Keeping Clean

23 April 2020


The last two weeks have been filled to the brim with life at home, I am most definitely not short of things to do.  In between cleaning the house, moving the laundry along its conveyor belt and sourcing, preparing and eating food, I am busy with enjoying the sunshine, my garden, daily walks, knitting and sewing.  I fall in to bed each evening exhausted and happy, my sleep is deep and restful.

Talking of cleaning the house I promised that I would come back here and share with you in greater detail some of the things that I use to do this after mentioning them recently.  A year of poor health, as a result of flu several years ago, meant that I had to stop using all the cleaning products we had in the house.  I became sensitive to limonene an ingredient in many of the eco-friendly products, although this was some time ago I have not gone back to buying these products as I love the alternatives more.  It was a bit of a harsh learning journey for me, but over time it has made me realise that I prefer what we use now, coupled with the fact that the children were very young when we made that transition so it is all they have ever known, they don't like the smell of bought cleaning products.

I thought I would start in the bathroom, I swear there are fairies living in mine who come in and leave their dirty foot prints the minute my back is turned.  I clean regularly it just never quite looks like I do, with four of us at home all the time at the moment I guess that is kind of inevitable.

The bath, shower and basin are all cleaned using bicarbonate of soda, bicarb for short and known as baking soda to some.  I wet a cloth and use the bicarb dry to rub into the surfaces to get them clean.  If you have tiles in your bathroom an old toothbrush and bicarb made into a paste is great for cleaning the grouting.  The loo is cleaned using a mix of bicarb for the outer surfaces and white vinegar for the bowl itself.  I usually line the bowl with the vinegar and leave it for a few minutes before scrubbing with a brush and flushing.

I also mentioned that we use loo cloths in my recent post.  They sit in a small basket by the loo.  When they have been used they go into a old nappy/diaper bucket that I kept hold of mostly because it has a lid and not many buckets do, the bucket is about half full of cold water which the cloths are soaking in until it is time to wash them. I usually wash ours once a week, we have about 60 - 70 cloths in use at any one time.  I pour the soaking water down the loo and rinse the cloths thoroughly in hot water in the basin before loading them into to two drawstring mesh bags.  I find that if I don't put them in bags they get worn out a lot quicker.  I wash them on a normal cotton wash and hang them out to dry - preferably outside - they are tedious to hang up as there so many of them. Inevitably they get worn and holey, at the end of their life they are put in the compost bin.  Once we are reduced to a quantity that doesn't get us through a week I will make some more.  This is about every six to eight months for us.

We inherited a carpet in our bathroom which we have yet to replace, one day.............. carpets in bath rooms with young children are not a good combination so I created a powder to sprinkle and leave over night before hoovering up, it worked really well.  It was a mix of bicarb, a very small amount of borax with a pinch each of  ground cloves and cinnamon.  My own version of shake and vac for those that remember such things.

The downstairs in our house is all hard floors which I wash about two or three times a month.  I use our homemade liquid soap for this job, the soap is a made using a bar of Oliva soap one of the few cleaning products we buy.  We grate it, add water and bring it gently to the boil to mix the grated soap.  My husband makes this so I am not sure of the quantities he uses, I am sure you could find these online if you look as that is what he did.  We make 5 litres at a time.  We have two dispensers, one upstairs and one in the kitchen, 5 litres of homemade soap lasts us about nine months.  I know someone who uses this for washing up too, we haven't found it quite right for that job so we buy washing up liquid the only other cleaning product we purchase.

We don't do much of our washing up by hand as we have a dishwasher, we make our own powder using equal parts of bicarb and borax.  We have a jar of this mixture in the kitchen as we also use it to do the laundry too, more of that in a moment.  Dishwashers also require rinse aid, we use white vinegar and softener which we are luckily enough not to need as our water is already soft.  I always think that is a rather odd way of describing water! Now, back to the laundry.  We use half a tablespoon of the powder I have already mentioned for each wash as a laundry powder.  As a fabric conditioner we use about a tablespoon of white vinegar with a few drops each of lavender and lemon myrtle essential oils.  I have noticed a significant reduction in the amount of moths in our house since using lavender oil in our laundry.

I think that is everything I use around the house, now to our bodies.  If we have a bath, which is less often these days, we use fine oatmeal which we hang in the foot of an old pair of tights and the water is strained through.  We sometimes add Epsom salts which are great for relieving aches and pains.

