Tag: Cleaning

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Clean Up!

 

So for Day 3 of  International Zero Waste Week, let’s do some housekeeping!

The cleaning regime here in the Scrap House is much the same as everyone else’s I think. We tidy up, make beds sweep, vacuum, wash floors, windows, dishes, bedding and clothes.

Those of you that have been following this blog might remember me mentioning that our real journey to a low waste lifestyle actually began in 1995 after discovering that the Uni Student had mega-sensitive skin. I didn’t realise it at the time, but what I was doing to eliminate chemicals from our home was going Zero Waste!

It started with washing powder. The first thing we suspected when little baby Uni Student’s skin started to go red then blister and peel…yes it was that awful, I’m not exaggerating… I was willing to give anything a go to make our baby more comfortable, help her skin heal and stop it happening again.

For a while I just washed her clothes and nappies in bicarbonate of soda with a little white vinegar in the rinse and dried them in the sun whenever possible. It worked just fine, unless there was a stain. We needed something with a little more oomph occasionally.

That’s when Grandma Scraps sent me the book It’s so Natural. (I’m not affiliated with the author in any way and receive no payment for promoting his books, I just really like them). Ever since then I’ve been making our washing powder using a grated bar of unperfumed pure soap and some washing soda or Bicarbonate of soda. I still use white vinegar in the fabric softner dispenser (and for those who argue that vinegar will wreck your washing machine, our top-loader is almost 20 years old and still going strong and I have a friend with a front-loader who has been using the same formula as us for almost a decade with no noticeable damage to her machine. To make wool wash I use the soap, some metholated spirits and eucalyptus oil.

I’ve tried soap nuts/berries too and while they worked quite well and were on the whole one of the cheapest low waste eco-friendly options out there, there’s some suggestion that they’re not so good for those who grow them, plus there’s usually a lot of transport miles involved, so I might do a little more research before jumping on the soap nut bandwagon.

If you’ve read any of the other posts on this blog, such as the one about dishwasher tablets or the one about paste cleaner, you might be noticing a bit of a theme by now. White Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Washing Soda, Salt, Lemons and Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil are staples in the Scrap House. We use them for just about everything. Lemons are usually free from a neighbours tree and everything else ia available from bulk stores, in really huge containers (brought in store or online) or in a cardboard box or recyclable glass bottle. The recipes for most of the homemade products are really simple too, just mix different amounts together and clean away, like the recipe for glass cleaner below.

 

Image result for vinegar and lemons for cleaning

Simple Recipe for Window/Glass Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups of water

To make up pour everything into a spray bottle, pop the lid on and give it a good shake. To use just spray on and buff off with a lint free cloth or scrunched up newspaper.

Okay, so you might have to take a little time to mix up your own cleaners, but at least you’ll know exactly what’s in them. As we found out the hard way over the years, just because something is labelled “eco”, “organic”, “earth-friendly” or “for sensitive skin”, doesn’t mean that it’s chemical free or even effective.Big bonus that overall they work out MUCH MUCH CHEAPER than the chemical stuff you get from the supermarket. I haven’t really crunched the numbers, but I’m fairly confident that the Scrap House gets clean for less than $10 AU a month.

So today’s challenge is to try it yourself.  Swap out one of your usual chemical cleaning products for a homemade version. You can use one of the recipes on this blog or there are a lot more on to be found on the internet (good ‘ol Dr. Google again). You could try cleaning your bathtub with bicarbonate of soda instead of your usual cream cleanser or use some white vinegar instead of fabric softener or rinse aid in your dishwasher.

 

 

Homemade Paste Cleaner

Back in 1995 we discovered that the Uni Student, at the time a gorgeous little bundle of gurgling joy, was allergic to stuff. Things like washing powder, scented soap, perfume and other household cleaners caused pretty violent skin reactions. So we went on the hunt for alternatives.

In our search we found lots of “eco”, “natural” and “green’ products. Most of them overpriced and many containing just as many irritating ingredients as .their chemical counterparts. Big lesson here was that just because something is “natural” doesn’t automatically qualify it as “safe” or “good”.

