Category Archives: Cleaning

Taking it all OUT!

With our recent Celiac diagnoses and all of the reactions we are having, I am trying my hardest to take out not only all of the foods we are reacting to but also all household/personal care products (especially after I had such a bad reaction to lipstick)! We are doing this for the simple reason that the more ingredients we let into the house, the harder it is to determine which ones are causing the reactions. I have tried before to come up with “all-natural/diy” household and personal care products, but there were still several that I had not managed to find a decent substitute for. Now with my arthritis, I have had renewed determination to find reasonable substitutes!

Hand soap:Currently, we are using Dr. Bronner’s, but I have enough tallow in the freezer to make at least half a year supply of bar soap….so maybe I’ll get around to that at some point.

Shower soap: Again the kids and I are using Dr. Bronner’s (until I can get that bar soap made)! It has a nice lather and cleans well.

Shampoo: 1/4 cup milk (whole milk or coconut milk…the more fat the better), 1/3 Dr. Bronner’s, 1 tsp olive oil….this works really well! It produces a nice lather and doesn’t leave your hair dry and matted. I do find that I need to condition my hair once a week, but other than that I can’t tell much difference between this and shampoos I have used in the past!

Conditioner: dab a small amount of coconut oil in your hair (a tsp or two for me) and put on a shower cap for an hour while your hair soaks up the coconut oil. Then rinse/wash out. This works really well, but it is very easy to get too much! It feels like you haven’t put anything in your hair at all and that you need more coconut oil, but you do NOT!

Toothpaste: I tried a recipe I found online that used coconut oil and Dr. Bronner’s as a base, and absolutely hated it. I have concluded that the best choice is straight baking soda. It works well and surprisingly doesn’t taste that terrible (especially in comparison to the first recipe I tried)! My dad (and also my dentist) would like me to add some straight fluoride paste to the baking soda, but other than that, he thought the baking soda was a reasonable solution. Once I switched to the baking soda, I stopped having sore gums with occasional red patches. Dad said the patches looked like it was just some kind of irritation/inflammation (which would go along with all of my other symptoms). But, since starting the baking soda, I haven’t had any more trouble with it….so I guess we can mark that symptom off!!

Floss: Which brings us to floss….if you have ever looked closely at store bought floss, you will notice that there is stuff on the floss (I think mainly for flavoring). I decided to use some nylon thread I had leftover from a craft project. It is wider than regular cotton thready, doesn’t break, and has the same texture as store bought dental floss. This choice was also approved by my dad and dentist.

Deodorant: I had heard of the deodorant crystal, but I had never gotten around to trying it. Now I have, and I am REALLY pleased with the results!!! I had used Tom’s deodorant before, and it always left me stinky by the end of the day. While the deodorant crystal does not keep you from sweating, it does keep you from stinking (so word to the wise…don’t wear shirts that are tight under the arms or you will get big sweat marks). You can buy the crystal at Walmart for less than $5, and it lasts for an entire year!!

Hair Gel: All of the hair gel I had received as a barter for tutoring services had wheat in it… I had to get rid of it. Apparently finding a GF hair gel is fairly difficult…who knew?!? I ended up finding a recipe for flaxseed gel that you can use as a hair gel or as an egg replacement (killed two birds with one stone on that solution)! All you do is heat 1/8 cup of flaxseeds and 1 cup of water on the stove (stirring) for about 10 minutes. Then strain and cool. It keeps for at most a week, and it works really well! I am thinking about starting to make it using only 1 Tablespoon of flaxseeds and 1/2 cup of water just because I don’t use that much hair gel in a week!

Lip gloss: Currently, I am using plain old Vaseline. It is working just fine, but I would prefer to find something else….most of my other products are edible and that is what I would like to move towards. I tried coconut oil, but you need something that will rest on top of your lips without absorbing too quickly. I also tried lard one day (I was desperate). It worked better than coconut oil, but I had to keep reapplying it. I know there are recipes online that call for beeswax mix with other oils, but the Vaseline was convenient since I was traveling at the time so for now that’s what I am using.

