The green clean movement is big business these days, with microfibre ‘wonder’ cloths (often made of plastic and biocidal silver) peddled as an eco-solution to harmful cleaning chemicals while requiring virtually no effort.
When looking for sustainable alternatives, rags are a great way to use up old fabric scraps, but these often contain plastic materials (e.g. elastane) that mean their eventual landing spot must be in landfill. But fear not! For those of us with a teeny bit of crafty nous or gardening know-how, there are some very simple alternatives.
The two simple cleaning craft projects detailed here can be made from natural unrefined fibres, are completely biodegradable and are suitable for all compost systems at the end of their lives.
DIY BROOM MILLET SCRUBBING BRUSHES
- Broom Millet: While this strange and wonderous fibre is not very easy to get your hands on commercially, the exciting news is that it is insanely easy to grow, and a small patch (1 m x 1 m) will give you enough to last your household many years (with an added side harvest—good grain to mill for yourself or for feeding whole to chooks).
- Hemp twine
- Rubber bands
- Yarn needle
- Cut desired lengths of threshed Broom Millet (about 15 cm) and secure bundle with elastic bands at either end. With a long length of twine, make a ‘whip’ and wrap the twine around it tightly.
- Continue wrapping twine tightly around the whip.
- Keeping twine secure, poke a yarn needle through the bundle, abutting the twine (a second pair of hands could be handy here).
- Thread the yarn needle with the end of the twine.
- Pull the needle through the bundle, then insert it behind the wrapped twine.
- Pull needle underneath the wrapped twine but leave a little loop instead of pulling flush. Pass the needle through this loop and pull securely. Repeat until bundle is secure and snip off end. Ta-da!
You can use other materials as your scrubbing fibre, but they may not last as long as Broom Millet. Native grasses and reeds work well or New Zealand flax, but it needs to be teased into smaller threads for use in something like a brush.
CROCHETED CIRCULAR DISH CLOTH
Yarn: I am always on the lookout at op shops for random balls of cotton yarn to make dishcloths, but one of my favourite yarns is twine or string from a hardware store. The fibre used to make the yarn is not as finished or refined nor as tightly spun as cotton yarns prepared for crocheting garments, so it tends to be more absorbent and thus more suitable for a dish cloth. I also have used jute string for a cloth that works more as a scourer, but it does not last as long as cotton.
Crochet hook: The size of the hook will depend on the thickness of the yarn. If you want a firmer cloth, then a smaller hook is best, while a more open softer cloth is obtained by using a larger sized hook. These cloths are crocheted in a continuous spiral so you don’t have to judge if there is enough yarn to finish a round. When you have about a metre of yarn left, you can make a loop so that the cloth can be hung up to dry, keeping it fresher than being left damp in the sink. I have a few of these dish cloths in use and will hang them out in the sun to dry and this keeps them fresh and clean.
- Make 3 chain.
- Into the first chain, make 8 single crochet stitches to form a circle. This is the foundation circle.
- To start the spiral/circle, make 2 single crochet stitches into the space formed by the first of the 8 stiches (that was used to make the foundation circle). Repeat this in each of the remaining spaces in the foundation circle. This forms the second round of the cloth.
- For the third round, just do one single crochet in each of the spaces in the previous round.
- Alternate each round now: one increasing round (2 stitches in each space) and one round of a single stitch in each space.
- Repeat these rounds until you have about a metre or less of thread left.
- With the remaining thread, form the hanging loop by making a chain of about 10 to 15 stitches (the number depends on the size loop you want). When it is the required length, take the loop back to the edge of the cloth and fasten off with a single crochet stitch. Sew in the end with darning needle. Sew in the small end at centre start as well to finish.
Depending on your tension, the yarn and the size of the hook used for your cloth may get a rippled edge. This just means that instead of increasing every second row, you should increase every third row to keep the cloth flat. If it starts to ‘cup’, then increase for two rounds. You will soon get a feel for when you need to do an increase row.
Single crochet stitch
Start a single stitch by pushing yur hook through the loop of a chain stitch or space in previous row from the front to the back. Then hook the yarn and pull it back through the loop, which should leave you with 2 loops on your hook. Hook the yarn again before pulling it through the 2 loops on your hook, leaving you with a single loop. Move on to the next loop or space in the previous row and repeat the process. For simple crocheting tutorials, look online.