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Scrappy Spring Cleaning - Using Food Scraps for Cleaning Our Homes

Break out the dusters and…the lemons? Chloe Moriarty explains how the solution to an eco-friendly spring clean might be hiding amongst the unloved items at the back of your cupboard. 

Lemon juice and vinegar can be used as a multi-purpose cleaner. Image Credits: preciousplasticmelbourne via Unsplash.

It’s that time of year where the world outside awakens from its winter slumber; spring is on its way. As we relish the lighter days and vibrant colours blooming outside of our windows, we try to welcome the same brightness and warmth into our homes in celebration of the new season. For lots of us, a spring refresh involves clearing out the wardrobe, reorganising the drawers that had been gradually getting more chaotic over winter, or the slightly more dreaded…cleaning. 

But don’t get your cleaning products out just yet. It is well known that traditional cleaning chemicals can cause irritation to the skin or eyes, or more severe damage if mishandled. However, some household cleaning products contain ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which have long-term effects on both humans and the environment. Studies suggest that these chemicals can irritate the airways and exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, disrupt human and animal hormone systems, and harm aquatic species through bioaccumulation, amongst other effects. 

Eco-friendly cleaning products, from brands such as Ecover and Method, are becoming more available in the supermarkets and provide a good alternative to harsh cleaning chemicals. However, a cheaper solution to your eco-conscious spring clean might already be hiding where you haven’t thought to look- your home.

Tea Bags

A staple in a lot of British kitchens, tea bags are good for more than just brewing a cup of tea. The tannins in tea bags make them ideal for polishing wooden furniture, and they’re also great for cleaning glass surfaces with a streak-free finish. Make sure that the tea bags you pick have already been used to make tea and have cooled down before use- dry tea bags won’t work for cleaning, but can be used to remove odours from drawers and carpets. For large surfaces such as windows, it may be easier to use cooled down black tea (no milk or sugar) in a spray bottle; around 5 tea bags per litre of water achieves the best results. 

Used tea bags could be given a new lease of life when cleaning. Image Credits: pasja1000 via Pixabay.

Tea bags can also be used to degrease stubborn pots and pans- simply add a couple of used tea bags to a pot filled with water and allow to soak for a few hours. Their scent even makes them a good option for removing smells from shoes, allowing you to breathe new life into some old footwear. With it being suggested that we consume over 60 billion cups of tea in the UK each year, this is a great way of reusing your tea bags that may have otherwise gone straight into the bin. 


Been cooking eggs recently? Save those eggshells! Dried eggshells can be used for a variety of purposes, particularly in the garden- they are great for compost, adding to plant fertilisers, and keeping pests off of prized plants. However, eggshells can also be used as an abrasive surface to help clean off stubborn stains. 

Keep any used eggshells in a bowl in a cupboard and allow to dry out before use. When faced with stubborn stains, crush up some of the egg shells with a rolling pin and dab onto a sponge before gently rubbing the sponge over the stain. Take care to avoid damaging any surfaces that scratch easily, and don’t use this method on items such as non-stick cookware. Eggshells can also be ground into a powder and mixed with water and lemon juice to make a natural cleaning agent that can be used to whiten fabrics.


A more well-known addition to the cleaning routine, lemons can be incredibly useful for removing stains and freshening up appliances. Lemon juice can be added to a microwave-safe container of water and heated to deodorise the microwave, or used to descale the kettle. They can also act as natural scourers- simply chop a lemon in half, cover the exposed side in salt or bicarbonate of soda, and rub against a chopping board or tupperware containers to remove stains. This same method can be used to polish metal, but take care when cleaning stainless steel and avoid gold or silver-plated items entirely.

Lemon juice is also great for cleaning the most stubborn stains, particularly those on the grout between the bathroom tiles. Combine lemon juice with bicarbonate of soda to make a paste and then apply to the grout, using an old toothbrush to gently rub it in. Similarly to tea bags, the scent of lemons can be used to combat bad odours. Combine lemon peels with white vinegar and leave in a spray bottle for up to two weeks to infuse the vinegar with the citrus scent. Strain out the lemon peels, and you’ve got a great multi-purpose cleaner that can be used for the kitchen or bathroom- you can also use orange peels instead of lemon. 

When using any natural cleaner, be aware that they can be less effective as disinfectants than chemical cleaning products.

Chopped lemon slices can be used to deodorise your fridge. Image Credits: stevepb via Pixabay.

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the UK wastes over 9.5 billion tonnes of food every year, and 70% of that comes from households. It is therefore critical that we all work to reduce our food waste and find new ways to repurpose items that may otherwise head straight to landfill. This spring, draw inspiration from nature and harness the power of the unloved items in your cupboard to supercharge your eco-friendly spring clean. After all, it’s good for you, your home, and the planet. 

About the Author: Chloe Moriarty is a second-year Geography student at the University of Exeter, with a keen interest in historic extinctions, human-wildlife conflicts, and environmental law. She runs an environmental campaign on campus, and volunteers weekly for an environmental education charity. You can find out more and connect with Chloe via her LinkedIn.

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1 commentaire

09 avr.

Super interesting. Definitely going to try out the tea bags tip!

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