A cleaner approach to the New Year


Green Living
McKinley Neal

I wasn’t aware of a particular ‘New Year, Clean Home’ tradition until we started noticing how many people were in the shop to refill cleaning products or ordering solid options online. If you are also clearing out and deep cleaning, I have some tips for eco alternatives.
As you’re working through areas of your home, resist the urge to throw out worn items. For well-used or stained textiles like old sheets, towels, t-shirts, cut them to the desired size and leave them around the house to use for spills and other dirty jobs. We have a pile of assorted rags under the kitchen sink and every bathroom basin, plus in the back kitchen, so there’s always something for soakage when needed, and we don’t buy paper towels. Socks in particular are excellent for dry dusting wooden furniture, or for cleaning and conditioning leather goods. Newspaper sheets are ideal for cleaning windows, as they don’t leave streaks.
If there are items that could be nice again with some TLC, now’s a great time to provide that. Fabrics with stains can be treated, and one of the best ways to tackle white goods is with washing soda (percarbonate of soda). It’s called ‘green bleach’ by Nancy Birtwhistle, author of ‘Clean & Green: 101 Hints and Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Home’ and two more similar books, who swears by using a few tablespoons in water to remove stains by applying directly or soaking. Another option is to combine ½ cup of citric acid, ½ table salt and 600ml hot water to dissolve, then soak dish or bath towels, sheets, or white clothing.
For stains on carpets, she recommends making a paste of bicarbonate of soda and warm water, and applying it to the stain (using a cloth or your hands, with gloves on), and then rubbing gently (rubbing vigorously can damage the carpet, as bicarbonate is abrasive) and leaving to air dry. Repeat for heavily soiled items. This paste also works well when applied to stovetops and ovens to help rub away cooked on debris.
If odour is the problem, you can also sprinkle bicarbonate of soda across an entire rug or carpet, leave for several hours and then hoover it up. For smelly areas, put some bicarbonate of soda into a jar without the lid, and leave it to absorb odours—this is very effective in closed cupboards and the refrigerator.
I use bicarbonate of soda and plain white vinegar for most cleaning around the house. I sprinkle bicarb in the toilets and the sinks, slowly pour in vinegar, watch the effervescent reaction and then scrub with a brush or wipe with cloth to clear away the grime. For blocked drains, use a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate, plus a couple of hundred millilitres of vinegar and once it stops bubbling, pour hot water down to clear it. I also use vinegar in my dishwasher rinse aid compartment. It’s also excellent for treating mouldy surfaces - just apply directly and wipe away.

McKinley Neal is the owner of PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal-care items and gifts.