Olive’s Guide to Greening Your Cleaning!

My Dad is wonderful and quirky and funny and one of my absolute best friends in the world and we can quite happily while away many hours chatting, mucking about or just generally pottering. However there is one department where our rivalry is fierce and unyielding (until recently anyway)… Cleaning.

Me and my Farsher

Me and my Farsher enjoying a beverage!

A bit of background information to set the scene: my Dad is an absolute clean freak – he enjoys it and he is bloody good at it. He has a daughter (hello!) whose school reports always had two words in common – ‘bubbly’ and more to the point… ‘messy’. His nickname for her has always been Stinkbug. But it seems that this little Stinkbug has grown wings because she has developed her own little range of DIY cleaning products so effective that even my Papa Bear has endorsed them. And best bit? They are all much better for the health of the environment and your house than your standard bleach and fragrance laden concoctions.

If they can pass Dad’s test then they must be good so I wanted to share them with you all and explain how I go about my eco cleaning.

Essential Ingredients

My laundry cupboard

My laundry cupboard

Once you have these ingredients in your house there will be no mess you can’t annihilate. Your homemade products will be strong I assure you, but it is also worth noting that they may need a little extra elbow grease. The reason is that they aren’t full of toxic chemicals – a compromise I can handle! I think of it as a few extra muscles I’m toning.

  • Borax
  • Vinegar – White, Apple Cider or DIY Citrus (recipe link included in Standards section)
  • Bicarb Soda
  • Soda Crystals
  • Washing Soda
  • Lemons
  • Eucalyptus Oil – antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and deodoriser
  • Lavendar Oil – smells so pretty!
  • Other essential oils – Tea Tree, Lemon, any that take your fancy!!!
  • A good quality eco-dishwashing detergent
My DIY Citrus Vinegar

My DIY Citrus Vinegar

Important things to keep in mind;

  • Even though these are much more natural than your standard products they can still be harmful so always wear gloves and keep away from kids.
  • Washing Soda is not good for aluminium and will remove wax polish!
  • Vinegar makes marble cloudy.
  • Essential oils can be potent and some are dangerous to pregnant women, children or pets – ALWAYS CHECK THE BOTTLE.

Upcycled Cleaning Equipment

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Newspapers – Best stuff for plastic free bins and cleaning glass!

Spray Bottles – If you have cleaning products in spray bottles, keep those spray bottles and refill with your own solutions. However if you don’t have any go and buy them from a hardware (Bunnings has them) or homewares store.

Jar Shaker – In my “Olive’s Clean Everything Solution” (see under Standards section) I use a shaker. Now if you want you can go buy one or you can just get a jar with a tin lid and punch some holes into the top with a knife or hammer and nail.  Put the Bicarb into the jar, lid on and shake away!

Socks and Pantyhose – Isn’t it funny that you always seem to only lose one sock out of the pair! In my case it is less losing, more having them stolen…

Meet Allen.

Meet Allen.

Either way, keep your widowed socks and torn pantyhose. These are perfect tap cleaners and door knob buffers!!!

Toothbrushes – Keep all your old ones. They are great for scrubbing hard to reach places or delicate ornaments.

Old T-shirts and Sheets – Keep any fabric that can’t be given to an opshop for use as an old rag. When we had floorboards I used to elastic band them to my broom to make a swiffer mop for dust… worked a charm.

Old Towels – Cut these into small squares, overlock the edges and you, my friend, have the hardiest cleaning cloth in the business!

Standards

Citrus Vinegar, I LOVE YOU!

Citrus Vinegar, I LOVE YOU!

Citrus Vinegar

Citrus vinegar is unbelievably easy to make. All it takes is discarded citrus peel and vinegar. See my post on that here… I use it on everything

All-Purpose Cleaner

I use this for all counters and surfaces except my chopping boards (see what I do with chopping board below)

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent
  • 1 teaspoon Borax
  • ¼ Cup Vinegar (Citrus Vinegar if available)
  • 10 – 20 drops of Essential Oils (Eucalyptus is good for the kitchen as it keeps away ants and cockroaches and smells nice too!)

Mix into a spray bottle. Shake before each use.

Olive’s Clean Everything Solution

Sprinkle Bicarb soda onto surface. Spray with vinegar until you hear fizz. Wipe off with rag/sponge. VOILA.

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar (Citrus vinegar if you have it)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water

OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…

  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar (Citrus vinegar if you have it)
  • 3 Cups Water

Mix vinegar and lemon juice with water. Pour into a used spray bottle. Spray onto window/mirror and scrub with newspaper (don’t use paper towels – they will streak!)

Floor Cleaner

Two thirds hot water, one third vinegar. That’s it.

I (of course) like to use citrus vinegar for this but white is perfectly fine. If you have darker floors you can use apple cider. Apple Cider does taint floors slightly though so if you have white tiles don’t try it.

