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!

DIY Eco-Cleaning Products

As readers of this site may already know I am taking the challenge to live Plastic Free for July (thanks to the amazing initiative of Western Earth Carers who invented Plastic Free July). In a previous post (click here to see it) one of my 5 Steps to going plastic free was to make your own cleaning products. It is fun, easy and SO much better for the environment.

If you want to investigate all the dangerous chemicals we use in our homes (and the effects they have) then see my preivous post about it here but I can sum it up in a nut-shell. Lots of chemicals we find in home products are linked to major health issues such as cancer, fertility defects, liver damage, kidney damage and central nervous system damage. These are then they are poured straight down the drain into our waterways and oceans where the creatures are ever so delicate. Needless to say, it wreaks havoc on our ecosystems. And worst of all, these products come wrapped head-to-toe in single-use plastic packaging. Yuck. There is a better way… in fact there are lots of better ways!!! (Another benefit is that they are a lot cheaper than the nasty chemicals too).

Your Eco Cleaning Essential

There are a few ingredients that you cannot live without if you want to make your own cleaning products. I try to get most of my ingredients from ‘eco stores’ like Planet Ark but if you aren’t near their every single one of these can be found in supermarkets.

Note: I am aware that some of these come wrapped in plastic – namely the lids of the Essential Oils and the Washing Soda packet. I am trying to source alternatives. Looks like I will be filling the Dilemma Bag. :(

  • Bicarb Soda (aka Baking Soda) – This miracle powder does everything. It cleans, deodorizes, scours and softens water.
  • Lemon Juice One of the strongest food-acids around and effective against most household bacteria.
  • White Vinegar Another hero. Cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, stains and wax build-up.
  • Borax (aka Sodium Borate) – Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors, changes light globes. (Might not do the last thing actually)
  • Washing Soda Cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Be carfeul though – washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
  • Cornstarch AKA Corn Flour Can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
  • Soap – Unscented soap in is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. I buy a natural soap bar and grate it before using.
  • Essential Oils – The ‘essential’ Essential Oils for basic house-cleaning are lavendar, lemon and Eucalyptus. Most of these oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and they smell bloody lovely. I always keep a lavender by the bed to help me nod off (and to keep mosquito’s away!) .
  • Olive Oil – A great alternative furniture polish (the most basic will do!)

Easy Surface Cleaner

This can be used on any type of counter – I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, wooden furniture/boards. The only thing vinegar shouldn’t be used on is marble as it can damage the surface.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Note: White is most versatile but Apple Cider can be used on surface darker than the vinegar

Method

  1. Sprinkle Bicarb Soda over the surface
  2. Spray Vinegar over the surface (do a little jig while you hear it fizz)
  3. Wipe off with a damp sponge/cloth

If it is a particularly stubborn stain: Make a paste with the vinegar and bicarb and leave for 15 minutes before wiping off.

Dishwashing Detergent

This is care of the Plastic Free July website. Thank you! :)

  • 1 Cup borax
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • ½ Cup salt

Method

  1. Mix ingredients and store in a reusable and resealable container.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture to the soap compartment.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the rinse agent compartment.

Gentle Microwave/Oven Cleaner

  • 1 x lemon
  • Water
  • Microwavable container

Method

  1. Slice up lemon and place in water
  2. Zap in Microwave for 5 – 10 minutes | Bake in Oven on 200C (390F) for 40 minutes
  3. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe the inside (once oven is cool). The mess will wipe off really easily without the use of harsh, toxic chemicals.

Strong Oven Cleaner

  • 3/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Salt (table is fine, sea salt is better, Kosher is best)
  • 1/4 Cup Water

Method

  1. Dampen the oven surfaces with sponge and water.
  2. Mix bicarb soda, salt and water to make a thick paste
  3. Spread throughout oven interior – liberally on tough mucky areas
  4. Let sit overnight
  5. Remove with spatula and wipe clean.
  6. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots

Window or Mirror Cleaner

  • 1 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups Water
OR if you don’t like the smell of vinegar…
  • 1 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 3 Cups Water

Method

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

My Crazy Bathroom Cleaning Technique

Whenever I do this I have ‘Maniac’ playing in my head and fully pretend that I am Alex Owens from Flashdance – get my head shaking around and stomping my feet. This is of course not necessary but neither are cupcakes 99% of the time – they’re still fun though.

  • Bicarb Soda
  • Vinegar (in spray bottle)

Method

  1. While you shower in the bathroom you intend to clean close the door, cover bath and shower plugs and allow the room to steam up
  2. Have bicarb in a shaker and put on a shower cap
  3. Sprinkle bicarb everywhere (sink included) – 3Tablespoons should be enough for whole room
  4. Spray all over the room with vinegar
  5. Use a damp sponge to scrub surfaces, sinks and towel racks
  6. Use old stockings to clean around taps
  7. Use on old toothbrush for corners
  8. Even do the walls! Use a broom

Tip: You can upcycle a shaker out of anything… e.g. an old coffee tin with holes in the bottom or a plastic bottle with hole in the lid or just use an old Parmesan shaker. 

