Zero Waste Cleaning Fails

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I recently mentioned that I was having little success cleaning my toilet with natural products, like soda crystals and citric acid. I did give up, I just could not remove all the limescale with citric acid and it was building up way faster than when I use a chemical cleaner. I think this was also the reason the toilet was smelling bad because nasty compounds clinged to to the limescale – gross! We do live in a very hard water area, which may be why this was presenting such a problem. It would have cost me an absolute fortune to continue to clean this way, as I was needing to buy new products every fortnight at the cost of £2.50 – such was the volume of product I needed to use to even get the toilet partly clean! Now, I can buy a chemical toilet cleaner for £1 and it lasts for a couple of months. I continue to use my natural disinfecting spray on the outside. This is the best I can do, although I have just purchased an eco toilet cleaner from Waitrose to see how it goes. I was totally unimpressed with Ecover’s offering, so we will see.

I recently used up my ceramic hob cleaner, so I thought I’d give natural alternatives a go. I tried using bicarb but it was difficult to use, hard to mix and hard to remove and it couldn’t tackle grease on the hob. I tried using vinegar, as I hoped the acid might break down the grease but it failed to shift it either. So, sorry to the planet but I am going back to my Hob Bright if soda crystals also fail me.

I don’t mind using natural methods, IF they work. But what is the point if they don’t?! I’m sorry but I’m not going to have a dirty home in the name of being zero waste. Homemade dishwasher tablets were another massive disaster!

All this said, I have great success with natural disinfectant, citric acid to descale the kettle, soda crystals to clean the oven and vinegar to clean glass. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Where am I going wrong?

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Lush Haul – Zero Waste Toiletries

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I visited Lush yesterday to stock up on toiletries, in advance of my holiday in a few weeks. Lush is great, as you can buy most toiletries packaging free. Above you can see (anti-clockwise from the giant henna block in the bottom left); Caca Marron Henna Hair Dye Block, Handy Gurugu Handcream, The Sunblock, Each Peach (and Two’s a Pair) Massage Bar and Coalface Solid Bar Soap (just about visible on the black bag).

I love their henna, I never wanted to dye my hair but I am slowly going grey (the curse of having dark hair) and in my mid-thirties, it’s got to the point where I really don’t like it being so visible. These henna bars are a little bit of effort, but I love that they are all natural. They are well worth the effort and really do make your greys sparkle brighter, as they take the colour slightly differently and look like highlights.

The hand cream comes in a little black pot, but these are made from 100% recycled plastic. Lush has a closed loop system and you take your pots back to store for recycling. They take them back to the manufacturer and round and round they go! The plastic manufacturer is also down here in Poole, right next to the factories that make the lovely Lush products. I tried their solid hand cream, but it wasn’t rich enough for me and far, far too greasy.

I don’t fully understand why they wrap the sunblock in plastic, but currently they do. I suspect it’s because it’s prone to melting – I had this experience once. But I’d still rather buy it sans-packaging and put it into a little tin for travel, like I do with their solid shampoos and conditioners. (EDIT: I wrote to Lush and they tell me that their sunblock is more prone to melting than other solid products. However, the good news is that the “plastic wrap is a cellulose plastic, which is a bio-plastic made from things like vegetable fats. It can be popped in with your compost and should begin to biodegrade within a week or so“). My husband swears this is the best sun-care product he has ever used. He has pale skin that burns very easily, but this offers fabulous protection. You simply shower it on in the morning and it’s SPF 30. You can also cut off a little bit and carry it with you in a tin, to top up. We also carry their ‘Powdered Sunshine’ which is fabulous and non-greasy, a little powder that you apply like talc. I even mix it with my face powder, to up my daily protection.

The massage bars are great for travel and completely sans-packaging. You just rub them over your skin to moisturise and it’s as simple as that. Coal-face is a godsend for my oily skin and it doubles as an exfoliator, as it contains little pieces of coal to gently scrub. I love it more than any face wash I’ve ever tried. Combine these items with our solid shampoo and conditioners bars and we’re set to go! We can’t imagine ever going back to plastic-wrapped, unethical toiletries.

All in all, I love supporting a local retailer, employing (mostly) local people (more on that perhaps another time) all these products are made 5 miles from my house – though ironically I have to travel a couple of miles further on just to buy them! I took all old paper bags and re-used them all. I had to prompt the staff member a couple of times, but they obliged. They sell some items by weight, and they always weigh them without the packaging. They can even cut products to your requirements, like with my piece of coalface soap.

