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natural cleaning

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

The Best Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergents

Are you looking for the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid or laundry detergent? Ethical Consumer Magazine bursts the bubble on some of the so-called green brands and shows which brands clean up in terms of ethics.

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Washing up, washing clothes, loading the dishwasher. These endless daily chores probably aren’t top of your list of fun ways to spend your time. Yet, with the drudgery of cleaning dirty dishes and clothes comes an opportunity to do good, to ditch the polluting big brands, and support ethical brands that are creating a positive environmental impact.

Emma Oddie from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergent brands out there. From the brands using plastic-free packaging, to those making plant-based and cruelty-free cleaners. And even to those with social enterprise models to make cleaning kind. 

If you are in a hurry, here are the quick links to Ethical Consumer’s most ethical and eco-friendly washing up liquid and laundry detergent brands:

If you have time, then read on to find out why these clean up above all the others.

Dishing The Dirt On Detergents?

Detergent adverts are always painting a squeaky-clean picture. A quick purchase, a few simple actions, no hard work, and your dishes and clothes are magically returned to pristine condition. But behind this façade lies a murkier picture. 

Most of the big brands, such as Fairy, Persil, Finish, and even Ecover and Method, are littered with issues that mean big environmental issues. Our recent magazine and detailed reports cover this in a lot more detail. However, here are the main things to look out for when buying washing-up liquid, and dishwasher, and laundry detergent, especially if you are looking for more eco-friendly brands.

The Plastic Packaging Problem

Although plastic bottles are ‘widely recycled’ in the UK, that statement is ambiguous. A recent Greenpeace report showed that some recyclable UK plastic waste actually ends up being incinerated or sent abroad. While there are some great initiatives out there using increased recycled content or plant-based plastics, it’s still plastic. This plastic still has a disposal issue, and it still carries a carbon footprint. When it comes to plastic, refusal, reduction, and reuse is clearly the only way. 

The good news is that there are loads of great brands offering innovative alternatives. Here are some options to look out for:

  • Refills – so single-use plastic bottles can be used again and again
  • Bulk buying options – meaning less plastic per ml of product
  • Alternatives – natural solutions and innovative products that come with no packaging at all

Read on for product recommendations that tackle the plastic problem head-on.

Polluting Ingredients 

Laundry detergents and washing-up liquids contain a range of chemicals that are designed to break down dirt and carry it away. They also provide fragrance, a particular look, or just bulk out the active ingredients. 

These detergents also contain surfactants. These do the job of keeping the dirt suspended. Surfactants now have to be aerobically biodegradable.  This means that they need to break down by 60% in the presence of oxygen within 28 days. It’s a step in the right direction. However, biodegradability depends on the conditions within the waterways and nature doesn’t always play by specific rules. 

Added to this, surfactants can be created from a variety of sources. These include waste from the petroleum industry, plant oils (such as coconut), or sugar. All of this can mean problematic supply chains, links to deforestation, and unfair wages. 

Instead, look out for products that contain plant-based, readily biodegradable surfactants. Another thing to look out for are companies that have robust policies on ingredient sourcing in their supply chains.

This goes for palm oil too. Many cleaning products contain it and not all of it comes from a certified source. However, we know that palm oil production is heavily linked to deforestation as virgin forest is cleared to grow crops. Therefore, look for products that are palm-oil-free. If you can’t find palm oil-free eco-friendly washing-up liquid or laundry detergent, then look for companies that are transparent about their supply chains and use RSPO-certified ingredients.

Carbon Ratings 

A lot of energy goes into producing highly synthesised cleaning products and their heavy plastic packaging. This can mean large emissions and a big carbon footprint. However, now more than ever, we face an urgent need for companies to reduce their environmental impact. Yet many of the bigger brands have a long way to go. 

Our washing-up liquid and dishwasher and laundry detergent guides assess companies according to their carbon management and reporting and the generation of pollution and toxins. 

For the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergents, look for companies that are taking meaningful steps to reduce their emissions. This includes reporting fully on every element of their supply chain. This also includes working towards carbon emission reduction targets that are in line with international climate agreements. 

Many brands now offer concentrated versions of washing-up liquid to cut down on shipping emissions. Since the largest ingredient in washing-up liquid is water, it makes perfect sense to add this at home.

