11 Nov 2009

Domesticity without the Nasties (Part 2)

When a ‘power’ clean beckons or that blitz clean mood has possessed me, I will use a cleaning cream (the successor to the scouring powders of my childhood, with the added promise of not scratching surfaces although its use on shiny acrylic sanitaryware is not recommended – if you want the sheen to remain vibrant). You will also find a bottle of Dettol lurking under my sink (always used in diluted form), handy for the pet owner in their battle against germs, odours and little accidents over laminate/ tiled floors. And once a fortnight I soak scouring pads, washing-up brushes and sponges in diluted Dettol overnight.

Laundry-wise, things are a tad more complicated, with 3 different purpose washing products: Ecover (either in powder or liquid form) for all whites, a leading supermarket brand for coloured items and a delicates gel specifically designed for hand-washing and machine-washable delicates. I also have a box of Ecover Chlorine-Free Laundry Bleach (100% percarbonate, i.e. salt + limestone + oxygenated water) that I occasionally use, for  linen and net curtains in need of a boost of brightness.

Furniture-wise, I have a good quality nourishing balm that I apply on my few leather items. First of all, I remove any traces of dirt with a slightly damp clean cloth, then pat dry, before nourishing the leather in circular movements.

Finally, a standard window-cleaning spray is my little extra chemical luxury (I do wash and pat dry the windows first, obtaining a great clean as it is, but finish off with the spray, although I could do without!)

Essentially these afore-mentioned products are the main chemical staples I use around the home. I keep it simple, because experience has taught me that having many products will not encourage you to use them all religiously. So why waste your money and that precious space in the utility room?

My beautiful bespoke patterned curtains, from John Lewis
However, as mentioned in my previous post, I do have a few simple tricks up my sleeve that help me justify my minimised use of chemicals:
  • Washing up: I take it easy on the washing-up liquid (only a few drops) but change the water as soon as it gets cloudy: more hygienic and effective than loads of foam that masks the dirty dish water and bathes your dishes in it!
  • Dusting: my dusters are no state-of-the-art coated cloths, but plain rags made from old kitchen towels and old hand towels that have been cut up. I slightly dampen a clean cloth before dusting the furniture, carefully yet in a light manner. This is more effective than any of the sprays out there that have the nasty habit of clogging up the wood and leaving a glaze that will end up tarnishing it.
  • Air freshening: it is no rocket science, I simply open the windows! Ask the smokers in your household to smoke outside (or burn a candle as those will absorb odours). Yet if you are keen on a fragrance, use a few drops of essential oils in a burner, this beats chemicals anytime!
  • Scouring/ de-staining: ask Kim and Aggie (but this was already a favourite of mine before they mentioned it on TV!), there is no better way than the soda bicarbonate way! I mix it into a paste with water and use it around the home: to remove tea/ coffee stains from cups and teaspoons, to clean inside vases, to freshen grout around bathroom wall tiles, and (a long time ago, before the glass shower panel was installed) to clean mould traces off the shower curtain. It is also a great deodoriser/ disinfectant, as I found out in the early stages of dog ownership, when Tickle stained the bottom of the dry-clean-only patio door curtain and the fabric sofa (what a little devil he was!). Patience, a damp clean rag and soda bicarbonate helped me to remedy the potentially disastrous mishaps, leaving no trace and no smell afterwards!
  • Hard-to-reach surfaces: scrubbing with a little help from an old toothbrush! I never throw them away and give them a second lease of life: great for grout, around taps, in nooks and crannies overlooked by a sponge or a standard-size brush, they are definitely those under-rated allies that will help you achieve that attention to detail.
  • Disinfectant: another evident, overlooked, truth in the form of boiling hot water (i.e. straight out of the kettle). A good kettle-ful of it down the sink will banish lingering smells and prevent clog-ups. Soak sponges, scourers and washing-up brushes in them to help eliminate germs and odours.
All in all, this is about domesticity without the nasties!

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