Sugar scrub: I had to stick to the basics as far as personal care products due to time constraints (I can’t reproduce EVERYTHING they sell in the store). Lucky for me I’m a pretty low maintenance gal! However, I did make up a sugar scrub that I have enjoyed using on occasion! Take sugar, add oil till it is damp and any essential oils you prefer (I used almond), and enjoy!

*I should probably add at this point that I need to try a recipe for Sunblock I found (basically just add zinc oxide powder to your favorite lotion) and a recipe for Acne Treatment (I keep having a couple bumps come up every week or two that are really annoying). However, I just haven’t had the time yet….wonder why!?! It most certainly wouldn’t be our insane crazy diet where I have to make “eggs” and milk before I can even begin to think about making bread and then do a mountain of dishes before I think about cooking the next meal….no couldn’t be that! Maybe I’ll get to this sometime next month… :-)

Dishwasher detergent: I have tried homemade dishwasher detergent before but eventually the glasses would get cloudy, even if I used a vinegar rinse. I finally figured it out though…I was using too much baking soda! All you have to do is use a teaspoon or two of baking soda with a little vinegar for the rinse cycle. It works great!

Laundry soap: I have done several different kinds of laundry soap in the past: store bought, homemade liquid, homemade powdered, and now soap nuts. Apparently native American Indians in the western United States used to use the nuts from certain plants that actually contained sopanins (aka soap) within their fruit. Today you can order them online and use them in your washing machine. I have been very pleased with the soap nuts. I was also pleased with my homemade powder (a 50/50 mix of baking soda and borax) as well as just using a small amount of Dr. Bronner’s in the laundry. I think the thing I like the best about the soap nuts though is that I don’t end up with residual soap stuck in my laundry. It also makes the clothes softer without adding anything.

All-purpose cleaners: Ummm….I hate to say it but I really haven’t done that much cleaning recently (mostly because I am just trying to stay afloat with the cooking, dishes, laundry, etc. I am trying to make habit of vacuuming (gotta keep all of the bugs away since I cancelled the people that were spraying our house), dusting, and cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen once a week, but it’s a work in progress… When I have used homemade cleaning products in the past, I have used vinegar, baking soda, salt, as well as bleach and ammonia. I am trying to get away from the bleach and ammonia just because they are not recommended for consumption. However, there are some cleaning problems I have not managed to find a way around yet.

And that’s pretty much all we are using as far as personal care/household products goes! I am feeling A LOT better since taking all of this stuff out. I still have arthritis flare ups from time to time, so we are pursuing a few other avenues to try and better pin down my triggers and get my immune system back on track. Let me know if you try any of these or having any tried and true recipes to share (preferably that are edible)!

Redneck Dryer

I called my husband at work Friday to ask him where the bungee cords were… I could secure this…

my very own redneck dryer, I mean inside laundry line made of cotton yarn and attached to the wall with bungee cords. I have been trying to get back in the habit of line drying all of our clothes because our electric bill has gone through the roof since John was born. Some of it is the air conditioning, which I can’t do anything about because of the kids’ heat rashes. I think a lot of it is the dryer though because it vents through the roof, which makes it terribly inefficient. I have to dry loads for at least 2 full cycles! There is a special fan we could get, but I am kind of on the fence about it at the moment and would like to see how much we might potentially save with the fan versus line drying. So, I have been line drying all this month with the exception of two cycles; however, due to all of the tropical storms and intense humidity this has proven to be quite difficult. It is a sad day indeed when you hang wet clothes out to dry and they won’t dry because it is too humid!!!!

Another one bites the dust!

