Teach About U.S. Blog

Day 5: Sustainable house cleaning 101

Day 5: Sustainable house cleaning 101

by Clara del Rey -
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Clara del Rey // 19 June 2015 // #GoingGreen #WasteNot

Sustainable house cleaning 101

Self-made, eco-friendly all-purpose house cleaning spray | © Clara del Rey

Soon after beginning my conversion to a waste-free lifestyle, I found myself re-evaluating my entire approach to cleaning our house. I used to be one of these persons who thought that when it comes to removing dirt and stains, the stronger the chemicals I used, the better. Also, I firmly believed that each space in the house required its own particular product, and so I did the only ‘logical’ thing: I accumulated dozens of sprays, bottles, tubes, cans—you name it, filled with toxic liquids under my sink. For me, this was normality, and a necessary step in the process of living in a healthy and clean house.
The trigger that eventually made me rethink my assumptions wasn't other than trying to reduce the amount of plastic I was purchasing and tossing to the landfill. And so I began doing my own research on how other people living a plastic-free lifestyle manage to resolve the cleaning issue. Soon I discovered that not only is there a sheer multitude of recipes and tutorials available for making these products easily yourself, but also a hundred more reasons (at least!) to abandon the conventional ones. Many of the chemicals those bottles contain are quite harmful for us and the environment. The antibacterial component triclosan, for example, which is commonly added to dishwashing liquids is non-biodegradable. Or take your common polishers and laundry detergents:

Researchers have found that dryer vents can emit more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets are used, including seven VOCs classified as hazardous air pollutants. This is particularly concerning when dryers don’t vent outside or are blocked, causing indoor air pollution

writes the eco-blog Mother Earth living. Such VOCs have been linked to causing cancer, and can lead to nausea, wheezing, and skin rashes. This is why I came up with the idea of making one—and only one—disinfectant that I always keep in the same reusable bottle, of course. It is harmless for my body, and yet an effective alternative to the products sold in supermarkets. Mine is made from vinegar, which is very effective with lime scale, bathroom scum and tarnishes on metal; tea-tree oil, a natural disinfectant; soda, a mild abrasive with low toxicity to forming detergent when reacting with grease; and a squeeze of lemon to inhibit mold growth and deodorizing (orange or lime or grapefruit peel or juice work just as fine). You don’t believe me? Then check out these 5 nontoxic recipes for effective cleaners from the GAIAM life blog and see for yourself.

Clara del Rey, the winner of the travel well MAGAZINE's #WasteNot 30-day challenge , was invited to share her favorite ideas on reducing trash. Clara, a Spanish native, taught in St. Joseph, Missouri (USA), and is now living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Not only does she know both the U.S. and the European perspective on sustainability, but her ideas are creative, unconventional, and yet easy to follow.She is conviced: "I truly think being environmentally conscious starts with reducing your consumption of resources and products. Sometimes I stop, reflect upon people's frantic consumption habits and just think to myself: we are all addicts, in a way, having to buy compulsively insane amounts of disposable, poor quality 'goods'. It makes me wonder how we are losing the ability to create things with our hands or imagination—simple things such as cooking, growing greens and vegetables, or sewing a button. I refuse to represent this mindset."