Clean with a conscience

It's not just charity that begins at home. Follow these 20 rules as you go about your domestic chores, and you'll be doing your bit for the planet
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The Independent Online

1. BEWARE OF CARPET CLEANERS

Perchloroethylene is used in many carpet and upholstery cleaners. It's a known carcinogen, and may damage the liver, kidneys and nervous system. Cleaners that contain ammonium hydroxide should be avoided, too - they're corrosive.

2. USE FRAGRANCE-FREE CLEANERS

Some cleaners use synthetic musk that is a potential hormone disrupters. Instead, use products with citronella or create a homely fragrance by boiling some cinnamon.

3. USE BAKING SODA TO CLEAR YOUR DRAINS

Many drain cleaners contain corrosive products that kill aquatic life and make water even more expensive to treat. Flushing drains with a solution of boiling water, baking soda and vinegar, then using a plunger, will work just as well.

4. MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS

For washing powder, mix one cup of grated soap, one cup of washing soda and 2tsp of lavender oil. To remove oil on clothing, rub chalk into the stain before laundering. Use baking soda to clean sinks, vinegar to clean windows, washing soda to clean floors, baking soda and water to clean ovens, three parts olive oil to one part vinegar to polish furniture and soda paste to polish silver.

5. AVOID WASHING CLOTHES AT 50C

By changing all 50C labels on clothing to 40C, a clothing company can cut energy used during the life cycle of its clothes by 10 per cent.

6. JUST BECAUSE IT'S ON THE FLOOR...

... or has been worn once, doesn't mean a piece of clothing is dirty. You could cut the number of loads by half by airing it and putting it back in the cupboard.

7. SHARPEN YOUR TOOLS

A sharpening stone from a hardware store costs about £2.50, and but will save you money on the cost of new tools. Chisels, screwdrivers, garden shears, lawn tools and even saw blades can be restored to pristine condition with very little effort.

8. DONATE YOUR UNUSED PAINT

Did you know that of the 350 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year, 45 million litres remain unused? The Community Re-Paint scheme run by Save Waste and Prosper ( www.communityrepaint.org.uk; 0113 243 8777) sorts out paint and redistributes it to local projects, housing associations and schools.

9. RENT POWER TOOLS - OR SHARE THEM

That small, cheap electric drill was probably made in a sweatshop, and its production and transportation used up a lot of energy. Why not hire tools, or invest in more durable ones that can be pooled with neighbours? The Local Exchange Trading System (Letslink) will help. Contact them at www.letslinkuk.org, or call 020-7607 7852.

10. RECYCLE CURTAINS

Curtains are resource-intensive - so don't leave them to fester in the garage. Find a textile recycler at www.wasteconnect.co.uk, 01743 343403. Or get in touch with the Curtain Exchange ( www.thecurtain exchange.net). You could even buy a pair of vintage curtains from them.

11. RECYCLE YOUR FURNITURE AND WOOD

Every year more than £13m worth of furniture is distributed to people who can't afford to buy new. But demand for cheap, recycled furniture still outstrips supply. For details of a recycling point near you contact The Furniture Re-use Network ( www. frn.org.uk). Some local authorities also recycle wood - visit www. reuze.co.uk or contact your local authority directly.

12. DISPOSE OF CHEMICALS PROPERLY

Only around 5 to 10 per cent of household chemicals are disposed of properly. Instead, up to 30 per cent will end up down the drain where they will pollute the water table. So dispose of chemicals by taking them to a special facility and support the Pesticide Action Network's ( www.pan-uk.org) campaign to organise proper disposal of chemicals.

13. DON'T LET WIRE COAT HANGERS BREED

Take coat hangers back to the dry-cleaners' rather than allowing them to build up in your wardrobe. You'll save space, and the shop will be grateful, too.

14. IF YOU GET NITS, AVOID CHEMICAL TREATMENTS

Chemicals used in head lice treatments can disrupt the immune system, and cause skin irritation. Instead, wash the hair, wide-comb it, then use a fine comb to remove hatched lice.

15. HELP YOUR SCHOOL TO SAVE WATER

On average, schools spend £2,500 a year on water, but those that carefully manage their consumption could, with an education programme, reduce their water use by two-thirds. To find out more visit www.ecoschools.org.uk.

16. USE SHORT BURSTS OF WATER WHEN YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH

You can waste up to 4.5 litres of water by leaving the tap on. Using short bursts of water can save 80 per cent of this.

17. WHY USE DRINKING WATER FOR THE LOO?

Flushing the loo accounts for more than a third of our water use and laundry for 12per cent. Instead, invest in a rainwater collection system for these activities. You can also arrange to have bath water recycled through your cistern. Contact the Centre of Alternative Technology at www.cat.org.uk, or call 01654 705 950.

18. ONLY USE A WASHING MACHINE WITH A FULL LOAD

One cycle uses up to 100 litres of water. Most families do five loads a week. That's 26,000 litres a year.

19. TAKE SHOWERS INSTEAD OF BATHS

The average bath uses 80 litres of water; the average shower uses between 30 and 49 litres.

20. USE APPLIANCES CAREFULLY

When you buy new appliances check the water consumption on the energy-rating label. Visit The Green Building Store ( www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk) for more details and www.environment-agency.gov.uk/savewater for details on energy-rating.

Extracted from Go Make a Difference, Think Books, £7.99

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