We wash our hair using rye flour.  I find I need to sieve this to get rid some of the bran which otherwise gets left on your head, not a look that you want to be sporting!  I make the flour into a paste with a little water which I then rub into my hair.  It has a surprisingly soapy feeling but obviously doesn't produce a lather like shampoo does, it also doesn't sting your eyes if it finds its way in.   I wash my hair every ten days or so, it doesn't need washing any more often.  One of the side effects, for me, of not using shop bought shampoo is that my hair has become much wavier and I often get ringlet curls in the ends.  I always wanted curly hair when I was a little girl, it seems I had to wait to get my wish!

I have also used bicarb and cider vinegar to wash my hair, it the first thing I tried when I couldn't buy any with ingredients I could use.  I tried many different methods but always used the bicarb first like you would shampoo, either dry onto your hair, a watery solution (1tbsp per pint of water) or mixed into a paste first, once you have rinsed that off mix a tablespoon of vinegar with a pint of water and use that as a conditioning rinse.  I stopped because I found this combination rather drying for my hair.

Toothpaste was one of the most difficult to find alternatives to, ten years ago there were few recipes on the internet.  Nowadays I use a tooth powder to brush my teeth with.  I have tried many different recipes over the years, one used crushed eggs shells which was pretty revolting, I didn't make any more of that!  I have also made a few using coconut oil which makes a paste but again I didn't particularly like them.  I have been making the same powder for many years now and am happy with it.  It takes some getting used to it you are used to using a bought paste, it is pretty dry at first, I wet the brush and then spoon a little paste onto the brush.

Tooth Powder Recipe:

4tbs bentonite clay/fullers earth
2tsp bicarb/baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
10 drops of peppermint oil
3/4 tsp activated charcoal (optional)

Please note that the peppermint oil needs to be food grade oil, not an essential oil which is different.  Put all the dry ingredients in a jar and mix them together then add the oil mixing as you add each drop to disperse it through the powder.  I have read that bentonite clay should not be stored in a metal container nor should you use a metal spoon to dispense it, I have also read that this is not true.  I keep mine in a glass container simply because it is easy to see how much is left and I use a metal spoon to dispense it and have for years so make of that what you will.

Still with me?  I am nearly there!  The last thing I am going mention is deodorant.  Unlike many of the other things I make this is one that I have not changed since finding a recipe all those years ago.  I don't use this a huge amount so this quantity can last me for months, in fact I cannot remember when I last made some.  I used to buy Toms of Maine deodorant back in the day and now reuse the old container to hold my homemade recipe, it has been in use for nearly ten years!

Deodorant Recipe:

1/4 cup bicarb
1/4 cup arrowroot
5 - 6 tbsp coconut oil

Melt the oil and mix in the powder, allow to cool a little before pouring into the container.  You could also mix in a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you wish.  Please note that as this contains coconut oil it will become runny in temperatures around 24°C/76°F so you will need to keep it somewhere cool, I put it in the fridge on the rare days the house gets up to this temperature.

So that is what I use and make here.  I hope you haven't read this and feel overwhelmed or that there is so much you should be doing.  It has taken me years to get to this point, a slow journey with a sudden change of direction due to illness about ten years ago.  Had I not been ill maybe some of these changes would not have happened, maybe they would but slowly over time, who knows?  What I do know is that I started some time in my teens, when I became aware of animal testing, I decided that I didn't want to put anything on my skin that had been tested in that way.  The only products I could find that met that requirement were sold in a health food shop, a world that I didn't know existed back then, it started me down a path I am still on today.

Thank you so much for reading this far, I do hope some of what you have read has been useful and/or interesting to you.  If there is anything that you do that I have not mentioned here, please do tell me in the comments I would love to hear about them!

36 comments:

  1. Really interesting reading and I will definitely try the bicarb on the tile grout as our shower is in need of a clean...
    Best wishes
    Ellie

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    1. I am glad you found it interesting, I was a bit worried folks would think it was all a bit worthy and holier than thou x

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  2. What an interesting post. It seems there's an alternative to everything, it's just a case of finding it and tweaking it to your own needs.

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    1. Thank you Jo, there are alternatives for most things it would seem. It is about tweaking it for your own needs.

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  3. I am absolutely impressed! What ingenuity! I would never in a million years think of making any of these things, just didn't occur to me that it could be done. The only thing I make, and that I don't see on your list, is window cleaner. I use a quarter cup of vinegar, a few drops of dish liquid to a quart of water. It works great.

