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& nurturing Mother Nature.

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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

Sustainable Sundays: Zero Waste Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit

Hello fellow eco-warriors, it's been a hot minute since the last Sustainable Sunday post and after taking to Twitter a while ago and asking what you guys wanted to see, you guys asked for some DIY cleaning recipes that would be natural, eco-friendly, and reducing your waste/plastic pollution. I realised before I could even start a post including my recipes, I needed to give you guys a bit more of a rundown of the sort of ingredients/products you need to prep yourself for making these super easy, affordable and effective recipes because although they include simple products you can find mostly in your local supermarket, I also appreciate the fact that my "kit" might include things you usually don't buy. Therefore in this post, I'm going to give you a comprehensive list of the products/ingredients you need and why. Initially I was going to share this "kit list" with the recipes themselves, but I quickly realised I can ramble for days about mundane things such as white vinegar (who knew?!) so breaking this down into parts seemed best so I don't lose half of you to sleep!

When you buy cleaning products in stores, you firstly need to think about the ingredients for a minute because realistically you're paying sometimes a lot of dollar for water. Most spray-style cleaning products have water as their number one ingredient so that alone should make you think "why am I paying £4 for this when I could make it at home?!" y'know? I'm not going to get preachy in this post because that's the last thing anyone wants to read (including me,) but one more thing I will say is that some ingredients in cleaning products have been linked to respiratory issues too and thus, making your own at home from natural safe ingredients should in turn also benefit your health. I know I can't be the only one who's had a coughing fit when they're sterilising the bathroom and the strong chemical smells have got in your lungs. Just think if it's having that effect on you as you clean out your bathtub, what effect is it going to have on the ocean and wildlife once you've washed it all down the plughole? Not a good one, I suspect. They also come in plastic bottles which aren't always fully recyclable - if they're recyclable at all - so there's that aspect too that was weighing heavy on my conscious.

So, before I start turning into one of those "think about the turtles!!" extremists, let me give you a quick run-down on what you need in your homemade/zero waste kit and why. There are very few products/ingredients you need to make your own natural cleaning recipes as the idea is they're fuss-free, effective, and as natural as possible and thus don't need lots of ingredients. They're also extremely affordable and can be bought in bulk to minimise waste. Some of these products/ingredients I am going to mention unfortunately come in plastic packaging a lot of the time, but to get around this slightly to be more zero waste and eco-friendly, I will buy big so I'm buying less plastic in the long run. For instance, if I'm buying white vinegar, I typically bulk order a massive jerry can-style plastic bottle of it online so that it can sit in the cleaning cupboard for ages but also means it a) was super affordable per ml and b) is less single-use plastic being used. So here's the bare basics you need:

White Vinegar or Castile Soap
Both products are great for cleaning in their own right but you don't necessarily need both. I typically have both to hand because I use castile soap to make handwash, washing up liquid, and to clean my makeup brushes with, but as a "starter pack" you definitely only need one product. If I had to choose between the two, I would say white vinegar is the best option as it's the most affordable out of the two and it is *so good* for getting a streak-free finish on surfaces such as glass or mirrors. It is also fantastic to use on limescale or watermarks so it is a must for shower/bathroom cleaning products. If you want to try out castile soap too however, I cannot recommend that product enough too. I typically buy Dr. Bronner's Castile Liquid Soap in a bulk size to minimise the plastic waste and it can be used for so many things. As I mentioned earlier, I predominantly use this product for washing my makeup brushes (I've had some of my brushes for probably too long - 4 or 5 years - and this stuff keeps them in great condition with no shedding etc.), but it can also be used in household cleaning products, as a floor cleaner, as a laundry detergent, to clean your dishes, as a shampoo and body wash - the possibilities are endless! If you're trying to make a minimal and zero waste change in your life, definitely check out this product. One thing to bear in mind when using these products is that it is definitely best to choose between them, rather than mixing them together. It is possible to use both at once, but mixing these base cleaning agents can often result in the final mixture curdling and therefore making it difficult to use as a spray cleaner across surfaces.

Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
Not just great for making bread and biscuits, but bicarbonate of soda will cut through and lift grime and dirt with ease and is great for using all over the home whether it's in your sinks, ovens, on textile stains etc. It's also extremely affordable, accessible and again, can be bought in bulk/in a larger quantity to cut down on single-use waste. Bicarbonate of soda is such a great multi-purpose product and can clean anything from a makeup stain on your pillow to your washing machine drawer build up, to grease in your oven or unblocking your plughole.

Essential Oils
One of the main concerns I think people have with natural homemade cleaners is the smell of vinegar lingering and this is where essential oils step in. Not only are they great for cleaning for a number of factors, they are fantastic for your mood too. Essential oils have be coveted for years as they can be purifying for the skin, the air, your surfaces, the mind... all sorts! It's important to check which oils you're using and ensuring you're using therapeutic grade essential oils (e.g. essential oils that are not cut with other oils and don't contain pesticides) where possible as these are the most effective essential oils to use for the purpose of cleaning. When it comes to choosing scents, don't rush out and buy excessive amounts of different oils because that defeats the point of a more minimal/zero waste cleaning kit but, it is important to think about what scents you like and dislike as your home will be infused with what you use, particularly if you clean very regularly.

