Pure Magic: Nancy Birtwhistle shares her eco-friendly cleaning tips

Nancy Birtwhistle shares some of her favourite homemade, eco-friendly cleaning products, 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 tips. Here she shares some of her cleaning recipes, notably her famous ’Pure Magic’, to give you a taste of what her books, Green Living Made Easy and Clean & Green are about. 

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

Small whisk

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

Hot water

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

Warm water

Small bowl


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

hair conditioner

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.

Clean & Green

by Nancy Birtwhistle

Book cover for Clean & Green

This beautifully illustrated black and white guide contains 101 hints, tips and hacks to help you take small steps at home which will have a big environmental impact. Nancy Birtwhistle shares the simple recipes and methods she has developed since making a conscious effort to live more sustainably, from everyday cleaning and laundry tips to easy oven-cleaner and stain removal tips. These tried-and-tested recipes (including her Pure Magic cleaning spray) will keep both your home and the planet clean and green for future generations.

Green Living Made Easy

by Nancy Birtwhistle

Book cover for Green Living Made Easy

We all want to do our best for our homes and the planet, but it’s often hard to find the time and energy to think of alternatives. Nancy Birtwhistle makes it easy with 101 indispensable tips, ideas and recipes that will help you to live a more eco-friendly life without giving up on any home comforts.

This practical book from Sunday Times bestselling author and Great British Bake Off winner Nancy Birtwhistle is the ultimate guide to reducing your environmental impact while saving you time and money. Inside are tips and home hacks on everything from eco cleaning, upcycling and making the most out of your weekly shop to small-space gardening and creative crafts, plus a selection of Nancy's delicious recipes.

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