Zero Waste Fails – Homemade Dishwasher Tablets!

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Don’t all the blogs you read about Zero Waste preach about everything that works for them. I’m getting a little sick of it actually, it’s like the edited version of many people’s lives that are portrayed on Facebook. It’s simply not real!

So, I’ve been trying to find a Zero Waste alternative to individually, plastic wrapped dishwasher tablets for some time now. It’s been one massive fail. I’ve tried recipes for liquids, powders and tablets. None of them was successful, not successful enough to switch to anyway. They contained in varying proportions; soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, borax substitute, essential oils, castile soap and citric acid.

The tablets fell apart as soon as I removed them from the ice cube moulds. Alongside that, they were only halfway effective – leaving nasty, gritty residue on my cups, making my stainless steel cutlery marked and rusty. In addition they were totally useless on tea and coffee stains – meaning that I had to wash many items again by hand or soak them in  a special solution to remove the stains.

The dishwasher powder was the same, only this added a terrible white residue to everything which I had to scour off with a metal scourer. The liquid was no better, with horrible water residue marks on everything. The whole point of having a dishwasher is to remove that heavy burden of washing up, multiple times per day. Because we cook most meals from scratch, we normally have a large amount of dishes and pans to clean.

Whilst I’d love to be writing about my fantastic homemade dishwasher tablet recipe – it just didn’t happen. I don’t know if it’s because we live in a hard water area, or something else. I ended up making a trip to the supermarket just for dishwasher tablets because I couldn’t bear the white residue on everything any longer and I was worried I was going to ruin my expensive cutlery permanently. On top of having to wash everything again, it simply wasn’t worth it.

What are your Zero Waste fails? Do you have a successful dishwasher tablet recipe you can share?

How to make your own Eco, Zero Waste Disinfectant Spray.

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We all need something to keep areas in the house sanitary; like toilets and in my home, cat litter trays. I have been using this recipe for a couple of years now and I wouldn’t change back! Get yourself down to you nearest £1 store and purchase one of these metal spray bottles. They’re usually with the hair accessories.

Ingredients

  • Basics Vodka
  • White vinegar
  • Tea tree oil
  • Cooled, boiled water

Method

  1. Combine 1/2 cup of Vodka with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and pour it into your spray bottle. I find a funnel is useful to avoid spillages!
  2. Add about 10 drops of tea tree oil which is a natural antiseptic, or you can simply leave it unscented if you prefer.
  3. Top up with enough cooled, boiled water to fill the container (usually 1-1 1/2 cups).
  4. Shake to combine all the ingredients thoroughly!

Important note – it’s vital that you use cooled, boiled water if you want this to keep. Boiling the water kills any microorganisms. It usually lasts me about 1 month and I use it to clean 2 toilets and 2 cat litter trays per week.

To use – just spray on your surfaces and wait 10 minutes, for it to do its disinfecting magic!

Zero-waste, Eco, Plastic-Free & Cheap Cleaning Products!

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Today I’m going to share with you my Zero-Waste (almost!), eco, cheap and as plastic free as possible cleaning products! What a mouthful. Well, Zero Waste is almost never straightforward is it?

I am trying to find alternatives to all my normal, toxic cleaning products. I’ll admit I’ve had mixed success thus far, but these are my staple products, along with a bottle of Basics Vodka (around £10), a 5L bottle of white vinegar from Makro (cheapest place I can find it £2-£3) and a bottle of tea tree oil (approx 99p from my local pharmacy). I’ll list where I find them cheapest and compared to your ‘normal’ cleaning products, these tend to work out much cheaper. Dri-Pak make all the products you need and they also make them under Wilko’s own brand;

  1. Soda crystals (unfortunately packaged in plastic and they’re not prepared to change this. I’ve tried asking many times!) (65p a bag in Home Bargains)
  2. Bicarbonate of Soda (£1 per box in Savers)
  3. Borax Substitute (£1.79 a box in Robert Dyas)
  4. Citric Acid (£1.29 a box in Home Bargains, £1.50 a box in Wilko)
  5. Liquid Soda Crystals (£1 a bottle in Wilko)
  6. Liquid Soap Flakes (not pictured) £2.50 a bottle in Wilko)
  7. Liquid Bicarb (I can’t find this anywhere, or persuade them to stock it but it is available on places like Amazon and eBay at a price because of the weight of shipping). I’d love to try it as an alternative to Cif, as I find just sprinkling the powder about is not so convenient.
  8. White Vinegar (Wilko sell a spray bottle but I prefer to buy in bulk for much greater savings and decant into my own spray bottle.

