Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Mum knew best - you can clean your home the old-fashioned way.
Mum knew best - you can clean your home the old-fashioned way.

A little vinegar and elbow grease for a cleaner house and a healthier planet

Common natural ingredients can work miracles - and they're eco-friendly, too

With housework, as with many things these days, the watchword is "green". There are growing numbers of eco-friendly cleaning products, based on natural ingredients that are more easily broken down in the environment than synthetic chemicals. Or you could try traditional cleaners such as salt, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Technically speaking, "natural" products are still chemicals: lemon juice and vinegar are both strong acids; very high concentrations of salt can kill you. Generally, though, they are safe for humans to ingest, absorb or breathe. They also readily break down in the environment.

Vinegar, technically known as acetic acid, is cheap and non-toxic. It deodorises, cleans, restores colour and will kill germs. The best vinegar to use is white distilled malt vinegar, although brown malt vinegar can be used very successfully. A word of warning: don't use vinegar on marble or alabaster because it can pit the surface, or on porous surfaces such as unglazed pottery. Here are a few ways to use vinegar around the house.

To unclog a drain, first bail out any water. Slowly pour one cup of bicarbonate of soda down the drain, then slowly add a cup of vinegar. The mixture will fizz. Cover the plughole with the upturned cup and leave to fizz for about five minutes. Rinse the drain with boiling water. Remove water marks from worktops and kitchen surfaces by cleaning with a paste made from 2 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp vinegar.

Spray full-strength vinegar on chopping boards and kitchen worktops last thing at night to keep them smelling sweet. Add a splash of vinegar to the final rinse when washing glasses to make them sparkle. Copper pans can be cleaned with a paste of equal quantities of vinegar and table salt. Rinse and polish to a shine. To remove dark stains on aluminium pans, fill the pan with equal quantities of vinegar and water and bring to the boil.

A small dish of vinegar will attract fruit flies, keeping them away from fruit. Disinfect the toilet handle and bathroom doorknobs by spraying with neat vinegar and wiping dry. A traditional method of cleaning windows is to use vinegar and water and then to wipe the glass with old newspaper. The ink in the newsprint is reputed to give a protective screen. Yet another reason to buy The National! The Housewife's Handbook by Rachel Simhon (Bloomsbury) is available at www.amazon.com

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National