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    1. Thank you Granny Sue. I was forced to look into alternatives as I could not use an store bought ones for a while so I don't know if I would have done so if that hadn't happened.

      Doh! Completely forgot about vinegar on glass I use it on mirrors too.

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  4. What a fascinating post! I always remember my mum adding vinegar to our hair rinsing water. She said it made our hair shiny

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  5. Thank you for sharing your recipes! I've used only bicarb and vinegar for cleaning for well over 10 years now, I think.....and can't imagine buying store-made cleaners anymore. I don't even like walking down that aisle in the supermarket as I find the fragrances over-powering.

    I've used both home-made laundry 'detergent' (grated laundry bar + borax + baking soda) and currently am working through a big bag of soapnuts that I bought about two years ago and are still going strong.

    Thanks especially for the tooth powder recipe....I want to give this one a go for sure. I've been buying Tom's and/or Green Beaver toothpaste for a while now but it's quite pricey.

    I've yet to try washing my hair with flour, but have been using an AC vinegar and rosemary-tea rinse which leaves my hair very shiny...although also smelling like a plate of chips so I think I need to tweak the ratios ;) xo

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    1. The cleaning aisle in the supermarket is a little overpowering isn't it, I am glad it is not just me. I live in a terrace of houses so am close to my neighbours, I can often smell their washing when they have just hung it out as the fragrances are so strong. I have heard about using herb tea rinses on your hair, in fact I think I wrote them down somewhere, thank you for the reminder I need to look them up.

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  6. Gosh, thats a very impressive range of alternatives you have there! I've been using bicarb and vinegar for cleaning for a few years - although I'm a very sporadic type of cleaner ;) but still use low tox shampoo and washing powder. What we have used for years is just straight bicarb for deodorant. Its a bit sting-y if used straight after shaving but I've found that I can apply for days and then have a couple of days off and still dont smell. We love it!

    I have a feeling that you would very much enjoy reading about a family here in Tasmania who are very much doing the zero waste thing and have some really great ideas both in their book and on their Instagram (no I don't know them!)
    https://spiralgarden.com.au/pages/about-us

    Thanks so much for these ideas - I am aware of them all but its really great to be reminded. I do sometimes wonder if its all too little, in the scheme of things, but then I remember that it has to start somewhere so it might as well be with me! Fortunately my children were raised to be kind to Mother Earth (and to look to alternatives for healthy living) and most of them still do.

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    1. Thank you Evi. It it good to hear what other people do as well, sharing ideas is a good way of spreading them. Thank you for link, I will look them up. The little things add up to be the big things if there is enough of them ;)

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  7. Thank you so much for this informative post. I will definitely be trying the toothpaste recipe. I already use bicarb for a lot of my cleaning, as I find the smell of bought cleaning products far too overwhelming.
    One thing I have always struggled with, however, is shampoo. So far, any alternatives I have tried either leave a residue or just don't work well enough. I live in hope. X

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    1. You are welcome Jules, I am glad that you found it interesting. I know what you mean about the smell of bought cleaning products they can be really overwhelming can't they.

      Finding alternatives to shampoo is so hard, I am sure that had I not had to use something else I would have gone back to bought shampoo. It has been a long journey for me too and I am glad to have found something that works for me, I hope that you can too in time.

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  8. I admire all that you do using natural products. I know my sister has a homemade deodorant recipe that she has used for years that she loves. I agree with you on carpet in bathrooms! I rented a house that had carpet in the bathroom (yuck) and carpet in the kitchen, what a holy mess that was when you dropped an egg....

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    1. Thank you Karen. Yes a carpet in a kitchen sounds even more ridiculous than in the bathroom, I am wondering why on earth you would do that!

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  9. Wow that's so amazing. You have written a great guide there , I really should look into changing a few of my cleaning products. The wooden floor cleaner sounds good. x

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    1. Thank you! I am so glad that you have found it interesting and hopefully useful too.

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  10. I used to make my own washing powder as you do, but my husband (who does the washing, bless him) wasn't that impressed and we had to go back to a non-Bio washing powder. I use vinegar for various cleaning purposes around the house (it's great on greasy ovens!) and have even been known to make my own cider vinegar. For deodorant, I just use a slice of lemon. Works a treat. I use shampoo bars for my hair.

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    1. Oooh I had not thought of using vinegar on a greasy oven I am going to try that one, thank you! I love the slice of lemon for deodorant too, that would be an easy swop if I ever forgot to take mine away with me anywhere!

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  11. Brilliant post, thank you - must have taken ages.

