Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.

More info ×

Spring cleaning the eco-friendly way

Get ready to spring clean the house while retaining a toxic-free environment with Joanna Peios

March 1, 2006
4 min read

Underneath your kitchen sink lurks a cocktail of toxic chemicals, which claim to ‘fight germs’ and ‘keep your house sparkling clean’. From ammonia to ethylene glycol monobutyl, each bottle of cleaning product contains mysterious ingredients that you’ve never heard of, yet you know you shouldn’t swallow.

According to the Women’s Environmental Network, more than 30,000 chemicals are currently on the European market without adequate environmental and health assessment. These chemicals are in everyday use in many household cleaning products. Synthetic chemicals are found increasingly in our food, water, homes and bodies, and the regulations in place are failing to protect people and the environment.

But making sure your environment is as free of synthetic chemicals as possible this spring is easier than you think.

Instead of reaching for the air freshener when there’s a nasty smell in the house, why not open the windows? Essential oils such as tea tree or eucalyptus are great for purifying the air and act as a natural disinfectant. Try dabbing some on a piece of kitchen roll and leave it in the bottom of your rubbish bin.

And if you want to make your home sparkle, all you need to do is arm yourself with three magic ingredients – vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and lemon juice – and follow the instructions below. It will save you money, and you won’t need muscles either.

Use distilled white vinegar for…

Removing limescale from taps and showerheads. Soak kitchen towels or rags in white vinegar and wrap round your taps, making sure that the area is saturated. Cover with a plastic bag. After a few hours, you will be able to wash the limescale off. Place the showerhead in a large glass or vase and pour vinegar in to cover the head. Leave for a few hours. The limescale will have softened and can be washed off effortlessly with water.

Removing limescale from kettles. Add one part water to one part vinegar to cover the element. Boil the kettle; pour away the solution and then wash thoroughly before use.

Cleaning glass. Vinegar leaves the surface smear-free. For a great window and mirror cleaner try filling an old spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. Wash windows with this solution, dry, then buff with scrunched-up newspaper.

Cleaning brass, bronze and chrome. To clean brass and bronze, mix half a teaspoon of salt and half a cup of white vinegar, and then add enough flour to make a paste. Apply thickly, leave for 30 minutes then rinse off. To clean chrome, wipe with vinegar then rinse with water.

Use bicarbonate of soda (baking soda or soda crystals) for…

Cleaning the oven. Make a paste of bicarbonate of soda, salt and hot water. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Cleaning silver. To clean silver items without scratching them, line a plastic container with aluminium foil (shiny side up). Add a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Drop the silver items in the solution. Remove after a few seconds.

Absorbing odours in the fridge. Just place a dish of bicarbonate of soda in the fridge.

Removing limescale from baths, basins and showers. Clean wall tiles, grouting and shower screens with half a cup of soda crystals to one pint (500ml) of water. Do not use soda crystals on lacquered taps and fittings.

Removing limescale from lavatory pans. Sprinkle soda crystals round the bowl and leave overnight before flushing away.

Preventing blockages in waste pipes. Pour half a cup of soda crystals down the drain. Flush with hot water.

Use lemon juice for…

Removing limescale from cups and glasses. Cut a lemon in half, cover the cut half with salt and rub this into the limescale. Rinse.

Polishing copper. Polish with a lemon juice and salt paste.

Useful resources
Women’s Environmental Network
Friends of the Earth chemicals factsheet
Greenpeace’s chemicals campaign

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency


27