I have been slowly trying to reduce the number of toiletry items we buy. Not only does it save us money, but it also seems much more self-sufficient! Well, today another one bites the dust! I had gotten us down to: soap (now homemade), shampoo (the latest to bite the dust), deodorant, David’s aftershave, and my hair gel. Those are the only things we use on a daily basis (outside of razors), and I think we look and smell just fine!

A bar of my homemade soap after curing.

For the last several years I have used only Dove Sensitive Skin products because Dove is the brand Ob-Gyns recommend to help avoid hormone imbalances. (Some people are more sensitive to them than others and at different points in your life.) I had tried to use their soap to wash my hair previously, and I was just not pleased with the results. My hair seemed really dry. Today when I took a shower, I thought “Hmmm, I haven’t tried washing my hair with my nice, moisturizing homemade soap.” I tried it, and it worked great! I couldn’t tell a difference between that and using shampoo!!! David was pleased that it worked so well so he will be trying it in the near future. (Might I also mention that it is gentle enough to use on children once they understand to close their eyes.)

My hair by the end of the day (please excuse the poor evening lighting). Also, I decided that I cannot cut my own hair. David and Jessica’s yes, but not my own!

Next on my list is deodorant. I have been doing my research on this one, but have not finished checking out all of the options. The hair gel is likely to stay because I have almost a lifetime supply from when I bartered School Psychology services for haircuts and hair products. The aftershave I have not found a descent replacement for yet either. It may stay as well.

Making Soap!

This weekend I finally took the beef fat (tallow) out of the freezer and made soap the old fashioned way (using fat, lye, and water)! This was my first time making soap. I might have over done it on the safety gear! It really wasn’t as dangerous or as messy as people make it look as long as you know what you are doing (which I did since I had read Soap by Ann Bramson).

Me all decked out in my safety gear!

I chose to make castile soap. It called for 32 oz of water, 11 oz lye, 60 oz tallow, and 26 oz of olive oil. The ounces are measured using a scale NOT fluid ounces. This is very important!!!

The lye mixture

First I measured out the lye and water into a glass bowl that I had placed in the sink. Lye mixed with water gets very hot, very quickly so I didn’t want to have to move the container after mixing it! It was also important to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to make sure it got mixed well. Next I combined the tallow and olive oil by heating it in a large pot.

Combining the tallow and olive oil.

It is also very important what types of containers and spoons you use, because the lye mixture can “melt” aluminum pans due to its caustic nature. I chose to use an enamel pot (although I think you can also use stainless steel), a glass bowl (due to the intense heat), and a wooden spoon. Once the lye mixture and the oil mixture were both between 95 and 98 degrees, I combined them by slowly pouring the lye mixture into the oil mixture while stirring constantly. I stirred the mixture until it traced (meaning you could draw pictures with the droplets falling off the spoon), which took about an hour.

To protect my counter tops, I put down a towel covered with wax paper. It really wasn’t that messy. Next time I might just lay down a towel.


Finally I used a stainless steel measuring cup to scoop the soap out into a bunch of old 8 oz sour cream containers (and a few butter containers when I ran out!) I covered them with the lids and placed towels on top of the containers to trap in the heat.

The final product!


The next day I uncovered them and found this beautiful soap!! It needs to cure for at least 2-4 weeks before it will be ready to use. Currently it is laying out uncovered on top of my kitchen cabinets with a light towel over them to keep out dirt. In about a month, I will take the soap out of the molds. There may be a light, white dust covering the soap. This is called washing soda, basically a more intense form of baking soda. I can either use it as is or try to dust some of it off to use in the laundry. I personally wouldn’t use it for cooking. I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with it, but I am just not comfortable with it!

And there you have it! My first attempt at making soap! It was much easier than I had anticipated! It was also fun, educational, AND economical! What more can you ask for?!?!?! I already had pretty much all of the supplies in my kitchen, and the ingredients cost me very little in comparison to purchasing soap! The expense of making soap really comes down to how much you are willing to spend. The next recipe I would like to try would only cost me the price of the lye, unless I choose to make my own lye. Hmmmm… there’s a thought! Oh and if you were wondering what my husband’s reaction was to all of this, he said, “Wow, it actually feels like soap!”

