Time for a spring clean
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Date: 24 March, 2009


'Using environmental cleaning products may take a little bit longer, but you don’t have to do this on your own.'

What seems to be such a simple thing — cleaning the kitchen, the windows, the loo — is just the beginning of a whole ethical debate. Suzanne Elvidge finds out more

The products we squirt around the rim and sluice down the drain go into the water supply, and the things we spray into the air go into our household environment. But is this a bad thing?

Chemicals used around the house are extensively tested, and our skin will provide us with protection against them.

However, chemicals we use do enter the environment, and can have harmful effects on plants and animals.

Another environmental impact is that of transport – up to 90% of household cleaners is water, and this has to be transported around the country (and sometimes around the world) – so a good thing to look out for is the word ‘concentrated’ on the label, giving you more cleaner for your money, and less water to go on a truck.

Make your own

Try making your ownvinegar as a descaler, lemon juice as a stain remover, borax as a kitchen and bathroom cleaner, olive oil as a furniture polish, and bicarbonate of soda as a scourer and deodorizer.

Bicarbonate of soda does seem to be the best cleaning thing since sliced bread (or home-baked, organic wholemeal bread with soya and linseed).

The only issue can be sourcing it in quantities other than the teeny tiny pots in the baking aisle of the supermarket. Try hardware shops, craft suppliers, Chinese supermarkets and online suppliers.

Buying eco

But if you’d rather stick to ready made cleaning products, there are still ways to be environmental.

There are biodegradable products for general cleaning, doing the washing up, running the dishwasher, washing the floor or cleaning the loo. Or try using a microfibre cloth with or without cleaning producrs.

Whatever you use, think about using less – does the house really have to smell of air freshener all the time, and will one squirt of washing up liquid, floor cleaner or loo cleaner do instead of two?

Why keep the house clean?

According to BUPA, where there is dirt, there are bacteria, which can multiply from one to more than four million in eight hours. Dirt can also attract vermin. Keeping the house clean also helps with keeping allergies under control.

What else can be done?

So what to do? About.com has a whole bunch of links to sites with cleaning recipes, and you can download a pdf on cleaning from wasteless.org (by the way, on the US sites, baking soda is the same as bicarbonate of soda in the UK). You can also download the Women’s Environmental Network’s cleaning fact sheet.

Websites such as Nigel's Eco Store, can also be used to buy cleaning tools and products, all of which are eco-friendly.

Is it really do-able?

It all sounds really good in theory, but does it really work in practice? Well, yes — Leo Hickman of the Guardian is working on it.

Using environmental cleaning products may take a little bit longer, but you don’t have to do this on your own. eHow suggests that you can get your child or teenager to help — if these both fail, you could always, get Kim and Aggie in, hire a cleaner or use a robot!

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