If you can’t find them in the places above, then see if you have a local, independent hardware store. I have no problem locating them there, but they do cost a bit more. But then you are supporting a local business.

I will post some ‘recipes’ in some future posts, but I make my own disinfectant spray for cleaning the toilets and it works really well. We’ve been using it for the longest, over 1 year now and we’ve never gotten sick. I think it’s really effective and it’s great knowing it’s non-toxic. It’s made from white vinegar, vodka and a few drops of tea tree oil along with some cooled, boiled water. I also use it to keep cat litter trays clean. You do need a little more patience than with regular disinfectant, as you need to let it sit for 10 minutes to get to work. I just tackle another cleaning task whilst I wait.

I use soda crystals to keep my drains clear. Each week I pour a quantity into the plug hole and flush down with a kettle of boiling water. Maintenance is the key here, so do it regularly to avoid a big blockage. They are also great for softening water and I use a tablespoon in every wash which makes my laundry powder go MUCH further. You can read about this here.

I use liquid soda crystals with a metal scourer to keep my oven clean. I have posted about this before here, if you want to see the detail. I clean all mirrors and glass with white vinegar. I tried using newspaper but it made a terrible mess, so I am sticking with my microfibre cloths at the moment, though I know they are probably shedding plastic microfibres into the water system. They are AMAZING for keeping my shower free of limescale, without the need for chemicals. Read more here.

I have recently tried making my own dishwasher detergent powder from bicarbonate of soda and borax substitute. It might be plastic free, but it’s as ineffective as Sainsbury’s own brand. Sorry, but I’m going back to plastic wrapped tablets again.

I use liquid soap flakes for delicate, hand wash laundry items and I love it because it’s fragrance free. I don’t think I could afford to use it for all my washing as it’s not concentrated and I hate that it comes in plastic containers. I’d rather buy my laundry powder which comes in a cardboard box! You can also use them as a liquid hand wash.

Each week, I descale my kettle (we live in a very hard water area) with citric acid. I also do the same to the toilets once a month. I highly recommend it, it’s super-easy and the instructions are on the side of the box.

Finally, I’ve also been experimenting with cleaning the inside of the toilet bowl with bicarb and vinegar. I’ve also tried spraying in liquid soda crystals. I’m not currently convinced of their efficacy and the cost because of the amount you need to use, what with the limescale here etc seems prohibitive to me. I’m going to persevere a little longer, but I have a feeling I’m going back to a chemical cleaner in a plastic container – simply because they are around £1 a bottle, last for ages and tackle cleanliness, freshness and limescale in one hit and much more quickly than homemade remedies.

I’d recommend reading the Dri-Pak website, for lots of tips and tricks. Also check out Youtube if you need instructional videos. Do you have any tips for natural cleaning remedies that work? Do get in touch – I’d love to share the knowledge 🙂

Plastic-free Pets

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I experienced an unexpected and irritating plastic-related scenario today. We are considering adopting another cat from a shelter and so we made enquiries. We were told by the shelter that under no circumstances could we take a cat home in anything other than a plastic carrier, since they deem anything but plastic to be ‘insecure’.

We purposely chose a natural and sustainable wicker carrier for our cats. In all my 34 years of owning cats, we have never used anything else and not once has a cat ever escaped. It does make me wonder what the world is coming to. We are offering a homeless, unloved cat a loving home and they want to refuse us unless we are prepared to spend out on a plastic cat carrier.

This is our cat carrier shown above and I have inspected it and failed to find anyway that it is insecure. There is about 1 inch give in the top and bottom which a cat could never fit through. Besides, I can easily remedy that with a few more leather buckled straps top and bottom. I suspect I have two options from here: to explain that I choose to live plastic-free and offer to leave my carrier with them whilst I borrow one of their plastic ones and return it later. Or, find someone willing to lend me a plastic one for a single journey so I can comply with their daft rules!

Have you ever come across any bonkers plastic-related rules? How did you overcome them?