Housekeeping using the most basic natural materials is not only incredibly green - it's uniquely satisfying, and as cheap as chips into the bargain!
Here's a very basic guide to what you can achieve using our very special own-brand household products and Dri-Pak's natural housekeeping chemicals, under the four headings 'wash', 'clean', 'maintain' and 'polish' …
Just add a tablespoonful of Borax to the detergent drawer, and your laundry powder will go considerably further. It's a fantastic water softener, so a spoonful will make life so much easier in all washing jobs - even cleaning the car and washing windows!
Washing soda crystals are grandma's secret weapon. They're a powerful degreaser, loosen dirt beautifully, and so make a very effective laundry pre-wash. Add a cupful to the pre-wash detergent drawer when laundering sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases and shirts - your whites will come out looking like new and smelling sweet, however grimy they were when they went in!
Our Biobar Super Household Soap is all you need to spot-clean all manner of marks and stains before laundering. Simply moisten the fabric, rub the bar well in to the stain, and then wash as you usually would. Trial-size bars are also available via Ebay.co.uk, and the feedback we've received is just wonderful!
Our gorgeous Victorian-recipe lavender laundry soap is, quite simply, the gentlest traditional wash for delicates, cashmere, silks, vintage textiles and woollens. It's also great for a quick daily hand-wash of tights and special undies. Made without any petrochemicals, artificial fragrances or allergenic 'builders', it's the perfect choice for babies' clothes, and for all sensitive skins. Its real party piece is in caring for vintage silks, since dirt simply leaps out of them – and they regain that crunchy body and healthy gloss you'd maybe forgotten they had.
When washing woollens and cashmere, add a glug of white vinegar to the rinsing water to lift away the soap residue, leaving the fibres smooth and bright.
Add a four or five drops of lavender essential oil to soap nuts or to a load's worth of cheap and cheerful low-odour washing powder, to both fragrance the wash and help kill off the bugs that produce nasty smells. This way your laundry will keep on smelling sweet, while you're busy saving money in bucket loads!
Why not take a look at our new book, 'How to Take Care of your Clothes' (Published 29th February 2012, ISBN 978-0-9570768-0-8) for more information on caring for precious garments. It's available from Amazon and all good bookshops, as well as from this site!
Taking cleaning technology back to a time even before the invention of branded scouring powders, a dash of borax on a damp cloth makes an excellent surface cleaner. Combined with salt and bicarbonate of soda (instructions on pack) it makes a really good scouring powder too.
Washing soda crystals are a powerful degreaser (soak grill pans etc in a strong solution, and marvel at the results!), a limescale-reducer, and gummed-up sink unblocker. Best of all though, they completely remove tea and coffee stains from teapots, spoons and cups. Line a bowl with aluminium foil and fill with a hot washing soda solution to clean silverware beautifully. Wear gloves when using washing soda, and do not use on varnished or laquered surfaces, or on aluminium.
White vinegar is by far the best (and cheapest) thing for cleaning glass and mirrors, and for de-scumming baths, basins and taps. Regular use will keep limescale at bay.
Boiled for approximately two minutes in a heatproof non-metallic basin, white vinegar will loosen dirt and grease from the interior of your microwave, making cleaning it just a matter of a simple wipe over with a hot, damp cloth.
Lavender Essence turns out to be a really effective hard surface cleaner, degreasing and wiping away even ingrained muck quite effortlessly - and because lavender is known to be naturally antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and antibiotic, it's the ideal choice to cleanse and freshen the kitchen, bathroom, sick-room, and (especially!) the nursery.
Victorian-recipe Scrubbing Paste is made with sterilised sand and our own powerful and naturally antiseptic soft soap, and is specially designed to give clean, hygienic wooden kitchen surfaces with that glorious traditional bleached look.
You don't need to use it more than around once a week - even in a busy kitchen. Every couple of months may well be ample! On a daily basis, simply wipe surfaces over in the usual way.
Always use cold water when using water-based products to clean wood surfaces, and this way you'll avoid raising the grain.
Keep clothes moth-free with this lovely blend of natural aromatic essential oils. Repels moths without repelling humans! Five drops of the oil blend per saree moth bag will refresh them for a further six months' use.
A few drops will protect any area where precious woollens, silks and cashmere articles are stored. NB: Will not eliminate existing infestations. If you already have a problem and choose not to use chemicals, please see the section below - and our new book, 'How to Take Care of your Clothes' (ISBN 978-0-9570768-0-8) for more information on natural ways to rid your home of moths.
Constant vigilance is needed to keep your expensive woollens and silks safe, with an annual emptying and cleaning out of the wardrobe the most effective means of nipping infestations in the bud. Keeping clothes well covered while in store, cleaning them properly before putting away, and ensuring that the storage is kept tightly closed when not deliberately opened for airing, will go a long way towards keeping moths at bay.
To be perfectly sure that your clothes are safe from moth attack, all woollen, silken, fur and cashmere items should be aired in the sunshine every spring, and brushed thoroughly while outside. The wardrobe and drawers should then be carefully swept or vacuumed out to remove all trace of fluff and lint, where moth eggs could be lurking.
Why not take a look at our new book, 'How to Take Care of your Clothes' (ISBN 978-0-9570768-0-8) for more information on natural ways to rid your home of moths.
Lavender Essence is fantastic for refreshing woollens, and for spritzing upholstery to keep it smelling lovely between thorough cleans. The organic lavender and alcohol it contains both work to actually kill off the bacteria that make bad smells, while the lavender hydrolat fragrances, softens and cleanses the fibres - all without washing!
