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.
Women’s Environmental Network
Friends of the Earth chemicals factsheet
Greenpeace's chemicals campaign