A clean home is not only beautiful, but also helps to keep family members healthy. However, with scientists now claiming that our repeated overuse of chemicals is contributing to the rise in complications such as respiratory problems, skin issues and allergic reactions, it begs the question as to whether over-cleaning is leading to our detriment rather than making us healthier? What’s worse, is that these issues are especially apparent in households with young children and we’re seeing a rise in domestic accidents by ingestion or skin contact, not to mention the effect of harsh chemicals on the groundwater and ocean.
While we are not completely against industrial cleaners, we believe they could often be avoided and replaced by a few, simple (kinder) ingredients found in most supermarkets. Our Dirham Stretcher budgeting experts, Selma and Susan share with us their top 5 cleaning essentials and hacks, for those who are as mindful of what they spend as they are with what they use in their homes.
Do we need to clean or disinfect a surface? Technically, disinfecting is only needed in cases where germs & bacteria spreading is a real issue; for example medical facilities or in a house whose occupants have a low immune system. Your first and primary option to clean your home should therefore always be hot, soapy water. We tend to buy industrial cleaners in the hope they will disinfect surfaces and ‘kill “99%” of germs’. The truth is, the most essential step in the cleaning process is the rubbing and scrubbing of a surface as you literally wash the bacteria away. You can easily replace store-bought floor cleaners and multi-surface cleaners with a soap and water mix.
Either mix some liquid castile soap with water, or grate 1 tablespoon of old-fashioned cleaning soap (with a food grater or processor) and pour 1-litre hot water over it- et voilà, your multipurpose cleaner is ready!
Where to buy: Liquid castile soap is available on Amazon.ae from 44 dhs/236 ml, or our favourite Carolina castile soap – 1 gallon for 204 dhs. Most supermarkets also carry traditional olive oil soaps, such as ‘Arabi Baladi’ soap – 900g for 13.25 dhs in Carrefour.
Another common cleaning favourite is rubbing alcohol. However, this one comes with fair warning: It is highly flammable and should never be used near fire or while smoking, nor should it be mixed with bleach.
It can be used in a 1/1 water mix to spray on surfaces, or even undiluted on a cotton wipe to disinfect personal items such as earrings or tweezers. For your own safety, rubbing alcohol should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
Where to buy: In pharmacies or supermarkets in the hygiene section, for example 500 ml in Carrefour for 7,40 dhs.
If it’s disinfecting you’re after, wash it with soapy water first before applying a vinegar solution of water and vinegar in equal parts. Vinegar is a miracle all-rounder when it comes to cleaning. It has antimicrobial properties, while being non-toxic and biodegradable! Recent studies have supported it as a helpful agent against many bacteria and can inactivate viruses as strong as the flu virus.
A vinegar solution shouldn’t be used on granite or stainless steel, but it is great for tiles, the bathtub or porcelain. Many people like to add essential oils to their vinegar cleaner however if you do this make sure to first research whether these essential oils are safe for the persons and pets in your household.
Where to buy: Big hypermarkets usually sell gallons of white vinegar for less than 10 dhs, such as Lulu for 8.75 dhs.
Baking Soda / Bicarbonate Of Soda
Baking soda (not to be confused with baking powder) can be used to refresh soft furnishing and carpets. Baking soda is also an abrasive and can bring back the shine to many surfaces, cooking pots included. Don’t use it on stone or on marble, as you could rub away the sealant. It shouldn’t be used on aluminium cookware either in case of staining.
Sprinkle on a surface, let sit for 15 minutes and vacuum it up- done! This can be repeated until a persistent smell is gone. Alternatively, clean your drains with 1-cup baking soda then follow up with 1-cup vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes, then rinse for several minutes with hot water.
Where to buy: in small quantities in the baking aisle of supermarkets or on Amazon.ae, 454g for 21.28 dhs or 6,8kg for 48 dhs on Ubuy.ae
Citric acid / lemon salt
Citric acid is commonly found in most acidic fruits and therefore is known as lemon salt. Found in the spices section of the supermarket for a couple of dirhams (labelled as lemon salt), it’s a great limescale remover and perfect for bathroom cleaning.
Mix ¼ cup citric acid with 2 cups vinegar and spray on your shower heads, later wipe clean and repeat if needed. You can also pour ½ cup citric acid with ½ cup white vinegar in your toilet and let it sit overnight to remove the build-up.
Where to buy: in the spices section in supermarkets, for example 100 g in Lulu for 2,10 dhs
So there you have it! Thanks Selma and Susan, we’ve added these to our shopping list and will be sure to give them a go. Do you have any pearls of wisdom in the household cleaning game? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to increase our non-toxic life!