NOTE: I have updated my recommendations here.
I’ve read for years about people who make their own soaps and cleaners, makeup, baby food, yogurt, etc. And I admit, I’ve been leery. Like, people who insist on making their own stuff are cheap-asses, right? Or Mother Earth hippies. And so much of the homemade crap never works as well as the store-bought stuff—deodorant comes to mind.
Then I got that effin’ you-know-what. People have theories about what makes cancer happen—we are certainly aware of some common carcinogens—but we really don’t know what causes a lot of killer diseases. I started taking a new look at the chemicals we have in our home and decided that, where possible, I would make some changes. I hate to admit that being “green” was actually secondary in my desire to change; I really just wanted to get rid of lots of ingredients that I can’t pronounce because WHO KNOWS what they’re doing to us?
I had to get past the “cheap-ass” part of the D-I-Y recipes and instructions that are widely available on the ‘net—that was a bigger challenge than finding some of odd ingredients. And honestly, I’m still not 100 percent convinced that D-I-Y is always the best solution. Here are the things I’ve tried and the results I’ve had.
I wrote about this one here. It totally worked like a charm, and we’ve been ant-free since a few days after I posted.
Vinegar and water, using newspaper or lint-free cloths to clean.
Ease: Eh. Easy enough. Put it in a spray bottle and clean away.
My thoughts: Nothing works like my all-time favorite. I’m sticking with the chemical-laden, aerosol solution for now. It smells a lot less like dyeing Easter eggs. I also don’t like the newspaper thing—messy.
Will I D-I-M again? No.
Borax, washing soda, Fels Naptha soap, water. Here’s the recipe I used.
Ease: It wasn’t as hard to find the ingredients as I expected, but this was a colossal effort involving feats of insanity. I mean, we had to shred and cook the soap. Cook the soap! I know!
My thoughts: It seems to clean as well as Tide, and it has a decent enough scent. The link says it’s 20¢ a gallon. I actually have no idea, but that sounds about right. Yes, it was a lot of work to make, but when I see how long it’s lasting, and how often I don’t have to make a trip to the store for detergent in the middle of a big laundry weekend… totally worth it.
Will I D-I-M again? Definitely.
Fabric SoftenerI decided to make reusable dryer sheets and change softener brands. I used instructions similar to these—water, liquid softener, pieces of fabric, and a lidded container. Dilute the softener in a baby wipes box and soak washcloths (that’s what I used) in it. I didn’t bother rolling them up to pop out of the wipes box—too much work. Instead, after washing a load of clothes, I wring a washcloth out a little and throw it in the dryer with the wet stuff. After drying, I put it back in the box to soak.
Ease: Very easy, but messy.
My thoughts: Two laundry-related things I hate are static cling and clean clothes that don’t smell fresh. I don’t like heavy scents, but I want my clothes to smell different coming out of the dryer than they did going into the washer. I love Downy and was not looking forward to changing softeners. I bought Ecover, one of the few all-natural liquid fabric softeners; it gets our clothes comparably soft, static-free, and smells fine.
Will I D-I-M again? Yes. The only thing I don’t like about this is having to wash my hands after wringing out the washcloth to toss into the dryer—we don’t have a sink in the laundry room. Oh, and the time Vic knocked the box off the table and it went SPLAT all over the floor? We now have the softest laundry room floor EVER.
Hardwood Floor Cleaner—Heavy-DutyThis isn’t the recipe I used, but I think it’s better than the one I followed.
Ease: Very simple.
My thoughts: The recipe I used had more soap in it and was awfully sudsy on the floor. It worked great and got through the paw print grime.
Will I D-I-M again? Probably, but not for everyday cleaning.
Carpet Spot RemoverThe instructions I found said to brush baking soda into the spot, then spray with vinegar/water mixture.
Ease: Simple enough.
My thoughts: This was a disaster. The soda turned into a paste and was virtually impossible to get out of the carpet. It might have taken the pet odors out, but it made a bigger mess than it was worth.
Will I D-I-M again? Not with this formula.
Shower CleanerThis is not the daily cleaner (see below); this is a regular ol’ shower cleanser. I’ve used Scrub-Free for years. I knew any change I made would definitely have to be easy (scrub-free or scrub-a-little). There are lots of recipes out there, but I chose a very simple one: 12 ounces warm vinegar and 10 ounces blue Dawn. It must be Dawn, and it must be blue. Combine in a spray bottle, shake gently, and spray the hell out of the shower. Let it sit for 30-90 minutes and sponge off.
Ease: Could not have been easier. Really. I spent more time looking for an empty spray bottle than I did blending this potion.
My thoughts: Even with the window and bathroom door wide open, I thought I might die from the overpowering vinegar smell. That can’t be good, can it? Yikes. Anyway, I directed the solution primarily to the glass shower doors because they get soap scummed-up quickly and heavily without regular cleaning. I let it sit for about an hour and then scrub-sponged it off. I probably could have just sponged it off, though—it really cut right through the film all on its own, probably even better than the Scrub-Free that I usually use.
Will I D-I-M again? Definitely. Some caveats: this makes for a very slippery shower floor and OMG, plug your nose.
Daily Shower SprayAgain, there are dozens of recipes out there for this stuff and they all seem to work. I chose this one, which contains water, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, Jet-Dry rinse agent, blue Dawn, and hate. I wanted something that could go in our automatic shower sprayer, which meant that it needed to be put in the special automatic shower sprayer bottle, and the cap does not come off the bottle easily because then nobody would buy their refills.
Ease: Pain. In. The. Ass. Mixing the ingredients was no problem, but getting them in the empty automatic shower sprayer bottle was a challenge. There are all kinds of instructions online to getting the damn cap off, but I couldn’t get anything to work. I finally gave up and used a small bottle with a very narrow nozzle tip to fill it up in the spray hole (heehee).
My thoughts: I did this one mostly because the automatic shower sprayer refill bottles are crazy-expensive. I didn’t calculate the price of this, but it’s way cheap. How’s that?
Will I D-I-M again? Yes, as long as it keeps working well. So far so good. I’ve heard that Rain-X on glass shower doors is also a great way to keep build-up off—that sure would be easier.
This was a simple little jar of baking soda with several drops of essential oil.
Ease: Yes. Easy.
My thoughts: It worked great if you held it directly under your nose. Not so much if you set it down and walked away.
Will I D-I-M again? Not with this recipe.
Hey, remember those Glade Solid air fresheners that your mom told you not to touch but you couldn’t resist sticking your fingers into them to feel their cold, squishy gross-ness? Me too.
Room Smell-Like-Williams-SonomaThis was a Pinterest find: a sliced lemon, some sprigs of rosemary, and two teaspoons of vanilla, simmered on the stove.
Ease: Slicing and turning on the stove. Can-do!
My thoughts: This combination is supposedly what Williams-Sonoma uses to make their store smell so delightful.
Will I D-I-M again? I haven’t given up, but I want to play a bit with the proportions, because while it made the kitchen smell great, the rest of the downstairs still smelled like dog butt.
Ease: The greatest of.
My thoughts: Witch Hazel doesn’t dry the skin like every other astringent (most of which contain alcohol) and is cheap.
Will I D-I-M again? I’ve been using this for years and have no intention of stopping.
What household D-I-Y recipes have you tried? How were your results?