Ever wondered how you can ditch the chemicals and turbo-charge your home cleaning with eco-friendly, cheap and widely available alternatives? Despite what big brands would have you believe, there’s really no need to resort to hardcore, toxic, eye and lung burners to get things clean and sparkly again.
And all these alternatives can be sourced entirely plastic-free too so making a swap here really has all-round benefits. They’re also edible / drinkable. But ingesting them together is a no-no, unless you’re in the market for a pungent homemade cocktail.
So what are these four magic allies? And why do they work so well? The super green, clean heroes are:
- white vinegar
- bicarbonate of soda
Okay, time for a school science class flashback…. Lemons and white vinegar are acidic (both have a pH of between 2 and 3). Bicarbonate of soda is alkaline with a pH of around 8. If you mix one of the acids with the bicarb, they’ll react and create a lovely fizzy, bubbly puddle. A potent combo, but not one that’s bad for your health or the planet’s.
Vodka’s cleaning ability comes from the fact it’s alcohol, rather than its pH (neutral at around 6 to 7).
So, how exactly can these items be used most effectively for home-cleaning?
Hard water is the pits. Everything becomes lime-scaley in a matter of days. Before long, your kettle looks frozen from the inside out. And then all the calcified white bits start breaking away. If you’ve ever had a mouthful of these gritty little deposits from your mug, you’ll know how horrid they are. Maybe that’s why lots of people never drink the last few mouthfuls?
All you need to keep the scale at bay is neat white vinegar. It’s so easy and there are no dangerous fumes. Before use, make sure the kettle is cool. Give it a quick rinse and then pour in the vinegar. Not a huge amount – to cover the base and about 1/2 cm deep. Then close the lid, give it a gentle shake and leave it to sit for at least 20 minutes.
When you check the kettle, most of the scale should have dissolved. If not, leave it for another 20 minutes. Once the scale has gone just rinse the kettle out and refill with a small amount of fresh water to boil through. After this, it should look good as new and ready for use with no lingering vinegar scent.
If you don’t have any white vinegar or hate the smell of it, you could squeeze in some neat lemon juice instead. One lemon will be enough. If you have one that’s a bit withered and past its best, this is a great way to use it up. Once added, just shake the kettle around every so often so the juice gets a chance to dissolve the limescale.
For heavier scale, leave the vinegar or lemon juice in the kettle for a couple of hours or even overnight. If you live with others, probably best to leave a warning note in front of the kettle. That way unsuspecting bleary-eyed tea makers won’t get a nasty shock when they go to enjoy their morning brew. Unless, you fancy some fun! 😆
Steel sinks, taps and drains
Have you noticed how quickly stainless steel sinks and taps become dull? Soap scum and limescale is not a good look. Yes, conventional chemical cleaners can work wonders here.
BUT there’s a reason they have that horrible, sad drawing of a dead fish on the back of their bottles. When you rinse these cleaners away, they go on to pollute waterways, wreck eco-systems and kill wildlife.
Bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar together do as good a job without any nasty side effects. You just need to take some bicarb – you can use the same type as for baking. Or most zero waste shops also stock a cheaper, coarser cleaning-only bicarb if you’d prefer. Sprinkle it lightly on your target. Then take some white vinegar and drip it over the bicarb. This is when the fizztastic party starts. Leave it for about 20 minutes to work its magic. Then use a brush to scrub it in. Pay special attention to any heavy lime-scaled areas.
Leave for another few minutes and then rinse away and dry with a tea towel. Everything will look good as new. The bicarb/vinegar combo also works wonders on plugs, strainers, plugholes and stinky drains.
This one takes a bit more effort and is also pricier. You’ll need a bottle of vodka (any brand is fine – cheap makes sense). Then use a veggie peeler or sharp knife to cut off the peel of two lemons. If you’re using the juice to descale inside the kettle then removing the peel first will save waste. Add the peel to the vodka in a large glass jam jar. Put on the lid and store away for a few weeks.
The liquid will turn a pale yellow colour (yes, it does look like pee). You can then discard the lemon peels and decant the solution into an old spray bottle. It works great as a worktop and general kitchen cleaner. A little goes a long way and the scent is nice and citrusy (definitely not like pee!).
I’m not 100% sure this is suitable for all surfaces so might be worth checking out before you try, especially if you have fancy worktops. Mine are a granite mix and seem to be fine.
So there you are. Some natural cleaning options that are chemical free, plastic-free and easy to find. Do let me know how you get on if you try these out. Also, if you have any suggestions for other uses for these products or any other greener cleaning heroes, please share in the comments below.
White vinegar, lemons and bicarbonate of soda, all widely available from most supermarkets and food shops for less than £1.00 each, depending on sizing. Vodka, around £11.00 for a 700ml bottle from supermarkets and off-licences.