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Stew Tips on Going Green - Part 3

Isobel Odendaal stew tips3

How many of us have the best of intentions of going green?

The fact is that making changes to our behaviour to benefit the environment can be an uphill struggle - it's all too easy to return to the habits we have on autopilot. Isobel Odendaal is here to help! With simple, foolproof tips on how to make your own cleaning products and with advice on natural, sumptuous toiletries and reusable products that guests will love, there's no reason not to give it a go!

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.  


Make Your Own Enviromentally Friendly Cleaning Products

Bleach replacement

Mix lemon juice and baking soda, or vinegar and baking soda and use as alternative for bleach. Leaving pure fresh lemon juice on white cotton and leaving out in the sun for 30 – 60 min will work very well for removing tough stains, especially rust stains. Remember to launder as normal afterwards.
Booster for yacht house plants (do not use on orchids)

Mix 3 litres water, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon nitrate of lime, 1 tablespoon Epsom salt and 1 tablespoon ammonia. Pour 1 tablespoon into the plant’s soil weekly.
Eco-friendly hand cleaners

  • To remove grease/oil from your hands, rub hands thoroughly in olive oil. Wipe off with kitchen paper and wash with eco-friendly hand-wash afterwards.

  • Mix 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Scrub greasy hands thoroughly.

  • Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon sugar and wash greasy hands. Wash with warm water afterwards.

  • Make a paste of polenta and eco-friendly soap and wash hands thoroughly to remove grease. 

Air freshener

Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda with fresh rosemary and some vanilla essential oil. Place in a clean, used glass jar with a metal lid (and make holes in the lid). Safely place around cupboards and in cabins around the yacht during off charter periods and refresh once a month. Of course, pack them away out of sight during guest periods.

Jars pixabay

Scrubbing powder for Chef’s pots and cutting boards

Mix 1 teaspoon Borax, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda and scrub over the pots and boards using half a lemon. Rinse properly afterwards.

Laundry starch

Mix 1 litre water and 4 tablespoons corn starch. Mix well and keep in spray bottle for use during ironing.

Cleaner for synthetic fabrics and synthetic carpets

  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 cup soda water
  • ½ cup eco-friendly dishwashing liquid
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Shake the above ingredients together in a spray bottle and spray on stained fabric/carpet and brush INWARDS lightly with a toothbrush. Dab with fresh water afterwards. Repeat if necessary.

***Do not clean wool, silk, bamboo, viscose carpets with this!  Professional carpet cleaners should me contacted prior to cleaning these delicate natural fibers.

Laundry detergent tablets (for use on synthetic and cotton fabrics)

  • 1 bar of castile soap (about 100 grams) – grated on a fine grater setting
  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 5 ml essential oil – tea tree or lavender or lemongrass

Mix all the ingredients together. Shape into small balls and push into ice cube trays, filling each block to the top. Press down with your fingers to compact. Let them dry overnight. Pop out and keep in glass jars ready for use.

Window/glass/mirror cleaner

  • 1 tblsp corn starch
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol

Mix all ingredients together and use on glass surfaces. Polish with a dry lint-free cloth like flour sack or E-cloths or ENJO © cloths. Take care if you have marble around the guest heads – vinegar should never touch marble and natural stone surfaces.

Make your own Goo Gone ©

Coconut oil version:

  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part melted coconut oil 
  • Sweet orange or bergamot essential oil (optional)

The vegetable oil/mineral oil/etc. version:

  • 2 parts baking soda
  • 1 part oil
  • Sweet orange or bergamot essential oil (optional)

You essentially just need enough baking soda to make a paste so it clings to the item and doesn't run down. The baking soda also acts as an abrasive to help remove residue. 
Coconut oil is the easiest way to get the paste consistency right, but it is also possible with oils that are liquid at room temperature. Just keep adding baking soda until it is right. Sweet orange or bergamot essential oil is a great addition, scenting it nicely - like Goo Gone, but without that weird petroleum smell.

coconut oil wikimedia2

Natural cleaner for Corian or fibreglass showers and sinks in crew areas

  • 1 part eco-friendly dishwashing liquid
  • 1 part warm vinegar

Let sit for 30 minutes, then wipe off with a soft sponge and rinse with clean water.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Tablets

  • 2 cups washing soda or baking soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 15 - 20 drops of lemon essential oil

Mix all above ingredients together and put in ice tray cubes. Let dry overnight. Pop out and keep in glass jars until needed.

For stainless/chrome polishing

  • 1 part vinegar
  • 1 part water

Mix together in a spray bottle and spray on fridges and stainless steel appliances to remove oily fingerprints. Olive oil also works well. Just dab some on a soft cloth and buff out all the marks on your stainless appliances.

Clogged drains

  • salt
  • baking soda
  • vinegar

Mix together 1 part salt and 1 part baking soda in a pouring jug and pour directly down the plug hole of the clogged drain. Follow with some lightly warmed vinegar (about 500ml to 1 litre). Then pour down a kettle full of boiling water (1ltr+). Repeat if necessary

Toilet cleaner pods

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon eco dishwashing liquid

Mix all ingredients, gradually adding the washing-up liquid. Shape into small balls and put in a silicone freezer tray. Let dry for at least 4 hours. Once dry, pop them out of the tray and store in glass jars.

