Plant Life Balance

Three DIY cleaning products you can make from your garden

Has the warmer weather whipped you into a spring cleaning frenzy? Put down the bleach and mix yourself up one of these cleaning products instead.

Aah, spring! There’s nothing quite like it to inspire us to scrub our homes silly and re-arrange our wardrobes. And with COVID having us at home more than usual, you very may well find yourself unusually inspired to tackle those odd jobs you’ve been putting off for months (like that pesky mystery drawer that’s been accumulating junk – we see you, and we’re coming for you!).

But did you know that many chemical-based cleaning products can contribute to a less-than-healthy indoor environment? It’s because they can produce these things called VOCs.

What’s a VOC?

VOC = Volatile Organic Compound. Chemicals are widely used in lots of everyday household products including paints, furniture finishes and many cleaning products. Being volatile means they can easily become vapours or gasses, which contaminate our air. Research has shown that concentrations of some VOCs are up to 10 times higher indoors than they are outdoors.

So, why are VOCs problematic? Basically, they’re just not good for your health. Common symptoms of exposure to VOCs include tiredness and drowsiness, difficulty breathing, restlessness, inability to concentrate or focus, and irritation of the eyes, throat, and nose.

Given that it’s estimated that we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors – it’s safe to assume that our exposure to VOCs is pretty high, so whatever you can do to reduce that is going to be a good move for your wellbeing.

How can we reduce VOCs in our home?

In 2017, we worked with researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne to understand exactly how plants remove VOCs from indoor air. What they found was incredible – the studies indicate that plants can remove up to 90% of indoor pollutants, depending on the plant, how many plants are present, and the specific pollutant being assessed.

So step one to creating a healthy home this spring: bring some of the great outdoors in, and grow yourself a lush indoor jungle. And yep, we really mean jungle! Our researchers did some calculations and found that to achieve maximum air cleaning benefits, you’ll need between 5-32 plants, depending on the size of the room. To figure out which plants will work best in your home and suit your level of experience, head to your closest nursery or garden centre to have a chat with the experts.

Another way you can improve the quality of your indoor air is by simply reducing the use of chemical-based products where possible. Given it’s spring cleaning season, one simple (and cost effective) way that you can do this is by mixing your own home cleaning products using the fruits of your garden and just a couple of common pantry items. Too easy!

Our three favourite plant-infused DIY cleaning products

All-purpose cleaner

Well-known and well-loved as an effective cleaner, vinegar is suggested as the base for many DIY cleaning product recipes. However, as anyone that’s familiar with vinegar will know – the smell is pretty overpowering. Although this will quickly evaporate, a simple way to neutralise it is by adding your favourite herbs and citrus fruits.

You’ll need:

Clean glass mason jar

Citrus peels (lemon, orange or lime)

Herbs (basil, sage, thyme or mint all work nicely)

White vinegar

Instructions:

Collect the citrus peels and herbs in the mason jar and cover with white vinegar.

Once you’ve got at least half a jar of peels and vinegar, cover it wit a lid and leave in a shady spot for 1-2 weeks. The longer you leave the mixture, the more it will infuse with the herb and citrus scents. The process can be sped up to 24 hours if you boil the vinegar instead, in which case it will only take 24 hours to infuse.

Once the mix is ready, strain the liquid into a spray bottle, and voilà! One super-easy, citrus fresh all purpose cleaner.

Clothing freshener

Dating back to ancient times, lavender has a long history of being appreciated for its medicinal and mental health-boosting properties. These days, studies have confirmed that lavender can reduce anxiety, improve sleep, boost mood and memory, and can even help relieve pain. So, in short, it’s an excellent flower to have around the house!

One simple way you can infuse your home with lavender is by keeping pouches of dried flowers in your drawers or wardrobe to keep your clothes smelling fresh. You can even throw the pouch in the dryer to scent your laundry.

What you’ll need:

Lavender flower stems

Fabric pouches – breathable fabrics such as muslin or cotton works well. These are cheap to buy, or easy to make by hand or machine if you’re a sewer.

Instructions:

Bundle the lavender flower stems together with a rubber band or piece of string, and hang upside down in a dry, dark space to dry.

Once dried, collect the flower buds and fill the fabric pouches.

Pop the pouches in your clothing drawers to keep your clothes fresh, or throw in your next dryer load to scent your clean laundry.

Lemon-fresh deep cleaner

When life gives you lemons…deep clean your house!

Just like vinegar, lemons are incredibly versatile when it comes to using them for home cleaning. The acidity of lemons means they’re particularly good for those more tricky jobs: from scrubbing kitchen cutting boards, deodorising drains and garbage disposals, removing stains from furniture, polishing taps and pots, and removing rust…lemon’s usefulness is almost magical!

Because lemon juice is so acidic, always try a small spot test first to ensure it doesn’t damage whatever you’re cleaning. For precise instructions on the many, many ways you can use lemon for cleaning, head here.

If you do an internet search, you’ll find that most DIY home cleaning recipes draw on the same couple of ingredients: vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, olive oil, citrus and water. There’s plenty of different recipes out there, so if you’re looking for a particular product (e.g. mould remover, or a toilet scrub), do a quick search and you’re sure to find something.

Happy spring cleaning!

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