    I also avoid the ‘cleaning product’ aisles because of the smell and used to get very irritated that most stores put dog food opposite the stinking chemicals . . .

    Jules - I use a solid hair shampoo bar from “Bath, Bubble & Beyond” (Amazon or their own website). Probably not as ‘good’ as it could be, but seems to have fewer ingredients I cannot pronounce than many others.

    For teeth I love Redmond Earthpaste. Expensive compared to a tube of white paste filled with fluoride but lasts for months and months.

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    1. Thank you Jayne, yes it did take a while to put it all together. The cleaning aisle in supermarkets is smelly isn't it, luckily I can avoid them although sometimes I forgot and end up wondering down one on my way to the tills!

      It is good to know that someone out there is making a paste that is very similar to that which I make, if I ever want to stop or am unable to get the ingredients.

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  12. Interesting post, when I think back to all the old ways Grandma used to tackle her cleaning, no mod cons for her, I use the bicarb and white vinegar alot, the vinegar is good for cleaning out the algae from the grout on our outside seating. We have to be careful what we use to due to the septic tank. Rebecca and I make our own lip balm and we use essential oils too, much nicer than harsh chemicals xcx

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    1. I love hearing about what other people do Chrissie. Thank you for sharing some of the things you use your homemade cleaning products before. We should all be taking care whether we have a septic tank or not.

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  13. I suggested loo cloths to my family and they were horrified. I'd be happy to use them, maybe I'll make a little pile just for myself. My mum has a toilet with a little built in tap that rinses her bottom. I noticed this is quite common in other countries, for example Turkey, where my godmother lives. Do you wash your loo cloths hot? We still buy most of our cleaning stuff, from the eco-friendly section but I have to admit, I don't spend enough time reading the ingredient list. Where to you bulk buy your bicarbonate and white vinegar? I make my own soap bars, I rather enjoy that. I grate it for liquid soap, too. It works for hair but it is a bit drying. I made some shaving soap for the bearded ones in the house, they love it.

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    1. I am sorry to hear that your family were horrified by the thought of loo cloths, a pile just for you sounds like a great idea.

      I don't wash the loo cloths on a hot wash, just my normal cotton 40° wash it seems to do the job. We buy our bicarb and white vinegar online, my husband sorts that out. I think we buy the bicarb in 10kg bags and several 5 litre vinegar containers at a time.

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  14. Bicarb and vinegar cleans a lot here in our house too. Wonderful stuff! I use apple cider vinegar to condition my hair and it works really well. Meg:)

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    1. It is good to hear that bicarb and vinegar is what you use too, it is wonderful stuff isn't it. I found cider vinegar too drying for my hair but I am glad to hear that it works for you. We are all different so it is good that we can find the things that work for us.

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  15. Fascinating post! I am so curious about so much of this, I think it's being brave and experimenting, isn't it. I had never heard of rye flour on the hair, does your hair feel properly clean afterwards? I guess it does, otherwise you wouldn't keep using it! And what about a conditioner for afterwards, or you don't bother with that? Thanks for all of this to think about and for putting it all together in this way, so interesting

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    1. Thank you Bex, I am glad to hear that you have found it interesting and it has given you something to think about. It is being brave and experimenting, I had to as I couldn't use anything that was available to buy so it was a case of needs must.

      My hair feels wonderfully clean after washing with rye flour, I don't use anything else as I find I don't need to.

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  16. I found this fascinating and so impressive. Goodness, you've come up with your own range by trial, error and persistence.I don't make my own products, just buy environmentally friendly ones. You have me wanting to give your recipes a try though. There is so much more cleaning needing to be done these days, it's driving me crackers!xxx

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    1. Thank you! There is so much more cleaning to do at the moment isn't there, with four of us at home all the time it is a job to keep on top of it all.

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  17. I'm also impressed and encouraged! I have no choice but to make my own cleaners and lotions, deodorants, the brain injury left me with a wonky histamine response and I'm really triggered by manufactured and petroleum based products, Ive had no luck enjoying home made tooth paste, I use it but keep hoping for a better recipe ,, I will use yours next time. Thank you for this.

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    1. Thank you Laurie. The reason that I had to start making my own was also due to histamine issue which is thankfully now resolved but I haven't gone back to buying products as I love me own.

      I do hope you like the tooth powder, it is dry and takes some getting used to but I find shop bought pastes too sweet now.

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  18. I am going to save your post for future reference. Interesting alternatives.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by, I am glad you found this post useful.

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