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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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 🙂

How to Save Money on Laundry Detergent

Buying laundry detergent can be mind-boggling because there is such an array of products on the shelves these days! Did you know that the majority of products on UK supermarket shelves are all made by only 2 global brands? Shocking, I know. You wouldn’t believe it from their marketing.

At the end of the day, that is what you’re paying for when you buy from a market leader – their advertising and the branding of the product. Didn’t you notice how often they re-design their packaging? Or how often their TV adverts change? Essentially all laundry detergents are the same, no matter what their format – powder, liquid or capsule. But the way you use them can also be beyond confusing – should you put it in the drawer, the drum or a wash ball? Honestly, the main difference between them all is price and how much damage they can do to your washing machine – yes really!

Liquid detergent gunks up your machine over time and capsules are worse because they are made of plastic, it never fully dissolves and can also damage your machine as it builds up inside. Capsules make a mess in your machine, where they stick when they don’t dissolve. Both liquid and capsule detergent also blocks your pipes over time, take it from someone who knows! The drain ‘doctor’ strongly advised never to use anything by laundry powder. If it does that to your pipes, then goodness knows what it’s doing to the inside of your machine.

Remember that you will always pay for convenience, so by buying capsules – you are spending maximum money! As there is no option to change the capsule dose – a capsule is a capsule, it’s a pre-set dose) for each wash, you could easily be using far more detergent than you actually need, particularly if you soften your water (more on that below). Powders are by far the cheapest to produce (and also happen to be the most eco-friendly, if you purchase them in cardboard) and so, they are the cheapest for consumers to buy. All manufacturers will send you a dosing scoop for free, if you send away to the address on the side of the pack. So there is absolutely no reason why you can’t take a moment to measure the correct amount each time.

Now, back to the issue of softening the water. Any detergent needs to soften the water before it can get to work. This is an important issue in the UK, as most places suffer hard water. Save yourself some more money by softening your water with a cheaper product than your expensive laundry detergent! Don’t waste your money on an expensive limescale prevention product; brand name or supermarket own! All you need is a 60p bag of Soda Crystals from Dri-Pak purchased at Home Bargains. (They are available elsewhere, for  about 40p more, like Wilko and Sainsbury’s). Add about a tablespoon with your detergent at each wash, just put it into the drawer.

Use MySupermarket to find out when your preferred brand of laundry detergent is on offer, so you always pay the lowest possible price and buy the biggest pack available (buying in bulk=big savings) – usually 65 washes these days for £10. (Don’t get me started that a couple of years ago you used to get 85 washes for the same price!!!) Though personally, with the addition of Soda Crystals I can make my box last about twice as long as that.

Finally, stop using fabric softener – it’s completely unnecessary and actually decreases the absorbency of towels and can make other clothing more flammable! Use about 50ml of white vinegar instead. It doesn’t make your laundry smell, but it will soften it without the needs for artificial chemicals and fragrances. It’s also a lot kinder on your wallet too – I can pick up 5 litres for £2.00.

I hope this helps you to save money on your laundry.