Old Wives Tales

Have you ever wondered how the cleaning products that get used in our homes have come to be created? How do you know which products work and which don’t? How do you choose which to use? A few years ago my daughter was having problems with eczema – and then I began to suffer from it on my hands and feet in the winter months as well. I started to think about the contact that my skin was having with chemicals and I came to the conclusion that using bleaches and detergents in the bathroom wasn’t helping, because although I always use gloves when I’m cleaning, there is going to be residue on the bath or the base of the shower – which our skin will have contact with when we bathe.

travertine tiles

So what can we do about this? How you we keep our houses clean and be kind to our skin at the same time? By using products that have the same impact on bacteria but are grown naturally. My biggest and best cleaning tip is lemon juice. Oh yes. It dissolves lime scale – you can actually see the calcium fizz as the lemon juice works – it bleaches out mould spots and tired grout, it lifts soap scum and it leaves glass clean. What’s not to like?? Ok, so its not as convenient to have a supply of lemons that you have to cut for use when you’re cleaning, but this is household chemistry at its finest. Lemons contain citric acid, lime scale is alkali and bizarrely it seems that many household cleaners designed for the bathroom are based on chlorine, which is alkaline. We use the phrase opposites attract constantly; this is the perfect demonstration of that very thing! Even though citric acid is considered to be a gentle acid, because lemons are so astringent they kill everyday bacteria (though if someone has been ill, I think I would rely on an antiseptic as well) but other than stinging a cut or graze, they leave the acid mantle of the skin alone.


I tried it out, thinking that my children would end up getting ill because I wasn’t killing the bacteria sufficiently and that this little experiment would all end in tears. But other than needing to use a drain product every six months, using lemons to clean my bathroom has been a huge success. No more eczema, no more wheezing when I was doing the cleaning (I’d forgotten how badly the fumes affected my breathing) no stinging eyes, no gritty film on the hand basin or the bath and guess what, I started this experiment 12 years ago!

I didn’t start out thinking about the environment, which is so often the motivation that cleaning product manufacturers use to try and convert the consumer, but I am a convert to using natural cleaning products where I can because it benefits my family in the most basic ways. If my skin, my lungs and my eyes are comfortable because I’m not using chemical compounds then it follows that I’m not upsetting the chemical balance of my home. If the waste products leaving my home are less toxic, then the impact they have on the environment will be too.

For those of you doing decorating projects around the house, cut onions get rid of the paint fumes. I know, right! Get a nice big onion and cut it in half, stand the halves cut side up on a plate and leave it in the middle of the room. Shut the door and the following day the smell will be greatly reduced. And believe it or not, the room won’t smell of onions either!


And another fantastic trick is to clean your silver using tin foil. Yep. My cousin – see how these things get passed on – told me to line my kitchen sink with aluminium foil, add a tablespoon of soda crystals, put in the silver items I wanted to clean and then pour over freshly boiled water from the kettle. The smell is horrendous, so don’t stand over the sink while the steam is still rising. Then you can give your silver a gentle rub (make sure you wear rubber gloves) and voila, beautiful clean silver.

soda crystals

Guess what else I do that sounds nuts but works? Cut pizza with scissors. 😉

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