5 Natural (And Unnatural) Cleaning Solutions

These 5 Natural(ish) and not-so-Natural Cleaning Solutions will save you in your darkest, dirtiest hours.

As Plant Scientists and Chemical Engineers, we’re often asked about natural biological solutions for common cleaning problems. These little trick and tips should help you out of a tight spot – with easy to grab house hold items that are (mostly) free of chemicals.

However, as Plant Scientists and Chemical Engineers, we also know that sometimes the best solution to a messy mistake is an unnatural one, so we’ve included them too:

Carpet Cleaner

You’ve got friends round for dinner. The worst happens – red wine is spilt. As the red stuff sinks in and your mind starts darting around for ideas that might help you out – you give in to the realisation that you’re going to have to deal with this stain forever. Weeks past, but the stain remains in your carpet and on your mind. Is it too late? No, it’s not.


This handy blend of natural ingredients will help you out in a jiffy – no pun intended. Simply combine baking soda, with some cornstarch and crushed bay leaves and cloves (to make it smell nice). Stuff these ingredients in a salt shaker and scatter liberally. Leave to soak with a little water and then scrub away, repeat until the stain is no more!

[It may be expensive and full of chemicals – but the most efficient solution is Folex. Hard to find but excellent.]

Furniture Polisher

With the modern age of IKEA flat packs, polishing furniture may seem like a silly idea but there are still plenty of people who need to look after their high gloss wooden pieces. Sometimes it’s preferable to find a cheaper, nicer smelling alternative, to the usual commercial products. After all, just because you’ve got a a great matching dining room set, doesn’t mean you want your whole house to smell like a museum.


Olive Oil is your friend when it comes to getting a shine up on you wooden surfaces. It may seem counter-intuitive, but smearing and polishing your wooden floors and furniture with high quality olive oil will leave a great shine, without an invasive odour.

[If all else fails – then Method is the product to go for. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s extremely effective and uses non-toxic, plant based ingredients!]

Pest Control

If you’ve got a major pest issue – we’re talking ants, mosquitoes and rats – it can be all too tempting to reach for the powerful (and harmful toxic ingredients). Poisons, sprays and traps may well be effective at taking down your miniature home invaders, but they also come with draw backs. Little corpses littering your home, harmful toxins that could harm children/pets – the list goes on.


Instead, why not invest in something that will smell a great deal nicer and is guaranteed not to kill your dog? Peppermint is a gorgeous, hardy plant that will not only make your house smell better, but will also deter the aforementioned creatures.

[They might come at a dearer price, but there are plenty of effective ultrasonic deterrents on the market. They usually cost around £20 and get rid of everything in sight, with no dead bodies!]


At some point in your life, you’re going to have a mould issue. Whether it’s as a student, in a dangerously damp house, or later in life with a bathroom that simply isn’t ventilated enough – the black stuff always threatens to darken your walls and fill the air with spores.


Although you may find yourself reaching for the chemicals – more often than not – you can get the job done with the aid of natural ingredients alone. Brew a pot of chamomile tea, let it cool and decant into a spray gun. The active ingredients in this spray will work away at the mold over time.

[Alternatively, you could buy Pro-Kleen’s Mould & Mildew Killer is effective, though it will set you back a fair price.]

Oven Cleaning

Ovens get dirty. It’s a sad, sad fact of life that, at some point, you are going to find yourself scrubbing one – and you’re probably not going to enjoy it. Grease and detritus can stay glued to every side of the oven and it can be a nightmare to get clean. Thankfully there’s a natural solution to this problem.


Mixing up lemon juice, citrus oils and baking soda will create a powerfully abrasive substance that will cut through the grease and filth.

[Cleaning the oven is never a fun job – sometimes it’s better just to call in a professional like these guys: Ovenu Australia]

Cold Spring Harbor Asia Conference 2016

The Latest Advances in Plant Development & Environmental Responses will be revealed at Awaji, Japan

With experts and professors in fields as diverse as receptor-mediated regulation and stem cell signalling – this year’s conference, which draws in hundreds of Scientists every year, will be held at the Awaji Yumebutai Conference Center.

Over the course of four days, over 30 professors from some of the most prestigious Educational institutions in the World will convene in Japan to discuss the Plant-based developments that will change the way we treat our environment.