Then my mother found a book and posted it to me for my birthday (we were living in Adelaide at the time and she was on the farm at Burraja in rural New South Wales). It was called It’s so Natural by a fellow called Alan Hayes. It’s still available I think. Give it a search through DR Google and see if you can find it. And that was how I started making most of our household cleaners and many of our personal care  products.

I did hang onto a few of my favourite commercially made products though and one of them is Gumption.


For those of you who’ve never come across it before, Gumption is a white paste sold in a tub that you rub onto dirty surfaces with a cloth. Its great for enamel stove tops, baths and basins, stainless steel pots and pans, dirty bathroom tiles and so many other things. It’s pretty low irritant too and all the safety and environmental information I can find on it says it’s completely safe to use.

So I kept using it, until recently that is. I went to our little local supermarket the other day to find that the price has jumped significantly. On “special” it was almost $6 AU a tub. Granted I hadn’t brought any for a while, I tend to stock up on these sorts of things when I find them at bargain prices and only replace them once they’ve run out, but that seems a little steep for a simple tub of goo.

Surely it could be made at home. While there are no ingredients at all listed on the tub, the information I can find on the interwebs informs us that it’s a mild abrasive with a surficant (soap) and a little peroxide or bleach (I think). I asked over on the Kitchenscraps Face-lurk page and a few of our followers provided links to either similar commercial products and a couple of recipes used by other bloggers. Armed with this info I did a quick rummage through the pantry and laundry cupboards, set to work experimenting with a few different mixes and finally came up with this one. It works a treat.

Homemade Cleaning Paste

1 cup bicarb soda (baking soda)

1/2 cup washing soda (the powdery kind, not the big crystals)

1/3 cup hot water

2 Tablespoons grated soap

1/4 Teaspoon essential oil

1 Tablespoon fine grained salt.(optional – great for tiles but probably not so great on delicate surfaces).

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients except the soap. In a separate bowl or jug dissolve the soap in the hot water. Mix the soapy water into the dry ingredients, adding the essential oil. Put into a  wide mouth jar or container (I used an old plastic honey tub) and when needed scoop a small amount out with a rag and gently rub onto surface in a circular motion. Wipe off with a damp cloth.

Note: It should be a thick smooth paste. If it’s dry and crumbly, add more water. If it’s really runny, add more bicarb soda, a little at a time. A 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil is about 20 drops, I used 10 drops each of tea tree and eucalyptus. You can use any oil you like or you could easily leave this out and it would probably work just as well, it just wouldn’t smell as nice.

I tested it out on our grubby stove top and one of my old cast iron enameled pots that had burnt custard stuck on the bottom. 


This cost next to nix to make, does a great job and gets bonus points because it eliminates one more piece of disposable plastic packaging from our household.
 

My Awesome Zero Waste Work Week 

As I’ve already mentioned, I started a new job at the end of last month. It’s been awesome so far. A huge learning curve because I’ve spent over a decade either self-employed or studying and the whole process is still a little alien yet.

I’m only doing a few days a week, so plenty of time to work on my thesis and get things done at home and I’m getting paid to work with people who love the same thing I do… Archaeology!

But another totally awesome thing about my new job is that nobody in the office thinks my efforts to avoid and reduce waste are weird.

It’s a Zero Waste friendly office!

Those of you who face-lurk or insta-stalk me might have already seen my post on Wednesday night about packing my salad in a jar for Thursday’s lunch at work. I didn’t grab a photo but the one of the Ecologists brought his soup in a jar and the Archaeologist I work with regularly brings her smoothies in a jar.

There’s a kitchen…  So we can bring our lunch and snacks ( less waste and way cheaper than buying lunch each day). They keep a filter jug in the fridge so there’s always fresh water to fill your water bottle and a compost basket under the sink for green waste ( our local council supplies them and the bio-bags as part of their Halve Waste program). 

There’s tea and coffee too so no need to get take-out coffee but if you’re heading out to do fieldwork or travel for client meetings everyone has one of these:

And the bathroom is low waste eco-friendly too… 

There’s “unpaved towels”  for hand-drying and eco-friendly Who Gives a Crap loo roll and tissues. I don’t know who is washing the towels. I keep forgetting to ask, but I’m pretty sure it’s done by  the Zerowaste fairy (like the tooth fairy but he/she cleans stuff instead of giving you monies.

