One thing is universally true – cleaning is a tedious task that nobody wants to spend time on. All too often, we grab the first cleaning product we see that promises a sparkling result, without thinking about our choice for more than a few seconds. But chemical cleaning products are bad for your health and damage the environment – so is it time that we considered natural alternatives? Even without chemicals, things can be spick and span – and it’s easier than you think. With just a few ingredients, you can make your own cleaning products and in doing so reduce your packaging waste.
Here’s our list of the 5 best cleaning agents that do not contain chemicals1.
1. Washing soda
Washing soda (otherwise known as sodium carbonate) is a sodium salt derived from carbonic acid that is ideal for cleaning and washing. It removes grease, stains and the most stubborn of dirt – and it’s also cheap. It can be found in fine crystal form at the chemist’s or as washing soda from various online providers.
- Drain pipes: Pour 2 tbsp washing soda and ½ cup vinegar down the drain, wait a few minutes and then rinse down with hot water.
- Pots and pans: Burnt food can be dissolved with 1 tbsp washing soda and a little water. Briefly bring the mixture to a boil and then rinse it out.
- Oven: Ovens and baking trays can also be cleaned with a washing soda mixture. Mix 1 tbsp soda with 1 litre of water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the solution generously in the oven, allow it to take effect and then wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
- Extractor: The layer of grease on the extractor can be easily removed using a solution made from washing soda.
- Laundry: Faded colours become bright again when soaked in a washing soda solution (1-2 tbsp soda per 10 litres of water) before being washed.
Caution! Soda is classified as an “irritant”, so please take care when handling it. Do not inhale the soda powder and avoid contact with your skin. When cleaning, always wear gloves. Avoid contact with your eyes, nose and mouth. Please also consider the environment. Never pour washing soda undiluted or in large quantities into the sewage.
2. Baking soda
Baking soda (otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate) is closely related to washing soda (sodium carbonate). While it’s also a sodium salt of carbonic acid, it’s quite harmless to your health. More commonly known as an ingredient in baking powder, it is perhaps only our grandmothers who know it’s also the perfect thing for cleaning. Pure baking soda is available in any chemist’s or pharmacy.
- All-purpose cleaner: Dissolve 2 tsp finely-grated curd soap in 500 ml warm water, add 2 tsp baking soda and a dash of lemon juice (and a few drops of essential oil if you want) – and you’re all set. When applied to a sponge or cleaning cloth, this solution enables you to clean dirty surfaces from the kitchen and bathroom to the balcony and terrace.
- Washing-up liquid: Dissolve 10g of finely-grated curd soap in 100 ml of warm water, add 1 tsp baking soda and – if you want – a few drops of essential oil, place in a bottle, fill with water, shake and finish.
- Thermos flasks and drinking bottles: Dissolve 2 tbsp of baking soda in 1 litre of hot water, pour into the flask or bottle, wait for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly.
- Fridges: Placing a small bowl of baking soda in your fridge absorbs any bad smells.
- Tile and joint cleaner: Apply baking soda to wet joints and gaps, let it soak in briefly and then clean with a damp cloth.
As a general rule, always try to remove dirt with the weaker agent first. If something can’t be cleaned with baking soda, use washing soda as an enhancer.
Vinegar is made up of acetic acid, water and sugar. A normal vinegar contains about 4-8% acetic acid, making it safe to handle and good at cleaning. Chemically produced acetic acid does exist and has an acidity of 25%, but this can only be sold as “vinegar essence”. As such, you should always handle acetic acid – if at all necessary – with great caution, as it can damage the skin, mucous membranes and eyes.
- Vinegar-based cleaner: Place 2 cups of vinegar, 1 cup of water, 20 drops of essential oil (tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, etc.) in a spray bottle. Vinegar-based cleaners can be used in essentially all parts of the home. They remove dirt and lime from sinks, toilets, kettles and irons effortlessly – and they also disinfect. If, however, the smell of vinegar is too unpleasant for you, simply add a few drops of lemon juice into the vinegar water.
Caution! Do not use vinegar on natural stone floors and silicone joints.
4. Lemon juice/Citric acid
Lemon juice is also great for cleaning thanks to the citric acid it naturally contains. You can use the juice of a lemon or concentrated citric acid for dilution. These are available in chemist’s in granule form or liquid concentrate.
- Lemon cleaner: Dissolve 15g of citric acid in 1 litre of warm water. You can then use this solution to clean taps and shower heads, to descale the kettle, to dissolve burnt food in pots and pans, or to remove grey marks and yellowish stains from white laundry.
- Coffee and tea residues in cups: Sprinkle salt onto a piece of lemon, rub the inside of a cup with it and then rinse well. Unpleasant coffee and tea stains will simply disappear.
- Onion or garlic smell on cutting boards: Simply rub with half a lemon and rinse off – you won’t smell anything anymore.
Caution! Do not use citric acid when cleaning metal or aluminium, as these are sensitive to acids.
Salt is something found in any house, and it’s also perfect for cleaning.
- Carpet stains: If a stain is fresh and still wet, cover it with 1 tbsp salt, leave for 15 minutes and then gently remove the salt. If the stain has already dried, dab (not rub!) it with hot salt water and then carefully wipe away the stain. If necessary, repeat several times.
- Stained cutlery: Place the cutlery in a container, add 1 tsp salt and fill with water, allow to take effect, then rinse off and polish.
- Drain pipes: Bad odours in drain pipes can be eliminated with 2 tbsp salt. Simply sprinkle the salt down the drain, leave to take effect and then rinse down with water.
So you see, you really don’t need chemicals to clean effectively. And if one day you do need something stronger, you can always ask your retailer about eco-friendly cleaning agents that don’t contain chlorine-based additives or synthetic fragrances. Many of these are predominantly made of natural raw materials and are completely biodegradable (such as Migros Plus by Migros or Oecoplan by Coop).