a guide to green housekeeping

I'm no authority on housekeeping. My dog and cat live on the lounge, and I don't believe in keeping a sterile home. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that I enjoy cleaning as much as I would a slap in the face with a wet mullet. Not much at all. Furthermore, the idea of covering all surfaces with potent petrochemicals in the process is not one I covet.

via ecosalon

So when I read Christina Strutt's handy Guide to Green Housekeeping (the book is my little bible), and discovered that keeping a healthy home requires as few as 5 basic ingredients (all completely natural and toxin-free) and a little common sense, I gave a little squeal and leapt with joy. The notion of keeping my coffee table suitably polished without investing in a bottle of Mr Sheen feeds my sense of triumph over the corporate giants as much as it pleases me to know I'm not contributing to environmental contamination - "Take that, Mr Sheen. Look at the sheen on this baby. What a sheen", I exclaim, as I polish my coffee table with olive oil.

This post will be the first in a series of posts on how to keep a house nice, greenly. Today is a look at the only things you need in your cleaning cupboard (many of which you will have in your kitchen, too). Pop back on Monday for the next post, which will tackle kitchen-related quandaries. The one after that will step you into the laundry.

Henceforth, today I shall divulge the only 5 products you will ever need to keep a respectably clean home...
  1. Baking soda (bicarb soda)
  2. Distilled white vinegar
  3. Lemons
  4. Pure vegetable soap
  5. Washing soda.

Baking soda
Baking soda is a completely natural, toxin-free product that is made out of trona ore, a mineral rock that is found in natural deposits and easily mined around the world. Most trona ore used to manufacture baking soda is mined in Wyoming. I struggled with this notion for a wee while - is it really okay to be mining this mineral and shipping it half-way across the earth just so I can clean my toilet (or wash my hair)? I struggled until I read just how many uses baking soda is good for, and just how many chemicals - all petrochemically derived - it can replace. For baking soda can be used for everything from deodorising carpet to removing mildew on shower curtains.

Distilled white vinegar
White vinegar was first distilled approximately 10,000 years ago and has since accumulated a very long list of uses. It can do everything from soothing sunburn, to killing weeds, to removing red wine stains from your precious silk dress. It's antimicrobial, antifungal and completely safe for humans and the environment.

They grow on trees. You eat them. They make for a delicious tart. Enough said. What many don't know about them is that they have powerful antibacterial properties, are excellent mood lifters and can cut right through grease and tarnish. Rub the flesh side of a cut lemon on your chopping board and you'll deodorise and kill bacteria naturally.

Pure vegetable soap
Pure vegetable soap is made by treating vegetable oil with a strong alkaline solution, mainly lye, or caustic soda/sodium hydroxide. Pure soap only has these two ingredients in it - vegetable oil and caustic soda. Sometimes you'd read these on the label as saponified vegetable (like coconut or olive) oil. Use pure soap to wash your dishes, your clothes, your body, even your hair.

Washing soda
Washing soda (sodium carbonate or soda crystals) is used to soften water and when mixed with pure soap makes for a terrific laundry detergent. It effectively removes grease and alcohol stains. It can be extracted from the ashes of plants, but is most often synthetically produced from salt and limestone. It's safe for the environment, but can be a bit harsh on skin so you wouldn't go bathing in it. I purchased washing soda from the Ceres organic shop, if you're in Melbourne. 

Other handy bits 'n bobs

Essential oils, such as orange, lemon, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint
Rags for cleaning, made from worn-out clothes, tea towels and bed linen
Lambswool or feather duster
Muslin cloth, for covering food (instead of plastic wrap). Mostly I use a plate for this!
Old toothbrushes, for cleaning in between tiles and other awkward spots
Refillable spray bottles, better the glass ones, for keeping home-made spray n' wipe
Beeswax polish or olive oil, for cleaning and lengthening the life of wooden furniture
A fly squatter, so you don't have to use chemical insecticides.

Next week I'll be posting about how to use these ingredients in the kitchen, to kick some serious kitchen grime arse, without the need for elaborate store-bought cleaning products.

In the meantime you can catch up on how to fight pests in the home, naturally, here.



  1. Have you considered using glass straws? They're super classy and toxin free. I've seen a few brands out there. my favorite is simply straws, i love the travel case each straw comes with http://bit.ly/simplystraws



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