Friday, 28 November 2014

12 tips for natural cleaning

I love my natural cleaning products.  I have nagging concerns about the chemicals that we rinse into our watercourses, plus I don't know what's in a lot of cleaning products.  Since a combination of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), lemons and white vinegar do such a great job of household cleaning, why would you want to buy and use unknown chemicals?  Here are twelve great ways to use these simple ingredients:
5 Litre White Vinegar

  • Use bicarbonate of soda to clean your oven.  Make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water, and rub it over the inside of the oven.  Leave it overnight, and then clean off with a damp cloth the next morning.  For more stubborn burnt on grease sprinkle some bicarb of soda or use the paste on the floor of the oven, turn the oven on for a while and leave to cool down before wiping clean.
  • Bicarbonate of soda to clean the bath.  For stubborn scum lines around the bath, scum marks in the shower or sink scrub with a bicarb of soda paste using an old toothbrush or nail brush.  This paste and method can be used to clean all sorts of areas, including those crevices around the base of taps.
  • White vinegar for everything!  Make a solution of half and half white vinegar and water.  This can be used to clean everything around the house.  You can put it in a spray bottle for cleaning surfaces and windows, or use as a solution in a bucket for cleaning floors, tiles etc.  The vinegar smell soon disappears once the vinegar dries.  If you really don't like the vinegar smell then you can chop some lemon skins and drop them into the solution to infuse for a week or two before using.
  • Plugholes - if your drains are getting a bit stinky, just throw some bicarb of soda down the plughole and follow it with some white vinegar.  This is the same mixture that school kids use to make their science project volcanoes.  The eruption in your plughole will clean out all the gunk and then you just rinse it down.
  • White vinegar to rinse washing machine and dishwasher.  Pop a couple of cups of white vinegar in the washing machine or dishwasher and run on the hottest setting for an occasional rinse.  It will clear out any musty smells and rinse out any hard water build up.
  • Dab white vinegar on tomato based stains and then get them in the washing machine immediately.
  • Sprinkle some bicarb of soda in the bottom of your kitchen bin to keep odours at bay.
  • Pop a cup of bicarbonate of soda down your toilet pan and leave for an hour.  Put a cup of white vinegar down and allow to react for five minutes, then flush to leave your toilet sparkling.
  • There's no denying that deep fat fryers are a nightmare to clean regardless of your method.  The most effective that I've found is to empty out the oil, put in a mix of white vinegar and water and switch on, allow to boil for at least ten minutes, then let the vinegary steam cool down before scrubbing.
  • Rubbing white vinegar or lemon wedges on taps and shower heads and then rinsing removes any smears, smudges and hard water build up.
  • One of my favourites is a mix of two parts olive oil to one of white vinegar makes a great cleaner and polish for wooden floors.  Sweep and wipe the floor first, then rub in the oil/vinegar mix, and wipe residue off with a dry cloth.
  • Finally, get rid of those smells in the microwave with a few slices of lemon in a bowl of water.  Heat on full power for a couple of minutes.
Bicarb of Soda (2kg, 3kg, 5kg & 25kg)
If you're using white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for all your household cleaning as recommended here, then the 500ml bottles of white vinegar and pots of bicarb of soda (for baking) will soon get used up and cost quite a bit.  You can get hold of both in bulk, as well as lots of other natural cleaning ingredients and instructions how to use them on Summer Naturals.  (I'm in no way affiliated or gaining from this link to Summer Naturals, but having found their site, I will be buying my natural cleaning products from them).

What cleaning products do you use, and how do you decide?

Incidentally, I do keep some conventional cleaning products in my cupboard, because Hubby is not quite convinced by my bicarb of soda and vinegar, and when he cleans, he likes to use "proper" cleaning products.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Top 10 Craft Books

If you're anything like me, and love to try out new crafts, then no doubt you too will have a steadily growing shelf or pile of crafty books, overflowing with ideas that you're going to get around to trying out, but there just aren't enough hours in the day for all those amazing projects.

Here are my top ten craft books from the selection on my shelves.  They aren't in any particular order.  The images I'm including will link to where you can buy them on Amazon UK, but I'd much prefer you to just get the ISBN number from Amazon and then go and order them in your local independent bookshop or get them second hand on e-bay or Green Metropolis.  I'm not sponsored or in any way gaining from recommending these books, or linking to Amazon, it's all completely my own thoughts and opinions.

1 - Crafty Minx, by Kelly Doust.  This book has a whole range of crafts, mostly upcycling, taking you through the seasons.  It includes baby items, edibles, things for the home and gifts.

2 - Martha Stewarts Encyclopedia of Crafts.  Many, many crafts are covered here with instructions and inspiration for projects including calligraphy, quilling, tin punching and many more.

3 - What Shall We Do Today?  Catherine Woram.  A great source of creative crafting projects for kids including cooking, making wreaths, bird feeders, masks, sewing, planting and modelling.  Loads of fun and some lovely looking projects.
4 - Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen.  I'll be honest, I got this book for Christmas last year and I've not yet knitted any of the animals, but I'm absolutely going to because they look lovely.  There are instructions for knitted crocodiles, snakes, hippos and lots of other animals you might find in the zoo.
5 - Woodland Knits.  This, like number 4, was a Christmas gift last year and I can't wait to start knitting some of the gorgeous and magical woodlandy garments photographed so sumptuously inside.
6 - Growing Up Sew Liberated, by Meg McElwee.  I absolutely LOVE this book.  You can find Meg's blog here, she's awesome.  The projects in this book are gorgeous and the instructions easy to follow.  They include dress-up items, clothing and toys for children.
7 - Homemade, by Ros Badger and Elspeth Thomson.  Some lovely projects including baking, knitting, crochet, sewing, mobiles and many more.
8 - Knitted Toys by Jean Greenhowe.  The book is dated, but the toys really aren't.  I've now made five of the knitted dolls and their clothes, and several of the penguins, and my children have requested several other items from here too.
9 - 365 things to make and do.  More lovely projects for children, including making a set of polymer clay farm animals, pipe cleaner crafts, pressed flowers, glass painting and cooking.  My children are a little young for most of these projects yet, but I can see it being a "go to" book for rainy days in school holidays.
10 - First Crochet by Lesley Stanfield.  Having never crocheted before I bought this book and my first hook two years ago.  Each project is progressive, introducing a new technique.  So you can start at the very beginning with a flower made from chain, and a few projects in you've progressed to double stitches.  I'm still at this stage, but the projects are actually things that I want to make, and so I'm progressing with my crochet skills and making lovely things along the way.

Have fun.  
What books do you have in your crafty book collection?