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Home and Garden

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

A Plastic-Free Cleaning Hack (No Vinegar Required!)

plastic-free cleaning hack

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Who Loves A Plastic-Free Cleaning Hack?

I certainly love a good plastic-free cleaning hack.  I make most of my own homemade cleaning products, a lot of which are made without plastic.

Then there are the cleaning products that are made with vinegar.  Now, I love white vinegar and buy my vinegar in bulk, but of course, it comes in a five-litre plastic carton.

I use white vinegar a lot in my cleaning and laundry, so for me, it’s good environmental practice to purchase bulk white vinegar rather than individual plastic bottles of chemically dubious shop bought cleaning products.

However, I have had people ask me if there is a plastic-free way to buy white vinegar in large volumes. The simple answer so far is there is no way to buy white vinegar in bulk sizes in anything but plastic.  Vinegar corrodes metal, and a five-litre glass bottle would be difficult to transport and prone to breakage.

Even if you buy vinegar from a packaging-free shop, that vinegar probably arrived at the shop in a five-litre plastic carton because there’s no other easy way to transport 5 litres of vinegar in anything but plastic. Plastic it is, sadly.

However, I recently discovered a clever plastic-free cleaning hack from Dri-Pak that acts as a brilliant white vinegar substitute.  It also had the added benefit that it doesn’t smell like vinegar if you or a family member is a little nose sensitive to white vinegar.

What is it?  A humble £2 cardboard box of Citric Acid*.

plastic-free cleaning

With this little plastic-free box of wonder, you can create vinegar-free cleaning sprays for your home, or use it in place of vinegar in most natural cleaning recipes that call for vinegar.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is an acid compound found naturally in citrus fruits, particularly lemon and limes, but can also be formulated by fermenting sugars. Visually, it looks a lot like sugar.

Its name sounds a little scary, but it’s actually a key component in home-brewing beer, and in bath bombs.  Because it’s naturally found in food; used in food and drink production; and also easily biodegrades, then it’s 100% safe to use around the home in green cleaning with a few caveats for safe making and usage, of course (see below).

How to Make a Plastic-Free Vinegar Substitute

cleaning with citric acid

Ingredients & Equipment Required

  • 500 ml hot water (boil first, and then allow to cool for 10 minutes)
  • A measuring jug and spoon
  • 2 tablespoons citric acid – I buy my boxes of Dri-Pak citric acid online from Big Green Smile* – they conveniently arrive in plastic-free packaging.  The citric acid box is even wrapped in a compostable bag, in case of spillage in transit, that I then use for kitchen scraps.  Alternatively, for a local supplier, try homebrew shops, Asian supermarkets, chemists, or hardware shops.
  • 500 ml spray bottle – recycle an old glass or plastic bottle – glass vinegar bottles are ideal –  and spray nozzle, or you can purchase a glass spray bottle here*.
  • Optional: a few drops of your favourite essential oil

Method

Pour the hot water into your measuring jug.

Stirring well, dissolve the citric acid in the hot water.

Add 20 drops of essential oil if required.  I went for 10 drops of lemon essential oil* and 10 drops of rosemary essential oil for a Mediterranean scented cleaning spray but feel free to use what you have to hand.  Lavender essential oil and tea tree essential oil are both great anti-bacterial options, for example.

Decant the mixture into your spray bottle and off you go!  How’s that for a clever plastic-free cleaning hack?!

What Can You Clean With Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a great all-round cleaner.  It kills bacteria, mould, and mildew, and is brilliant for general disinfecting and cleaning.  Where it comes into its own is that it’s really effective at removing soap scum, hard water stains, calcium deposits, lime, and rust.

I cleaned my glass shower screen with the cleaning spray and a cloth so you can see for yourself how effective this citric acid cleaning spray can be – I know I love a good before and after:

before and after cleaning with citric acid

Left – shower screen before cleaning; right – shower screen after cleaning with citric acid spray.  

You can clean all surfaces with citric acid with the exception of stone, marble, and granite.  You’ll want to make a stone-safe cleaning spray for this job, the recipe of which can be found on page 34 of Fresh Clean Home.

Safety First

Whilst Citric Acid is a natural ingredient, it is still a chemical, and the powder can still cause damage and irritation if handled incorrectly.  I prefer to use it in a well-ventilated area – breathing in citric acid can cause respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, and a sore throat.  Citric acid can also irritate your skin and eyes, so take care when handling the powder not to spill it or rub your eyes before washing your hands.

And, as with any cleaning product, homemade or otherwise, always keep both the citric acid, and any homemade cleaning spray, away from curious pets and/or children.

Home, Home and Garden

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

So, today let’s talk eco-friendly bin bag alternatives, and if you hang about to the end you might just find a twist in the tale…

Now, I know, I know, I appreciate bin bags are not the most glamorous of topics. It’s no plastic-free makeup or how to go plastic-free in the bathroom, but it’s important to talk about all the little ways we use plastic in our homes to see where plastic can be swapped for better alternatives, so let’s get down to bin bag business!

eco-friendly bin bag alternatives uk

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

1. Ditch the Bin Bag

By far the single most eco-friendly bin bag alternative is to go bag-less. Yup, completely cut out the need for a bin bag. Instead line the bottom of your kitchen bin with old newspaper, and simply tip the contents of your bin into your wheelie bin when the bin is full.

If you are composting food waste, either in your garden or via your local council’s food waste collection, then there is probably no need for a bin bag, as all the wet waste will be in your compost bin.

Voila! Cheap, cheerful and 100% sustainable!

2. There is No Other Alternative

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no other eco-friendly alternatives to bin bags other than the no bag method. You can go compostable*, you can go recycled plastic*, you can go degradable*, you could use a paper bag, but the moment that bag goes in landfill then it’s purpose is lost.

You see, as I explained in this post about biodegradable plastics, and if they are good for the environment, in order for biodegradation to occur three basic resources are required – heat, light, and oxygen.

If a biodegradable or compostable material, including paper and food, ends up in a landfill site it can take decades upon decades to decompose, all the while releasing the greenhouse gas methane (this is a really interesting/horrifying article if you’re keen to learn more – wait until you get to the bit about the 1967 order of guacamole…!). In short, this happens because in landfill sites waste is essentially mummified, in a complete absence of light and oxygen.  If food that has ended up in landfill stays pristine for 50 years or more, there really is little hope for biodegradable or compostable or paper bin bags in landfill.

3. No, Really, There is No Other Alternative

By now, maybe you’re hoping that there is another eco-friendly bin bag alternative answer that some clever bod has come up with. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and I think the whole eco-friendly bin bag question highlights the fact that we can’t simply shop our way to sustainability.

What we need aren’t eco-friendly bin bag alternatives but real change away from producing so much waste. Food composting facilities need to be available to everyone. We need to buy less stuff, and when we do need to buy products they need to be ones that don’t break so quickly or can be repaired easily and affordably. We need more repair cafes. We need to switch from using disposable products to reusable products as and when we can.

This is easier said than done – so this needs to be combined with support from the Government by taxing the hell out of producers who produce goods in unrecyclable packaging. There needs to be a crackdown on those that produce products that aren’t designed to last, such as manufacturers that design using planned obsolescence, and greater governmental support for the circular economy and zero waste.

In short, we don’t need to find a better bin bag, we just need to re-think our attitude to waste and all collectively work together to keep as many things out of landfill as possible. What do you think?