Two Basic Cleaners

So let’s start with cleaning your home. I find people are more comfortable making the initial switch to DIY with basic cleaners, as these are both the simplest and cheapest recipes.

These are also the most toxic products in your home, and therefore are in my opinion the most important to replace. If you have small children around, family members with respiratory issues or allergies, you may find making the switch to natural cleaning products gives you peace of mind.

Let’s get started with the two basic cleaners that do almost all the general cleaning jobs in my home! Get ready for the simplest recipe of them all, my…..

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER:

Find yourself an empty spray bottle. Fill with:

1 Part White vinegar
1 Part Water
10 Drops Tea Tree essential oil

Shake well, and spray away! The vinegar and tea tree are both antimicrobial agents, the vinegar being acidic, and the tea tree working naturally to eliminate bacteria. Worried about your home smelling like vinegar? Don’t! The smell absolutely does not linger, and you will get more and more used to it during use. I add citronella to my cleaner sometimes which I find masks the vinegar smell very well during use.

What can you use it for? Spills in the kitchen, a tile or laminate cleaner, surface cleaner for your bathroom, mirror cleaner, and a disinfectant for toys. You name it! Stuck on mess? Spray and let it soak. Need a more abrasive cleaner? Coming up!

TOUGH SCRUB – BATH & TOILET BOWL CLEANER:

Need an abrasive cleaner for that brown ring in your tub, or stubborn stains in your toilet bowl? A really stuck on mess that your all purpose spray can’t handle? Try this recipe on for size.

I find this product dispenses great from one of those large costco size herb / spice shakers with the large holes. Grab one of those, or something similar that you can shake this product out of, and add:

1 Part Washing Soda
1 Part Baking Soda
1 Part Borax*

Mix these ingredients well (if you find you are breathing in a lot of dust from the ingredients, wear a mask or tie a scarf around your face while you are mixing, or mix them on your stove with the exhaust fan running. Although these ingredients are generally benign, it’s not great to be breathing in a large amount of any kind of particulate).

Scrub your toilet or bath with this mixture and they will be clean in no time, with very little elbow grease! If you are cleaning a dry surface, you will want to use a bit of water with this! For your tub, after cleaning, spray down with your all purpose cleaner and rinse well – the sodas can be slippery. The vinegar in the all purpose cleaner will neutralize the sodas so you don’t slip in the shower! For really stuck on messes, scrub with this mixture, and then spray with the vinegar cleaner, and scrub again – this creates a fun foaming reaction that lifts off messes no problem!

*If you would like a borax free recipe, simply replace the borax with an equal part washing soda. I find the borax just gives it that extra kick, but isn’t fully necessary.

Is your laundry toxic?

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There is much discussion online about the toxicity of commercial laundry detergent – and after some research, while my son was still in cloth diapers and developing rashes, I decided to make the switch to a homemade recipe – some of the commercially available “less toxic” alternatives still have some major chemical offenders in them, or at the very least, are super expensive, and usually contain a scent of some kind.

For a thorough discussion of the toxicity of many household products, especially laundry detergent, see this article. Since this guy breaks it down like nobody’s business, rather than discussing the dangers of commercial detergent, and dryer sheets, I am instead going to give you a safe, easy alternative – proven gentle for even my little guy’s tush.

What you need (click on “Sourcing Ingredients” in the page header for links in regards to where to buy these if you have trouble finding them, or click the affiliate links below):

Baking soda
Washing soda
Soap flakes
White Vinegar
OPTIONAL: Borax*

*Disclaimer: There is some controversy as to the relative safety of Borax – I fall on the side of it being safe enough for my family, and definitely much safer than the alternatives in commercial detergent. However, you may choose to do some research first. I have found this article to be amazingly helpful.

So all you are going to need to do is combine your ingredients (I use an old big honey tub – some relatively large plastic or glass container that can live in your laundry room is best!) at the following ratio:

For very sensitive skin, or very dark colours: 2 parts baking soda, 1 part washing soda, 1 part soap flakes. Stir or shake well to evenly distribute. About 3 tbsp per average load – but experiment with quantity if you find it is not enough / or too much (ie. there is residue on your clothes).

For tougher jobs, and lighter colours: (Read: construction clothes, stinky sports gear, tough stains / dirt). Combine 4 parts washing soda, 2 parts soap flakes, 1 part borax. Again, combine and mix well to distribute the ingredients. Three tbsp per load or so. The vinegar rinse, as described below, is especially helpful for these tough jobs.

