in Greener Homes on 26 October 2009
Eco-friendly cleaning isn’t all about elbow grease.
ANGELA Crocombe hasn’t used commercial cleaning products in her home for years. “I’m amazed by the rows and rows of chemicals available at the supermarket,” she says. “They’re so unnecessary.”
She’s the author of A Lighter Footprint: a practical guide to minimising your impact on the planet. The book details all manner of ways to reduce your use of the world’s resources, including using natural cleaning products.
Ms Crocombe has swapped store-bought cleaners for microfibre cloths and a mix of simple goods: bicarb soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, and tea-tree oil (for a fresh smelling disinfectant). She employs other commonsense tactics such as using old toothbrushes to scrub hard-to-reach places, and it all adds up to a healthy saving. “You can save a fortune – there are so many products you just don’t need anymore.”
As a new mother, Ms Crocombe says she’s become even more determined to stick to her regime. “Sometimes I walk past a café that’s been cleaning with the toxic bleaches and it just stinks. I just don’t want my child to be inhaling that. And I’m also concerned about damaging the animal and plant life in our waterways.”
A risk adverse approach also makes sense to Bridget Gardner, founder of Fresh Green Clean. Her business was previously an eco-cleaning service, but she now consults and educates on green cleaning methods. She’s holding her next workshop for householders at CERES Community Environment Park in East Brunswick on November 7.
“There are a lot of unknowns with chemicals and human toxicity, especially because the chemicals are tested individually, not in the combinations found in finished products,” she says. “The EU is doing an enormous amount of work to tighten chemical regulation – it’s about taking a precautionary stance. For people who are concerned, there are solutions that make cleaning a lot simpler.”
Ms Gardner spruiks a four-step process. “I teach people that water is a fantastic cleaning agent,” she says. “And it’s not about going back to grandma’s recipes and scrubbing hard.”
The first step is to wipe the surface with a microfibre or textured cloth to remove anything loose. Next, soak to soften. “If there’s something stuck on, just leave it damp a moment. When you wipe it again, it will come off easily,” she says.
Then target any stubborn grime or stains with bicarb soda – add a small amount to a damp cloth to form a paste and rub gently. To remove shower and bathroom scale, Ms Gardner recommends first running the cloth over a bar of soap, then adding the bicarb. “You’re basically making something like Jiff. The soap makes bicarb more effective and easier to wash away afterwards.”
The final step is to dry the surface with a chamois, dry cloth or squeegee. Ms Gardner maintains that this process won’t take any extra time. “You have to be fast in a cleaning business, so I know these steps work.”
Although a growing number of commercial cleaning products are being marketed as ‘green’, it pays to be wary of their claims. Before buying, look for Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) certification and make sure the ingredients are listed. “Even if you can’t understand the gobbledygook, someone else can,” Ms Gardner says, “It means they’re not hiding anything.”
For a full list of low-impact cleaners, visit the Safer Solutions website.