Animal Testing 

Since 2015, the UK has banned animal testing on final cleaning products. However, frustratingly, that doesn’t include ingredients. The testing of these ingredients can be hidden in supply chains. To help keep you right, look for companies that have animal rights accreditation. These include the Leaping Bunny, PETA, or Vegan Society logos. 

The Best Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergents

Image of cleaning products with a blue text box that says the best eco-friendly washing-up liquid and laundry detergent

If you’re willing to look beyond the big brands and venture outside the supermarket aisles, then there are some amazing products out there. Check out our best buy recommendations for eco-friendly washing-up liquid, dishwasher, and laundry detergent. These pretty much tick all the boxes for genuinely green and good cleaning:

Bide

Ethical Consumer score 16.5/20

Bide is a socially responsible business, with products handmade at kitchen tables across the UK to provide greater employment opportunities. What’s more, the brand is 100% plastic-free and features concentrated products, such as washing-up liquid, as well as washing-up bars, and non-toxic, plant-based ingredients. 

Greenscents

Ethical Consumer score 16.5/20

Greenscents* eco-friendly range of washing-up liquid and laundry detergents are Vegan Society certified and cruelty and palm oil free. Although some products do come in plastic packaging, the company does offer a return and refill service for a zero-waste process.  

Bio-D

Ethical Consumer score 16/20

Bio-D* products are widely available in health and whole food shops. They’re even stocked by Oxfam, for increased accessibility. We love that their entire cleaning range is vegan and cruelty-free. And where plastic packaging is used, it is 100% recycled. What’s more, most Bio-D products, including eco-friendly laundry detergent and washing-up liquid, are widely available at refill stations in whole food, health food, and zero waste stores too, for a packaging-free solution. 

SESI

Ethical Consumer score 16/20

SESI is a social enterprise based in Oxfordshire. Here the profits are reinvested to broaden the product range, offer a decent margin to stockists, and provide cost-effective prices to consumers. All their eco-friendly products, including washing-up liquid, are vegan, cruelty-free, and biodegradable. What’s more, there are plenty of refill stations available across the UK. Meanwhile, the enterprise is actively working to reduce its carbon footprint through the supply chain. 

Miniml 

Ethical Consumer score 15/20

As well as being able to order Miniml* products online, they also offer a great refillable and reusable cleaning system. To help support this you’ll find eco-friendly refill stations around the UK, for things like washing-up liquid. For those shopping online, bulk delivery containers can be returned and reused. What’s more, all Miniml products are vegan, cruelty-free, and completely biodegradable. 

Fill Refill

Ethical Consumer score 14.5/20

Fill Refill* provides eco-friendly products – from washing up liquid to bulk vinegar – in printed glass containers. These stylish containers are designed to look good and be reused. As such, they supply bulk bag-in-box and recycled plastic refills and the larger containers can be returned for reuse. The eco-friendly products, including laundry detergent, contain simple, natural, biodegradable, and cruelty-free ingredients with natural scents. What’s more, for a lower carbon footprint, all products are manufactured and dispatched from their factory in Northamptonshire.

Other Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergent Alternatives

If buying washing-up liquid and laundry detergents isn’t for you, then there are some great recipes out there. These require just a few simple ingredients. 

How to Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent

For laundry powder you typically need:

  • liquid soap flakes
  • washing soda or soda crystals
  • borax substitute
  • essential oils 
  • oxygen booster (optional)

If you fancy a completely natural laundry wash, then soapnuts* can be a great solution. This is because these nifty nuts have a natural detergent within them called saponin and they can be composted after use. They are also completely renewable as they literally grow on trees. 

What About Eco-Friendly Homemade Washing Up Liquid?

There are also loads of homemade recipes for washing-up liquid out there. These provide cheap, ethical, and effective alternatives to pre-made brands. Soda crystals, castile soap, white vinegar, and glycerin are all common ingredients and are widely available. Glycerin can be derived from palm oil or animal fat, so do look out for vegan and sustainable sources. 

For more information on ethical consumerism and to see our detailed guides on everything from shampoo to washing machines, visit the Ethical Consumer website.

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

How to Descale A Kettle With Vinegar or Citric Acid

Don’t let limescale ruin a perfectly good cup of tea. Here’s how to quickly, easily, and naturally descale a kettle two ways – with vinegar or with citric acid – whatever you have to hand.