Whilst choosing which oils you use based on scent is a given as it's what you might enjoy, there are some I will always recommend in any homemade cleaning kit because they are usually universally liked but also have amazing properties, especially when it comes to cleaning. My top picks for cleaning kits are also scents/options that are easily accessible and most popular online, in stores like Holland & Barrett, and even often sold in sets in places like TK Maxx for discounted prices:
- Lavender: anti-microbial, calming and relaxing, can relieve anxiety, panic attacks, and irritability
- Lemon: disinfectant, purifies the body, air and surfaces, uplifting and mood boosting (as is all other citrus essential oils), and is effective cutting through grease
- Eucalyptus: anti-bacterial, relieves stress or sadness, and can promote concentration and memory
- Lemongrass: anti-bacterial, can alleviate jet lag and fatigue, an create a sense of calmness and clarity
- Peppermint: anti-bacterial, can help with fatigue and encourage clear acute thinking
- Tea Tree: purifying (which is why it's in so much skincare), gets rid of watermarks (good on shower glass), and can calm stress

If you are a first-time buyer/user of essential oils, it is not vital that you buy every single one of those mentioned above, but instead choose maybe two maximum that you like the scent of or think would be the most effective/beneficial for your home. If you're a seasoned essential oils pro however, conjuring up your own blends can be a fab way to have your fingers in multiple pies and reap the benefits of many oils at once. One of my favourite blends is cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, rosemary, and tangerine or orange as combined they are good for supporting your immune system against environmental and seasonal bacteria threats as well as fighting mould and mildew, disinfecting surfaces, and purifying the air.

Glass Bottles and Spray Tops
Storing your homemade cleaners is easy and a glass bottle will do the trick! If you don't want to or can't afford to buy some new ones outright, try repurposing some you may already have (think from bottled water/drinks) or even reuse plastic ones initially. Reuse the spray tops from old cleaning products too and just cut the stalk/straw inside down to size to fit your new bottle. Most spray tops fit most other bottles universally so you should be able to truly DIY the whole container yourself from what you might have lying around the house already. Over time it is vital you replace plastic cleaning bottles though when using cleaning products that include essential oils. Essential oils can disrupt plastic and even stainless steel packaging long term which kind of counteracts our mission to have gentle, safe, and non-toxic cleaners, so try to replace what you can, when you can!

Lemons Lemons Lemons
One ingredient that I will always recommend - even more so than essential oils (don't tell anyone I said that), is fresh lemons. Lemon juice is very acidic and is therefore great for removing stains but also disinfecting. Used alongside other ingredients I've mentioned such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, lemon can help counteract the odour of vinegar when cleaning but also assist with fighting grease and grime in all areas of your home when cleaning. Lemon juice can also be used alone to clean different things if you're finding it hard to stomach cleaning with vinegar. As they are a fresh produce, they're really affordable and accessible and can just become part of your weekly/monthly food shop if they're not part of it already! The whole citrus family can be beneficial for cleaning actually so if you prefer the scent of orange or lime more, I've got a little secret for you. Fill a jar/container with white vinegar and the rind/skin of a whole lemon/lime/orange. Screw a lid on it and allow it to infuse for around 1 week and then you can say goodbye to the white vinegar scent. It will completely minimise the smell and make your vinegar even more fitting for using around the home!

Filtered Water
If you're thinking "wow, what a snowflake step to include - filtered water, really Amy?!" just hear me out for a minute as there's a reason I've specifically said "filtered" water. As I mentioned earlier, most household cleaners bought off the shelves include water as the main ingredient and it should be no surprise that it will be a main contributor to your DIY cleaning products too. However, if there are any salts, fluorides etc. in the water when you add it to your concoctions, it can prevent the overall cleaner being streak-free on your surfaces so if you can filter it, just to make your life easier and to keep your house sparkling, I'd highly recommend the additional step! Of course, I wouldn't suggest going out and buying a filter jug etc. just for this reason as it's an easy step to get around (it'll just take a little more elbow grease if the water in your local area is particularly hard etc.) but if you happen to have a water filter already at home, definitely use it!

Olive Oil
The last product I want to mention that again, most of you will already have in your kitchen cupboards, is olive oil. Although this product is not as universal as the others mentioned in terms of how you can use it for cleaning around the house, it's still worth having to hand especially if you have any wooden surfaces. Olive oil is fantastic for polishing surfaces as it lifts grease/dirt/grime/dust etc. and breaks it up easily. You can then always go in with a multi-purpose/surface cleaner once you've used it if you're worried about oil residue, but generally speaking, this will polish up wood better than most other targeted products.

Now that I've shared with you all the sort of products you need in your cleaning kit in order to make your own products, I hope you can see that it really isn't daunting, remotely scientific, and will be ridiculously simple to create your own combinations at home. I will be sharing my basic cleaning recipes on the blog really soon so please keep an eye out for that post! If you guys want to see any more after that, please let me know and I can give you some more tips, tricks, and easy recipes to follow to keep your home toxic free but squeaky clean.

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