Kitchen

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I wipe down my main kitchen counter with the all purpose cleaner from above, but I also have a large wooden chopping board. I like to use a different cleaner for this as the All Purpose Cleaner contains Borax which is not meant to be ingested. I use the following mix …

Kitchen Counter Cleaner

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid detergent
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus Oil

Mix into a spray bottle. Shake before each use.

If after using that you still have some stubborn smells hanging around (think onion, fish) I use this super simple mix to clean my chopping board which does so without tainting the food…

Chopping Board Cleaner

  • Tip a bit of washing soda onto a cloth or sponge and scrub the chopping board

Dishwashing Liquid/Dishwasher Tablets

Similar to clothes washing, I have not yet invented a washing powder or liquid that works to my liking. I have tried 1 Cup borax + 1 Cup baking soda + ½ Cup salt but sadly no luck – although others I have spoken to love this mix.

I also find the detergents from stores very useful as I often add a teaspoon or two to my mixes and they go an awfully long way! So (same as laundry) I use Eco Store, Ecover or Earth’s Choice – links and information about these companies in the Laundry section of this post.

Cleaning greasy pots and pans

Washing soda is the ultimate grease killer which makes it perfect for washing pots and pans.

  • Dampen your sponge and sprinkle washing soda onto it (quite liberally)
  • Scrub the greasy pan with the sponge
  • Rinse and wash as usual

Hardcore Greased up pan or BBQ

  • Make a paste from washing soda and water (2:1)
  • Apple the paste directly to the greasy area
  • Allow to sit for 30 mins then wash

Microwave Cleaner

  • Slice up a lemon and place in a microwave safe bowl of water
  • Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes
  • Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside. The mess will wipe off really easily!

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My Hugh Jackman Oven Cleaner

Why Hugh Jackman you say? Take a walk with me…

Normal oven cleaners are extremely harsh and toxic like… hmm… I don’t know … a Wolverine!!! And even though a big dangerous Wolverine hunk with knives coming out his fists surely gets the job done it’s nice to also have a more sensitive side that when it comes down to it won’t hurt you… like the Drover. Wolverine (tough) + Drover (sensitive) = Hugh Jackman Oven Cleaner! And there you have it people, an insight into the slightly disturbed brain of Olive. Anyway –

  • 1 ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup white vinegar (you can also use apple cider vinegar)
  • Water
  • Optional: 4 drops essential oil (you can use any scent you like)

Mix all the ingredients together to form a paste. Paint the paste onto the oven stains (I use a pastry brush but you could use an old paint brush!). Let it sit for at least 4 hours (aim for 6) and it will foam up. Then wash with a cloth and warm water. AMAZING! I haven’t met a mess it hasn’t fixed yet.

Cleaning Silverware

  • Line a container with aluminium foil
  • Fill the container with 1 cup Soda Crystals and a litre of boiling water
  • Submerge silverware and soak for 15 minutes. If the silverware is tarnished it will literally melt away. Rinse off
  • Buff… buff like David Hasselhoff damnammit!

Stovetops and Burners

  • Fill your kitchen sink with warm water and add ½ cup of washing soda
  • Place the greasy burner into the water and allow to soak for about 30 minutes
  • Remove the burner and rinse off any residue
  • Wash as per normal (with soap and water)
  • While doing this why not grab that exhaust fan down and do it in the same sink (I always used to get told off about my exhaust fan during home inspections… seriously, who notices that?)

Really Stubborn Stove Stains (also good for BBQ’s)

  • Sprinkle washing soda directly onto greasy areas of the stovetop
  • Use a damp sponge to scrub the mucky area
  • Rinse with a rag and warm water

Laundry

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Sadly I have not yet made a good DIY clothes washing liquid or powder… I will keep experimenting until I get there. There are some pretty good alternatives on the market though, not to mention some simple tips and tricks to reduce your impact…

Clothes Washing Powder/Liquid

I have 3 brands that I really trust… unfortunately it can be difficult to get my faves at the major supermarkets but I think they are starting to stock them nowadays. Here they are in order of fave.

Eco Store – Read their eco credentials here but in short: super concentrated so you don’t have to use much, not tested on animals, in recycled packaging. BOOM. They also do beauty products. (See the Eco Store website here)

Ecover – Made from natural, sustainable plant-based ingredients and with huge consideration put into their to have less impact on aquatic life. (See the Ecover website here)

NOTE: Keep an eye out for places that offer a refill service with these products! I keep my containers (or you can take your own) and refill them straight from a bulk container at either PAWS (Northbridge) or Manna Wholefoods (Fremantle).

Earths Choice – This is the most accessible option and what I consider my emergency cleaner. If I can’t get to an eco store (there aren’t many where I live) then I can always find this at the supermarket. Products are all free of phosphate, dye, bleach, ammonia and aggressive enzymes. (See the Natures Organics website here)

Olive’s Natural Clothes Washing Tips

Brighter whitesAdd 1 Cup of lemon juice to your regular wash OR soak clothes in hot water and 1 cup of lemon juice overnight then wash as normal. Dry them in the sun for added bright!!!

