A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth
Concern for the environment means that we are less inclined to fill our cupboards with proprietary brands of household cleaner.
A bottle of something blue for one purpose, green for another, lurid pink for cleaning the shower, acid yellow for something else, and you see how the problem multiplies.
As we know all too well, chlorine bleach is a great no-no if we want to minimise our impact on the planet.
Combined with synthetic dyes, perfumes and detergents, stabilisers, foaming agents, and far worse things, bleach seems to be a key ingredient in many of the cleaning products that line the supermarket shelves.
Tempted by bright packaging, pretty colours, and catchy names and slogans, we succumb to the blandishments and our homes become repositories for countless examples of the chemist’s art.
Not only are many of them known to produce dangerous residues but they pose an unnecessary risk to young children, especially as these products so often look like the more lurid sugary drinks consumed at birthday parties.
So it comes as a relief to learn that herbal vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda can provide the answers to most everyday cleaning questions.
Any household item, be it sink, lavatory, kettle or window, that suffers from the daily ravages of hard water will respond like magic to the acidic action of vinegar. And if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Regular use will keep things sparkling and there is no worry about possible damage to water supplies when you rinse it away.
Soap and water can work wonders, too.
Looking on the back of the plastic containers of some of the proprietary brands of household cleaner, it’s simply best not to study the list of ingredients too closely. The most basic knowledge of chemistry will set the alarm bells ringing. So stick with the natural products like vinegar if you possibly can.
To tackle the really obstinate problems like greasy pans and cookers, apply vinegar followed by bi-carb and watch it foam. The grease will come away as you rub at it with something like a pot scourer that has lost the worst of its abrasiveness.
Libraries, second-hand book stalls and the internet are always a good source of information on self-sufficiency, and under that heading there will be numerous recipes for products like home-made detergent, fabric softener, and even ways of avoiding commercial dry-cleaning.
With its reliance on petroleum by-products and the creation of damaging fumes, so-called dry-cleaning can be replaced by other, more acceptable methods.
Make sure you keep any empty pump-action sprays, by the way. They come in handy for spraying vinegar and, whichever cleaning products you choose, there is no substitute for plain, old elbow-grease.