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Global Ideas

How to make green cleaning products at home

Cleaning products can be bad for the environment, so I had a go at making my own eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner. And it wasn't half bad.

As part of the new Global Ideas #DoingYourOwnBit series, we've each been tasked with finding practical ways to make a green difference in our lives - no matter how small. I'm neither a stellar cook nor good with a sewing machine like my craftsy colleague Tamsin Walker, so to ease myself in, I went for an easy option: making an eco-friendly all purpose cleaner. 

But what's so bad about regular cleaning products? According to Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA), around 1.3 million tons of cleaning agents and laundry detergents are sold annually in Germany to private consumers, releasing about 630,000 tons of chemicals into sewage systems. 

Those include silicon and phosphates – the European Union has banned the latter in domestic detergents – which can build up in the environment and organisms and seep into waterways, says the UBA. Just to be clear: not all chemicals are bad and natural doesn't necessarily equate to good. But in this case, it seems making an 'eco-friendly' cleaning product might be a good way to lessen my environmental impact.

The search for ingredients 

The difficulty rating for this is low, even for someone like me who is known to spill and knock over most things in my reach. The hardest thing to do was source some of the ingredients. One of the first recipes I found suggested using borax (sodium tetraborate), which is frequently used in laundry detergents. 

After visiting a bunch of supermarkets and drugstores, I finally found out that its sale is banned in the European Union which deems it a potential hazard for reproductive health. According to the EU chemicals authority, it can still be found in certain detergents only if the amount is below a specific concentration. The blogs I found the recipes on were based out of the US, where the substance is not banned. So I found an alternative option without borax. 

What you'll need … 

½ cup (120 milliliters) of white vinegar 
¼ cup (45 grams) of baking soda 
½ teaspoon of tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil (I used tea tree)
Water to fill the rest of the bottle
1 spray bottle (I reused an empty one I had at home)

I mixed the vinegar (managing to spill half of it on myself), baking soda (it fizzes!) and tea tree oil in a bowl. Once it was done fizzing, I decanted the mixture into the spray bottle and gave it a bit of a shake. Et voilà - your own home-made cleaning product. But does it clean well? A bit of a spray and simple wipe with a cloth easily removed the stains on my kitchen stove. It still remains to be seen how it tackles more stubborn dirt like dried in sauce. If it does the job, I might just stick to making my own cleaning products. 

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