Household hacks

Making your own household cleaning products, and finding innovative hacks to make life easier – and more sustainable – at home will save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Have you ever wondered where the name ‘soap operas‘ came from? That’s because daytime television shows were designed to draw in women so that they would then see the ads for cleaning products and buy them.  

There is big money in cleaning products. You just need to go into a supermarket and see the number of aisles dedicated to ‘miracle’ and ‘easy’ products to see that there must be a market.  Cleaning products focus on a woman’s fear of being dirty, lazy, or not being able to care for her family.  And yes, the marketing for this is usually aimed at women.

I’m putting together a list of fabulous ways that you can live the best life in your home. (Note: this list is under construction – check back for more tips soon!)

Bites and stings

If you experience swelling from a bite or a sting that causes your skin to react, quickly dab on some vinegar. Any vinegar will do. Monitor carefully for further reaction. If you believe it to be serious, visit the Poisons Information Centre for details. If in doubt, call 000.

Chopping boards

Clean your wooden chopping boards with coconut oil rather than harsh detergents.

Egg substitute

When baking, you can use one tablespoon of soy flour (plus one extra tablespoon of water) to substitute an egg.

The leftover water from cooking chickpeas (aquafaba) can also be used as an egg replacement. You can even make meringues by beating the aquafaba.

Laundry powder

This is one of my most popular recipes! Try it and see why. It is super easy to make, especially if you have a quality food processor, or even better, a thermocooker. And the ingredients are eco-friendly as well.

1 bar pure soap (grated)
1 cup washing soda (lectric soda)
2 cups bicarbonate of soda
up to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil, or if your budget can extend to it, lavender oil
See my blog for details on how to make it

Leather

Coconut oil is great for conditioning and cleaning leather products.

Makeup remover

Coconut oil makes an effective, zero chemical, non-toxic makeup remover.

Milk

Before placing your milk carton in the recycle bin, fill it with water, shape it out and then use it to water plants.  This will act as a fertilizer.  Note: be careful not to use too much milk.  Source

Massage oil

Coconut oil makes a lovely massage oil. It is non-toxic, absorbs easily and smells nice. It is especially good for young children as there is no problem if they decide to eat/lick the oil.

Pewter

To clean pewter, especially ornate designs, cover in tomato sauce (ketchup) and allow to sit in a glass or ceramic dish overnight. Rinse off with water and then polish with a soft cloth.

Red wine

I’m sure it’s happened to you: you are having a fun night at home, when suddenly you spill red wine on the carpet. Game over!

The good news is that its not the end of the world and there is no need to panic. You do, however, need to act quickly and mop up as much of the red wine as you can with a cloth or paper towels. (In my household, it’s whatever you can get quickly, which usually means the tea towel.) Once you have soaked up whatever you can with a cloth or paper towel, dab with water. Some people find soda water helps. Dry this off as much as you can with your cloth, then rub in salt. Use as much salt as you can and really rub it into the carpet. Now, go back to enjoying the last of your wine and leave the stain. When it is dry (usually overnight) vacuum it and you will find (somewhat to your relief) that most of it will have vanished.

Note: if you happen to have white carpet, my only advice is – what were you thinking? Darker carpet is ideal for homes that you actually want to live in. Save pure white for a parlour or office meeting room that you only use occasionally.

Shower screens

Shampoo and toothpaste make a great cleaner for shower screens. Pour around half a teaspoon of shampoo onto a soft cloth (I like to use pieces of polar fleece from my kid’s old jackets), add around half a centimetre worth of toothpaste, and then clean the shower screen using circular motions. Wash off with water. This method works well if you do it immediately before you have a shower.

Silver and silver plated jewellery, cutlery etc

Many people no longer wear tarnished silver or silver plated jewellery, yet it can be returned to its original silver shine easily and cheaply. Cover a ceramic or glass bowl with aluminium foil (I like to place the shiny side up). Sprinkle on around half a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda. Place the tarnished jewellery or other items on top. Pour over enough boiling water to cover (e.g. half a cup to one cup of water). You will notice the chemical reaction that will take place, and you may be able to see the dark tarnish lift off. Remove pieces from the water after a few minutes, and polish gently with a soft cloth. For a brighter finish, polish further with a silver cloth.

Stainless steel

Save the water from boiling or steaming the potatoes and use it to clean stainless steel appliances. Dip a soft cloth into a little of the warm or cold water, and rub over your appliances. Polish with a dry, soft cloth.

Teabags

Tea made from tea leaves is nicer than teabags, reduces wastage and is also healthier. Did you know that tea made from teabags contains microplastics?

If you do use teabags, consider using ones made for pots of tea as that reduces the amount of waste needed for ‘dangling’ a tea bag. And there are some handy uses for leftover tea bags:

  • If you have wooden floors, add the tea bags to the water you use to watch them. The tannins in teabags will help keep them dark.
  • Cold tea bags make a lovely compress for tired or puffy eyes. Cold camomile tea bags can be used to treat mild conjunctivitis. (Note: conjunctivitis is contagious and see a pharmacist, or even better, your GP, for serious cases.)
  • Teabags can make good firelighters. Allow the dry, dip in mentholated spirts and then use to start a fire.

Tea and coffee stains on teacups and mugs

Make a paste from one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and water, and use it to wipe the stains. The stains will come away easily.

Salt and a little bit of water will also work, but it is not as effective as bicarbonate of soda and water.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste makes a cleansing facial cleaner, especially in hot weather.