All Washed Up

In the interest of my family’s lungs and saving some dough, I’ve been sniffing around making my own cleaning supplies for the last few months. I’d pinned several different ideas and recipes on Pintrest and I also had an article from Craft Magazine starred in my google reader from 2009. I never had any real gumption around this project, until we ran out of kitchen cleaner a week ago. And all of a sudden we had nothing to wipe down the counters except Lysol wipes. And every time I used one I thought, “Wow, I wonder how much it just cost me to wipe down this counter?” (I’m totally a penny pincher in that regard). We had a leftover almost empty bottle of some kind of over-the-counter cleaner that we pulled out of the back of a cabinet to get us through until we could go to the store, but it smells awful every time it gets sprayed, and it actually aggravated my sinuses when I’d breathe. Not cool, kitchen cleaner. Not cool. Suddenly I had all the gumption I needed to work on making my own cleaners, so after some shopping research (which took me in total, about 1 week), here’s what I ended up with for the project:

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For you fellow list makers out there, here are the ingredients and where I was able to find them (some were surprisingly unavailable in every day stores):

  • Distilled White Vinegar (Publix)
  • A glass container for powdered Laundry Detergent (Target)
  • A new set of measuring spoons (you might not need that, but I did) (Target)
  • Borax Washing Powder (Ace Hardware)
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (Ace Hardware)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (Target)
  • Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castille Soap, Lavender (Target)
  • Four spray bottles (Dollar Store)
  • Fels Naptha Bar Soap (Ace Hardware)
  • Essential Oil, Lemon Scent (GNC)
  • Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soap, Lavender (Target)

And for anyone else doing their research, here are the websites I frequented for recipes:

I used Jolly Mom’s recipes for my cleaning sprays, and the Yellowbrick recipe for the laundry detergent.

First, I labeled the bottles with some Vera Bradley file labels I had leftover from last Christmas. I’ve used these labels everywhere since T got them for me, and since they’re cute I felt good about using them on my little cleaning bottles. I wanted to label the bottles first so I wouldn’t get confused as I added ingredients (all of the bottles are exactly the same without a label).

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Under the pretty labels, I added a plain white label that lists the recipe right on the bottle, so when I remake everything I can do it without my handy dandy laptop. I decided to make an All Purpose Cleaner, a Glass Cleaner, and a Disinfectant in my spray bottles.

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The Disinfectant was the easiest recipe by far. I did 2 cups of Hydrogen Peroxide, 2 cups of water, and 15 drops of essential oil. Put it all in your spray bottle and shake it up, baby.

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All Purpose Cleaner included 1/2 tsp washing soda, 1/2 tsp liquid Castille soap, 2 cups hot water, 10-15 drops essential oil. Same story, shake and bake.

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The Glass Cleaner called for 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp dish soap (I used what we had in the kitchen), and 10-15 drops essential oil.

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Next came the powder laundry detergent (which I was the most excited about!). I used 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of Washing Soda, and the whole bar of soap, grated into tiny pieces with a cheese grater.

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When I mixed the powders I had a lot of lovely lady lumps, which I definitely didn’t want. I was hoping for a really well blended mixture so that I got consistent results in the laundry, so I dug into that drawer in the kitchen that has some weird stuff that I never use.

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And I used this thing as my designated lump-breaker-upper.

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That helped a lot with the lumps. Thanks weird tool thingy! Next I grated up the bar of Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Soap. I had the Fels Naptha bar soap (which most recipes recommend), but it has a warning right on the label that says it’s irritating to skin and eyes, and we have some sensitive skin in our family. After reading through some comments I saw that a lot of people were subbing the Fels Naptha soap for Dove or other less abrasive soaps. I chose the Dr. Bronner’s because it was listed as an alternative and I’ve read really great things about it, and it smells yummy. Once the whole bar was grated I hand mixed it in with the washing powder combo, and I was done.

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Then I read back through my recipes are realized I had one spray bottle left and enough ingredients for one more spray that I would use often- it’s a Furniture Polish/Stainless Steel Cleaner.

You use 2 cups of oil (she says vegetable or olive is fine), 1 squeezed lemon, and 15 drops of essential oil (man that stuff came in handy for this experiment). So I mixed that up and added it to my fourth bottle.

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Now that I had all my super cool DIY cleaners made, I had to organize my cleaning cart and get rid of a ton of crap we never use. I’m not sure exactly how we accumulated fifty thousand cleaners that ironically sit and collect dust, but we did. I went through the little cart and removed anything that a) we had never used, or b) I’d just made to replace the chemical version.

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I was left with this:

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Isn’t that insane? Look at all the room we’d been waisting! I kept a few products that I wasn’t sure if I’d need or not- no sense in throwing away perfectly good stuff that you may need down the line. But anything else that we hadn’t touched in 6 months or more got tossed.

Here’s a close up of how the powder detergent turned out. The recipe recommends 1 tablespoon per load, but I’m using 2 on larger loads (like towels, mostly).

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We have High Efficiency machines (scored at Best Buy on a black Friday sale) so I was concerned about how this detergent would work. But every forum I read said that HE machines do better with “low suds” detergents, and happily, all DIY powder detergents are naturally low suds. I’ve got my 2nd load of towels in the washer now, and being the weirdo that I am I actually stopped the machine mid cycle to see what was going on in there. I couldn’t see any suds at all through the glass in the door, and I was kinda freaking out. But I’m happy to report that once I opened the door the laundry smelled like heaven, meaning the lavender soap was definitely doing it’s thang.

Ok so let’s see if I’m actually saving any money on this.

  • Borax $5.99
  • Washing Soda $4.99
  • Fels Naptha soap $1.49
  • Dr. Bronners Liquid Castille Soap $9.99
  • Dr. Bronners Bar Soap $4.49
  • Peroxide $0.69
  • White Vinegar $1.89
  • Essential Oil $5.00

Grand Total: $33.84

Since the Laundry Detergent recipe has 2 cups of powder plus the soap, and 1 cup = 16 tablespoons, it seems like I’ll get at least 32 loads per batch, which isn’t that impressive until you consider that I have enough of the powder stuff left over to do 4-5 more batches. In fact I have some of everything left over, plenty to do a whole other batch of the cleaners. For non-toxic cleaners that don’t hurt my lungs, I’ll take it any day!

This project was so super fun for me, I loved every part of it (especially smelling my first load of towels washed with my lavender laundry detergent-yum). I think this would be a cute gift if you could find pretty bottles and maybe print your labels online- maybe for a new mom who wants non-toxic cleaners? Or a grandparent who is sensitive to smelly sprays at home? Anyway I haven’t had a chance to try every cleaner, but I did use the All Purpose spray in the kitchen and I’m thrilled to report it easily handles tea stains on the counter and it smells magical. I’ll be truthful about the rest of the cleaners as I use them. Cross my heart.

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Filed under Before & After, DIY Decor, Home Improvement

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