Built in the aftermath of the 1995’s Great Hanshin Earthquake – this groundbreaking complex (comprising of the conference space, hotel, bar and gardens) was designed by Tadao Ando prior to the devastating quake, that threw Japan into chaos. Thankfully, Ando was allowed to continue his development of the project and the group of bizarre buildings now stand as a monument to those lives who were damaged irrevocably.


We’ll be sending two of our lead researchers out to Awaji at the end of the month to learn from some of the brightest minds that the Science world has to offer, in the hope that they can bring back some fresh news to help us in our own projects. Steve and Joan have been working as Researchers in London’s Scientific institutions for the last 15 years, in all that time, however, they’ve not had the chance to leave the country for a conference.

Here are the 5 things they’re most excited about – looking ahead to the Conference at the end of the month:

Exploring the Hyakudanen

As a life long lover of plant, Steve can’t wait to get to the conference centre and dive right into the ‘hundred stepped garden’. Designed by the complex architect Tando Ando, the garden contains one hundred micro gardens – all perfectly symmetrical and beautifully kept.

Keiko Sugimoto’s Talk on Epigenetic Control of Plant Cell Reprogramming

keiko-sugimotoTeam Leader of the Cell Function Research Team at the Center for Sustainable Resource Science, in Yokohama, Keiko has been working the question of ‘size’ in biological systems.

Using genetic dissection and chemical genetic screening, her team has been attempting to decode the mechanism that determine the size of plant organs and cells.

Having a Drink at the Coconut Barawaji-2

Of course, at some point our tired Researchers are going to need to put their feet up and relax. Thankfully, for them, Awaji Island also doubles as a Resort – filled with stunning beaches as well as restaurants and bars. The Coconut Bar is the Conference Centre’s dedicated drinking hole, classy yet quintessentially Japanese.

awaji-3Enjoying Tadao Ando’s Architecture

The Conference Centre, the Gardens, as well as the passages throughout the complex, are all an absolute architectural treat – the subject of entire books. Although the building is getting to be over 20 years old, the sharp concrete lines coupled with the smooth exterior courtyards will still be a joy to roam around.

Wandering Through The Miracle Planet Museum of Plants


Filled with literally thousands of different species of plants, we can’t wait to take a walk through the 6 exhibits (each divided into their own biomes, with different types of plant growing in each). It’ll be a little chilly there come the end of the month, so we might just have to skip out on the outdoor areas!

Steve and Joan are going to have a lot of reading to get done, on top of their usual work load, in order to be prepared for the Conference – hopefully they’ll be able to squeeze everything in!

The Biomass Argument

We live in an age of widespread awareness of the important environmental threats to our future generations.

When it comes to educating our young people on the impact we have on the Earth, we’re successfully teaching millions of children every year of the damage that fossil fuels can cause and how renewable energy sources will pave the way for a longer, prosperous future.

But, are there now too many ways to be environmentally friendly?

recyclingWe currently stand at a cross roads: modern science has given us the tools to deal with our issues effectively and now, more than ever, we have the drive to invest in projects that will ensure people engage with environmentally friendly behaviours from an early age.

However, with the sheer wealth of information on offer today, do we run the risk of overloading young minds with too many morally forms of action?

It’s all very well understanding how our planet is being damaged by our actions, but can we really expect tomorrow’s generation, and the one’s that follow, to obediently follow every rule and guideline that we place for them?

It’s unrealistic to expect our kids to pick up our slack, especially when they’ll be so achingly aware of the amount of guilty pleasures their forefathers indulged in over the centuries.

carbon-footprintHuman beings are creatures with selective memories and thought tracks.

Different people have varying thresholds for what they deem to be environmentally actions. One man may feel content simply recycling. He will feel that the effort he takes to separate his rubbish, and take it out, will constitute ‘his bit’. Therefore he won’t feel any guilt in purchasing oranges from his local super market, even though for every kilogram of oranges that are imported into the UK roughly 250g of Carbon is emitted into the atmosphere.

If we are going to make our planet safer for our future generations then we’re going to need to convince them that simply performing one environmentally action won’t be enough – they’ll need to go the whole hog.

Not only will we need them to start sourcing their food locally, we’ll have to hope that they embrace the new forms of renewable energies that we have spent decades researching and investing in.

energy-efficinctThanks to the Renewable Energy Directive, member states of the EU have committed to fulfilling at least 20% of all it’s energy needs with renewable resources.