To clean the toilet, let one tablet dissolve and scrub with a toilet brush as it dissolves and fizzes. 

Alternative toilet cleaner

  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ baking soda
  • ¼ lemon juice
  • ¼ rubbing alcohol

Pour the above ingredients down the toilet, adding the baking soda last. While it fizzes, scrub the toilet clean. 

Natural Toileteries Onboard

Discussing DIY natural toiletries and eco-friendly toiletries and amenities for guests could certainly make two entire articles on their own. However, I want to suggest a few brands in case you fancy incorporating some into your yacht’s inventory and don't know where to start. Most of these are packaged in beautiful and classy containers or can be bought in bulk and decanted into personalised smaller bottles with the yacht’s branding/name.

Here are some of the brand names: Balance Me, Liz Earle, Neem by Sunita Passi, Weleda, Anyah

I want to suggest a few wonderful yacht suppliers who focus on supplying eco-friendly and cruelty-free products to yachts:

Balance Me

Balance Me toiletries (Photo credit: Balance Me

Sun protection 

Sunscreen is an essential part of a crew member's kit, and I in no way want to put you off using it - of course, eco-friendly alternatives can be found! For it is crucial to mention the negative effects of chemical sunscreens on marine life and coral reefs. Here is a list of some of the common harmful ingredients in cheaper and more commercial sunscreens:

  • Oxybenzone

  • Butylparaben

  • Octinoxate

  • Homosalate

  • Octocrylene

  • Avobenzene

  • 4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor

Here are some suggested sunscreens to provide to your crew and guests that are environmentally safe on oceans and coral reefs: (thanks to

  • Deter Mineral Reef Safe Sunscreen

  • Maui Surfer Honey Natural Sunscreen 

  • Badger Sunscreen Cream, Unscented

  • Joshua Tree Reef Safe Sunscreen 

  • Elemental Herbs Sport Sunscreen

  • Green Screen D Organic Sunscreen, Original

  • BurnOut Ocean Tested Physical Sunscreen,

  • All Terrain KidSport

  • Star Naturals Sunscreen Stick 

  • Raw Love Sunscreen


L'Occitane toiletries (Photo credit: L'Occitane UK

Reducing Use of Plastics Onboard

We’ve all seen the headlines about the huge environmental problems caused by single-use plastics. Yacht owners and yacht crew can no longer turn a blind eye and we all have a responsibility to take action – so let’s look at some practical ways to reduce our plastics on board:

  • Carry a spare canvas bag for groceries or small items you might purchase during yacht provisioning. Try to use cloth or reusable bags instead of produce bags when food shopping.  Yacht Steward/esses and Chefs can greatly influence the use of plastic food packaging by insisting that their suppliers and chandlers choose a more environmentally friendly option or supply the chandler with reusable containers for deliveries.  Although difficult due to yachts forever traveling, we can also research the local shops and pressurise them to provide more eco-friendly packaging options, or take your own fabric shopping bags on provisioning trips.

  • Take a reusable coffee cup - 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK alone – and less than 1 in 400 are recycled. Carry a reusable cup with you if you are out and about on a day off. And if you have to take a disposable cup from a coffee shop, at least opt to remove the plastic lid.

  • Plastic straws are disastrous for our oceans! Next time you order a drink, just say no! Rather opt for stainless steel, glass or paper straws as an alternative.  

plasticwaste beach MaxPixel

  • Use refill stations for detergents - there are some products that are difficult to avoid a plastic container (for example washing up liquid or laundry liquid) – the good news is that there are an increasing amount of places worldwide where you can refill your old bottles. 

  • Say no to disposable plastic cutlery (often also wrapped in more plastic!). Consider carrying a stainless fork in your backpack if you have a day off.

  • Avoid micro-beads: Many countries have already introduced a ban on micro-beads. Check product labels before you buy and avoid products containing polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon. Avoid micro-beads in your exfoliating face or body wash or cleaning products.

  • DIY your own cosmetics using essential oils and eco-friendly ingredients such as glycerine instead of buying ones in plastic tubes containing not only chemicals, but which are often also tested on animals.

  • Reduce plastic packaging in your cleaning routine by making your own natural cleaners, plenty of tips and suggestions higher up in this article.

  • Switch to bar soap for crew (and hopefully guests) to avoid plastic packaging.

  • Buy plastic-free beauty, hygiene, and cleaning products, like bamboo toothbrushes, plastic-free makeup brushes and natural material sponges.

