According to research, we spend £4.5 billion a year on cleaning products in the UK, whilst the global market is worth close to £30 billion.
A quick search on a leading supermarket’s website for “cleaning products” offers up more than 400 items. From bathroom cleaners to kitchen cleaners, toilet cleaners to floor cleaners. From sprays to foams, tablets to liquids.
So, what’s the problem? Well, let’s start at the beginning, with the ingredients. The old adage, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” has never been truer than when thinking about the items we buy, eat and drink and use in our homes.
Before these products are ‘safe’ for us to use, they have to be thoroughly tested and approved. And even in 2020, this still includes on animals. Half a million worldwide ever year to be precise.
Manufacturers may say “not tested on animals” on their packaging but in some cases, this only refers to the final product and necessarily to the many ingredients used. If you are buying household products, please try to look for the “Leaping Bunny” logo on packaging, which shows that the product has been approved as being cruelty free.
And don’t be taken in by “greenwashing” (as much as we dislike this already overused phrase). “Biodegradable” doesn’t mean environmentally friendly or indeed that something isn’t toxic. It simply means that at some point, perhaps many, many years from now, the product will break down.
Studies have shown that the average home may contain over 50 toxic chemicals and that cleaning products are among one of the leading sources. Some of the chemicals found in these products have been directly linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity and other serious health issues. Cleaning products often are unsafe around children and pets, can be harmful to anyone if misused and they may not be particularly kind to your skin.
Ingredients you may want to avoid include Phthalates, Perchloroethylene (“PERC”), Triclosan, Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (“QUATS”), Butoxyethanol, Ammonia, Chlorine and Sodium Hydroxide.
Of course, many of these products are heavily packaged and that generally means using plastic. And much of this packaging, consider the likes of trigger sprays, is not easily or widely recyclable.
A UK retailers’ findings showed that the average UK household spends £150 a year on cleaning products. That’s a lot of money, and a lot of packaging. If you take an average of 30 items per household over the course of 12 months, we are consuming around 1 billion cleaning products annually in the UK alone.
So, what is the answer? Well, I’ve given it away in the title – Acetic Acid and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate. Otherwise known as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda – both commonly found in our kitchen cupboards.
For an excellent kitchen or bathroom cleaner, simply mix two parts bicarbonate of soda with one part white vinegar in a spray bottle and top up with warm water. Beware of the initial frothing (so don’t overfill) and always test on a small, discrete surface area first. If the vinegar smell (which quickly fades) bothers you, simply add a few bits of citrus peel or a couple of drops of essential oils.
These items can all be bought cheaply, in large quantities and in non-plastic packaging (typically glass or card). And they are non-toxic and genuinely biodegradable.
In different measures, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda can be used to clean everything from your tiling to your toilet, your kitchen sink to your oven. And to keep your drains clean and free of blockages. Look for the appropriate “recipe” online, depending on your use, or do get in touch.
If the DIY option isn’t for you, or perhaps isn’t suitable for all of your cleaning needs, more environmentally friendly brands to consider include Ecoleaf, Splosh, Iron & Velvet, Bio-D, OceanSave, Eco-Max and Eco Zone. I’m not a big fan of the likes of Method and Ecover these days, given their parent company.
So, next time you’re giving your home a good going over, hopefully you’ll be helping to keep our planet clean (and green) too…
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Plastic Free Home and the author accept no liability for the above suggestions. Always test on a small, indiscrete surface area first and follow any manufacture’s’ information.