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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Things that have Gone – 17

I’m back on the decluttering bandwagon again! Now that summer is over, it’s time to get my house in order again. I’ve always got more clothes to get rid of, I’ve admitted before that I have faro many. But this year, I have made a real and concerted effort to address this. A lot of my clothes are vintage items and although I love vintage clothes, I think it’s time to admit that most of the time they are just not as practical to wear. They tend to be the ones left hanging for months and years, and that just makes no sense. So, I am trying to downsize my collection. The other area of weakness in this house is the acquisition of DVDs. So we have resolved to try not to buy any more, without watching some of what we have.

In the last couple of weeks, I have sold 13 items on eBay.

 

  1. Jasper Conran Applique Cord Skirt
  2. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  3. Vintage Laura Ashley gypsy skirt
  4. Underwear set
  5. John Rocha T-shirt
  6. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  7. M&S leather skirt
  8. M&S cashmere cardigan
  9. Thor DVD
  10. Vintage Laura Ashley tea dress
  11. Maleficent DVD
  12. The Skeleton Twins DVD
  13. Phase Eight Sequinned T-shirt

I plan to get ruthless this time, I’m giving myself a deadline and if things don’t sell – then they’re going to the charity shop. I’m not keeping things going round and round on eBay for a year, before they sell. My space is more valuable!

Are you decluttering? If you care to share, then I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.

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And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?

Lush Solid Shampoo and Conditioner Bars

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I realised that in all my Lush posts, I didn’t actually have a picture of their solid shampoo and conditioner bars. So here they are – now you know what they actually look like. I find one of these lasts about a month for me, but I have very long, thick hair. My husband has short hair and I think he can make them last more like 6 months which is pretty awesome value! Pictured are the ones I use – Montelbano (the yellow shampoo bar) and Jungle (the green conditioner bar). Montelbano is full of lemons to add shine and Jungle has an exotic scent; also it is a very light conditioner so ideal for greasy hair. My husband uses Soak & Float which contains Cade Oil – designed to help with psoriasis,  dandruff and eczema. I also LOVE their BIG solid conditioner, which makes my hair seriously soft and shiny.

Lush now make the conditioner bars in an oval shape, so you can tell which is which, without looking. You can also buy little tins to transport them in, if you are travelling. I only have the round tins, as I bought them before they changed the shape. I cut down the conditioner to take it with me, as I don’t want to buy more. You should always allow them to air dry however, or they will go soggy. They do have a tendency to stick to the tin, so at home I store them on a wire soap rack.

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If you want to read more about ingredients and how to use them, you can go to the Lush website and they even have a video. We will never go back to buying shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles! These work so well, take up less space in our bathroom and  are fantastically compact for travelling. Plus, you can avoid any rules about taking liquids onboard.

Care to share your experiences with solid toiletries?

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.

What did the World use as Packaging before Plastic?

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What did the World use before plastic existed? The answer is ‘jute’. Jute is a reed which grew in the rivers around Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. It is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant (Corchorus Capsularis) and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius). Jute was woven into sack cloth and used to transport everything from potatoes to coal. In Britain, Dundee was the capital of jute manufacturing for the UK.

Jute is a natural product and should be at the forefront of any moves towards sustainable production and transport of goods. It is known as ‘the golden fibre’ partly due to its lovely shine and colour and also due to its ability to be woven into various textiles. It is incredibly strong when woven. But it is 100% biodegradable and therefore – more environmentally friendly. It is versatile and can be used as a yarn on its own, woven with other fibres and also made into more rigid products like baskets.

Perhaps jute is not confined to the history books and is about to have a resurgence? What do you think? It’s an annual crop which takes only 120 days to grow, during the summer months (May, June, July, August). It’s a rain-fed crop, with no need for fertilisers or pesticides. It also produces good yields, making it a very affordable crop.

Note: If this subject interests you, then you should catch up with Joanna Lumley’s India on the ITV Hub.

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?