I live in a little studio space that opens out directly into a well-established garden. Living in the tropics, this basically means one thing; being prepared to share my space with critters - the good, the bad and the ugly. Despite my open air, open door and barefoot approach to living, the bug situation isn't as bad as you might suspect, especially with my crack team of house geckos on patrol 24/7. There are also at least 5 resident frogs hanging around my bathroom and laundry (with countless more in the garden).

Though I have never been a great consumer of household chemicals, I am now even more wary of what I use when I see frogs in the bathroom and geckos strolling around my kitchen. I always try and stick with the least number of the greenest cleaning products I can find (as an aside, I can't be the only one to find the chemical fragrances in the laundry aisle to be so overpowering?!) In my investigations to do things simpler and greener, over and over again I've seen the same message repeated;

Forget the arsenal of scented, antibacterial, petrochemical, keep out of reach of children products bombarding you with promises of ultimate cleaning power, you only need a few cheap and non-toxic products to cover your entire house.

So here they are. This is my own personal list of preferred go-to products for around the house:

Castile Soap: Biodegradable, versatile, non-toxic, palm oil and petrochemical free. From floors to surfaces, body wash, laundry and dishes detergent, Castile soap is an olive oil based product that's been around for centuries. I do sometimes use soap nuts in my laundry, and although they work quite well I have to admit to a psychological predisposition to actual soap. Check out this page for a quick go-to guide on the many uses of Castile. If it's a bit hard to find where you are (as it is for me!) then there are generally other olive oil soap brands to be found. Because of the devastating effects that palm oil production is having throughout south-east Asia, I'd personally steer clear of any soaps that contain this ingredient (and sadly, this is a lot of them)

Bicarb of soda: It's ridiculous. Cheap, non-toxic and minimally packaged I use it for everything from a deodorant (I live in the tropics. It works) to a toilet cleaner, a stove top cleaner, keeping smells out of the fridge and of course, for cooking cakes! (mmmm, caaakes). There are dozens of sites out there with tips on how to use bicarb.

Vinegar: Another all purpose cleaner, it's particularly good for getting streak free windows and as an alternative to fabric softener in the laundry. I also use diluted apple cider vinegar as both a post-shampoo hair rinse as well as a facial toner. Oh yeah, and for salad dressing.

Sodium percarbonate: This one's an optional extra, in case you need a bit of extra bleaching or cleaning power for laundry. Dissolved in water, it yields a mixture of hydrogen peroxide (which eventually decomposes to water and oxygen) and sodium carbonate.

Tea tree oil: Is a great antiseptic and antifungal, does a great job of getting off gummy label residue and can be used to tackle mould. Add a few drops to a soapy floor wash mix for extra cleaning goodness.

And that's about it! The only other chemical product I buy is dishwashing liquid (I get this refilled using my own bottles) - I could likely make my own but everyone has their own laziness threshold and mine is currently below that particular bar. And at the end of the day, these guys certainly haven't stopped hanging around!

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