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natural cleaning

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Stainless Steel Cleaner: Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Version

Don’t buy bottles of chemically dubious stainless steel cleaner. Instead, let me show just how easy it is to make your own effective and eco-friendly version.

Did you know that stainless steel has only been around since 1913? For a material that’s only been in use for a little over a hundred years, stainless steel has quickly taken over our kitchens. In fact, as that article points out “it [stainless steel] has become the metal with which we are the most intimately acquainted; after all, we put it in our mouth almost every day.”

Stainless steel is now ubiquitous in our kitchens. From hobs to ovens, sinks to fridges, to worktops and cupboards. Some kitchens are even made entirely of stainless steel. However, all of that steel comes with some upkeep. I feel like the inventor of stainless steel was having a laugh when they named it. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel like I can just look at a stainless steel worktop or fridge, and it can leave a mark!

As such, stainless steel does take a bit of cleaning to keep it looking spick and span. General multi-surface cleaners don’t quite have the power to give stainless steel a clean and shiny finish. Meanwhile, specialist stainless steel cleaners can be pricey. I say save your money, save on buying yet another plastic bottle, and use what’s (probably) lurking in your kitchen. Here’s the full how-to!

How to Make Eco-Friendly Stainless Steel Cleaner

Image of a brown amber spray bottle with a blue text box that says how to make all natural stainless steel cleaner

Makes 500 ml

Keeps for up to six months or more

You Will Need

  • 500 ml white vinegar
  • Glass spray bottle
  • Lemon, orange, or grapefruit essential oil
  • Olive oil or coconut oil – whatever you have to hand
  • Three cotton non-scratch cloths or rags

Method

I feel like it’s cheating a bit to list this as a recipe because this stainless steel cleaner is SO simple to make. But it’s so effective that I couldn’t not share:

  • Add 20 drops of your citrus essential oil into your glass spray bottle.
  • Next decant the white vinegar into the bottle.
  • Add the spray trigger, and you’re done.

Keep the oil and two of the rags or cloths to the side for now – you don’t need these right this second.

How To Use This Stainless Steel Cleaner

To use your homemade stainless steel cleaner, first, shake well to combine the oil and vinegar. Next, simply spray down any stainless steel surfaces that you want to clean. Leave it to soak for a few seconds, before wiping with the soft cotton cloth or rag.

Why cotton, you may ask. Well, I find cotton to be most effective at wiping down steel, as it doesn’t tend to leave any lint behind. It also won’t scratch your steel or remove the temperature markings from your hob or oven, unlike abrasive cleaning pads or sponges. Sidenote, if previous cleaning efforts have removed your oven and/or hob markings, I found an Etsy shop that specialises in stove stickers*, to take the guesswork out of cooking. Genius!

Back to the cleaning! My top tip is to follow the grain of your stainless steel as you are cleaning. If you are wondering what this grain is, then you might be surprised to hear that stainless steel has a wood-like grain to it. If you look really closely at your stainless steel object, you should be able to see some faint lines running along the steel. Once you’ve found them, that’s the direction to follow when you are wiping. Wiping against the grain makes it easier for dirt and grease to build up in the grain. Over time, this will decrease the shine of your stainless steel. This is not what we want to achieve so go with that grain!

Now that you’ve used the stainless steel cleaner, you next want to make that steel shine! Everyone swears by using baby oil for this purpose, however, baby oil is a mineral oil that’s made from petroleum. I like to avoid using fossil fuel products when cleaning my kitchen thank you very much.

Thankfully, natural oils such as olive oil or coconut oil do the job effectively, without any need to involve the oil and gas industry. All you have to do is apply a small amount of the olive or coconut oil to your steel, and then, taking the clean dry cloth or rag, work the oil into the surface. Keep buffing until the streaks and stains disappear (and they will, I promise!).

Finally, for good measure, give your steel one last wipe down with the last clean cloth or rag to remove any residue, before standing back to admire your shiny handiwork!

Job done! The shinest stainless steel you’ve ever seen!

Why This Stainless Steel Cleaner Works So Effectively

orange cleaning spray

This stainless steel cleaner works effectively because of its potent ingredients. Vinegar is acidic and can take on dirt, grease, and grime with ease in the kitchen. Meanwhile, citrus-based essential oils cuts through oil like nothing else, meaning your stainless steel will come up spotless. The olive or coconut oil then promotes a shiny finish, without the use of petrochemicals.

Safety Notes

Although vinegar is a great all-natural cleaner, and perfect for cleaning stainless steel the eco-friendly way, there are a few safety considerations you need to make.

Firstly, do not use this stainless steel cleaner on granite, quartz, marble, natural stone, or similar. Vinegar is acidic and can damage these types of worktops. If you do have a stainless steel hob, for example, and these types of worktops, I would spray your cotton cloth and then wipe carefully to avoid touching your worktop, rather than spraying your hob.

Secondly, do not use vinegar to clean anything coated in metallic paint, as it can damage the paintwork.

Thirdly, if you have any stuck-on food stains, don’t reach for the bicarbonate of soda. Let the vinegar soak for a little while to soften the stain, before wiping. Bicarbonate of soda reacts with vinegar to create a weak salt water solution, that’s not good for cleaning.

And lastly, do not mix vinegar with bleach, products containing bleach, or hydrogen peroxide. Doing so can release noxious gases that can be very harmful to your health.

See my full guide to everything you need to know about cleaning with white vinegar for the full rundown.

Storage

As with any cleaning product, homemade or shop-bought, it’s important to both label the bottle, and store your stainless steel cleaner away from children and pets.

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Best Eco-Friendly Washing Up Liquid & 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.

In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

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 In Washing Up Liquid and Laundry Detergent

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 aren’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.