My father always says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He used to say this often to me growing up, mainly in response...
Our 30-Day Cleaning Challenge Is Officially Over! Here’s What We Found:
I’ve never enjoyed cleaning so much, honestly, as when I made my own brews -- and, while some lucky souls find cleaning meditative, enjoying it is very much a first for me. Homemade cleaners smell so amazing, and feel so elemental, this 30-Day Challenge has been right up my alley. My family is both stunned and thrilled by the outbreak of domestic diva. My husband, who has always been handy around the house, dear soul, took it the distance this weekend, and washed our sofa slipcover with the soapnut liquid wash yesterday. It smelled amazing when it was done -- I mean, notably fresh -- the smell of clean, like when my Grandma would hang her sheets outside in the Springtime -- but a lot softer. :) It used to smell a bit like pee. Needless to say, we like the change.
I love the room spray too. I now keep one permanently on the changing table. We’ve settled on rosemary and lavender scented, but I have to admit, the spearmint and lemon room spray grew on me!
Here’s a more complete rundown on how each product worked for us, and our preferences, what we’d do - and wouldn’t do - again. We’ve reposted the recipes, so if you’ve been waiting (like some friends of mine who wanted to see if these recipes actually worked first), you’ve been given a second chance... :)
First, the Laundry
laundry detergent (makes ≈ 50 ounces)
- 1 bar of fels naptha
- 2 cups borax
- 2 cups washing soda
- 1/4 baking soda
---Instructions---> Grate Fels Naptha soap with cheese grater. You can run it through the food processor or magic bullet also after grating to get the soap finer and more evenly dispersed through your detergent. Combine indredients in desired container and stir or shake well.
note: add vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine; add your favorite scent essential oil to (wool) dryer balls to complete amazing laundry cycle in your dryer
This is the one I started with, and I liked it a lot. After some initial angst around softness, I added the vinegar, and natural homemade fabric softener, and it worked like a charm. It didn’t get my whites quite white enough or hit the stains hard, but with bac-out for the stains, and oxygen bleach for the white dishtowels and sheets, we were in business. I absolutely like it as well as any detergent I’ve purchased. Never satisfied with success, however, we went a step further and tried Soapnuts as well (here’s the recipe for liquid wash):
Soapnut liquid wash (for cold-water laundry)
- 6-8 soapnuts
- 4 C water
- favorite essential oils: possibilities include lavender, sweet orange, eucalyptus, lemon
---Instructions---> Boil 4 cups of boiling water in a heavy saucepan with a lid. When water is at a boil, turn off heat and add soapnuts. Cover with lid and let sit overnight. In the morning, remove the soapnuts, strain out any shell, and add 10- 20 drops of the essential oils of your choice. Pour into glass container for storage. Use 1/2 C for each load of laundry (feel free to use more if it’s particularly soiled).
I’m hard-pressed now to say which I like better. I think I may stick with the Soapnuts because they are so incredibly gentle and natural, and have absolutely no scent at all -- which I realized upon use is pretty amazing in this age of olfactory assault. Miraculous even. Here too, oxygen bleach and Bac-Out or other stain remover is a must for difficult stains and white whites, but over-all, I’m amazingly happy with either DIY laundry solution. I’ll let you know if I end up with a strong preference toward one or the other of these recipes as I finish the batches. My husband is weighing in - in favor of Soapnuts. He too has caught the DIY bug, and likes that he can add his own essential oil smells.
On to our Almost All-Purpose Cleaner (for everything but marble)
all purpose cleaner (makes ≈ 32 ounces)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 2 cups distilled vinegar
- 1/4 tsp spearmint essential oil
note: substitute lemon essential oil and add 1/4 tsp tea tree oil to use as a counter top spray
I hesitated the most with All-Purpose Cleaner. In spite of it’s utter simplicity and efficacy, I get so worried and fussy about finishes (I fought hard for the marble counters and now guard them a bit over-zealously). So I stayed cautious. I didn’t hesitate with this on carpet -- it was perfect for urine and spit up -- or with our bathroom counters and floor. I even got brave and used it on the dining table for basic clean-up with good success. Turns out, the vinegar base is better than oil-based cleaners for our wood floors as well -- you know how oil and vinegar taste great together but don’t really mix? Apparently for treated wood floor, this is a good thing. According to green cleaner Michael de Jong at The Daily Green, oil dissolves oil, ultimately dulling the finish on a treated wood floor.Vinegar, on the other hand, keeps the finish intact.
But marble? Vinegar is a no-no here. (Unless, like friends of ours, you want to say, this is my kitchen counter and I’m not going to be precious with it -- he says this while squeezing lemon all over his new marble -- it now has the gorgeous - and dull - patina of a well-used counter). If you choose to be precious, like I am, however, try warm water alone, or with ph-neutral dishsoap. Even a little baking soda is okay, at least according to Frugal Living at About.com. How to Clean Things says for stains on marble, you can take baking soda and mix with water until you achieve a paste-like consistency, you can then put directly on the stain. Just nothing acidic like lemon or vinegar -- or wine. Definitely not wine.
Speaking of wine, what to use on the dishes? Here’s our home-brew recipe:
dishwasher detergent (makes ≈ 18 ounces)
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup borax
- 1/4 tsp lemon essential oil
note: add vinegar to each cycle to the rinse aid compartment
We’re still playing with this. Maddie says it left her dishes with a little white residue. I didn’t notice this at first, but the most recent load did look a little bit spotty. The solution seems to be the vinegar Maddie mentions in her recipe note. White vinegar added to the rinse cycle helps remove the residue. All in all, we like it. Maybe could use a little tinkering.
Room Freshening Mist
room freshening mist (makes ≈ 12 ounces)
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol
- 1/4 tsp lemon essential oil
- 1/4 tsp spearmint essential oil
- note: shake well before using
This one makes my world just a little bit better, every time I spray it. I’ve become even a bit --addicted, maybe? -- to spraying this room spray, and I’ve made up a number of different bottles. I keep one on the changing table, one in each bathroom, and one without the rubbing alcohol in the car (for the car I use peppermint oil, because it assists with carsickness). For tantalizing scent modifications, check out our follow-up blog with different essential oil combinations. I still love lavender with sweet orange, but 1/4 tsp lavender and 1/4 teaspoon rosemary also doubles as a calming spray, which makes everybody happy. Maddie is sticking with the spearmint and lemon for now. Does it make our house smell like a new-age bookstore -- or my college dorm room? Remarkably no, it just smells fresh to me. Maybe it’s because we left out the patchouli.
Blog Hopped on A Rural Journal
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