  • Use fewer Tupperware containers, Ziplocs and Saran/Glad wrap. It is time we look into more eco-friendly ways to keep leftover foods fresh, like Bee’s wrap or reusable Silicone stretch-top lids (Stasher Bag, LUUMI

  • Reduce the use of micro-fiber cleaning cloths. There is debate over the extent to which microfiber cloths are environmentally friendly. They are beneficial to the environment in that they aren’t tossed out in the trash after each use like paper towels, nor do they need to be replaced as frequently as cotton cloths. Despite these advantages, microfiber cloths are made from non-renewable resources and are not bio-degradable. There is also concern about their role in micro-plastic pollution. This sort of pollution occurs when tiny bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off of fabrics during washing and end up collecting on the coastlines of densely populated areas. Fish can ingest the harmful debris, as can humans when they eat affected fish. Rather use cotton cloths, chamois and diaper cloths for cleaning.

  • Buy cotton buds with paper sticks and not plastic.

  • Empty the guests head bins into a bigger paper bag (and then into our main rubbish bin), instead of throwing out each small plastic bag every day. 

  • If buying six-pack cans, make sure you cut out the plastic that comes wrapped around the cans necks, because if they do end up in the ocean, turtles and marine life can get stuck in them.


Water for crew and guests

Here are some wonderful suggestions from the members of the Yacht Stewardess and Steward Tips Facebook group:

  • Carry a reusable bottle: Carrying a reusable bottle is a great way to cut your plastic use on board.  There are many different and effective ways to label bottles for crew. I suggest a fancier alternative to provide guests with fresh drinking water during the day, such as presentation in a crystal decanter, etc. 

  • Edible water bottles – maybe to keep on the tender for day trips – see more here.  

  • The S'well © bottles are a great option. Water stays cold out of the refrigerator for about 4 days. You can custom make for the yacht and there are many different designs to choose from. Three more brands to look at: Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask (for crew) or Chilly’s.

  • For guests, another alternative is to use a large crystal beverage dispenser and leave it on the bar. You could do a different "spa water" every day – like cucumber and mint, berries, citrus, etc.

  • Another alternative would be fancier and attractive clear bottles and add the guest names on with clear labels. Made sure they are filled and next to the beds at night and take them along in day packs, etc.

  • What to look for in a good reusable bottle? Things I would recommend to look out for: make sure it is a good quality plastic, i.e. BPA free (cheap plastic will give off a nasty taste) - make sure the opening on top is big enough for your ice cubes, make sure you can label/identify the bottles. Maybe you can make a fun activity with guests where they each choose a nickname and write these on the bottles for easier identification. They can also be screen-printed by a professional company. 

  • At night time use reusable glass bottles in guest cabins with a logo on the front (we created a brand for ‘yacht’ water and had logos printed, and make a special sticker for the back that explains how the water-maker etc. works and add a barcode to make it look like real ‘shop’ water.

  • Have monogrammed stainless steel souvenir bottles made for the guests to take home as a guest gift – if ordered in bulk, they shouldn’t be too pricey.


Final thoughts

Something that I found problematic whilst working on yachts was that many marinas and ports all over the world didn’t have proper recycling bins set up. What is the use of a yacht doing extensive recycling on board, but when they arrive in port and there are no facilities available? Thankfully this is slowly getting better! 

It is more time consuming to make your own bio cleaning products, and probably more convenient to just buy the normal famous brands, but the environment needs us to stop with the chemicals! We will also save the boss money by using these products – commercial and chemical products are normally way more expensive.

It is understandable that we are worried about the extremely expensive cutlery, ornaments, silverware, teapots, trays, surfaces, fabrics and other metal items we have on board. We often opt for purchasing a product from the supplier or the manufacturer because we think that would be the only product suitable for cleaning; or the supplier’s warranty may be voided if we do not use their recommended products and this is certainly an issue to consider.

However, if we test these more natural cleaning methods in an inconspicuous part of the article, and it doesn’t cause damage, it would be a much healthier, eco-friendly and of course, cheaper option to use on board. It is always smart to discuss various surfaces, metals, fixtures and fabrics with a professional if in doubt about any cleaning or maintenance tips.

The way I see it, we have to compare the normal wear and tear (using manufacturer’s products laden with chemicals) as opposed to using more bio-friendly products – what are the long-term costs and effects – and I don’t just mean fiscal costs – what will it cost our marine life and oceans and what damage has already been done? Our appliances like our dishwashers and washing machines will always need regular maintenance whether we use chemicals or more eco-friendly products, but at least we will not fill the ocean with billions of litres of chemicals coming from our gray water tanks.

As Steward/esses, we often have to explain this to Engineers or Captains who might not want us to use anything than the prescribed manufacturer’s products. We as crew need to have conscious, honest and responsible discussions between the different departments regarding these issues and we as Steward/esses need to arm ourselves with the facts to persuade the Captain and Engineer regarding the importance of using environmentally friendly products on board. We owe it to the environment!

I hope you find these tips useful. Please comment below to let us know how you got on!


About the Author:

Isobel Odendaal has worked in yachting and luxury hospitality for over 20 years. In 2008 she left her job as Chief Stewardess to set up Super Yachting South Africa, the leading training company in South Africa and the only accredited provider of GUEST courses in the country. 




Image credits: Jars, Pixabay; coconut oil, PaulReis123, Wikimedia Commons, CC 4; Balance me; L'Occitane; plastic waste, MaxPixel, CCO Public Domain; water bottles, Pixabay; Swell bottles,;  

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