Thursday, November 18, 2010

Green Cleaning Alternatives

I was discussing with my Aunt Irene the other day about alternatives to phosphate base dishwashing liquids.  There are a lot of alternatives on the market some work quite well but others don't and it can be quite an expensive experiment.  I have been using a New Zealand brand that is no longer available in Australia.  I usually buy it in bulk, 5 litre container.  There is about a 2 litres left so I have time to consider future options.

Irene then mentioned that you can use bi-carb soda as the dishwasher powder in your dishwasher plus vinegar as the rinse aid.  This intrigued me. (Bi-carb soda also know as bi-carb or sodium bicarbonate).   I really hate using the caustic dishwasher powders that are available but the commercial 'green' alternatives don't work very well.  So as I write this, my dishwasher is running with bi-carb soda and vinegar.  By the time I post this article later today I should have some results for you.  See the results at the end of this article.

Aunt Irene lives on acreage in NE Victoria.  She does not have a dishwasher so has not tried the bi-carb and vinegar.  She has tank water and septic toilet system and is always interested in environmental issues.  She often relies on information gained while growing up with my mother and their other siblings on their family acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia.  Their parents were soldier settlers from England after WW1 and settled on 10 acres in The Gap.  Back then The Gap was in the middle of nowhere and it was a very hard life as poultry farmers.  Now The Gap is quite a trendy suburb in Brisbane's outer west.

Back to my conversation with Aunt Irene.

Irene also mentioned that you can use vinegar in place of fabric softener when washing clothes.  We don't use fabric softener for washing accept for the massage towels. My husband, Greg, is a massage therapist and there are always towels to be washed.  I do use fabric softener when washing these towels and have found an environmentally friendly one but would like a cheaper, greener alternative.

I had heard somewhere that fabric softener lessens the absorbency of  towels which is not an issue for our massage towels.  Massage towels just need to be clean, soft and fragrant for clients.  So I decided to test this.  I have put on a load of washing.  A couple of towels and few grubby tea-towels used when bottling the home brew last night. I have a front loading washing machine that has 3 dispensers 1 for pre-soaking; 1 for washing powder and 1 for fabric softener.   I used 2 tablespoons of bi-carb and 4-5 drops of eucalyptus oil in the washing powder dispenser and 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 4 drops of ylang ylang in the fabric softener dispenser and programmed the washing machine for a cold wash. Eucalyptus oil is often used in 'green' washing powders and liquids. I selected lavender and ylang ylang in the final rinse because I love the fragrances and lavender is great for all your linen (see lavender properties below).  If bi-carb works on the dishes it should have some effect on fabric.  My results later in this article.

I make my own kitchen and bathroom spray.  I find that most of the 'green' commercial kitchen/bathroom sprays usually have some type of essential oil (orange oil?) that is so strong that it catches at the back of my throat when I use it.  I can't believe that this sort of irritation can be good for your respiratory system.  My Spray Cleaner Formula is:-

To a spray bottle add

1 tablespoon of your favourite no phospate dishwashing liquid
1 teaspoon of colloidal silver (sanitizes)
a few drops of lavender essential oil
(You can use a different essential oil - but lavender has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiseptic proprerties.  Alternatives would be eucalyptus, tea tree, bergamot or lemon essential oils.  I just love the smell of lavender and it is reported to have some insecticide properties.  Just remember that  Lavender Essential oil can cause drowsiness when used constantly or in low blood pressure.)

Top the spray bottle up with water. Close the lid.  Shake. And you are ready to go.

I usually spray chopping boards and other things I want to sterilize and leave for 30 minutes. I also use this spray for all my furniture.

I also use the colloidal silver to sterilized all my brewing equipment.

Result Bi-carb and Vinegar in the Dishwasher

Well I have just emptied the dishwasher and the dishes are lovely and clean.  No different to when they are washed with caustic dishwasher tablets.  I must admit though we don't put 'pots and pans' in the dishwasher.  Usually we wash these by hand and if they are hard to clean I just soak overnight in bi-carb soda and water. Not adding pots and pans to the dishwasher alleviates the concern about using the longer 'pots and pans' cycle and leaves a lot more room for dishes etc.  For most of our meals we use slow cookers or other cooking appliances that can't be put in the dishwasher. 

For years I have been cleaning the dishwasher by sprinkling the bottom of the dishwasher with bi-carb and running it empty on the shortest cycle.  (This little hint came from my nephew who picked it up in a science class at school).  I am not sure why I never made the jump to using the bi-carb for cleaning the dishes.  Well, I will be from now on.  

Results Bi-carb and Vinegar in the Washing Machine

On the first cycle of washing the laundry smelt like the clean, crisp fragrance of eucalyptus and then later on the fabric softener cycle on the entire floor where the laundry is located there was a blend of the clean crisp fragrance of eucalyptus with the light, refreshing, floral fragrance of lavender and the sweet smell of ylang ylang plus a touch of apple cider vinegar.

I don't normally put towels in the same washing load as tea-towels but I wanted to compare how they washed.   The heavier fabric items smelt stronger of the essential oils and as I placed the washing on the line (inside as it is raining today) the whole room became very fragrant.  Now sometime later, the whole house just smells wonderful.

The washing itself appears clean. A few old stains did not miraculously disappear and a few new stains remained.  However, I would normally pre-soak the tea-towels to remove these stains.

So what do I think about bi-carb and vinegar in the wash.  Well I will definitely continue to use it.  It is a lot cheaper and lot more environmentally friendly.  When we build our new laundry and grey water system next year I will need to look into the effects on the grey water system, especially the essential oils.  I will however continue to pre-soak items with difficult to remove stains as there are 'green' pre-soaker alternatives on the market to use.  I will report later on the laundry items once they have dried, softness etc.  I think in future I could probably use less essential oil.

And then there are the hints on the Bi-Carb Soda pack.

Carpet - sprinkle carpets with Bi-Carb Soda; leave a few minutes then vacuum.  (I usually mix a few drops of essential oil in the Bi-Carb first)
Fridge - to absorb odours, fill a small container and leave in the fridge
Tea/Coffee Cups - apply Bi-Carb Soda to a damp cloth and rub stains away
Sinks - pour half a cup of Bi-Carb Soda down the drain with warm tap water (I usually use vinegar instead of tap water)
Smelly shoes - sprinkle a little Bi-Carb Soda in the shoes and leave for a few days (Again I usually add some essential oil - peppermint)
Oily stains on concrete - sprinkle Bi-Carb Soda over stain and scrub with a wet brush
Laundry - 1/2 cup in the laundry rinse cycle (This differs to my trial)
For your body - a refreshing bath soak, 1/2 cup of Bi-Carb Soda in your bath leaves the skin soft and silky. (Oh yes, don't forget the essential - lavender for relaxing)

Plus there are a number of health benefits to Bi-Carb Soda but that's another article.

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