Darker darksPour two cups of strong black tea into your wash load during the rinse cycle to restore dark colours.(Obviously if you have any light clothes in this wash they will get stained!)

Prevent fading – Turning clothes inside out before washing helps prevent fading

Getting grease out of clothesAbsorb as much grease from fabric my dabbing (not rubbing) with a rag. Mix 4 Tablespoons of washing soda with ½ Cup of warm water in a bowl to form a paste then rub the paste into grease stains (wear gloves!). Wash as normal (add ½ cup to washing machine for particularly hardy stains). Check your item of material to see that grease is gone before drying (otherwise the heat may set it) and if some remains… repeat the process.

Use Less DetergentI add ½ cup of Soda Crystals to my washes which not only softens the water but also help to break down really nasty stains. It also means I can reduce the amount of detergent to the manufacturer’s instructions for soft water.

Wow! I am sure I have forgotten one of my solutions. If I have or you need any advice then please let me know in the comments. I’d also love to if you have any green cleaning solutions to share.

Happy Green Cleaning!

Make Your Own Toothpaste

My finished toothpaste

I discovered how to make my own toothpaste on Saturday and now I can categorically say that I won’t be turning back. In this previous post, I explained the reasons why you might want to look into this alternative rather than your average over-packaged, chemical-ridden, animal-tested varieties… But on top of that, there is something so fun about making it yourself! Getting your nutty professor on and testing out different mixes and scents.

The mix that Shani (from Ecoburbia and The Painted Fish) showed us works well for me, but is also the first I have tried. She also gave two other recipes which I will try once I am up with this batch. But for now…this one works swell. Give it a try.

Ingredients

(For tips on where to get these ingredients, see Notes)

  • 4 tsp Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda)
  • 1 tsp Salt (table is fine, or crush sea salt)
  • Glycerine (or Glycerol) – as much as needed to make a paste
  • Recycled jar or container

Optional ingredients

  • Essential Oils (like peppermint, vanilla) – make sure they are food-grade!
  • Lemon or Lime peel (dried and ground)
  • Mint leaves – finely chopped
  • Stevia leaves – dried and ground

Method

  1. Mix the Bicarb soda and salt in your container with a spoon
  2. Add Glycerine bit by bit while stirring until you get a smooth paste
  3. Add one of the optional ingredients here and stir. I used Peppermint Oil and it was lovely. It gave the traditional toothpaste-y smell which is good when you are getting used to a new taste.

My finished product! Peppermint Toothpaste.

Note – Where to buy

  • Bicarb Soda – Found in supermarkets, deli’s  etc. Try and aim for bulk to reduce packaging – Planet Ark in Freo sells it in 5kg boxes
  • Sea salt – best found at stores like Kakula’s Brothers or Sisters where you can buy bulk herbs and spices for a low price.
  • Glycerine / Glycerol – can be bought at chemists.
  • Essential Oils – Food grade essential oils can be found at healthstores. Manna Wholefoods in Freo definitely stocks it.

Review

The most important thing you need to realise here is also a very obvious point – this is not your standard toothpaste. You don’t have the Sodium lauryl sulfate in there to make it all foamy, there aren’t artificial sweeteners to make it taste like an after dinner mint and you have put a teaspoon of salt in the mix! At first, I was a very excited…

Eager beaver…

There is definitely a salty tang to it but there is also a sweet minty taste too (if you used the oil, as I did). The Glycerol has quite a sweet taste to it and gives it the smooth pasty consistency which is quite nice – it almost feels like you are just brushing with a wet brush. The bicarb soda acts as the cleansing agent (you can actually feel that working) and the salt is the abrasive. All in all it is not bad. Whenever I felt myself noticing it I just imagined I was at the beach and asked myself if I would mind if a little salt water got in my mouth. Nope.

hmmm… Think about the beach….

But then… I lost my head. I swallowed a bit of the stuff. Shit got crazy…

DON’T SWALLOW THE TOOTHPASTE

I really did consider not putting that photo and tip in… and this is not only because of how physically flattering it is for my face (obviously). I wanted to be honest about the experience and not promise some amazing flavour just to get you to try it! This is not a reason to consider not trying it… It is no different to your average toothpaste: If you swallow it you are going to be met with a few fairly unpleasant sensations. Don’t swallow it. It tastes like salt. Imagining I was at the beach did nothing to help me then, although my husband (the photographer) thought it was the funniest thing he had seen all week.

After our first few teething problems I am truly sold on this DIY toothpaste. My husband has converted as well and we honestly feel that it does wonders. Our teeth look whiter and we have breath tested each other at different points throughout the day and passed with flying colours. It is also just a damn good feeling to know that you are not contributing to environmental damage, animal cruelty and an overall bad system every morning and afternoon. I hope you enjoy it.