It’s not a completely paperless office but the bulk of our work is done on the computer and scrap paper is reused before going into the recycling bin. Any soft plastics are taken home (this week by myself)  to be dropped into a Redcycle bin (nearest one to us at the moment is at the Chiltern Post Office ( the Teens go there twice a week for sports training so it’s not out of the way).

Imagine if every office did these things…

 

Sunday Scraps – In the Scrap House this week & dishwasher tablets

This Week in the Scrap House

We’ve had a busy week. Mr Scraps spent the week sorting through the shed and packing up all our unwanted bits and pieces to sell at a friend’s garage sale. The Teens had the usual school week with football and netball training thrown in (the youngest Teen’s team won their  game by a massive margin this week). The Uni Student popped in a few times and is off interstate for a few days with the Eldest who graced us with his presence for dinner Friday night. We also made the trek over to Grandma & Grandad Scraps for an afternoon tea on Saturday which turned into dinner.

I’m now getting to the pointy end of my Archaeology Honours Project (the bit where you have to actually do something with all the data you’ve collected and historic documents you’ve unearthed, scanned and photographed). As a result there’s been a fair amount of thinking, hair-twisting and pacing up and down in front of a blank computer screen. In between, Miss T and I managed to do some experimenting with bread recipes, planted out our celery and leek butts that have been sprouting on the kitchen bench, tried our hands at sauerkraut with some red cabbage (much easier than I imagined) and spent Saturday morning knitting at the local library for World Wide Knit in Public Day. She made and installed her first ever “Yarn Bomb”. and as a result  the librarian has given us permission to decorate all the trees.I don’t know who was more excited, the Threenager or my friend who had neglected her own knitting project to help her craft her installation piece. She also proudly modeled a new prototype vintage fabric skirt from Vintage Bubs . She was allowed to keep it and we had to pries it off her to pop it  in the wash after an afternoon in the park.

There was also a lot of experimenting with homemade cleaning products. We already have a few “go to” cleaners we make ourselves, but a couple of them have ingredients that are either a little expensive or difficult to get without ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging or trips into the nearest large town. I shared a post about experimenting with dishwasher tablets over on the Facebook page this week and a lot of people asked 1) How they went and 2)  If I could please share the recipe.

Why I wanted to make our own dishwasher tablets

Dishwasher tablets are very convenient, but usually expensive (hard to pay less than 18-20 cents per wash) and although they come in a box they’re usually individually wrapped in little plastic packets inside it. The powder is better package wise with most brands only packed in a cardboard box, but still not all that cheap. Both contain chemically stuff or things I’m not happy to ingest, like borax.

Now while borax isn’t thought to be particularly dangerous, there is some evidence that it has the potential to cause skin irritation, stomach upset  and may be a hormone disrupter. There’s lots of recipes for homemade dishwasher powders and tablets out there on the web, but most of them contain the stuff, so I’ve been on a bit of a mission to find a way to make my own without borax. This week I think we’ve done it. After two full dishwasher loads (I only turn our dishwasher on when it’s really full, about every second or third day) and both have come out clean as a whistle without any residue left on the glassware.

Lemon Dishwasher Tablet Recipe

Ingredients

1 Cup Washing Soda

1 Cup Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

1 Cup Salt

3/4 Cup Lemon Juice.

2 Ice Cube Trays (or similar)

Mix all your dry ingredients then pour in lemon juice (make sure you use a fairly large bowl because it fizzes quite a lot for a few moments). Mix it really well and divide mix between the ice cube trays packing down really firmly. Leave to dry at least a few hours before popping them out and leaving overnight to dry completely. Keep in an airtight container and use like any commercial dishwasher tablet.

Notes:

This recipe makes 24 tablets (or more if you use a smaller mold). I used two 12 hole plastic ice cube trays because that’s what I had. They came out quite easily, but silicone might be even easier. Just make sure that your tablets will fit in your dispenser. To check just fill your container with water and freeze, take one of the ice cubes, pop it in the detergent dispenser and make sure it closes properly.

