Safe alternatives for the entire household

Assemble a natural cleaning kit - most of these ingredients can be found in your local supermarket. You can follow the recipes at home safe in the knowledge they are environmentally friendly and won’t harm you or your family.

Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
Cleans, deodorises, softens water and a good scouring powder.

White vinegar
Cuts grease, is a deodoriser and mild disinfectant.

Pure soap
A general purpose cleaner that biodegrades completely.

Lemon juice
Mild bleach, a deodorant and a cleaning agent.

A naturally occurring mineral salt. It cleans, deodorises, bleaches and disinfects, and is used to control pests such as ants and cockroaches.

Washing soda
Cuts grease and removes stains.

In the bathroom

Toilet cleaner
Make a paste from borax and lemon juice for cleaning toilet bowls.

All-purpose cleaner
Clean tiles, sinks, toilets and baths with baking soda, using a damp cloth.

Grout and mildew cleaner
Dip an old toothbrush in vinegar and scrub the tile grout to remove mildew and mould and prevent new growth.

Mirror cleaner
Apply eucalyptus oil with a wad of newspaper to prevent mirrors fogging up.

In the kitchen

Surface cleaner
Use baking soda on a damp cloth to clean bench tops, sinks, windows and refrigerator or freezer surfaces.

Dishwashing detergent
Use pure soap to wash dishes and add white vinegar to the rinse water to give glasses extra shine.

Oven cleaner
Dissolve three tablespoons of washing soda in one litre of warm water. Spray on, wait 20 minutes and clean. For tough stains, scrub with steel wool and baking soda.

Pot cleaner
To remove burnt-on food, cover the burnt area with water, add two teaspoons of baking soda and bring to the boil. Leave to cool and scrape off.

Silver cleaner
Line a bowl with aluminium foil, fill with hot water and add a quarter of a cup of table salt. Put the silver in and leave until tarnish disappears.

Silver and metal polish
Make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda. Rub it on with a soft cloth, rinse with water, dry and polish.

In the living room

Window cleaner
Add 500 ml of white vinegar to 1 litre of warm water and wipe windows with a damp cloth. Use wads of newspaper to dry and polish.

Furniture polish
Use olive oil for unvarnished or unpainted furniture. Spread lightly and dry with clean cloth. For varnished or lacquered wood, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with one tablespoon of white vinegar and one litre of water in a spray bottle. Spray lightly and dry with a clean cloth.

Carpet cleaner
Sprinkle baking soda on carpet before vacuuming to deodorise. To remove stains, make a spray from 1/4 cup of borax and 2 cups of water. Spray on and wipe off with a damp sponge.

Alternatively, try lemon juice or undiluted white vinegar, or immediately rub with soda water, or sprinkle salt or cornflour on the stain and vacuum after 30 minutes.

Air freshener
Simmer vinegar or herb mixtures in water, or try cinnamon and cloves.

In the laundry

Use one cup of lemon juice in half a bucket of water and soak overnight, or substitute half a cup of borax per wash load to whiten whites and brighten colours.

Stain remover
Use eucalyptus oil to remove stains before washing. Simply apply a few drops and let it evaporate.

Laundry detergent
Grate a third of a cake of pure soap (or buy soap flakes from the supermarket), and mix with 1/3 of a cup of washing soda. Dissolve in hot water, and top up with a little more water. The mixture will set to a soft gel. Use 2-3 cups per wash load.

In the garage

Battery cleaner
Dissolve two teaspoons of baking soda in one litre of water to clean battery terminals.
Smear vaseline around the base of the terminals to prevent further build-up.

Chrome polish
Use flour or baking soda on a dry, clean cloth.

Car polish
Wash your car as usual on grass and allow it to dry - then sprinkle cornflour over the paint and polish to give that extra sheen.

Smell remover
Get rid of that new car smell by wiping vinyl surfaces with a strong solution of white vinegar, and air well. An open container of baking soda absorbs odours, especially dog and stale cigarette smells.

Used oil
NEVER tip or spill oil (used or new) down drains, gutters or onto the ground.  Take it to a household hazardous waste drop-off facility.

Rust remover
Mix lemon juice and salt, apply and expose to sunlight.

Fuel use
Keep your car well tuned as this will increase engine life, use less fuel and generate less pollution. Alternatively, why not ride a bicycle instead?

Tar remover
Moisten a clean cloth with eucalyptus oil and rub. Alternatively, rub butter onto the tar and wash off with a safe cleaner.

Choose water-based over oil-based paints. NEVER tip paint down drains, gutters or onto the ground. Take it to a household hazardous waste drop-off facility.

In the garden

Natural fertiliser
Turn garden and food scraps into natural fertiliser - compost! For further information pick up a copy of our Composting and Worm Farming brochure from your nearest Northland Regional Council office or download a copy from our website:

Mulch helps to prevent weed growth, conserves water and soil temperature and improves your soil. Dried coffee grounds, blood & bone, ashes from untreated wood, seaweed, sheep pellets and other natural manure make great fertilisers.

Pick the right spot - plant in sunny, dry spots with good drainage to keep plants healthy. Attract birds, ladybirds and worms to your garden - they will help to keep pests down.

Companion planting
Certain plants assist others in fending off attack by pests. For examples, chives help roses against aphids, thyme protects cabbages from white butterfly caterpillars and nasturtiums lure aphids away from a variety of plants. Marigolds deter a variety of insects, and horseradish deters the potato beetle.

Ask your garden centre for information on companion planting.

Rotation planting
Crop rotation reduces the build-up of pests and disease in the soil. Always pull or hoe weeds before they flower.