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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

You could clean your whole house as clean as you wanted it with baking soda, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, salt and water. It would take some serious elbow grease, but you could do it. I add non-sudsing ammonia, borax, washing soda, fels naptha soap and bleach (sparingly) to that (not all together, of course). I've been having fun making my own cleaning supplies lately.

About a month and a half ago, I tried this recipe for laundry detergent. We did a single batch, to try it out, see how it worked, if it gave anyone a rash, or if we hated the smell. We all liked it, and it worked at least as well as the stuff we bought at the store. It took about 20 minutes out of my day, and lasted over a month. It costs less than a quarter of what the cheap stuff from the grocery store costs (though part of that is that I use a third of a cup instead of the half cup she recommends). Today, the boys helped me make a double batch of it, which we expect to last at least two and a half months, possibly three months. Not bad for 20 minutes out of our day.

I also found several recipes for fabric softener, and have put together one that used a few elements of the recipes I saw.

2 cups baking soda
2 cups white vinegar
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerin
40 drops essential oil (I use half lemon and half orange, because I like citrus scents and because they are just about the cheapest essential oils you can get, but this is completely optional)

Mix the baking soda and vinegar in a bottle (maybe your old fabric softener bottle). When it stops fizzing, add the hot water and glycerin and mix well. Stir in the essential oil, if you wish to use it. Add about a 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle in your washing machine, and you have nice soft clothes that still can absorb water (so you can use it on your towels) and it won't cause problems in your dryer. You'll have to shake it up before you use it, to make sure everything is mixed well. One of the places I read mentioned that you can cut up old wash cloths and soak them in some of your fabric softener, wring them out and dry them and use as you would dryer sheets. I haven't tried that yet.

When we got the honeybees last year, I picked up a book about canning with honey and another about products you can make with beeswax. There are several uses for beeswax in house cleaning, as well as cosmetic uses. I'm looking forward to making my own lip balm, as well as furniture polish. Recently I checked out a book from the library called Organic Housekeeping. I haven't finished it, so I can't recommend it yet, but I am enjoying the information, and what I've read so far has been helpful. I also found another great website with lots of homemade cleaning recipes.

People used to make these things because they were cheaper, or because they couldn't get anything else. Now there seems to be some cachet in doing these things because it's organic or good for the environment. It is cheaper, it won't kill your children or your plants or your livestock. It's kind of fun, and I get to do little science experiments with the children while we make them. Like mayonnaise has become a lesson in emulsion.

I'm still working on Rich about the cloth diapers and cloth wipes with a solution we make, at least for at home, but he's pretty adamant that he doesn't want to deal with the mess. Since he is quite happy to change diapers, and none of our children has been sensitive to the store brand diapers and wipes we use, I haven't pushed too hard. We did use cloth with Elijah at first, and it wasn't that big a deal at home (even for Rich), though it was kind of a pain when we were out, so I'm thinking part time cloth. The wipe recipe with paper towels wasn't thick enough for our master diaper changer and bottom wiper, so it would have to be cloth wipes.

If any of you have ideas about do it yourself cleaning supplies or cosmetics or hygiene, please pass it on.

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I use cloth diapers 90% of the time with Lucy. To get Robb involved, I finally went for pocket diapers (Bumgenius! specifically) but I've found that they do so well for her little butt that I hate putting her in disposables. I can't get into the cloth wipes, though, because...I don't know why. I think because it's such a hassle to keep the solution from getting nasty.
Brilliant ideas - I've been using vinegar for quite some time now, but never even thought about making my own fabric softener or laundry soap. I am going to give both recipes a try!

I used cloth diapers on my youngest and I loved it. My kids were sensitive to wipes so I just used washclothes. I would just get it wet with hot water and use it like wipes. If I have another baby I will do the same thing. Only now I will use homemade laundry soap.
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