Be fairly gentle when you pop them out of the trays. They do harden up a bit more as they dry. There were a few crumbly bits (which is why  they put the commercial tablets in plastic wrap). I just scrapped them up and will pop them in the dispenser like powder.

If you prefer powder, just omit the lemon juice and instead use 1 Cup of Citric Acid, mix together and keep in an airtight container. To use place 1 tablespoon per load in the dispenser.

Tip:

For sparkly glassware, pop white vinegar in the rinse aide dispenser.

If you find you have some residue on your dishes after the dishwasher cycle finishes, try making sure the water going through your machine is nice and hot. Pop a pot or bucket in your sink, turn on your hot tap and let the water run a moment until it’s flowing hot before switching your machine on (this can also help with store-brought dishwasher tablets or powder). I empty the water in the pot into my washing machine or use it to water plants or wash the floors so it doesn’t go to waste (it’s usually less than a litre but in winter when the pipes are really cold its more).

 

 

Apple Scrap Vinegar

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) from your Apple Scraps.

Don’t throw out your apple cores. I know some people eat the whole apple, core and all, but most of us don’t. Our youngest daughter eats at least one apple per day, that’s seven apple cores a week either going to the immortal chicken (I’ll tell you that story another day) or to compost each week. We also use a lot of ACV. I use it as a hair rinse, in cooking, as a salad dressing and in household cleaning products among other things and if you’ve been to your local wholefood store, health shop or even just your local supermarket lately, you’ll know that stuff can be expensive.Especially if you like to buy the certified organic brands.

Originally I went looking for a place that retailed ACV in bulk and at least a little cheaper than I could buy it in glass bottles from my local supermarket. Imagine my delight when I found you could make your own and all you needed was already right there in my kitchen.

What you need:

Apple cores (about half a dozen and skins if you have them)

Sugar

Chlorine Free water (if your tap water is chlorinated leave it sit out in the open air for a while for the chlorine to evaporate or if you can get it use rainwater).

A wide mouth glass jar that will hold about 1.5  litres of liquid ( you can use larger or smaller just adjust your quantities).

A piece of cotton cloth (a bit of old sheet, a hanky or napkin will do)

An elastic band or piece of string.

The Makings

Put your apple cores into your wide mouth jar.

Mix water and sugar at ratio of 1 teaspoon sugar for every 1 cup of water. Make enough to fill the jar. I like to use warm water and mix until the sugar is dissolved, but its probably not a necessity.

Pour the water sugar mix into the jar all the way to the top.Make sure all your apple bits are submerged (or they’ll go mouldy).

Cover the mouth of the jar with your piece of cotton and secure with an elastic band or string.

Stick it in the back of your cupboard for about 3 weeks to ferment. You’ll know its ready when it begins to smell acidic and well, like vinegar. You can use it as is or leave it another week or two and it’ll have a stronger flavour.

Strain into a bottle, put the lid on and set aside for a few days to settle. You might want to open the lid every day or so for the next week to “burp” the bottle, just in case it hasn’t quite done fermenting. A vinegar explosion in your cupboard might not be pretty.

Notes:

You can give it a stir every few days if you like, but I usually forget.

You’ll know its ready when it smells really acidic,if it really smells like rotten apples, chuck it and start again.

Surprisingly, you’ll probably have to put your nose fairly close to the cloth “lid” to smell it. The first time I made a batch I was worried it’d stink out the cupboard because you need to leave the jar open (the little microbes in the water and apples need to react with oxygen- thats why you don’t use chlorinated water, it kills all the little microbes that make the vinegar), covering it with the cloth stops dirt, bugs or rodents getting in the jar.

If you get a white gungy looking thing floating about in the jar before you strain it, hang onto it. It’s called the “mother” and will help speed up the process if you add it to the next batch you make. You can either pop it in with your strained ACV or put it in a separate little jar of its own. I usually start the new batch fermenting as soon as I strain of the ACV, so just transfer it into that one.

Keep your apple cores in the fridge or freezer until you have enough. I keep an old bread bag in the freezer that I throw the cores into as soon as I’ve cut up the apple.