Free Trash Bags

I quit buying garbage bags 2 years ago. I had thrown out our kitchen trashcan when we moved because it stank!! I started using old Wal-mart bags hung on a door knob just until I could get around to buying another trashcan; however, I never did get around to it! This has worked out particularly well when we use disposable diapers because the bags do not hold very much so it gets emptied about every other day! While a lot of people are going towards reusable grocery bags, I am saving money by reusing old plastic bags! Sometimes I get a rather large collection of plastic bags. I have considered crocheting handbags out of them. I have seen a couple patterns online that looked cute!

Reusable Swiffer Pads and Swiffer Dusters

I have mentioned several times before that I do NOT like cleaning! I love anything that makes the job easier when it absolutely MUST be done! Two tools I have fallen in love with are the Swiffer Wet Jet and the Swiffer Duster. The Swiffer Wet Jet is light weight with a lot of maneuverability. I particularly enjoyed it during my last pregnancy! The Swiffer Duster can be extended to reach high ceiling fans and is able to get into tight, hard to reach places. Again, I particularly enjoyed it during my last pregnancy! However, being the frugal person that I am, I do not like having to constantly buy disposable pads and dusters! Therefore, I got out my sewing machine, an old towel, an old t-shirt, and got to work creating my own washable Swiffer Wet Jet pads and Swiffer dusters!

To make the duster, I used an old t-shirt to cut out 7 rectangular pieces with fringe.

This is probably an unnecessary step, but I decided to put Fray Check around the edges.

Next I stitched each piece down the center to the center region of the base piece.

You can see the stitches I made on the back of the base piece. Finally I stitched some elastic on the back to slip the Swiffer Duster into.

To make the Wet Jet pad, I took an old towel and cut it so the Wet Jet would fit in the center.

Last I sewed the towel together like a mattress sheet.

I have used the wet jet pad multiple times and absolutely love it! The duster also works well but the disposable one is less bulky and does not attract dust quite as easily. However, it still works well enough that I would use my homemade version instead of buying more disposables.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

We have a dishwasher, but it doesn’t work very well. Typically I wash all of our dishes by hand and use our dishwasher as a giant dish drainer. Periodically, when it gets full, I run it more for sterilization purposes than anything. Recently, I discovered that I had run out of dishwasher detergent and found a great recipe for powdered dishwasher detergent on Thrifty Fun. It worked really well, and it uses ingredients we typically keep around our house!

You put equal parts of baking soda and borax in the soap dispenser in your dishwasher. (You can keep this premixed in a container.) Then sprinkle a little Fruit Fresh on top. (You should NOT add this to a premixed batch as it might cause it to get chunky.)

Then turn on your dishwasher! I have been very pleased with the results!

Treating Impossible Stains

Since Jessica was born, I seem to have more impossible stains in our laundry to deal with. After a lot of trial and error, I have concluded that there are two types of impossible stains with different treatment methods for each.

1) Colored stains that will not come out (coffee, spaghetti sauce, red juice, etc.)

For this type of stain I take a bucket and fill it with cold water. Then I add about 1/4 cup of bleach and mix. Then I let the item soak in the mixture until the stain is gone or mostly gone. You want to make sure that you can monitor it while it is soaking because if the item is left in the bucket for too long, it will fade. Also you do not want to have to do this too often on items with elastic because it will break down the elastic over time. While this diluted bleach mixture can be added to the washing machine, I do not do that anymore because it does not allow me as much control over how much bleach each item is getting.

2) Oil stains

Cooking with oil can be messy, particularly if you have other things going on at the same time! I tried several things to get these stains out of one of my favorite shirts. I was just about to relegate it to the rag bin when I found this solution: rub dawn (or similar dishwashing soap) into the stain and allow it to soak for 30 minutes in hot water before washing. Amazingly it works!!!!

