Natural cleaning products
You may be wondering how the chemical cleaning products you use at home can harm the environment. It seems like many people are starting to abandon the dazzling and colourful chemical products, which always awe us when we turn to that section in the supermarket. So, why is it actually good to turn to simpler and less perfumed DIY cleaning solutions? Why are people now starting again to use vinegar, bicarbonate, and other weird mixes to clean their houses? This article will dive into the harmful impact chemical cleaning products have on the environment. To avoid further polluting our Earth, we suggest simple and efficient ways to clean with natural solutions!
HOW DO STORE-BOUGHT PRODUCTS DAMAGE OUR WORLD?
It feels like we are doing the right thing when we clean with a sparkling apple-green liquid, radiating a pleasant lavender scent, and perceiving the strong chemical reaction. These simple factors compel us to believe the effectiveness of harsh sprays and gels. Distracted by this, we may not realise the reality: all these products are critically harming our environment, killing biodiversities in our waters, intoxicating our lungs, and contributing to CO2 emissions.
The first problem is caused by the agglomeration of algae, known as blooms which damage underwater ecosystems. This originates from chemicals commonly contained in dishwashers and laundry liquids which instigate the phenomenon of eutrophication, which is triggered by the release of nitrogen and phosphate. These chemicals are common fertilisers and act as such when released in fresh bodies of water. Therefore, algaes feed onto them and grow excessively, to the extent of blocking sunlight and stealing a huge portion of the oxygen necessary for fish to survive. The excess of algaes also damages other subaqueous flora, causing irreversible effects on the species populating freshwater ecosystems.
The second issue is related to toxins in our lungs, more specifically to the development or worsening of adult asthma. This is mainly caused by spray products, which contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) (i.e. fluoro-silicone polymers…) that are released in the air when we clean. These VOCs include toxins that severely affect our lungs, leading to the development or worsening of adult asthma. According to a study by the Department of Clinical Science, of the University of Bergen, ‘Regular use of cleaning sprays has an impact on lung health comparable with smoking a pack of cigarettes every day’. After examining 6.000 people, it was found that the respiratory system of those who dealt with cleaning products every day was damaged by the inhaled chemicals. Senior study author Cecile Svanes also confirms that such particles are unnecessary to active cleaning purposes, and may be easily replaced by water and microfibre cloths, achieving an equal result. In fact, the VOCs emitted by these sprays are mostly perfumes and colouring substances, with mere marketing aims rather than cleaning efficiency. More information on this study may be found on the Thoracic Website at the following link: https://www.thoracic.org/about/newsroom/press-releases/resources/women-cleaners-lung-function.pdf.
The third concern is the industrial structure that lies behind these bottles, sprays, gels and powders. As each product has a specific purpose (wood cleaner, kitchen detergent, laundry powder, softener…), consider the production chain behind each one: material sourcing, packaging, product creation, advertisement, shipping. Furthermore, consider how many of these products are composed of a small amount of concentrated cleaning liquid plus 90% of diluting water. All these are the cogs of the industrial machine that generate tons and tons of avoidable plastic waste in our oceans, unnecessary CO2 emissions due to the transportation of these products, and the dangerous single-use product waste strategy.
These are only a few of the issues surrounding these products. Thankfully, there are many easy ways we can produce effective cleaning products in our own homes, with a very low budget and little time-effort!
THE BEST SOLUTION? CHEAP, EASY, HOMEMADE & NATURAL
Now, there are many reasons why home-made-plastic-free cleaning products are so convenient.
The first is the fact that they are easily home-made with products that we usually own. Your main ingredients will be: bicarbonate and vinegar. Very simple yet effective: when mixed with boiled water, lemon and washing soda can fight any dirt your home may require. You can also add some nice essential oil. And remember, that vinegar is a weak acid and hence it requires either higher concentration, which may pose a risk to human health or increased contact time.
Here at Critical Concrete, we have completely shifted to natural cleaning methods in our daily routine. The majority of the cleaning products we have are used to clean the kitchen: sensitive and greasy surfaces, dishes in the dishwasher, and mopping floors. For cleaning sensitive surfaces, diluted vinegar is the perfect solution as it powerfully clears out grease. With the help of a wet cloth, the surfaces will be clean and the vinegar scent disappears shortly after. Tip: Soak spent lemon rinds in a jar of vinegar so they infuse a lemon scent into your natural cleaning products. You know the vinegar is ready when the rinds sink to the bottom of the jar.
When it comes to deep cleaning extra-greasy surfaces such as stoves and sink tops, a mix of vinegar and sodium bicarbonate is ideal. In order to achieve even deeper sparkly cleanness, we suggest using Tawashi cloths, a natural and resistant Japanese fabric for proper scrubbing purposes. The Tawashis really scrub off all the grease and sticky things, leaving surfaces nice and shiny. These cloths are also extremely easy to make at home from repurposed old fabric.
In general, it’s quite common nowadays, finding in shops alternatives to plastic based sponges: from biodegradable ones, wooden dish brushes and more durable objects.
As our team eats lunch together everyday, we accumulate a significant amount of dishes. Therefore, it is more reasonable for us in terms of water consumption to use the dishwasher. Nonetheless, it is still possible to use natural detergents by filling the washing tab halfway with sodium bicarbonate and then pouring some vinegar. Set the desired washing program and start the cycle. Pro tip: If you have used lemon around, place half of it into the dishwasher to help disinfect while adding a fresh lemon scent to your dishes.
We also have a trick to clean our drains while still avoiding killing fish! As often things get messy in our studio, we regularly pour 125g of washing soda and a few drops of tea tree oil in the plug hole, and leave for at least an hour.
Vinegar is the real star of natural cleaning products, we also use it to mop the floors: 100ml of vinegar + 2 L of hot water. The combination of the acidity of the vinegar and the heat of the water disinfect the floor removing stains and smells.
Lastly, in regards to laundry detergent, we mix:
- 1/3 of washing soda,
- 1/3 of baking soda (or borax, either work!)
- and 1/3 of natural soap flakes.
Mix them together and they will remove your stains, add some essential oils to add fragrance. For a proper laundry wash, we recommend to use some vinegar, which acts as a very effective softener, and its smell does not stay in your clean clothes.
If you are doing a white wash and seeking a green alternative to bleach, percarbonate of sodium is your answer. Every country has its own brand, which is best to respect in order to limit transport pollution. Portugal for instance has ‘Starwax’ Sodium Percarbonate, which is commonly sold in hardware stores.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Keep in mind, that our showers are part of the “green your home” practices too!
Don’t forget to turn off the water, try to spend less time under the shower and think of baths as an occasional treat. If you can, install a low-flow showerhead. It may cost you some money up front, but your water conservation efforts will save you money down the road. You can also put a bucket in the shower while you’re waiting for the water to warm up or washing your hands, and use the water you catch for watering plants, flushing the toilet or cleaning.
We hope this article inspires you to adopt these methods, spending less money and helping our planet to stay healthy! If you have any doubts or information, please contact us on our instagram page or via email, we are always open to talk about sustainable everyday hacks and how to implement them in our lifestyle.
If you are interested in learning more about how to ‘green your home’, here is a list of noteworthy books:
- Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond
- Clean Sweep: The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering, Detoxing and Destressing Your Home by Alison Haynes
- Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin
- Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy Non-toxic Cleaning by Jeffrey Hollender, Meika Hollender and Geoff Davis
And an interesting, educative video documentary:
Eutrophication: A process of pollution that occurs when a lake or stream becomes over-rich in plant nutrient Caused by PHOSPHATE