It’s been a month since our Green Cleaning Party when some friends joined me in trying out the recipes from Women’s Voices for the Earth. It was fun getting together and seeing everyone’s reactions to mixing up simpler versions of commercially produced household cleaners. The WVE nonprofit organization does an excellent job of explaining why making our own cleaners is a safer alternative to buying products with questionable ingredients. You can check out details of the health studies mentioned there. In reality, many of us buy ready-made products for convenience, because it’s what our mothers did, or because we find a sense of security in whatever that makers of the product are promising us. I understand that old habits are hard to break, even at my house. So, I wanted to share how things were working after a few weeks of rethinking cleaning products.
Overall, I am very content with the way the homemade cleaners work. I had already been doing a lot of cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, so the biggest change for me was adding essential oils to create more pleasant scents. I thought adding the oil to the vinegar and water all-purpose cleaner was really easy.
I especially liked the creamy soft scrub recipe for multiple reasons. Because I already tended to throw baking soda and vinegar in to scrub my bathtub, for instance, I was using a lot of baking soda. I thought the mixture with the Castile soap and vegetable glycerin suspended the baking soda so that I could clean even better without using so much. The recipe suggested spraying vinegar first on tough jobs before using the scrub. However, it was so good that I almost didn’t need the vinegar to get even a tough soap scum mess off of my husband’s shower. It is taking some getting used to storing the cleaner in a glass jar. I have to be more careful than if I had the typical plastic squirt bottle off the store shelf. I also have to be sure and rinse thoroughly to not leave baking soda residue. So, it’s a little more effort than with some cleaners, but it cleans very well. Most of all, I love not wondering about the health effects on my family.
Using the homemade laundry soap is all about changing old habits at my house. I got so busy being the host at the party that I did not mix up a batch of detergent for myself. Then when the week got busier, I bought another jug of ready-made stuff because I couldn’t find time to deal with it. Once I sat down and grated the bar of Castile soap and mixed it with the right amounts of dry ingredients, I found it was really easy to use. I can’t overload the washing machine like I might have with liquid soap. But in a normal-sized load, it worked well. In fact, I think the cleaning power on our everyday cottons is better than with the store-bought kind. I’m amazed, like some at the party observed, that you only need one tablespoon per load. Siobhan said her jeans washed just fine with the homemade detergent. I use the recommended additional soak with a hydrogen peroxide solution for whites, as well. Once again, there was a notation somewhere in the WVE materials that said to not use their detergent on delicates like silk or even wool. So, I understand the trepidation about using anything new on someone’s delicate fabrics. I think I’ll keep a bottle of a mild liquid detergent around for those instances.
Sue shared these comments about the cleaners in her own words:
“I’ve liked the stuff very much and find it works well. A few suggestions or comments though- the all purpose cleaner smells of the vinegar, so I would suggest using a stronger scent in it than the lavender I used. Additionally, it looks streaky while wet, but dries very nicely, so don’t panic at its first appearance! The vinegar smell also disappears when dry. As for the laundry detergent- I am very happy with it for all colors and whites. I don’t mind the glass jar at all, and in fact don’t even bother using a scoop or measuring spoon- I just pour out what appears to be 1 tablespoon. For me this is faster and easier than digging around in the detergent box for the scoop. The glass jar also works well to shake it up in before using, as some of the smaller particles work their way to the bottom of the jar over time.”
Sue mentioned the lavender oil. Although I love lavender, I agree that it’s not always strong enough to overpower the vinegar. I liked the eucalyptus, lemon and wintergreen oils for their fresh and natural scents.
If you stick with one scent, one little bottle of essential oil will last you a long time and prove economical. If you get excited, like I did, about trying several different kinds of essential oils, this could bust the thrifty angle of making your own cleaners.
At our house, we’re learning that simpler can be better when it comes to cleaning products. We will at least think about a compelling reason before buying a ready-made cleaner off the shelf. If I am going to purchase a product, I expect to see a complete list of ingredients on the label. I am looking forward to a new year of making my own cleaners as part of a normal routine.
I hope that more of the people who participated in the Green Cleaning party here or elsewhere will weigh in on how it’s working for them.