Saturday, 14 August 2010

Green Your Cleaning (1)

Our CO2 emissions are not the only aspect of our lifestyle that has a negative impact on our environment. So much of what we do can damage the environment in other ways if we are not careful.

When we wash ourselves or our clothes, or do the washing up with a regular product we are probably sending phosphates into the water system and these can upset the balance of life in our rivers and streams as too many phosphates cause an algae bloom that can smother the surface and reduce the oxygen in the water, so causing the death of fish and other creatures living in the water.  Excessive phosphates caused the Great Lakes of America to suffer an ecological disaster in the 1960's and 1970's.  Perhaps this was the cause of the stinking mass of rotting fish in Lake Ontario, which I experienced first hand as a child in the mid '60's. This and similar problems with water pollution caused manufacturers to change the types of detergent they used, in Britain at least.

Some additives in regular detergents are potentially hazardous to the environment while others can cause people irritation and allergic reactions. These include enzymes, optical bleaches, foaming agents and synthetic colourings and perfumes

To make sure we are causing as little pollution as possible when we clean up, it is best to choose plant-based products, which are as natural as possible such as washing up liquid, dishwasher detergent, washing powder and laundry liquid made by companies like Bio-D, Clear Spring from Faith in Nature, Earth Friendly (sold by Green Brands in the UK), Ecoleaf, or Ecover.

This is a very straight forward thing to do, which should not involve much effort. True, the green detergents may cost you a little bit more financially, but to calculate the total cost of any product it's impact on the environment and our own health has to be taken into account as well.

Ecover products are available widely in supermarkets, while the other makes tend to be sold in Health Food shops. Some people prefer to avoid Ecover products since they carried out tests on water fleas a few years ago as this is a form of animal testing. It seems they may also have carried out tests on the blood of farmed rabbits.  According to their list of ingredients their washing up liquids, laundry liquids and possibly other products contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, a detergent derived from petroleum based products, which can be an irritant and may be harmful in other ways.

Currently I use Bio-D washing-up liquid  as the company is based in the UK as well as filling all the other criteria I require. For washing my clothes I use Ecoleaf laundry liquid as it dissolves well and I like the smell, which is not milky like some. This is a relatively new product from the Suma Co-op.

It is possible to buy many of these products in 5 litre containers from which you can refill the bottle you keep by the sink and some Health Food shops provide a refill service so you could take a re-usable container of your choice along.

If you are trying to avoid using plastic bottles at all you can use soap nuts instead of your usual laundry liquid or soap powder Soap nuts are the pods from the Sapindus Mukorossi, a tropical tree native to India and southern China. These pods contain a high level of saponin, which is a natural detergent.

You can also make a kind of washing up liquid from them. According to the soap pod website you can make washing up liquid from them in the following way:

Put 15 whole Soap pods or equivalent
and 2 litres of water
in a heavy bottom pan and bring to the boil. Be careful, as they will boil over like milk! Put a lid on and simmer very gently for 10-20 mins. Leave overnight. This is enough for a normal liquid for cars and floors etc.

For all other cleaning you need to make a stronger concentration, so the next day repeat the same; bring to the boil then simmer for 10-20 mins. The liquid should then be deep golden colour.

When cool strain well through sieve in to a jug and decant into plastic bottles.
The liquid will keep 4-8 weeks depending on how much light and heat gets to it so try to store out of sunlight.

If you wish your the liquid to have a smell you can add a few drops of an essential oil such as orange or lemon grass.

This is something I've been meaning to try, but haven't got round to yet.  I bought my soap nuts from Summer Naturals, but there seem to be a number of outlets on-line.

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