Natural Cleaning - My Essentials

Update - I now make all of my own cleaning products so I am not buying Ecover toilet cleaner or Ecoleaf laundry detergent and fabric conditioner any longer. I am still using the BioD washing up liquid as I can’t find a good enough homemade version. However, if you are starting out with green cleaning or are using a combination of homemade and bought then I do still recommend these products listed below.

If you are interested in making some simple sustainable changes this year, then one of the easiest ways is to choose greener products to clean with in the home. I originally made these changes for health reasons as I ended up in hospital after inhaling toxic fumes from a bleach based cleaner several years ago. Sadly, a lot of the cleaning products on our supermarket shelves are not great for our health and the environment. From plastic sponges that end up in landfill, synthetic fragrances to indoor air pollution, these are all things we could really easily live without. Many of these products cause huge problems for people who suffer from respiratory conditions or allergies so by cutting down on them, you are making your home a far healthier and kinder place to live.

I often get asked what I use in my home so I thought I’d share my Natural Cleaning Essentials here on the blog. I’ve tried many different products over the year but these are by far my favourites and most importantly, do the job I ask of them. If you are going to switch to greener cleaning products, use up what commercial products first before you buy anything new. And start slowly, make one product switch at a time to see if you like it. Nothing on this list has been paid for or sponsored and these are all products I regularly buy and use.

My list also includes some homemade cleaning recipes, so please make sure to read the individual posts I’ve linked to as they include some hints and tips as well as what surfaces not to use these products on.

Washing powder/fabric conditioner - I buy Ecoleaf washing powder and fabric conditioner from my local refill store - Seagulls Reuse, a social enterprise here in Leeds. Based in Kirkstall, they also sell shampoo, shower gel, washing up liquid etc refills too and you can buy glass bottles to take things home in if you don’t have your own containers. The excellent Jar Tree in Leeds Market also offer these products which is perfect if you are based in the city centre. I’m simply reusing my old Ecover bottles each time I need to refill with detergent and fabric conditioner. I’m loving the Ecoleaf products - they smell lovely (even the boys in my house have commented on this!) and more importantly, they wash everything well. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a refill store near you, then I recommend trying a bottle of Ecoleaf and if you like it, you can always buy it in a 5ltr bulk bottle which helps to save on plastics.

Stain removal - For a natural way to remove stains I use castile soap. For small stains on shirts or t-shirts I use the plain bar from All Natural Soaps (they also have written a really great piece on testing out the bar soap on fabric). For tougher stains, I find the Dr Bronner’s Castile Liquid Soap works best (see below). I use it undiluted on oil or grease and it works amazingly well at getting mildew out of my shower curtain. Simply pour a little undiluted soap on the stain, rub and leave for about 20 minutes, before washing as normal.

Washing up liquid - My favourite washing up liquid is from Bio-D. I buy the 5 ltr bottle size in Pink Grapefruit from Big Green Smile. It washes the dishes really well and smells amazing. I keep the large bottle in a storage cupboard and fill a glass bottle with pump dispenser which is next to the sink (which I bought from Seagulls Reuse but you can also find them online here). I’ve found this 5 ltr bottle lasts us around 6 months and we are washing the dishes 3 to 4 times a day. We don’t have a dishwasher.

Multi surface cleaner - I make my own from castile soap and water. I use Dr Bronner’s Liquid Citrus Soap for this and you can find my recipe for multi surface cleaner here.

Oven cleaner - For this awful task I’ve found nothing works better than some bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). I simply sprinkle a small amount of the Bicarb onto the floor of the oven and then spray a few drops of tap water on the top. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how dirty the oven is!) and then wipe off with a damp cloth. I use DriPak bicarbonate of soda that I buy in a local hardware store but you can also find it at Big Green Smile.

Washing up brushes - I use Redecker brushes for all my washing up. The handles are made of FSC beechwood, the bristles from natural plant fibres. I use the small pot brush for tough stains on pans or dishes and I use the longer handled dish brush for everything else. The dish washing brush has handy replaceable heads and once it’s come to the end of it’s lifespan it can be added to the compost heap. I also have a long handled flask brush for our reusable water bottles. You can find all of these at Utility.

Bathroom cleaner - For my sink, toilet seat/lid, bath and shower, I use a homemade vinegar spray which you can see the recipe for here. I’m currently using up the one I made over Christmas which was flavoured with oranges, lemons and pine needles. The trick with the vinegar mix is to leave it to infuse for weeks rather than making it up fresh and using it immediately. This helps to lessen the smell of the vinegar, making it much more pleasant to work with.

Toilet bowl cleaner - I’m not overly proud of this but I use Ecover’s Toilet Cleaner in pine and mint (there are some issues with Ecover which you can read here). I had made the switch to Bio-D’s toilet cleaner but I absolutely hate the smell of it so until I can find a different cleaner, I’m sticking with this. I do however buy it in 5 ltr bulk size, so plastics are reduced and it will last for around six months.

I think it’s important to add that green cleaning products are quite expensive and not accessible to everyone. Many of us are struggling to make ends meet and opt to buy detergents that are on offer so my advice is to make sustainable switches in other ways - choose washing powders in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bottles and don’t buy the detergents that always include those pesky plastic wash balls! If it’s washing up liquid, buy the biggest size plastic bottle you can rather than lots of small bottles. Look at ways to make your own cleaning products too - these are super cheap and work just as effectively as shop bought products. Try starting with my vinegar cleaning recipe above and instead of using essential oils as a scent, use orange or lemon peel.

Finally, I’ve included a link here to the Ethical Consumer website. They do a brilliant job of listing products and ranking the companies that make them on environment, animals, people and politics. It’s rather eye opening if you need any more convincing to make the switch to a greener cleaning product!