face wash.
I use Dr Bronner's Pure Castile Soap which is one of the most well known brands but there are lots of other options available (usually unscented for you to add your own essential oils). I like Dr Bronner's products as they are fair trade, organic, scented with natural oils and are packaged in a 100% post-consumer recycled bottle. As I love the scent of citrus and almond, I opt to use these ones for my household cleaning. The citrus castile soap I use in the kitchen on worktops and the almond castile soap I dilute in a bucket of warm water to clean my laminate floors. In the bathroom I use eucalyptus castile soap to clean the sink, shower and bath. A bottle of soap has a shelf life of around three years and to use it as a cleaning product it is simply diluted with water. As I have limited cupboard space in my kitchen and we are a small family unit of three I tend to have the smaller sized bottles to hand but larger sizes are available and they generally work out more cost effective and use a lot less packaging. The three bottles I have are essentially all I need for the majority of household cleaning.
I've listed below the recipe for multi purpose cleaner and it fills a 500 ml bottle. I use this recipe for kitchen worktops, the hob, sink and general cleaning of tables and other surfaces. Simply spray and wipe over with a damp cloth, no need for rinsing afterwards. I find a batch of this generally lasts a month before it starts to go off but I've usually more or less come to the end of the bottle anyway and just make up a new batch. You can choose to add your own essential oils to any of the castile soaps (tea tree has added anti-bacterial properties) or buy one that is unscented as it's great for babies or sensitive skin. It's also important to add that some essential oils are toxic to cats and dogs so it's best to stick to the castile soaps and not add any additional oils if you have pets in your home.
Multi Purpose cleaner -
500 ml size bottle and spray nozzle (I bought mine from here).
25 ml Castile Soap (I like Dr Bronner's Citrus for this but you can use any or unscented. I buy Dr Bronner's Citrus Castile Soap from my local health food shop Out of This World in Leeds and the others online at Big Green Smile who also include samples in their orders like this rose one in the image above if you want to try others).
How to make it:
Fill up the bottle with tap water
Add the 25 ml castille soap (after the water otherwise the mixture will go all foamy)
Spray surface, wipe clean.