I LOVE making things myself that you would normally have to buy in a store. Especially when it saves me money! I have a pretty scientific method for determining the awesomeness of a homemade project, based off of one simple question: “Is this something Laura Ingalls Wilder would have made?” Well, I have a project for you that, I feel, is on par with anything the Ingalls family did on “Little House on the Prarie!” (Except for the medical stuff…it was truly remarkable what they did back then with such limited medical equipment. Hats off to you Dr. Baker.)
I can take this yen for the homemade to a crazy extreme. I remember a period in my life where I desperately wanted to be able to mill my own grains into flour. I obsessed over grain mills online and dreamed of the day when I could buy rice and oats and turn them first into flour, and then into fabulous breads. The fact that I did not know how to make bread or really have the desire to learn never entered my mind. But I digress. I promise that this project is simple, practical, and very economical.
But first, let me back up a week.
Last week, my mom was kind enough to come over to my house to watch my two boys for a couple hours while I went to a doctors appointment. I’ve come to accept the fact that when I leave my mom alone, in my home, for more than two seconds, she will inevitable start cleaning something. A younger me might have been offended by this, but a few years and couple of kids later, I’ve come to embrace this habit for what it is: awesome.
When I came home last week, I found my mom up to her elbows in dirty water, scrubbing what appeared to be two screens of some sort. The fact that I couldn’t immediately identify the objects should have been my first clue that, whatever she was cleaning, should have been cleaned long, long ago.
It turned out they were the screens to the overhead exhaust fan of my gas range. To say I’ve never cleaned them would be a gross (pun intended) understatement. I didn’t even know they existed. But wait, it gets worse. For about a month now, I’ve had little specks on my backsplash that I assumed were from the plug-in wax fragrance thingy that I have on the back of my stove. Wrong. It was oil that was dripping from the before mentioned, never cleaned, overhead exhaust fan. Eww.
“Did you know that not cleaning this can cause a grease fire?” asked mom.
“Uhhhhhh,” said I.
You get the picture. It was embarrassing…but also inspiring! After I recovered from my shame, I sprung into action. I decided that even though there was 10 feet of snow outside, I was going to do some spring cleaning. And, because I use a lot of homemade cleaning products, I thought I’d share some of my favorite cleaning tips and recipes. The most exciting of which, is a brand new recipe that I tried out this week to great success-homemade hand soap! I turned $5 worth of ingredients into one gallon of hand soap! I’m very excited to share this new recipe with you, along with some other tried and true cleaning tips. I hope you find something new and useful here, and maybe inspire you to do a little spring cleaning yourself!
His Girl Friday’s Cleaning Tips, Tricks and Recipes
1. One of the simplest and most refreshing things you can do this time of year is to throw open you windows and let some fresh air in! Because there are no bugs, pollen or other things floating through the air (other than snow, and you might want to wait on that to clear before doing this), you don’t need to worry about having screens in your windows. Just open them up and let the fresh air and sunshine fill your home!
2. One trick that I learned from my mom is again, very simple but very effective. Take a saucepan, fill it with water, add some vanilla and turn the stove on low and you have a wonderful, natural, homemade kitchen refresher! Now, if you want to get fancy you can also add cinnamon and orange peels. I’ve also done a combination of orange peel and fresh rosemary that was delightful. Experiment and see what combinations you like best!
3. For about a year now, I’ve practiced a cleaning principle that I find highly effective in staying on top of the clutter that can easily over take our homes. The principle is this-never leave a room empty handed. Always pick up something from the room you are leaving that doesn’t belong, and take it with you to be returned to it’s proper place. Try it. I’m telling you, it will revolutionize your life!
4. Make your own all purpose cleaning spray. There are a lot of recipes online for cleaning sprays, but here is a simple one that doesn’t require buying a lot of unusual ingredients:
All Purpose Cleaning Spray
1 3/4 C water
1/4 C white vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
8-10 drops of essential oil (I like lavender or grapefruit)
Add everything to a spray bottle, give it a good shake and you are good to go! Simply swirl to re-combine ingredients before each use.
5. Make your own bath/sink/tile cleaner. I LOVE this recipe. It makes a lot and works beautifully. I store mine in a clean yogurt container. I made this almost two years ago and I am just now almost out. (I know what your thinking, that doesn’t mean much coming from the girl who never cleans her exhaust fan screens, but honestly, I’m much more responsible about cleaning my bathrooms. I promise.)
1/3 C baking soda
1/2 C Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (I use the lavender scented one)
2 TB white vinegar
1/2 C water
a few drops of tea tree essential oil
Mix together and store in a plastic container. To use, sprinkle on surface and scrub with a damp rag. I find that it takes exactly the same amount of scrubbing to clean a surface as it would if you were using Softsoap or some other name brand cleaning product.
6. And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for…here is the recipe for making your own hand soap! This was so simple that even if you aren’t really in to making things yourself, I guarantee you will still find satisfaction in whipping up a batch of this hand soap.
1. Grate your soap. You can use any kind of soap, although other sites mention that Dove is not a great choice.
2. Pour your distilled water into a large stock pan and turn on medium low heat. Keep your empty gallon jug.
3. Pour your grated soap into the stock pan and stir until melted. Add the glycerin.Do not boil.
4. Remove from heat and let set for 12-24 hours. The soap is ready when you are able to put a spoon on top and it doesn’t sink right away, or sinks very slowly. (What I’m trying to say is the soap should be thick and hand-soap like ;-). It should also have a milky-white appearance.
5. Pour soap into containers, or into your reserved gallon jug. Enjoy!
A Few Notes
♥ I chose to use a glycerin based soap. It was inexpensive at $1.99, had a wonderful honeysuckle scent, and had the added bonus of being vegan. (Note to all my vegan friends, most glycerin based soaps are vegan friendly.)
♥ I found glycerin at a local craft store with the soap making materials. However, I paid $3 for my tiny little bottle, which after doing some more research, I’ve discovered was a total rip-off. You can look for a much larger bottle for the same price at Walmart or drugstores. Just look in the first aid isle near the bandaids or the rubbing alcohol.
♥ My first attempt turned out too runny. I made the mistake of only using one bar of 4 oz soap. I simply grated another bar, reheated the original mixture, added the additional bar, and allowed to re-cool. It was perfect after that.
Your cooled soap will look like this. My spatula floated on top because it was the appropriate thickness, and the soap had cooled to a milky-white color. I’ve read that it can potentially be lumpy. If this happens, simply hand whisk or blend until the lumps are gone.
So there you have it. I hope you’ve been inspired to make some of these recipes. As always, I’d love to hear from you! Share your own cleaning tips, let me know how you liked (or didn’t like) something you tried, or ask me additional questions about these recipes.