I’ve been working my way through Oxfam’s ‘new products’ and have acquired a lovely cheerful mug (Always Half Full, it says on the side), as well as brolly, a tote bag, and a notebook for Big Ideas. But I thought it would be nice to try out something more practical – after all, if we’re selling this stuff we ought to know what it’s like! And, since I hate housework, I thought I would try out some cleaning products.
Personally, I feel there’s a lot to be said for progress when it comes to washing, ironing, dusting, polishing and so on. Nostalgia is all very well, but when it comes to domestic tasks! Life must have been have been jolly hard for women in days gone by, although I must admit the idea of making your own cleaners always sounds attractive: it’s the thought of all those natural ingredients that is so alluring. After all, things like lemons, salt, vinegar, and baking soda have got to be better than chemicals, and you’re avoiding unnecessary packaging. But when it comes to it, I can’t be bothered to mix them up, and somehow I feel it’s not a proper cleaning product if it doesn’t come in a plastic container or a brightly coloured box.
So the range of cleaning products on sale in some Oxfam shops (including our Main Shop) is a pretty good compromise. They’re made by Bio-D, an independent, family-owned, ethically motivated company, which is based in the UK. It claims on its website that it is ‘dedicated to promoting the use of hypoallergenic, environmentally responsible detergents that have a minimum impact on the ecosystem both in their use and in their manufacturing process’. That’s a posh way of saying it’s eco-friendly and doesn’t cause pollution or allergies.
I used the non-biological concentrated washing powder on a pile of dirty old towels (including a couple of grubby ones from our Bookshop that looked as if they’d been used to mop the floor) and it got them every bit as clean as my usual brand, so I was pleased with the powder’s performance. And I loved the fact that although the tea towels smelled clean, they didn’t have that cloying, overwhelming perfume found in so many commercial varieties.
The brown paper packaging was brilliant: it looked good, was simple, and kind of minimalistic, using far less materials and taking up less space than conventional cardboard packets. On the downside, although it seemed fairly tough, I’m not sure how well it would stand up to conditions in a kitchen or utility room. I was a bit worried in case the bag broke, or got wet, so I decanted the contents into a largish jar with a screw-top lid (I knew my hoard of jars would come in useful one day!).
I like the concept of the products - the whole thing is ideologically sound, which is to be applauded. And I like the idea of buying from Oxfam, so my money is put to good use. However, to be honest I’m not sure I can afford to stick to my principles as these products do work out quite expensive. The non-biological washing powder is £3.99 a kilo. It is concentrated, so you don’t need a huge amount, and you’re supposed to be able to get up to 17 washes, but I guess that would only be if you have washing that’s not too dirty, so needs less powder, and as I live in a hard water area I always have to use more than the recommended amount (it’s the same with washing up liquid and bubble bath). Sadly, if you’re on a low income, or have a large family, I think Bio-D would be too costly.