Secrets to a cleaner, greener family home

Amidst the daily chaos of life, there are things you can do at home to help the environment

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With at least 100,000 chemicals in the products we surround ourselves with, toxicologists are concerned about the potential build-up of chemicals in our bodies and our homes. “Scarily, the air inside our homes is around five times more polluted than the air outside,” says Janey Lee Grace, author of Imperfectly Natural Baby And Toddler. “This is all due to gas appliances, cleaning chemicals, building materials, pesticides, adhesives, personal care products, and the chemicals in soft furnishings, carpets and paints.”

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Rather than worry about all those chemicals, start a mission to make your home naturally cleaner. Try a few of Janey’s tips to get you on your way…

Turn your laundry green

Instead of detergent, try ‘laundry balls‘ – ionised pellets that draw the dirt from your clothes. They cost around £10 for a two-pack and last almost a year. Even more fun are soap nuts. They’re totally renewable, as they grow on trees and remove the need for fabric softener. Pop five or six soap-nut shells in an old sock or drawstring bag and stick it in the drum. Your whites won’t be so bright, but colours come up well. Once the shells look thoroughly ‘used’, throw them in the compost.

Household cleaning

You can easily go eco with the ‘old-fashioned’ approach. Stock up on bicarbonate  of soda (great for soaking up smells, too), lemon (it will make your sink sparkle) and white vinegar. All you need then is an environmentally friendly cloth and tea tree oil (it’s anti-bacterial). Just add half a cup of bicarb to a bowl of warm water, dip in the e-cloth and wipe most surfaces. For cleaning the loo, put a couple of drops of tea tree oil on the surface and clean with another e-cloth (keep separate cloths for toilets, obviously).

A tablespoon of white vinegar will help soften laundry and get rid of smells in the washing machine. Keep drains clear with soda crystals. There are lots of eco-friendly companies selling cleaning products, such as Ecover, which is also widely available in supermarkets. Try Home Scents for a 100% natural spray cleaner for highchairs, changing mats and surfaces.

Wear your baby

If the cost of prams has you running scared, remember your baby’s been inside you for nine months and still loves to be close. So, why not use a sling instead? Horizontal slings are good for newborns. Try your local Freecycle for other second-hand baby equipment – you could save yourself a small fortune by re-using.

Get composting

Help reduce packaging by buying in bulk if you can – look for a local co-operative scheme. Nationally, we compost about 2% of our waste, but around a third of the average household’s waste could, in fact, be composted.

To get started, keep a compost bucket within easy reach as you prepare food. Chuck in peelings, tea bags, leftovers, even newspapers, but no glossy mags, fish or meat. Use any basic bin, or cut the bottom off a plastic dustbin and bury it a few inches into the soil. Most kids love finding worms to help the composting process, or buy a worm composter.

Recycling

If your council provides containers and a good recycling service, applaud them. If not, nag them to do it! You can get stacking containers and label them ‘plastics’, ‘paper’, ‘glass’ etc. Make it a game for your pre-schoolers – they’ll love helping to sort and recycle.

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Make your own baby wipes

Steep a chamomile tea – bag in a cup of boiling water. When cool, add 2 drops lavender essential oil and 1tsp olive oil. You can store washable fabric wipes in this, or use it in a spray bottle.

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