We round up the best of the non-plastic and chemical-free options out there to keep our homes spick and span.

Every day, we are shown images that reveal, more than any words can, how our plastic consumption is choking our oceans. And whilst our collective consciousness on the issue is gaining momentum fast, still non-biodegradable products abound, not least in the kitchen, from utensils to cleaning products. For that, as well as for aesthetic reasons, we round up the best of the non-plastic and chemical-free options out there.

Alistair Hendy
We love Alistair Hendy, the writer, chef, photographer, shopkeeper and architectural restorer who has carved a life out of his obsession with the below-stairs aesthetic and meticulous attention to detail. Neale Whitaker, one-time editor of Vogue Living, once eulogised: ‘Bearing in mind that a word doesn’t exist to describe what he does, and in a publishing world that prefers its talent to have one definable skill, Alastair Hendy, the writer-cum-cook-cum-stylist-cum-photographer-cum-designer could best be described as a human magazine.’

Post a career as an award-winning photographer, he worked as a chef in the early days for Carluccio. But when a shop in Hastings Old Town that had been badly neglected and criminally ‘modernised’ with laminates and linoleum was going cheap, he saw potential. After a painstaking and expensive renaissance, in 2011 he opened A G Hendy and Co, a homeware store which, incomparably, makes something beautiful of the below stairs aesthetic, selling exquisite brushes, pans, and domestic implements for the home. ‘There’s a poetry in the everyday,’ he explains. ‘The unashamed elegance of the domestic has been my go-to all my life: from the scrubbed tables and creamware of below-stairs in country houses – not forgetting their drab painted cupboards, shelved pantries, exposed pipework and batteries of scullery sinks.’ He sells vintage pieces (the ultimate recycling), with a mix of new pieces, and everything is made from natural materials – from all the wooden scrubbing brushes to the linen-thread string to the ostrich feather dusters. These are items built not only to look beautiful but to last a lifetime. We especially love the absolute dedication with which he has created the ultimate Victorian style hardware shop.

Objects of Use
Objects of Use, whose bricks and mortar incarnation is in central Oxford, has a winningly simple and stylish website. Super easy to navigate, it offers traditional cleaning utensils presented in a functional, spare and modern way. There are hardware, garden, kitchen, personal, camping and general house items to buy – and, call us weird, but we especially like the section labelled ‘cleaning’.

There are outdoor bamboo brooms, a pleasingly shaped horsehair indoor Vienna broom, wooden dustpans, and even wooden baby bottle brushes. We also love all the natural blocks of soap and bags of soap flakes – be gone throwaway dispensers – as well as discovering cleaning utensils we never even knew existed (a radiator brush, anyone?). Not a scrap of plastic in sight.

Labour and Wait
Labour and Wait’s physical corner shop is a beauty, with its green Victorian tiles and simple Gill Sans signage. Its website is wholly reflective of that restrained style, as is the contents of its shops, which ranges from clothing – think fisherman’s jumpers and cotton Breton tops – to larder and household staples. For the pantry, there is a glut of mustards and jams in glass or earthenware containers – all the stuff you want to line your kitchen shelves with, and all containers eminently reusable.

We love the string bags, which are great for transporting and even keeping veg in without having to ever go, shudder, plastic, and the Bucket with Wooden Handle, which proves that even the most functional items can look good and last forever (no lurid colours or cracked plastic here, thank you).

Colt & Willow
Household cleaning brand, Colt & Willow is new on the block offering sustainable, plant-based cleaning products that work really well but also look and smell great too. The brown bottles take your cleaning products to another level aesthetically and that's before you start using them. All the honest ingredients are listed on the labels so you know that you're  getting a trustworthy eco-cleaning solution. The long-lasting glass bottles can be refilled with recyclable PET litre bottles available via subscription.  You might not think you need a potty spray in your life, but if you've got little ones, you know it's a leary chore; this products turns the job into something a whole lot more pleasant.

Tinture London
For the eco- and style-conscious consumer, options abound for kitchen and household implements that are kinder to the planet. But what of the cleaning materials themselves? Step up, Tincture London, which sells all-natural cleaning products in simple but distinctive white hexagonal bottles. The reviews are unremittingly positive, with press and users alike raving that they work just as well as chemical products, while leaving the house smelling beautiful and not necessitating a shower after a lengthy cleaning session. But there’s more to them than simply looking and smelling good. The website’s homepage offers a scary statistic: that the air in the average house is between two and five times more polluted than outside on account of the toxic chemicals we use to keep our homes clean.

