For some households, using homemade products for the home and for the body has been a long-lasting lifestyle choice as opposed to a trend that has intermittently taken the home-maker interwebs by storm. Indeed, there are is a spectrum on this …many feel that they don’t have the time or don’t wish to bother with the “making” portion of this…which is why the demand for natural cleaners – be they produced commercially or cottage industry style – has exploded. (We’ll share a couple of our favorite pre-made links at the end of this post.)
I must admit that I initially struggled with whether or not this was something worth taking on …as if I needed another “project”. At Christmas, my sweet friend Nancy, gifted me a jar of her homemade Laundry Detergent and raved about how easy it was to make and how well it worked. Yes, I did need to make a special trip to Millers Natural Foods in order to finish off my initial ingredient list. But now that I have all of the basics and know what I’ll need every so often, it’s a breeze.
So, why make your own cleaning products?
When asked, most converts will say that they made the switch for a combination of the desire to:
- reduce allergens/chemicals/toxins exposure to their family/pets
- reduce toxins in the environment
- reduce packaging waste
- save $$$
Although we’re not aware of personal allergies or immediate health problems in our family, we’ve been taking steps to remove chemical laden products from our home…little by little. I cannot honestly claim that we will have a chemical free home by this time next year, as I have a difficult time pitching items that still have use, but I do look forward to having a much simpler (and much more environmentally friendly) housecleaning supply zone.
We thought we’d start with products that we use often enough in our home and that required pretty simple ingredients that aren’t single-purpose items– Laundry Detergent, Scouring Powder and Glass Cleaner.
Our favorite Laundry Detergent uses the basic recipe from Wellness Mama. The amounts below are based on using 1 bar of the Fels-Naptha. We tripled the recipe for the simple fact that we’re keeping up with 3 busy children and 1 furry friend who all love to be outside. Fels-Naptha also makes a pretty impressive pre-treater for those tough stains…so I put the remnants into a jam jar topped with a colorful iLID – super convenient!
- 1 bar Fels-Naptha (finely grated)
- 1 cup Borax
- 1 cup Washing Soda
I’ve found that the simplest way to make this is in my food processer – but you can certainly just use the fine side of an ordinary grater. Using the grating blade first, I grated all my Fels-Naptha bars and poured the flakes into a large bowl. After replacing the grating blade with the chopping blade, I returned the flakes, added the Borax & Washing Soda and chopped until the 3 ingredients appeared to be sufficiently dispersed. If you use your processor, remember to allow the dust to settle before taking the cover off. Carefully pour you detergent into your container of choice and launder away!
How much do you need to use? Wellness Mama recommends 1 – 3 Tablespoons, depending on the size and soiled factor.
We like the Montana and Heritage Hill Jars to hold the laundry detergent, not just because of their capacity, but also because the lids lift off. However, if you’re tight on space, are doing smaller jars for gifting or don’t mind unscrewing the lid, the squared off Cracker Jars or Queenline Jars are equally as charming.
(Side note: There has been some confusion on the safety of Borax. See this post for the low-down and the basis for that confusion.)
We really like this Scouring Powder – also from Wellness Mama. It does the trick. If you have a pan that you know is going to take some serious elbow grease, dampen the burnt area, sprinkle some of your scouring powder on and let it set for a bit before scrubbing away.
Simply mix these together and they’re ready to go. I actually made a double batch used the quart jar to mix the ingredients, capped it with a Pour Cap and keep it under my sink for refilling. I poured some into an 8oz jam jar for at my sink. I topped the small jar with the Flip Cap and the Shaker Insert from the accessories kit.
- 1 cup baking soda
- ½ cup salt (not iodized)
- ½ cup washing soda
- You can add up to 5 drops of essential lemon oil for scent- but it’s entirely optional.
We found this Window & Glass Cleaner from Rodale’s Organic Life to be quite simple and effective.
- 2 cups Water (distilled/filtered if possible to decrease residue)
- 2 T Vinegar
- Up to 10 drops of essential oil of choice – entirely optional
- A few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap (Suggested for the first batch if you’re switching from the commercial products. It helps to break down the film that the others left behind. I opted for the one that contained Lavender to offset the vinegar scent.)
I use a 26oz jar because it’s just a little smaller (easier to hold and not as heavy) with our Adapta Sprayer. Really, any regular mouth jar will do. You simply trim the tube to fit the jar that you’ll be using – even one of those quilted jam jars would work.
If you are looking for some more specialized cleaners, Rodale has a collection of recipes for several natural cleaners. Whether you’re making your own dishwashing detergent or hand soap, our Adapta Pumps will turn any regular mouth mason jar into a dispenser – and can also be trimmed to fit the height of your jar!
Where to Find Supplies
While Dr. Bronner’s products and Fels-Naptha are not found in every average grocery market, you can usually find them in natural food stores which are becoming more and more prevalent, and of course, they can easily be found online.
Where to Purchase Pre-made Natural Cleaning Supplies
Don’t have the energy to tackle this on your own, but would like to use more natural products? Here are a few options:
While we’re partial to supporting the cottage industry makers, we know that their products are not often carried by the larger establishments, but online, in boutique storefronts, and at seasonal or weekly markets. So if you’re hoping to clean greener while supporting local makers, it may just require a little bit of investigation in your locale.
Natural Cleaning Products for our Lancaster Folks and Beyond:
Lemon Street Market carries a variety of natural and sustainable products and actually has a detergent refill station.
Rhubarb’s Market carries an extensive line of natural and/organic household products, most of which are commercially produced.
Millers Natural Foods in Bird-in-Hand also carries a wide selection of “finished product”, but also multi-purpose cleaning ingredients including Dr. Bronner’s products in volumes from 8oz to the gallon jugs.
Tandi’s Naturals offers natural cleaning products for the body and the home. They can be purchased online, but are also available in Lancaster (at Lemon Street Market) and in Philadelphia (Green Aisle Grocery, Weaver’s Way and more )
Learn more about some of these natural cleaning products here.