In the last 20 years all major developed countries have been investing heavily in turbines, with nations like China and the US leading the way. However, in order to double down on the effect we’re having on the environment, we need to exploring every avenue of renewable energies – biomass fuels being one of these.

windfarmsA bio mass is the general term for any energy source that can be derived from organic material. This can be as simple as piping methane gas from land fills to burning wood biofuels, which come in the form of wood pellets. There is so much energy potential locked up in biological matter, that it would be foolish to ignore exploiting them.

As they are all naturally occurring, they are renewable (although, confusingly, not carbon neutral). By diversifying the forms of energy that we produce and utilise, we stand a good chance of not further destroying the planet with more invasive resource gathering.

Whether we’re investing in new forms of renewable energy, or irrevocably changing modes of behaviour that have been damaging the environment for decades, there will only be one way we can make a lasting change.

Regardless of how we choose to move forward – the only way we can get our younger gen to follow suit is by leading by example on all fronts.


6 Botanical Gardens That Will Inspire You

These Botanical Gardens will show you that Mother Nature’s Garden is one that is bursting with variety…

A great Botanical Garden is bursting with life and variety, beautifully landscaped and clearly signed – so that you can easily decipher what plant is what. Visiting one is like stepping into a veritable Garden of Eden – utilising a mixture of glasshouses as well as the local environment to their advantages – professional gardeners transform acres of plain grounds into lush, verdant habitats that visitors can lose hours wandering around.

Here are the 6 Botanical Gardens that you must check out in your lifetime:

Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya, Kandy – Sri Lanka


Situated just a short drive away from the cultural centre of Kandy, the sizeable grounds of Sri Lanka’s Royal Botanic Gardens have been impressing visitors for decades. A huge variety of plants, endemic to the small island, are scattered throughout the easily traversable park (although there are powered scooters available to hire, for those not willing to spend hours on their feet). In addition to the stunning Orchid Garden and giant species of trees, there are also small troops of monkeys that patrol the grounds – providing ad hoc entertainment for the wandering tourists.

National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire – Wales


You won’t need to rely on good weather to enjoy Wales’ only Botanical Garden, as it’s home to the largest greenhouse in the world. The Great Glasshouse, designed by award-winning architects Foster and Partners, utilises biomass fuels to maintain a mild temperature that sustains life for the dozens of species of equatorial plants and flowers. Beyond the huge glass structure, there’s acres of wonderfully landscaped gardens to explore that can be viewed from a distance at the nearby 17th Century Mansion that lies on the estate – a must-see if you’re visiting Wales.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London – England


No trip to the Capital is complete without a day spent in the tranquil grounds of Kew Gardens. Run by a governing body of highly respected scientists that employs 750 people to continually research the plant life there, the Gardens make for a perfect day out for any visitors to London looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Work began on the Gardens back in 1759, as such there are a wealth of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings to compliment the massive variety of tropical, sub-tropical and English plants – all meticulously cared for by the RHS gardeners there.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois – USA


Covering a massive 385 acres of land, Chicago Botanic Garden classes itself as a ‘living plant museum’ that is situated on 9 of the stunning islands in the Cook County Forest Preserves. Entrance is absolutely free, although you will have to pay $25 to park your car there – but it’s well worth it. A generous 25 display gardens are scattered across the huge open spaces, providing visitors with days of endless exploring where you can discover just some of the 2.5 million different plants on display there. On top of the plant life, there are research and science centres providing some variety and context to the relatively untamed wilderness.

Hawaii Tropical Botanic Garden, Hawaii – USA


If you’re visiting Hawaii then, chances are, you’re already surrounded by a tropical paradise – however if you’re looking for an even higher concentration of beauty then why not check out one of the youngest Botanical Gardens on this list. Opened to the public in 1984, what these grounds lack for in heritage, they more than make up for in beauty and accessibility. Winding pathways weave in and out of the thick tropical foliage, providing shade from what can be exhausting heat. Some of the fruit trees there have been growing for over a 100 years, so even though the garden may feel modern, the plants are anything but.

Giardino dell’Iris, Florence – Italy

Although Italy is rammed full of garden spaces, there are none more picturesque and timeless than Florence’s Giardino dell’Iris. A horticultural landmark of Italy’s prettiest city since the 13th Century, on a quiet day it can feel like stepping back in time. Specialising in the growth of iris flowers, it’s only open for 3 weeks or so every year in May – if you manage to make it there in time you won’t have to pay for entry and you’ll find the relaxing ambience of the garden a refreshing reprieve from the sometimes hectic city centre. Expect to be surrounded by flowers, with very little context – it’s the Italian way!…