We love its ingredients page, which details all the constituent parts of Tincture products; it is extensive, comes with lovely illustrations and alphabetically takes you through every natural component and its properties, from bergamot (anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant and deodorising), right through to wild basil (an anti-depressant and insecticide). All bottles are made from recycled plastic, which can duly be recycled again, but Tincture encourages its customers to buy refills for their bottles. We recommend the Starter Set (washing up tincture; bathroom tincture; glass mirror steel tincture; floor concentrate; furniture tincture) to get going.

Probably the best-known manufacturer of eco-friendly products, Ecover is stocked in a myriad of supermarkets, and retails at affordable prices. Its website says it is on a mission to lead a ‘clean world revolution’ – a revolution it has been galvanising support for over almost forty years now.

Its eco-credentials are excellent; the good people at Ecover strive to make the brand’s products as undamaging to the planet as possible, from ensuring that its supply chain is as sustainable as its ingredients; to using mostly natural plant-based products; and using as little water as possible. It is on-target for using only recycled plastic within the next year, and actively encourages its customers to refill. It has the whole house covered, from laundry to personal care, household cleaning to dishwashing.

Another, slightly newer supermarket stalwart (find it in by Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Boots and John Lewis among others), the US-based Method was founded in 2001 by former roommates, Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan.

Appalled by the toxicity of the ingredients in everyday cleaning items, they founded Method together, and became one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. But not content with that, in 2012, the duo teamed with Ecover to become the world’s largest green cleaning company. Just to reinforce its credentials, Method is also busy championing campaigns around second-hand clothes, and washing clothes less to reduce microfibers ending up in the sea – a radical and winning move from a cleaning company.

‘Our mission is to produce household cleaning and laundry products that are the most sustainable and ethical that you can buy, and we’re well on our way!’ Indeed. In 2017, the Ethical Consumer labelled the wholly organic Greenscents ‘the most ethical brand available in the UK for laundry liquid, washing up liquid and multi-surface sprays.’ Founded in 2011 by couple, Christina and Peter, the dream then was to found a company that would make organic and sustainable fragrance readily available for the home.

Online only, its products, which are made using carefully sourced essential oils, are accredited by the Soil Association, making it the only brand to lay claim to the certification. Peppermint and lavender feature heavily, thanks to their natural antibacterial properties, as does orange oil, a natural degreaser. It comes in pretty packaging (made from recyclable biopolymer plastics which are produced from the waste products from sugar cane) and makes your home smell amazing. What’s not to love? We adore the Creamy Polish, which adds shine to furniture, without the use of beeswax, making it fully vegan.

Mangle & Wringer
This is a truly lovely brand with a truly lovely story. Founded in the Cotswolds in 2012, Mangle & Wringer is the brainchild of Vanessa Willes, a former architect and interior designer. Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, her career hit a natural hiatus, which is when serendipity stepped in and she met one Bette Smith, a local lady who helped her around the house while she recovered. As the two spent more time together, Vanessa learned more about Bette’s fascinating life: born in the 1920s, she went into service at the age of 14 in Belgravia, where she rose through the domestic ranks from kitchen and laundry maid to lady’s maid. It was only when she met her husband that she left service, and moved to Gloucestershire to raise her family.

But Bette was not one to sit still for long: she soon set up her own laundry and housekeeping business via which she became known as Mrs Mangle; when her daughter, Margaret, joined her, she was duly known as Mrs Wringer. The thrifty duo only ever used cleaning products that they had made themselves – all minus nasty chemicals. In 2012, she passed on her lifetime’s worth of recipes to Vanessa, who put them to excellent use to found the beautifully presented and packaged Mangle & Wringer. Customers can buy Natural Bleach in a paper bag, or Kitchen Cleanser and Bathroom Balm, both of which come in a beautiful tin. Downton Abbey style cleaning, with no nasties.


Top Websites For Plastic-free Living
Spring Cleaning with Marie Kondo
Don’t Re-buy, Re-wear!

By Nancy Alsop
November 2019