Add a tablespoon of borax* to a load if you want some extra whitening power and are using the sensitive skin recipe. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to your rinse cycle (when the water is full) if you want to completely strip any residue at all from the clothes. Vinegar also acts as a natural fabric softener / anti-static agent. It won’t leave a scent – if it does, you’ve added too much. You can even add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice to the rinse cycle if you would like a mild scent to your clothes. I add tea tree when dealing with a particularly nasty load (read: poop or puke).

IMPORTANT: DO NOT add the vinegar to your wash cycle, or it will neutralize the cleaning ingredients.
*If someone still develops a sensitivity, remove the borax.

And there you have it! I hope your laundry washing days are a lot less toxic. And dryer sheets? I find I don’t need them at all with this detergent, and the vinegar rinse. Still, if you find things still come out a bit clingy – see this link to make your own felted dryer balls!

What the heck is ‘no-poo’, anyway?

So I have replaced my shampoo with a very simple alternative, and have been going strong for months now. It’s called ‘no-poo’, and it’s trending, even among some celebs. How many ingredients do you need? Three! Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and….wait for it…..water. You will also need two shampoo bottle sized squirt-able bottles. I used my old dishsoap bottles. A bit of the essential oil of your choice if you so desire. The howto? Up next!

Start with mixing, in the first bottle, about 3 – 4 tbsp of baking soda to about 3 cups of water. Experiment to get the dilution that feels right in your hair. I like a bit heavier concentration. Shake it up before use – depending on how much hair you have (I have very little), your bottle may last a few uses or many.

In the second bottle, mix about one part apple cider vinegar to one part water. Reduce ACV if you find this too strong. Add about 5-10 drops of the essential oil of your choice if you want to mask the vinegar smell during use (it doesn’t linger on your hair afterwards, so the scent is mainly for your own benefit).

Wet hair. Apply the baking soda mixture to your hair so it is saturated with the stuff and massage in. Next, saturate your hair with the apple cider vinegar mixture and massage again. The reaction between the baking soda (a base) and the vinegar (an acid) creates a wonderfully pH neutral environment in your hair, leaving it silky smooth and healthy with no residue. Rinse thoroughly!

You can also experiment with adding some vegetable glycerin (about 1 tbsp) to your baking soda mix for extra moisture. Furthermore, some folks choose to rinse each step separately instead of combining the two. And others skip the ACV entirely. You do what feels right for you hair – after experimenting a bit, you will get used to what works for you!

According to some, there may be an ‘adjustment period’ (anywhere from a few days to a few weeks) where your hair’s natural oils (which have been stripped with traditional shampoo) come in a little strong, and you may get a slight oiliness to your hair. Once your hair adjusts to not having the oils stripped from it so frequently, the oil will tone itself down. I myself didn’t notice this happen with my hair, but the warning is due as I have heard that this happens!

No parabens or other harsh chemicals for your hair, just good, clean, natural ingredients that pH balance your hair and scalp! Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

UPDATE 01/06/2014: I have had some questions re: using No-poo on colour treated hair. From researching folks’ anecdotes on many a forum, it seems to be either a non-issue, or to protect your colour BETTER than shampoo. If in doubt, use a lower concentration of baking soda.

Beautiful baking soda!

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Baking soda is such a versatile and essential ingredient for your DIY adventures that I thought I would start by paying homage to it with my first post. Created by carbonating soda ash dissolved in water, this simple, benign salt is safe enough to eat! Not to many readily accessible, and super cheap. Because a simple google search will yield many a page listing the never ending uses for this ingredient, I have decided to list my top five.

1). As the main active ingredient in my homemade toothpaste! I cannot go back to conventional toothpaste after using baking soda. My friends always comment on how shiny white my teeth are, my mouth feels unbelievably fresh – and I am no longer ingesting the harmful, unnecessary ingredients in most storebought toothpaste. Even many of the “natural” alternatives turn out to be not that natural. Toothpaste win!

2). In combination with vinegar as an emergency carpet / upholstery cleaner. Cat barf on the sofa? Get off the bulk, Shake on some straight baking soda, let it sit, spray on some vinegar, rub with a brush, and then remove any residue with a wet cloth. Stain be gone! CAUTION: Spot test – some materials will whiten with the use of baking soda.

3). In my homemade deodorant! Wow, does baking soda pack some stank fighting power. My hubby has been known to be BO free even after a few days – with just one application!

4). As a main ingredient in a super gentle laundry detergent for sensitive skin! Love those baby bums and bellies while still combatting poopy diapers and spit up soaked clothes with the powers of baking soda!

5). A stinky shoe deodorizer! Shake a good amount of baking soda in your hubby’s workboots or your son’s hockey skates to kill that odor without any of the nasty chemicals in things like febreeze.

Oh baking soda, how I love thee. Grab some quick before you start your DIY journey – you’re gonna need it!