It’s nearly March, so many of you may be planning a full on spring clean of your home soon. Personally, I’m not very good at keeping on top of the housework on a day by day basis. Instead I’ll have 4 hour bursts of manic cleaning when someone is coming to visit!
I do love the results though of a full top-to-bottom deep clean though, so I’m sharing with you my top products and tips for making your house sparkle this spring.
1. Before you pick up a duster, take stock, get rid and reorganise
I could be called a featherweight division level hoarder, and as such can’t be bothered to clean my clutter. The appeal of beautiful homes in architectural magazines and on Pinterest is often that they show spaces with no visible signs of human life! Where are the books, knick-knacks and personal photos? There’s no TV or electronics, let alone wires that have mysteriously knotted together. Any pets are decorative and match the colour scheme, with every surface probably vacuumed as soon as they move.
Whilst that is not real life, I certainly wish my house were a little more like that.
Your home should spark joy!
If you’ve not heard of Marie Kondo, and her “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying“, where have you been?! My favourite tip, beyond getting rid of anything that does not instantly “spark joy”, is to sort by item. Get everything of a specific type together in one place, then sort through the pile. This is really effective. You get to see the true extent of your belongings, and have a much more effective sort-out.
So if you have coats in the hallway, bedroom, cupboard, garage and one in the car boot for emergencies, get them all together first, then decide which of all of them you love, and thus get to stay. I discovered that I had toiletries all over the place. They mess up the bathroom, are scattered in our bedroom and stored in containers in the spare bedroom… Facing the extent of my collection of barely used or brand new items shocked me. Seeing what I actually had made me acknowledge what products I actually love, what I really need and adjust my shopping habits accordingly.
Be resolute and pile together everything you don’t want to make a space for and to have to keep clean. Once you’ve finished your clear out, Give to friends, donate to charity or sell wherever possible rather than just throwing them in the bin. Remember to take old towels, sheets and clothes to fabric recycling centres; check your local council’s waste websites for where to go.
2. Stock up on cruelty-free products
I have tried all sorts of cleaning brands that claim to be animal-friendly and natural, including Ecover, Bio D, Method, Ecozone, Attitude, Waitrose ECOlogical and others. I also like natural solutions such as white vinegar for cleaning stainless steel. When necessary I have also picked up products that aren’t natural, but are vegan such as Astonish, and certain products in Lidl and Marks and Spencer.
My personal favourite is Ecozone. I love them! Their products are effective and I have no qualms about what might lurk within their friendly packaging as they are a vegan company. The kitchen cleaner is particularly good, and gets grease and stains off the cooker top smoothly. I also appreciate their specialty products, like drain unblockers and oven cleaner. They mean that I don’t have to worry about using super strong harsh chemicals to get the job done.
I thoroughly appreciated the couple of Bio D products I used, but found it hard to get hold of them again when I needed them. I originally discovered them in my local Oxfam store, but they don’t seem to stock it anymore. They are a Vegan Society registered company, and focus on natural ingredients. I need to stock up!
If you aren’t able to get hold of Ecozone or Bio D, then the more widely available brand, Method, arguably make the next best products.
The problem with Method (and Ecover)
You may have heard that vegans avoid Method despite their plant-based, anti-animal testing stance. This also goes for Ecover which until recently tested on water fleas, which were not deemed to be animals due to a lack of nervous system and other reasons.
Method and Ecover were both bought by SC Johnson, which is not a nice company. It rates low with Ethical Consumer and still openly test their products on animals. Neither the Method and Ecover brands are tested on animals and both have Leaping Bunny certification.
If they weren’t owned by SCJ, then they would likely not have a question mark over them. Are there greener, more environmentally friendly choices out there? Yes. Are they easily available at my local supermarket? No. Should I start making my own natural cleaning products? Maybe!
Suzana Rose over at Cruelty-Free Kitty explains the complicated relationship vegans have had with Ecover and Method superbly, so check it out.
So, though Method and Ecover are arguably ok to use from a vegan standpoint, you have to decide whether or not to buy their products due to the actions of their parent company. This is just like deciding whether to shop at
L’Oreal owned Body Shop (omg, Body Shop isn’t owned by L’Oreal!), Estée Lauder owned Aveda, or eat Unilever’s vegan Hellman’s mayo. To be honest, this is why I usually choose Ecozone, unless I’m in a real pickle in that they don’t make the product I need or I need it sooner than my next online Ocado shop.
Where to order from
I usually restock my green cleaning goods online at Ocado with my food shopping as I need things. If you are starting a newly vegan cleaning cupboard, or need I’d suggest checking out Ethical Superstore. I have used them in the past for other products (trainers, feminine hygiene, chocolates…) and totally recommend them from personal experience.