I blog about tea quite a lot. That’s because I’m pretty partial to a cup myself. Whether it’s herbal tea that I’ve grown by myself – such as mint tea or lemon balm tea – or helping you to find the best plastic-free teabags, tea is never far from my thoughts or my lips!

Whilst there’s nothing like the thought of plastic in your tea to ruin a perfectly good cup of tea, limescale is a close second. Let me show you how to descale a kettle naturally, two ways – one way with vinegar, and another with citric acid – so you never ruin a good cup of tea again!

What Is Limescale And Is It Bad For You?

Firstly, what is limescale? Limescale is a harmless chalky white residue that accumulates in appliances that use water, such as kettles, coffee machines, dishwashers, and washing machines. Limescale is particularly prevalent in hard water areas. Here, in this mineral-rich water, higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium dissolve in water, leaving limescale deposits as they evaporate.

Limescale is completely harmless to your health and isn’t bad for you to drink. Calcium and magnesium are both minerals found in the body, so consuming them in your water poses no risk.

The problem with limescale in your kettle is that it can spoil your tea a little. However, its greater problem is the effects of limescale on our appliances. Limescale can shorten the lifespan of your kettle because it can corrode the elements. Limescale deposits also negatively impact the energy efficiency of your kettle. This means it takes longer, and uses more energy and therefore money, to heat up the water, and also reduces your kettle’s lifespan.

In short, whilst limescale is not harmful to your health, it’s best to tackle limescale on a regular basis. Doing so will prolong the life of your appliances and save energy, particularly if you live in a hard water area.

How to Naturally Descale A Kettle

A green kettle on a white background with the caption how to naturally descale a kettle using vinegar or citric acid

Thankfully, it’s really easy to descale your kettle. You can buy expensive and chemically dubious kettle descalers. However, I say save your money and use these natural yet effective methods to descale your kettle.

How To Descale A Kettle With Vinegar

Descaling your kettle with vinegar is really simple and cost-effective. Simply buy a bottle of white vinegar and add equal parts water to equal parts vinegar (e.g. 500 ml water and 500 ml white vinegar) to your kettle.

Next, boil your kettle and then leave the vinegar/water solution to sit for an hour before tipping the water out. You may need to give your kettle a little scrub to remove any lingering limescale, but it should come off easily.

Finally, rinse out your kettle thoroughly, and then boil some water to remove any trace of vinegar.

If you are new to using white vinegar for cleaning purposes, then here is everything you need to know about cleaning with white vinegar.

How to Descale A Kettle With Citric Acid

Citric acid is, I have to say, my preferred method to descale a kettle naturally.

All you have to do is add 1 tablespoon of citric acid to half a kettle of water. Allow the water to boil and then leave it to sit for an hour. Next, tip the water out, and scrub away at any lingering limescale. Again, it should come away easily. Finally, give your kettle a good rinse out and the job’s done! Citric acid won’t leave an aftertaste, so there is no need to reboil the kettle again. Less faff equals more time for tea drinking!

New to the amazing superpowers of citric acid? It’s an amazing natural cleaning product that packs a mean punch against limescale. This is because it’s a highly concentrated fruit acid, and as such citric acid is a key element in my green cleaning arsenal. As well as being useful to clean your kettle, you can also use the leftover citric acid to make this amazing citric acid cleaning spray. This is a great natural cleaning spray, that’s especially useful if you aren’t into the smell of vinegar.

Worried about tracking it down? Worry not, citric acid is easily available in homebrew shops, Asian supermarkets, or online.

How To Prevent Limescale

If you live in a hard water area, then limescale is a fact of life. It’s just one of those things that you have to get in the habit of descaling your appliances, such as your kettle, dishwasher, or washing machine, regularly, to help prolong their life.

However, when it comes to your kettle, there are steps you can take to help reduce the need to descale it as often. One of these is to use a water filter to filter your water before filling the kettle. Water filters used to be pretty wasteful, however, you can now buy reusable water filters, meaning there’s no plastic waste. I wrote about this Phox water filter here some time ago, when they were in the fundraising stage, and it’s great to see it now available for sale.

You can also buy a reusable stainless steel limescale catcher* for your kettle. This clever product lives in your kettle and absorbs the calcium carbonate that causes limescale. Every so often, when it turns a white colour, just take it out and give it a wash. Once you’re done, pop it back inside your kettle and you’re good to go again.

Thanks for letting me chat through kettle cleaning with you! Now time for a good old (limescale free!) cuppa I think!