Is it possible to clean the house and the body without dirtying the planet?

I have now been trying to reduce the clutter in my house for over 13 months and I have started reaching the end of cleaning products, shampoos and make up. I had a drawer full of plastic bottles, some of them probably a decade old, plus huge amounts of cleaning products under the sink. The majority of the products I owned were transnational mega-brands, mostly owned by Procter and Gamble. From now on, I will be using this necessary spending to support businesses I want to support, and who deserve support. (I have picked on Procter and Gamble, but they are not the worst company ever. There are just better ones out there.)

Why does this reduce my carbon footprint?

  1. Multinationals are highly likely to not be paying their fair share of tax, which reduces the ability of the state to create a more equal society. A fairer society will make carbon reductions easier.
  2. Even if I bought all my products from Procter and Gamble for my entire life, spending a considerable amount of money, this is very unlikely to have made any impact on the number of people employed. For example, in 2013, the amount of profit created amounts to each of the 121,000 people employed generating almost $100,000 per year. Shopping with a smaller company will have far greater chance of increasing employment, rather than profits. (This may seem like a large number of employed people, but far more people would be employed if the products were produced by smaller companies.)
  3. Where do the chemicals come from? Think cheap chemicals. Think shocking environmental record.

The less I have to do with that, the better.

I am not saying this is the best way, and I am very open to new suggestions or comments. But here is where our house is at…

Shampoo I have replaced bottles of shampoo with solid shampoo from Lush. There are no plastic bottles to deal with, just the paper that the shampoo is wrapped in. I have kept some liquid shampoo for travelling, but I’m sure I will think of something when that runs out.
Conditioner I am still working my way through a seemingly endless supply of conditioner! Why did I own so much? Also I have now cut my hair short, so I don’t really need any. A traditional way of caring for hair is to apply oil, leave it for a while and then rinsing it away. Once I reach the end of this supply, I will be switching to this technique.
Handwash Liquid soaps are now replaced with solid soaps, sat on tiny little plates I found in the second-hand shop.
Moisturiser I am too worried about UV protection to start making my own, so I have swapped a UVA and UVB protection standard moisturizer for Lush ‘British Nanny‘ moisturizer. At least Lush take their plastics back for reuse.)
Window cleaner Firstly, I wash the windows with soap and water. (I guess because we live in the city, our windows get covered in a layer of black, sticky dust within 3 months.) After they are clean, I make them shiny by spraying a mixture of vinegar and water on to the window and wiping this down with old newspapers. (I kept the last window cleaning spray bottle that I bought so I could reuse it, and I pick up an old newspaper from the train to wipe the windows when required.)
Toilet cleaner Regular brushing of the toilet, with the help of acids such as lemon juice, and bicarb of soda. I push water around the U-bend with the toilet brush, then sprinkle a generous cup of bicarb around the toilet bowl and leave it to do its work for an hour. Then I pour undiluted white vinegar around the toilet bowl to react with the bicarb, leaving it a few more minutes, before using the toilet brush to shift the dirt. If it is still not clean, cut a heavy-feeling, firm lemon in half and sprinkle the cut face with salt. This can now be used as a mild abrasive to tackle limescale in the toilet bowl. Using bicarb, lemon and vinegar, along with the half lemon, you should be able to shift most stains.
Bathroom cleaner Lemon juice and white vinegar are my friends here. They are both acids, which means they can help dissolve limescale. The vinegar can smell quite strong, so I produce lemon-infused cleaning vinegar by putting squeezed half lemons (whenever you require juice for cooking) in to a jar and cover with undiluted white vinegar. Leave for up to two weeks and then strain the liquid to use for cleaning wherever you like. It can be diluted for general cleaning, or used neat when required. But also, you don’t need to do this.
Carpet cleaner Bicarb of soda to deodorize the carpet. Just sprinkling this on the carpet where there is a stain, and then vacuuming it back up again after half an hour. (I have an occasional incident with my decrepit pet rabbit forgetting he is house-trained.)
Washing powder I am using ecover’s washing powder. Ethical Consumer provides a list of alternative products on the market.
Dishwasher tablets No change to date, but I will be looking for a good alternative to the standard brands, as described by Ethical Consumer when we next run out.

So cleaning ingredients are lemons, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Anything else is purchased from companies who consider good ethics as part of business-as-usual, and not only as part of the PR campaign.

By switching my buying power, I will be reducing my reliance on cheap mass-produced chemicals that are likely to have a high impact on the environment, where they are produced. Instead, I will be supporting companies that aim to make a positive contribution to society in many ways. A small, but hopefully positive act, as a consumer.

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2 thoughts on “Is it possible to clean the house and the body without dirtying the planet?

  1. Excellent post. I have gone through a similar process and, apart from the environmental benefits, I have also saved a lot of money. There are also some good recipes for making clothes washing powder or liquid and I have used that or an eco-friendly product. The home-made version costs 0.10 pounds per wash load. The only difference from commercial versions is that, because it does not contain chemical brighteners, colours look dull after a few wash and whites turn a light grey.

    • Thanks Veronique! I have been thinking about making my own washing liquid, although taking your experiences on board, maybe I’ll use it just for the dark clothes? Even if I only made it once and then buy eco-friendly products after that, it probably makes you really understand about not using it wastefully. (I went through the same thought process when I made mayonnaise for the first time. It reduced the amount I ate hugely just by realising that it is, in essence, whipped fat.)
      I’m pretty pleased with all the other products so far… I’ve just got to see if I can manage to keep the house free of chemical cleaners when I live with two other people.

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