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Simple savvy swap-outs around the house


SAFE SCRUBS There has never been a better time to try eco-friendly cleaning tools for the bathroom and kitchen.

From loofah sponges to soap bars, green alternatives are easy to find

Green Living
McKinley Neal

By now, we have all spent so much time in our homes, doing the same, rather unglamorous things on repeat: loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the rubbish, wiping down the benches, cleaning the bathrooms and brushing the floors.
Maybe we’ve noticed how many of the items we use for these regular tasks that are taking a toll on the environment and our health. What chemicals are in them? How much plastic are they made of or wrapped in? And what happens when we are finished with them?
The good news is that there has never been a better time to try alternatives, so I’ll share some of the items that we have swapped out.
In the kitchen, the sponge and dish brush for washing dishes that are generally made of plastic can be traded for a natural loofah sponge, which is made from the inside of a pumpkin like plant, or a coconut fibre pad, and a brush with a wooden handle and replaceable wood and natural bristle brush. Both of these are durable and work as well as the plastic ones, but are compostable at the end of life, and are mostly grown and made in Europe.
Washing up liquid bottles and spray cleaners for all surfaces can be refilled with locally produced eco versions, such as the Tru Eco and Lilly’s Eco Clean brands. Or, you can ditch the bottle altogether and use a solid soap bar, which can be rubbed directly onto a sponge or brush and then applied to dishes, or grated and mixed with water. There are a few brands of eco dishwasher tabs, that come in a box and are covered in a water-soluble film instead of individual plastic wrappers.
Then, bin liners, paper towels and other single-use items are just not necessary – even the biodegradable versions are manufactured, packaged and transported. We wash our recycling and compost bins out, or line them with newspaper, between uses, and we have a rather large stack of cotton kitchen towels that we wash regularly for drying dishes, dealing with spills, etc.
For the bathroom, there are toilet brushes with natural bristles and wooden handles, and refillable toilet cleaner. Or, you can use a combination of bicarbonate of soda and plain white vinegar to remove stains in the toilet, clean the sink and help remove build-up in the drains.
The loofah sponges or coconut fibre pads work well for cleaning bathroom fixtures as well. Hand soap dispensers can also be refilled, or soap bars can be cut into smaller pieces to make them last longer (and they are easier to handle for smaller members of the family).
Floors can be swept with an ‘old-fashioned’ wooden brush handle and head with natural fibres, and mopped with just water, or a small splash of refillable floor cleaner, and using a plastic free mop head—ideally one that can be easily removed and washed to keep it in service longer.
By making a few simple swap-outs, we really can make our homes healthier for ourselves and for the planet. A little thought can make a big difference.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.