January 25, 2012

Even more eco-friendly cleaning!

In line with our philosophy of using eco-friendly and healthy cleaning products, I was pleased to come across Norwex microfibre cloths.

It came about when one of our cottage guests told me she’d cleaned the windows in the cottage. It is not every day our guests do the cleaning for us! 

Judith explained that she was an agent for Norwex, and had cleaned the windows with the antibacterial envirocloth and the dry window cloth, using nothing but water. They looked amazing.

Windows get particularly dirty here, with a combination of mould and cobwebs, and cleaning them is not a job I enjoy. Seeing the streak-free result of her efforts, I quickly ordered three cloths - antibacterial envirocloth, window cloth and kitchen scrub cloth.

Norwex antibacterial envirocloth
I can honestly say they are a delight to use. The antibacterial cloth can be used dry for dusting, or wet for general cleaning. The window cloth dries off after the antibacterial, leaving no streaks, and the scrub cloth works on stubborn bits without the use of abrasive cleaners.Windows and shower screens are cleaned really easily and well, while the antibacterial cloth and scrub cloth make light work of bathrooms and kitchens.

I have since bought their floor cloths – one dry for dust (saves vacuuming) and one wet for washing - both interchangeable on the one velcro-tipped mop head.
The initial investment may seem high, but using microfibre cloths, which require only water, avoids the use of standard cleaning  products, which can cause skin irritations, pollute the environment, and are expensive - making them good for the budget as well as the environment.

January 3, 2012

Durra Panels - the new light earth

Despite our best intentions with building in light earth, the experience has been fraught with problems. Given the time it was taking to complete them, we decided to pay someone to help us build them, only to have the finished walls fall down after he left, when we discovered his technique had been flawed. So we started considering a different approach.

We had already experimented with a pseudo-earth wall in the dining room. One of the dining walls is half internal (backing onto the entry) and half external (backing onto the verandah). Instead of making a half-and-half wall of earth and timber, which would have looked silly, we filled the internal section with gyprock and rendered it to look the same as the earth wall. It’s impossible to see which half is timber framed and which is earth (it requires another fine coat to cover the centre stud).

Left side - render over light earth. Right side - render over gyprock
Russell suggested we do the same for the remaining walls under the verandah. I was initially horrified. Gyprock instead of earth?? Was he giving up the dream, selling out to The Man??!! 
But then I remembered a compressed straw panel called Durra, made by Ortech in Victoria. It is 50mm of straw held between two layers of thick paper – no chemical binders, nothing but waste straw in recycled paper. Its credentials were good.
We ordered panels cut to an exact height, and cut them vertically to fit between the studs on the external walls, and inside the studs on the internal walls. Between the two layers we added an air gap and some R3 insulation. 
External panels set between studs.
Internal panels placed over studs, with insulation in between.
The Durra walls were cut to size and in place in two days – compared with what would have been months of work doing light earth. On top of this the walls now have a total R value of about R6+ - way better than the earth walls would have rated.
We’ll probably need to ‘rough up’ the Durra a bit to accept the same clay render we are using on the earth walls, but the finished product should be indistinguishable.