Featuring over 350 vegan cleaning products from loads of brands, it’s a one stop shop to get everything you need in one go. Even better is that you can filter by ethical concern including vegan, sustainable palm oil, organic, paraben free and lots more.
These products might seem expensive compared to the big brands that can be bought for a pound. If you’re on a budget, or aren’t as fussed about the environmental impact of your cleaning products, then Astonish might be the answer.
Astonish is approved by the Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Society and Cruelty Free International. As they say on their website: “We’ve never tested our products on animals or used animal ingredients. Simple.” Their products can be found widely on the high street, in stores like Poundland, Wilko, Iceland, Morrisons, Savers and more at much cheaper prices than the specialist brands.
3. Remember that “cleaner” is not synonymous with “disinfectant”
Sounds obvious but actually is it? The term “all purpose cleaner” gives the impression of being a germ eliminator, no? But actually whilst a product can be used to remove dirt and grime and perhaps some germs, disinfecting actually kills bacteria. The two are not the same, but I suspect a lot of us are using an all purpose cleaner as if it is an cleaner for all requirements!
What to buy instead
Ecozone makes two anti-bacterial products; a multi surface cleaner and wipes. But, I don’t like to buy wipes anymore. Although they are biodegradable, I don’t have a compost bin at the moment, so they end up in a black sack. Nor do they go very far if you’re cleaning your whole house…
Sprays are fine for small jobs, but if like me you were brought up with the cleaning being done with a bucket full of diluted cleaner (i.e. Flash) and a cloth, a spray doesn’t feel like enough somehow for a full house clean!
On this I do compromise between using the Ecozone spray, Method’s Anti-Bac All Purpose Cleaner spray and Ecover’s liquid All Purpose Cleaner depending on what’s available, what state the house is in and how quickly I need to get it clean. I find all to be effective, but the wild rhubarb Method Anti-Bac spray smells just like a rhubarb flavoured gin we had from Lidl!
4. Boil your dishcloths, don’t bleach them. Actually don’t bleach anything…
Ditch the bleach
Bleach always made me nervous as a kid thanks to the toxic smell and warnings on a bottle of Domestos. Nor did I ever feel comfortable using it as an adult. I’m not sure that I actually ever bought a bottle. After all, I would wonder what effect something that strong might have when flushed out in the water system, so I looked for natural alternatives.
It is a complicated subject, but fundamentally, bleach is an extremely hazardous, chlorine-based chemical. Bleach is labelled a “strong irritant” on the bottles and it’s a well known trigger for asthma and respiratory symptoms.
In addition, in 2017 Harvard Univeristy and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research concluded a 30 year study that found regular use of bleach and other common disinfectants is linked to a higher risk of developing fatal lung disease.
Also, if you have a sceptic tank, you cannot use bleach whatsoever. It kills the micro-organisms that live in the tank and help break down the waste. Something to bear in mind.
Who would think that a strong, pungent-fumed chemical could have a negative impact on you or the environment?! Though the billion dollar companies that profit from selling this awful stuff are quite happy to make out that bleach is benign, I don’t buy it.
The old ways are sometimes still the best ways
So, rather than soaking your dishcloths in toxic chemicals or wasting a full washing machine cycle, boil them!
It’s probably no surprise that E.coli is more likely to be found in meat eating households, but that doesn’t get us totally off the hook! The study found that “E.coli was more likely to be found on towels used for multiple jobs, such as wiping utensils and cleaning surfaces, as well as drying hands”.
So let your spring clean be the start of more hygienic practices!
Hot wash all of your tea towels, drying mats and oven gloves on at least 60 degrees. Personally I don’t like to use softener for these as it seems unnecessary. I am a huge convert to the boiling method. I started boiling my dishcloths, sponges and scourers recently, and could tell the difference in cleanliness immediately.
It’s a chemical free, totally natural cleaning method that is easy to do regularly. Boil a saucepan of water with the lid on, and throw in your dirty dishcloths for at least 5-10 minutes. Use a set of tongs or a fork to get them out of the boiling water, allow to cool. Then rinse and wring out the excess water. Do this every few days.
You may want to regularly use the same saucepan specially for this task if you are doing more than just cotton dishcloths. Also, be sure to keep a distance from any funny fumes that may come off from sponges that have any plasticy bits on. Even better, pick up natural cotton cloths or repurpose old, unsalvagable clothes by cutting them into wash/cleaning rags.
