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Don’t you ever get sick of the sight of plastic? Now that I am trying to avoid it, I feel generally frustrated that it is so damned hard to do so. We are certainly a long way from being a plastic free household, but we are getting better at finding substitutes. This Plastic Free July, I thought I would look at some plastic free cleaning products.
There are lots of alternatives to the rows of brightly coloured plastic containers of chemicals you see in the supermarket. .
Many of my suggestions for suppliers below are online and charge postage on top, so you will get the best deal buying from stores like Robert Dyas on the high street or using Amazon Prime if you have it (you can sign up for a free 30 day trial here *).
Ideas for plastic free cleaning
Bicarbonate of soda
Bicarbonate of soda is a great all rounder. It is good for cleaning the loo, keeping drains clear and getting rid of nasty smells. It can be used in your washing machine to help remove stains and prevent limescale. You can also sprinkle it on rugs and carpets before vacuuming to freshen them up.
I can’t always find bicarbonate of soda in a cardboard box. The last two packs that I bought (after some searching, I managed to locate some in my local Wilko) were packaged in plastic bags. However, it is possible to buy it in cardboard online. The cheapest place I spotted it was at the Ethical Superstore at £2.25 for 500g. You can also get it on on Amazon at £2.99*.
For more ideas about the possible uses of bicarbonate of soda, see this post.
If you live in a hard water area, as we do, you will find citric acid purchased in a cardboard box an effective plastic free cleaning item. It can be used to descale kettles and washing machines, or to remove limescale from around taps, down the toilet and on your draining board.
White vinegar is a renowned all purpose cleaner. I make a lovely lemon spray with it. It also removes limescale and is good for cleaning glass and mirrors.
It combines well with bicarbonate of soda to make a stronger cleaner and can be used instead of fabric softener.
For years I bought my white vinegar in Asda in glass bottles. However, I was annoyed recently to find they had switched over to plastic. You can, I believe, still find it in Sainsbury’s in glass, but I would be happy to find other suppliers, so if you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments.
If you are lucky enough to have a refill store near to you, they usually sell white vinegar so you can easily avoid the plastic.
Oxi-boost laundry brightener
As I sell a lot of clothes on eBay, I often have to tackle stains. Rather than reach for the Vanish in a plastic bottle, moving forward I will be using Dripak’s Oxi-Boost laundry brightener. It has recently been repackaged and now comes in a cardboard box.
You can make it into a paste and apply it to stains, use it as a prewash soak or put it directly in your machine. I found this on Amazon* at £5.29 for 500 g, but a cheaper option is from Robert Dyas, who stock it in store for only £1.49 (if you buy it online from them you pay £3.95 postage and lose the saving).
On the subject of laundry, I use my Ecoegg * and I am pretty happy with it. However, as I said in my review, heavy stains need a little more cleaning power, so I tend to buy a bog standard washing powder in a cardboard box. It is still widely available and I buy mine from Aldi.
Having researched this post and found Oxi boost, moving forward I will pop some of this in with the Ecoegg when things look grubbier than usual.
Granted, my Ecoegg is made from plastic, but can be used hundreds if not thousands of times so can hardly be described as single use! It will certainly save on a lot of plastic bottles if you currently use a laundry liquid. If even that is too much for your plastic cleaning routine and you want a gentler product than washing powder, how about soap nuts? I have heard varying reports of their effectiveness, but they might work a little better with one of the Dripack products mentioned above added.
Years ago, when I first started looking at less chemically toxic ways to clean the house, I purchased real borax. Now, in the EU anyway, despite it being a naturally produced substance there are still some health concerns and it can no longer be purchased (although it is still to be found in lots of our commercial cleaning products, I believe).
All is not lost, however. Dripak produce a borax substitute. It is good mixed with water or white vinegar on surfaces that need scouring.
Giving it a scrub
Now that you have all these plastic free cleaning products, what to use instead of plastic scourers?
If you can find them, I don’t think you can beat traditional cotton cloths* for cleaning. They are preferable to those made with man made fibres as these contain plastic which are released into the water system. Forget disposable cloths if you want a more eco-friendly approach.
We are currently using loofah scourers* for cleaning and washing up. I have to be honest, they are not as good on burnt on stains as your usual plastic scourers, though. We have steel wool to help with those as it can be recycled with your cans.
Another tool for washing up is a natural bristle and wooden pot brush. We have two – a long handled brush and a squat pot brush – and they are pretty effective. You can get similar ones here.
Do you have a plastic free cleaning routine? What are your frustrations when it comes to buying plastic free cleaning products?