Pure Magic: Nancy Birtwhistle shares her eco-friendly cleaning and gardening tips
Nancy Birtwhistle shares some of her favourite homemade, eco-friendly cleaning products and gardening tips, including the recipes for her natural cleaner – a.k.a ‘Pure magic’.
Nancy Birtwhistle not only won the fifth series of The Great British Bake-Off, but also has built up a huge online following of devoted fans – including Gigi Hadid and Jonathan Van Ness – who love her sustainable, eco-friendly cleaning and gardening tips. Here she shares some of her cleaning recipes (including her famous 'Pure Magic') and gardening suggestions, to give you a taste of Green Living Made Easy, Clean & Green and The Green Gardening Handbook: three of the best books to help you live more sustainably.
Nancy Birtwhistle’s 'Pure Magic' (previously known as 'Toilet Magic')
You will need
200g citric acid
150ml just-boiled water
20ml eco-friendly washing-up liquid
10–20 drops tea tree oil
1 pint measuring jug
400ml glass bottle with spray attachment and screw top
Place the measured crystals in a heatproof measuring jug and pour over just-boiled water. Stir until the liquid is clear and the crystals have dissolved, then simply add the eco-friendly washing-up liquid and tea tree oil and mix well using a small whisk. Leave the liquid in the jug to cool completely and uncovered for a few hours then pour into a spray bottle and it is ready to use.
Nancy Birtwhistle’s eco-friendly oven shelf cleaner
You will need
2–3 cups washing soda
Sink or plastic box large enough to hold your oven shelves
In a sink large enough to take your oven shelves, or a sturdy plastic box, measure 2–3 cups of washing soda. If your shelves are really grubby, make a double concentrate and use 4–6 cups. Pour in sufficient boiling water to cover your shelves. If you do two shelves your water needs to be about 3 inches (7cm) deep.
Pop your metal shelves into the hot solution making sure they are submerged and leave them overnight.
I have found that if the shelves are hot when submerged the cleaning is quicker and more effective, but you may want to avoid shelves being too hot if you are using a plastic box.
The next day lift your shelves out of the brown, muddy water and wipe clean – that’s it.
You can pour the water down the drain knowing no harm is being done.
Note: If your oven shelves have been sprayed or coated with ‘self-clean’ substances, do not use this method. The chemical coating can be damaged by soaking. This method is not suitable for aluminium trays or shelves. Aluminium can be cleaned using bicarb or washing soda, but long soaks cause oxidization.
Nancy Birtwhistle ’s eco-friendly carpet stain remover
You will need
Bicarbonate of soda
Mix a thin paste and dab it over the stain, massaging it in circular motions with gloved hands. The residual stain will lift and so will the odour. If you can air-dry the item, even better.
Note: When dealing with carpet stains, never be tempted to give the carpet a vigorous rub and scrub because this can damage the pile. I speak from experience here, as I once dived straight onto a stain with a cloth and a full jar of elbow grease. I rubbed and scrubbed at this stain, only to find when everything had dried that the stain had disappeared but was replaced by a permanently damaged scuffed carpet pile. Remember: however bad the stain, gently does it.
Nancy Birtwhistle's eco-friendly fabric conditioner
You will need
200ml (7fl oz) white vinegar or Freshen-up Vinegar
15ml (1 tbsp) vegetable glycerine
10 drops organic essential oil (try a flowery one such as ylang ylang or lily of the valley)
Mix and add 2–3 tablespoons to the fabric softener compartment for each wash.
Nancy Birtwhistle’s shrunken jumper fix
You will need
a large bowl
the shrunken jumper
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 large ‘bath-size’ clean dry towels
In a bowl large enough to take the woollen jumper when folded, give 2–3 squirts of hair conditioner and add the vinegar then fill with lukewarm water. Lay the folded jumper onto the bowl of water. No need to submerge it – leave it to absorb the water in its own time and sink to the bottom of the bowl, then leave overnight. The vinegar and hair conditioner will soften the woollen fibres, making them lax and pliable. The next day, pour the water off the jumper and gently squeeze it to remove the excess. Do not rinse, wring or spin.
The next day, pour the water off the jumper and gently squeeze it to remove the excess. Do not rinse, wring or spin. Lay a large clean towel onto a flat surface and on top place the very wet jumper. Gently pull at it lengthways and sideways, stretching the fibres as you go. Take your time in gently remoulding your favourite jumper to its original size and shape.
Once you are satisfied that it looks as it used to, take the towel and start rolling from the bottom, nice and tight, until the jumper is concealed in a huge towel and jumper sausage. Rolling tightly will extract much of the remaining moisture. When the towel feels quite wet, unroll and transfer the jumper to the second towel, which again has been laid out on a flat surface.
Nancy Birtwhistle’s plant feed with added benefit
Makes around 500ml. You will need
60g nettles (leaves and stalks)
clean, old plastic tub or similar with a lid
600ml cold water (rainwater is ideal)
old fine tea strainer
1-litre bottle with spray attachment
1 – 2 drops eco-friendly washing-up liquid
6 drops clove-bud oil
Wearing gloves, harvest the nettles with scissors. Select the young leaves because they contain more nitrogen that is quickly broken down in water. The leaves need to be 5 – 7 cm long. Pop them into a plastic tub that has a lid. Pour over the cold water, stir and push the nettles into the water using a gloved hand. Pop the lid on and leave outside and forget about it for at least a week (2 weeks is even better), stirring maybe once or twice during that time.
When ready to use (and I suggest you do this outside), take off the lid, give it a stir and the smell will send you reeling – it really is awful, but plants love it! Strain off the leaves, using simply the lid as an aid, then strain again using an old fine tea strainer. Fill the spray bottle, then add the eco-friendly washing-up liquid and clove-bud oil. Give it a good shake then spray away!
I avoid using this spray on my vegetables just before I want to eat them, though the spray will readily wash off so it's not a big deal if you do.
Who is Nancy Birtwhistle?
Inspired to protect the planet for her ten grandchildren, Nancy decided to change how she used single-use plastic and chemicals in her home and began to share her environmentally friendly, innovative ideas and time-saving swaps with her followers.
Now Nancy is sharing her tried and tested tips in her books Clean & Green and Green Living Made Easy. Clean & Green is full of natural cleaning ideas and home-made eco-friendly cleaning products, many of which are faster and easier than the go-to products and methods most of us use now. Green Living Made Easy contains 100+ tips on how to live a more eco-friendly life without giving up on any home comforts.
Photo credit: ©Elizabeth Clarke, Pink Feet