The only kind of stain I have not been able to find a way to treat is the hard spots under the arms of my husband’s shirts. I have heard some ideas for preventing them, but I have not found anything that will get rid of them once they are there. If anyone else has heard of a way to get rid of these hard spots, please let me know!!!

Homemade Laundry Soap

We have recently changed several things about the way we do laundry. For starters, when we moved into our house, we noticed that it was taking several complete cycles to completely dry our clothes. My husband began doing some investigating and discovered that our dryer vents through the roof which makes any dryer incredibly inefficient. Unfortunately, that is not something we can change in the near future because it would involve fairly significant structural changes. Until then we have started trying to hang our laundry on a clothesline whenever possible (Sometimes we get so much rain that it is not really practical for a week!) It has worked out really well because it was taking the dryer so long to dry our clothes that sometimes they would start to smell so we are glad to not have to deal with that anymore!

I also decided recently to try making my own laundry detergent. First I heat 7 cups of water on the stove and melt .5 oz of grated soap in it. Then I pour the mixture into my container, add 4 Tablespoons of baking soda and 1 Tablespoon of borax, and shake well. So far so good!

I also made some other changes recently to the products that I keep in the laundry room. On the left is my bucket of clothespins for hanging laundry up to dry. Next I have a pink container that I use for my homemade laundry detergent. On the right I have two old gatorade containers of borax and baking soda. Both of these are ingredients in my homemade laundry detergent, but I frequently use them for other purposes. I usually put a couple tablespoons of borax in the bucket I soak cloth diapers in to act as a booster. I also will add a little baking soda to my wash cycle if the clothes are especially stinky. (or if they accidentally got left in the washer for too long!) In the front left is my mixture of 1 part fabric softener and 2 parts water with a sponge cut in half. I found this recipe online. It works pretty well when I can’t hang the clothes out to dry due to inclimate weather. I squeeze excess liquid out of both and throw them in the dryer. Finally, there is the bottle of bleach. Bleach was not a standard laundry product for me until my daughter was born. I try to avoid using it because it breaks down elastic, but it is nice to be able to get the inevitable stains out of clothing so it can be worn again by later children! More on treating stains later!

Spring Cleaning

I like to keep my house fairly tidy but as far as cleaning goes, I do a really good job in the spring and fall but that is about the extent of it! Of course I wash dishes, do laundry, pick up the food from under the highchair, wipe down counter tops and bathrooms from time to time, but for the most part we only do spring and fall cleaning.

I was thinking about this the other day after reading an article about where Spring Cleaning came from. Apparently people would keep things tidy and wipe down dishes after meals but actual cleaning was saved for one day at the beginning of spring. They would take everything outside to clean and air out. Since many homes used fireplaces for heat you can imagine the kind of dirt and smell that would collect on furnishings over a long winter! How different that is from today where people feel that their homes must be immaculate all of the time!

After reading some surveys on facebook and talking with friends the other day, and I have concluded that we have done ourselves a disservice. I can’t tell you how many friends I have who suffer with Obsessive Compulsive tendencies, with feelings of guilt, or with feeling like they can’t have friends over at the drop of a hat because of how dirty they think their homes are.

There is also this to be considered: Are we doing our children a disservice by raising them in practically sterile environments? I have heard it said, “A little dirt never hurt anyone.” In fact having a little dirt around actually helps us build up our resistance to disease!

However, probably the biggest thing to consider is: What are we giving up so that our homes can be immaculate? Is it our children, time with our spouses, doing something kind for someone else, time to sit and rejuvenate? At the end of life will it matter if you house was immaculate? I would argue no, but I would also argue that it will matter if you took time for your children, your spouse, to do something kind for someone else, and to take care of yourself. Make sure you are putting the big rocks into the jar first; the sand will fill in wherever room is left!