Bathroom Mold

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Water

Method

  1. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle
  2. Spray onto areas with mold
  3. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower/bath

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/4 Cup Bicarb Soda
1 Cup White Vinegar

Method

  1. Mix Bicarb Soda and Vinegar
  2. Pour into basin and let it set for a 10 minutes
  3. Scrub with brush and rinse

Clothes Washing Powder

  • 1 Liter Boiling Water
  • 2 cups Bar soap (grated)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Method

  1. Add finely grated bar soap to boiling water and stir until soap is melted (do this on a low heat)
  2. Pour the soapy water mix into a large, clean bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  3. Add 6 Litres of water and stir until well mixed.
  4. Cover bucket and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry (You will need to stir the soap each time you use it as it does gel – maybe a fun job for kids?)

Furniture Polish

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Method

  1. Pour oil and lemon juice into a jar
  2. Stir to combine
  3. Dip a dust cloth or rag into oil, blot the oil by folding the cloth together, and then dust your furniture

Unclog a Drain

  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar (if stubborn clog)

Method

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by the boiling water.
  2. If it is reeeeally blocked chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover – allowing the crazy fizzing which means it is breaking up all the gunk.
  3. Flush that with 2 litres of boiling water

Carpet Cleaner

  • Vinegar

Method

  1. For pet stink and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas.
  2. Blot with an cloth until moisture is absorbed.
Note: Soda Water also works but it is hard to find plastic free. Perhaps Mineral Water would work as it is the carbonation that lifts the stain. Will keep you posted next time there is a carpet accident at home! :) 

Natural Air Fresheners

All that commercial air fresheners do is mask a smell and/or coat our nasal cavities. I don’t like the idea of that especially when you read the ingredients you find in them. So here are some really simple and natural ways to… well… freshen your air!

  • Mix a bit of Bicarb Soda or Vinegar with Lemon Juice in small dishes around the house – this will absorb odours!
  • Keep a spray bottle with water and 10 drops of lavender oil by the door. Spray before guests come in so they get a beautiful, relaxing welcome!
  • Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase
  • Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking.
  • To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • If you grind your own coffee keep the grounds on the counter
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove before guests arrive. (I then use left overs in my tea!!!)
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room
  • The greenest tip of all… Get some houseplants!

DIY Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner

I love citrus. At the moment every time I walk into the lunchroom I get these beautiful wafts of oranges and mandarins. Then comes afternoon tea and I get to devour a nice fresh lemon… don’t judge me… I am pregnant and I am allowed to eat weird stuff! But it did pain me to see all the peels getting chucked in the trash especially considering that so many cleaners boast about their citrusy scent or about how powerful they are due to the use of real lemons! As with most things I have decided that it would be much easier (and healthier) to go straight to the source, which is always nature.

Looks almost good enough to eat!

Unless you have your own citrus tree (lucky you) you might not get through enough peel to make a lot of this. Firstly, as long as you put it in the fridge your peel will last up to ten days. Secondly, a good trick is to put a container in the kitchen at your office and ask people to put their peel there instead of the bin. Anyone that follows my Facebook page may remember that at first I got called a ‘freak’ for this email request BUT by the end of the week I had had plenty of interest in the recipe and I had enough peels to make a good few batches of cleaner. Once it is ready I am going to take it into work (along with the recipe) to show people how well it works. Sharing the eco love people!

What You Need

  • Citrus peels – any kind! If you want an extra strong cleaner use only orange peels
  • Bicarb soda
  • White vinegar
  • Essential Oil (optional)
  • Something to scrub with – scourer, dish brush, nail brush
  • Old jars
  • Old spray bottle (use one of the containers that used to hold your nasty cleaner!)

Method

1.  Gather your peels and place in a bowl.

2. Cover with water and then sprinkle bicarb soda quite liberally over them.
3.  Dip the peel and give a quick scrub. Place the scrubbed peel into a colander. (This is to remove all the nasty chemicals from the peels and make it a truly natural cleaner).
4.  Once all the peels have had a quick scrub rinse them thoroughly.
5.  Place all the peels into a jar.
6.  Fill the jar up to the level of your peels with vinegar.
7.  Store in a dark, cool place for between 2 weeks and a month. Shake it once a week if you remember – make sure the lid is on tight!
8.  Shake the mixture vigorously then pour the mixture into a container, straining the old peels.
9.  Mix 1 part vinegar mix with 1 part water and pour into your spray bottle! If you would like add ten drops of an essential oil with antibacterial qualities (i.e. teatree, lavender or lemon).

It is a fantastic cleaner and will work on most surfaces (not glass) and strong stains. Be careful if you use only orange peels as the oil in orange peel is very strong and can be quite abrasive. It is always best to do a spot test.

At first I had hoped that this could be used as a detergent but I want to actually test that recipe before I just send it out there as I am not sure quite how well it will work. This one I have used before and it is tried and test! As soon as I try the detergent mix though I will make sure I report back to you all.

Happy Cleaning!

P.s. This is also a great plastic free cleaning recipe if you are partaking in Plastic Free July. See here to register