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 🙂

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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?

Modern Life is Rubbish!

This equally wonderful and appalling article has appeared in today’s Guardian newspaper. I hope it raises awareness of why I am pursuing both a Minimalist and Zero Waste lifestyle. I was appalled to read that 72% of all the plastic we send to be recycled is never recovered. 40% is sent to landfill anyway and 32% leaks out of the collection system. Those shocking statistics have led me to re-evaluate my habits again. A few months ago, I told myself that we couldn’t afford to have a milkman as it costs about 3x as much as buying 4 pints for £1 at the supermarket, in a plastic bottle. But after realising the truth of the situation, the truth is we can’t afford not to!

I don’t want to be responsible for my family, or anyone else on this planet eating food contaminated with toxins from plastic. I admit that putting items into a blue (plastic!) recycling bin makes you feel more virtuous about your waste. I try so hard to buy things packaging free, but currently where I live – options are limited and I still have moments where I run out of something and end up having to buy fruit or vegetables wrapped in plastic. I vow to try harder.

On the up side, I refused a plastic bag from the fruit and veg seller at the market today. He was adamant I should take one, after my initial refusal on the basis that I had my own bags. So I said firmly, I don’t take plastic bags anymore and he accepted that! So my fruit and veg came home in my homemade, cloth drawstring bags. Small victories eh?

 

Plastic free hot chocolate

IMG_1877 I’ve been experimenting with finding alternatives to both traditional drinking chocolate and instant hot chocolate drinks. Both of these- though lovely- come in plasticised containers. According to one book I read (albeit an old edition of the Tightwad Gazette written in the 1990s), making your own should be cheaper. However in 2015, I haven’t found this to be the case! Although- if I was clever enough to work out the cost of the protein content (as the book suggests) I might find it was worthwhile. I have been able to find dried milk powder and cocoa in cardboard boxes in some stores. Although, I suspect these to have plasticised paper bag liners- there are no other options here in the UK currently, at least not in my area or for miles around! Sugar comes in paper bags a lot of the time- so just make sure you choose these over plastic! For traditional hot chocolate, I have simply been following the directions on the packet of cocoa: 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder 2 teaspoons of sugar Mix these to a paste with a little cold milk and then top up with warmed milk. Or as I have been doing- top up with cold milk and microwave for 1 min, stir, then microwave for another minute and stir again. This saves massively on washing up! This tastes pretty well identical to the stuff in the container and is minus the artificial flavouring. The instant version is proving trickier; 1/3 cup dried milk powder 1 tsp cocoa 2 tsp sugar Mix to a paste with a little cold milk and top up with hot water. It tastes OK, but a little strong for my liking and the dried milk always goes lumpy. If anyone has any suggestions for how to improve it, please comment- otherwise I’m tempted to go back to my plastic container because it tastes so much better and according to my calculations is much cheaper also- though full of plastic and other chemicals- like anti-caking agents and flavourings. Although it is more minimalist to have less separate containers in the cupboard!

Update: 15/03/15

Recipe update- instant hot chocolate

This is the version that seems to taste best, for 1 mugful.

1 flat tsp cocoa

4 heaped tsp dried milk powder

2 flat tsp sugar

Mix to a paste with a little cold milk and then top up with hot water, stirring all the time.

One unintended side effect we’ve noticed since making this change is that we are no longer craving whipped cream and marshmallows on our hot chocolate. We used to have this from time-to-time as a treat. I must conclude that the cocoa content is higher in our homemade version and is somehow more satisfying? We’ve both definitely adjusted to the richer, more chocolately taste now and would’t go back. So this has been a real saving exercise for us- consuming fewer products, saving money and the environment, whilst also eating less processed, chemically enhanced foods. Winner!