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Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Making Household Products

In my unending quest to save money and make my home more baby-friendly, I have started making a lot of my household products like cleaners and a few health and beauty supplies.  This sounds really impressive at first, and you are welcome to think that, but in reality, it is a necessity for me as a way to cut back spending.  Also, some of these were complete failures, so maybe don't get too impressed just yet.

By the way, one of the reasons I was hesitant to start my blog again was that most of the ideas I try are things I got from other blogs, so it's not like I can say they were mine.  Plus, most people have already seen them on Pinterest, which is where 98% of my ideas come from.

Instead, here are some evaluations of the household products I have made and used.  I found these all on Pinterest.  Links to the sources are in the titles.

1)  Laundry Detergent

This is one of the things I am the most proud of making myself, even though like, our great-grandparents did this, and it was no big thing.  There are several variations on the recipe, but mine involves Borax, Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and Grated Fels Naptha bars.

Grated Soap:  Not as delicious as it appears.

(PROTIP:  Use a food processor to grate the bars of soap.  I grated them by hand the first time, and it took several days because my arm got so sore I had to stop.  Also, I'm a weakling, so maybe you could do it by hand without a problem.)

I store it in a Christmas popcorn tin that has a clear lid.  A batch costs like, $15 I think, and it lasts 6-9 months.  No kidding.  Even with us doing diaper laundry every night on top of regular laundry.  And it works on just about everything.  From Cricket's diapers to Brian's work uniforms.  Pretty cool.  Plus, no chemical additives, dyes, or fragrances, so I don't have to worry about sensitive skin.

2)  All-Purpose Spray

I have a couple of variations of this.  One is just a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water.  I infuse my vinegar with orange peels for 10 days first.  (Doesn't that sound so boss?  Throw that in a conversation sometime.)  I also have one recipe that uses orange vinegar, water, peroxide, and tea tree and lavender essential oils.  I like this one a little better because I feel like the peroxide helps kill germs a little better, along the tea tree oil, which is a natural antiseptic/antibacterial.  (NOTE:  The recipe in the link includes Castile soap, which you should NOT use with vinegar.  It de-saponifies it, making the soap useless.  Use a detergent like Dawn, or just leave it out.)  This spray works great at cutting grease in the kitchen, cleaning bathroom counters, or whatever else you use all-purpose spray for.  And it doesn't smell as bad as plain vinegar does.  I hate that smell.

3)  Dishwashing Detergent

This one was a flop.  I tried several versions, but apparently our water is just too hard, and I must use terrible, environmentally-detrimental chemicals.  The one I tried involved Epsom Salts, Baking Soda, Lemmi Shine, and Borax.  And dirty dishes.

4)  Deodorant

I actually did make this and use it a couple of times, and I think it worked really well.  But I stopped using it because I'm too much of a coward.  I'm afraid if I did use it and it didn't work, no one would tell me.

5)  Shaving Cream

This one worked ok, but not good enough that I would do it again.  The one I used required shampoo, conditioner, baby oil, water, and lotion.  It came out really thin, kinda gloopy, and hard to use, but too thick for a foaming soap pump.  I made it work by forcing it through the foaming pump, which made a noise like I was strangling a manatee every time I took a shower.  Not worth it.

6)  Dryer Balls

These are felted balls of wool that you put in the dryer and they bounce around, creating magical pockets of air that fluff your clothes and help dry them faster.  I made four balls out of one skein of yarn, but I didn't felt them enough the first time and they came apart. You are supposed to put the balls in a pantyhose sock and tie a knot between each one.  Then you put them in the washer on hot water and then dry them, still in the sock.  Repeat that a couple of times, and make sure you use hot water.  Very important.

These work really well, and you don't have to worry about chemicals on your clothes.  (I experimented with felting some raw wool onto one of them, which is why it has white spots.  It's not some type of dryer ball leprosy.)  Downside:  They are loud.

7)  Hairspray

I was super proud of this, and consequently super stubborn about admitting that it didn't really work.  I used it for a couple of months before I gave up and bought some that actually does something.  I mean, it works about as well as a spray bottle full of nice smelling water would work on your hair.  Supposedly you boil citrus fruit down, and the um...something in the fruit makes the hairspray sticky, and you add water and rubbing alcohol and it makes hairspray.  Except it didn't.  It might help lay down a few flyaways, but they are just gonna spring back up once it dries.  And also, I was always a little afraid of being swarmed by bees.

8)  Facial Astringent

This one I really like, and have actually made several batches of.  It's just lemon juice and witch hazel, but it's a lot cheaper than buying a bottle of specialty astringent.  Works well too, and since I have super sensitive, super temperamental skin, I'm a good test subject.  Oh, and the first time, I actually squeezed lemons by hand, but the pulp was annoying, so now I just use the bottled stuff.  Works fine.

9)  Room Air Freshener

Basically you just put baking soda in an open jar and add a few drops of essential oils and your house magically loses all bad odors and smells like whatever wholesome oil you chose to use.

Did not work.  At all.

After a few days, the spots where the oils had landed in the baking soda turned black, so either my house smells so bad that the air freshener actually died, or this is just not a great idea.  Maybe if you made like, a dozen of them, and put them all around...or you could just get a wax melter.  That works great.

10)  Bath Salts

This was from a blog intended for kids, but it is great for adults, too.  It's easy to make: it's just Epsom Salts, food coloring, and whichever essential oils you want to use.  This would be a great gift in a cute jar with a pretty tag.  I did eucalyptus to help Cricket when she has a cold, and I love it!

If you are interested in looking at any of the actual sites where I got these recipes, you can click the links in the titles, or they can all be found on my Mission Accomplished board on Pinterest.  It's where I pin all the things I have actually tried.  If you're on Pinterest, you should follow me, or at least follow that board, 'cause that's where the doable stuff is, and not the crazy stuff like how to make a chandelier out of toilet paper tubes or how to paint your nails to represent each individual dwarf from the Hobbit.


  1. Your 'Mission Accomplished' link has an extra - in the word Ive that makes the link break. I'm following that board though, and WOAH! I need to make one, too. Wonder if I'll be sad to see my "productivity?" Do you duplicate the pin for that board or edit it out of the original board?

    1. Thanks! I think I fixed it. No, I love having that board because 1) I feel like Pinterest is a giant checklist, so this makes me feel accomplished. And 2) I can always go back and look at the pins again if I need to recheck my sources.

      I repin the pin onto that board and then delete it out of the original board I had it in. That way people can see when I finish one.

  2. Do you ever scent your dryer balls with Lavender EO? I LOVE to do that with mine! Also, my hubby does not appreciate the loud factor of them :-/

    1. I haven't tried the scented oils yet, but I've heard they work well. I've actually gotten to where I prefer my laundry to not have a scent, but I need to try that. And yeah, the dryer balls take some getting used to. It's easier for me because they are down in the basement. If we were still in our old place and they were in our closet, I don't think we'd be able to use them. :o)