Going green: No chemicals – naturally

The 4x4 is gone, the solar panels are on the roof, and the foreign holiday has been swapped for a cottage in Coniston. Going green can be mean some tough decisions, but there is a way to start making a small difference in the home. ANGELA SINGER visited F

The 4x4 is gone, the solar panels are on the roof, and the foreign holiday has been swapped for a cottage in Coniston. Going green can be mean some tough decisions, but there is a way to start making a small difference in the home. ANGELA SINGER visited Freda Stevens, from Huntingdon, who keeps a green house.

THE trouble with most of the natural recipes for face-packs, anti-ageing creams and even stuff to clean your kitchen surface is that you may want to eat them, rather than apply with them with a cloth.

Take the Women's Institute's Simple Solutions booklet for example (subtitled tips and tools on reducing your exposure to chemicals in the home).

The ingredients for the apple face mask is absolutely yummy. Take one grated apple, five tablespoons of honey, yoghurt and cinnamon. The instruction is to smooth this over your skin and leave for 10 minutes - presumably having resisted the temptation to spoon down the lot.

On the other hand, if something isn't good enough to eat, should we be putting it on our face - or even around our home exposing our children to it? Because what lands on the skin gets absorbed into the body.

However, there is an alternative to the chemical-laden products found in kitchens everywhere, and, according to Freda Stevens, a WI member from Huntingdon who uses only natural products in her kitchen and bathroom, they do not cost the earth.

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"You don't need to buy so many products and they last so much longer."

A tin of beeswax polish (produced by Cambridgeshire Beekeepers Club) that Freda bought at a craft market has lasted her years, and cost only a few pence more than a polish spray. Soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice are all effective cleaning products, she says - and you will wonder how you ever lived without vinegar, which can be used to clean all manner of items and surfaces.

Freda was one of the WI members whose blood was tested for chemicals three years ago. Members took part in tests to see how many hazardous chemicals they had retained in their bodies as a result of exposure to a possible 70 chemicals in ordinary household goods. Freda's blood had traces of 25 including DDT (a pesticide that was alleged to have links with cancer) even though DDT has been banned in this country for decades.

The WI, with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), has an on-going, national campaign to ban toxic chemicals in household products.

Freda was among the group who took a petition to the EU.

She gave up using spray polish and room sprays after she started getting headaches.

She said: "I worked as a secretary in a scientific laboratory in Houghton. It dealt with tests on living things for cancers and it made me aware of the effects of substances. It made me inquisitive about things."

She says we don't need all the products that are marketed to us. "Do you really need roomspray - I haven't used it for years, you can get a gentler effect by sprinkling rosewater over pot pourri.

"The best thing is not to try to replace everything at once. You might start by using a green washing-up liquid - just as you use up something, you might think, I'll have a look for an alternative to this."

Her advice on housework is: "Do a job before it really needs doing, otherwise you have suddenly got this big cleaning chore and you wonder 'how am I going to tackle this?' Tackle something before it becomes a problem. I remember one of the cleaners at the office who used to sweep outside because she said you had to stop the dirt being brought in. It's about looking ahead."

You will wonder how you lived without vinegar

White, distilled vinegar for cleaning

* Use instead of rinse aid in your dishwasher. Add 45ml (three tablespoons) each time.

* Use to wipe down chopping boards.

* Use to remove grease, to clean grill hoods and to boil out fat fryers.

* Clean oven or fireplace doors with vinegar on newspaper.

* Clean brass by soaking it in a bucket of one part vinegar to 10 parts water.

* To remove the smell of vomit from a room or car, clean thoroughly then leave a bowl of vinegar on the floor overnight with doors and windows shut.

* Soak stiff paint brushes.

* Remove cloudy marks from varnished furniture.

* Revive old leather.

Freda's household tips

* De-scale a kettle by boiling a quarter of a pint of white vinegar in it and then leaving it overnight. Rinse thoroughly.

* To remove limescale from taps, soak a tissue in vinegar, wrap the tissue round the tap, cover with a plastic bag taped or tied onto the tap and leave overnight. Freda says do this once a month, then you haven't got so much to remove.

* To clean an oven, or wash down walls, use washing soda dissolved in hot water.

* Wipe down kitchen surfaces with your washing-up water, (with its squirt of Ecover) using lemon to remove stains.

* To clean a loo, squirt some handwash down it instead of bleach.

* Use bicarbonate of soda to clean the fridge.