Borax can be used to dry garden flowers, and to draw out stubborn stains from surfaces of all kinds. Simply bury the flower in the dry powder and leave for a few weeks, or leave a little pile of the powder on top of the mark.
To unblock and deodorise a handbasin, bath or sink, pour a cupful of crystals down the plughole and follow these with a boiling kettle full of water. Leave for ten minutes and follow with another boiling kettle for a free-flowing, fresh-smelling plughole! To decalcify a washing machine and protect against limescale build-up, throw two cups full of washing soda crystals straight into the drum, and run the machine - empty - on a hot wash. Repeat every six months or so for complete peace of mind. Wear gloves when using washing soda, and do not use on varnished or laquered surfaces, or on aluminium.
If you've a limescale build-up in the bathroom, a rag soaked in vinegar and left in place overnight should see the troublesome crust just fall away …
Citric acid can be used for all sorts of jobs around the home, principally for safely and greenly descaling household appliances such as dishwashers and kettles. Can also be used to clean the lavatory! Instructions on pack.
All our polishes are made with only the very finest English beeswax, real gum turpentine, English linseed oil and shiny carnauba, the sustainably-harvested product of a managed rainforest tree. You will not find a higher quality alternative.
Distilled from pine sap, turpentine is actually absorbed by timber, bringing it nourishing benefits - rather than being a ‘solvent’, as used in cheap mass-market polishes. Solvents serve no purpose other than to help the waxes spread over the surface - and then they simply evaporate away.
Thanks to our variable climate, British bee products are commonly more concentrated, powerful and fragrant than imported alternatives. They also have less impact on the environment in terms of the miles they travel to get to our venerable 1950s polish-making boiler. We melt the wax slowly, so the full depth of the wax’s fragrance is preserved, and the polish is creamy, light, and easy to use.
Carnauba is a waterproof wax which naturally coats the leaves of a Brazilian rainforest palm. The wax is threshed from the dried leaves, and it’s used in many industries for its hard, glossy shine. It’s thanks to carnauba that Smarties are shiny and smooth!
Absolutely the very best beeswax polish you will ever find! Made from nothing but 100% British beeswax, super-shiny carnauba and real gum turpentine, it’s easy to use, giving a high, hard shine for minimum effort – and it’s wonderfully nourishing for the wood, too! Ideal for thirsty antiques, or for establishing an authentic patina on new, bare wood.
Transform the most neglected terracotta, brick or timber floors – plus panelling, doors, banisters and beams – with this creamy concoction of real gum turpentine and British beeswax. The house will smell sensational, too! May be melted in a bain marie and brushed on for quick and easy establishment of an ‘antique’ patina.
APIS ELBOW GREASE
Versatile 100% British beeswax cream polish, with super cleaning power and quick polishing properties. In addition to the English beeswax, turpentine and carnauba, Elbow Grease also contains good old soap and water - so it cleans as it shines! Ideal for quickly reviving antique or junk shop furniture, leather luggage and upholstery, filthy old book bindings in cloth, leathercloth or leather, oil-based vehicle paintwork, metalware and more. Sweeps ingrained newsprint out of the kitchen tabletop, brings chromium and lightly corroded aluminium to a very satisfactory shine, keeps mirrors and TV screens brighter longer - and at the same time lays down a light protective coat of water-repellent (natural) wax.
NB: If you're accustomed to synthetic polishes, beware: this product does not dry to a powder, but to a hard wax coat. Polish off non-absorbent surfaces before it sets!
Based on a Victorian recipe for waterproofing shoes, this rich, creamy linseed oil polish is an absolute dream for nourishing, cleaning and polishing fine leather. Tested on the sumptuous seats of a vintage Railton, one application summoned up that as-new look from dry, dusty leather which hadn’t been touched for many years.
Almost all the linseed oil sold in the UK is produced here, so this polish is around 90% UK-produced. Linseed oil is rich in GLAs, otherwise known as Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. These nourish the leather in the same way they nourish you, and linseed oil has been used for centuries to keep hides looking like new.
Here at CL Leavey & Co, the parent company of Retro Metro Co, we hand-make our natural household products from raw materials, using ancient recipes gleaned from thirty years of research and book collecting. Our collection of historic household and apothecary books includes volumes dating from as far back as the Thirteenth Century - and within those pages we've found information that has quite simply been lost to the modern world.
It's only once you start to experiment with bringing these amazing products back from the archive that you realise the real quality of life that we have abandoned in favour of novelty, marketing, and plastic. A clean and beautiful home was the expectation of every generation, right back into the mists of time - but modern arrogance (and ignorance) has left us thinking that without the vacuum cleaner and a big bottle of triclosan we'd be living in squalour. Not true!
Claire (the 'Leavey' in 'Leavey & Co') started experimenting with herbs and beeswax as a child - and it was through this hands-on experience that she fell in love with the materials and housekeeping techniques of the past. Happier with a good quality broom than a bagless cleaner, and with an aromatic polishing rag rather than a spray can full of silicone, she's gained an understanding of the true professionalism of the housekeepers of the past.
That professionalism came from knowledge and planning, not from seeing running a home as an all-consuming vocation. The 'domestic goddess' cult of recent years, based on the fictional perfect housewife of 1950s advertising, paints running a clean and enjoyable home as a full-time job. But nothing could be further from the pre-War truth! Keep house with natural, good quality materials, and select the right brushes and cloths, and you'll find that you have plenty of time to live the rest of your life in the comfortable, people-friendly and sustainable surroundings that you've created - with money to spare for the fun stuff, too!
© 2012 Claire Leavey. Not to be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, in any territory worldwide, without the express written permission of the copyright holder.