5. Consider the carpet
Ok, so your home is decluttered, dusted and dirt-free; aweome! But before you rush out to book a Rug Doctor from B&Q, be aware that you have to use their products in the machines. This is according to the Ts and Cs, and there is no clear information as to whether their products are vegan-friendly.
Another UK-wide DIY chain, Jewson, hires out Karcher carpet cleaners. You’ll need to ask if they insist on using a particular cleaning solution.
If you want to buy one, you can certainly find cheap carpet cleaners to make regular cleaning easier. Our current home only has carpet on the stairs and upstairs landing, so buying a carpet cleaner doesn’t make sense until we move. Luckily we are able to borrow my mother-in-law’s Vax occasionally, which has always done a good job.
When we move, I’ll want to have carpet throughout the bedrooms at a minimum, so I’d invest in having a carpet cleaner at home. After all with 3 cats, it would be nice to be able freshen the carpet fully on a regular basis!
At time of writing, Vax have the top selling carpet cleaner on Amazon, with a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It’s not the same model that I’ve used, but a likely contender for the one I hope to buy in the next few months.
6. Window cleaning
To get the streak free shine, I remember Mum spraying the windows with Windolene and buffing vigorously with newspaper. Whilst we don’t use Windolene anymore and physical newspapers are a rare commodity, there are greener ways to make your windows sparkle.
You can make your own cheap and natural glass cleaning solution. Simply mix 50% white vinegar (distilled) with 50% water in a spray bottle. Wipe the glass with a fresh dust, free microfibre cloth to avoid streaks.
While you’re there, wash your curtains and dust and clean the curtain pole.
7. Clean and turn your mattress
Are you really laying comfortably?
It’s easy to overlook as long as you’re still sleeping comfortably, but your mattress needs regular TLC too.
(I recommend this not only for a spring clean, but also if you are moving to a furnished room or apartment. Always clean the mattress fully before sleeping on it… You don’t know what you could be laying on!)
The Sleep Council says that the average adult loses 285ml of bodily fluid a night – and we shed over 520g of dead skin cells each year. That’s pretty grim. And it’s all making its way into your bedding and mattress throughout the third of our lives we spend in bed…
If you don’t already have a water-resistant mattress protector, you may want to consider getting one after that!
So let’s get that mattress cleaned up! First, check for instructions that came with your mattress, or check the supplier website for any advice.
In general though for a regular mattress:
- Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum.
- Tackle any stains and leave to dry.
- If you’ve got a problem with nasty smells, or want to give it a freshen, sprinkle baking soda all over the mattress, and leave for as long as possible.
- Vacuum up the baking soda.
- Open the windows and air the mattress for a few hours.
Now you should have a lovely clean mattress! Flip it and/or rotate it too as needed.
Don’t forget your pillows and duvet
The Sleep Council advises that we should also consider our bedding:
It’s really important that bedding should be washed regularly to decrease the spread of bacteria and pillows swapped every two to three years and washed every three months. Did you know for instance that an old, unwashed pillow could contain as much as 10% of its weight in skin scale mould, dead and living dust mites and their allergen laden droppings?
Whilst you’re cleaning your mattress, why not put your sheets on a hot wash, and air out a new set of pillows ready for a fresh bed?!
8. Sweat the small stuff
Whilst it’s satisfying to clear through the kitchen cupboards and have shiny windows both inside and out, it’s easy to forget about the little things that make a difference.
Places like the airport luggage baskets at security, the seat tray table on trains and the insides of well used bags are notoriously filthy. Think of each time you’ve dropped something on the floor or it’s touched a public surface; did you clean it before putting it next to your ear or holding it again?
So, here are my suggestions for things you need to fully clean that might have gone under the radar:
- Mobile phone and any protective cases (you’ll be disgusted with how disgusting they can be; this Time article says it all)
- Toothbrush and toiletries holders
- Shower curtain
- Sink plugs and drainers
- Bins (especially kitchen and bathroom)
- Make up brushes, sponges and bag
- That spot on the wall behind the bed where a headboard should be and head grease gathers
- Musical instruments
- Handles and doorknobs
- Bags (they go on floors outside to then be put on any surface all over your home!)
- Purse, wallet, debit cards
- All the tools you use to clean! Mops, buckets, brooms, the vacuum cleaner and attachments, especially the floor head that picks up all the dirt.
- Lampshades and light bulbs
- Keyboard and mouse
- Remote controls
- Washing machine
- Behind the oven, behind the toilet, behind the sofa, behind the TV…
Well that concludes my 9 tips for a vegan spring clean! I hope they proved helpful and there’ll be more product information and reviews coming soon… What are your top tips for spring cleaning?