Going Natural – DIY Soft Scrub

Soft Scrub

This is another favorite.  I put this product to the test right away on the day that I made it.  I decided that my Easter present to my teenaged daughters would be to clean their bathroom for them.  I NEVER clean their bathroom and it is the source of much tension and conflict between them.  The result…nobody seems to clean it.  This job definitely put my cleaning products to the test.  I used the soft scrub on their tub and sink and just about every surface in the bathroom.  I just scooped some out onto a damp sponge and started scrubbing.  I couldn’t believe how well it worked.  A little bit went a long way, which was also very surprising.

I store this in a wide mouthed quart size Mason jar.  After about a week, I noticed it was starting to get thicker, so I assume it would eventually dry out if not used.  I just added about a Tablespoon of water and remixed it and it was fine again.  I don’t use Soft Scrub much because I tend to keep up on things like sinks and tubs.  When you keep up on them with All Purpose Cleaner or Cleaning Wipes, the Soft Scrub isn’t necessary that often.  However, I do like a sparkling sink and this works great.

2 cups baking soda
1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap
10 drops tea tree oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar

(Note: I did not have enough castile soap for this so I substituted a natural dish soap that I found in the same aisle at my Kroger.  It is MUCH less expensive and worked so well that I’m not sure I could justify the extra expense of castile soap.)

Soft Scrub

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT the vinegar into a paste (should be the consistency of frosting).  Once everything is mixed, add in the vinegar.  The vinegar will react with the baking soda and will make everything foam up.  Mix well and store in an air tight jar.

Going Natural – DIY All Purpose Cleaner

All Purpose Cleaner

I. Love. This. Cleaner.  It takes about 2 minutes to make.  It smells great and it cleans really well.  The best part is that I can spray it all over my kitchen counters and not worry at all about whether it will come in contact with food.

For this cleaner (and the other liquid cleaners), I recommend getting a kitchen funnel if you don’t have one.  I needed to buy one and the funnels I found in the kitchen aisle were expensive.  So I went over to the auto parts aisle at Walmart and found a small funnel for $0.98 that is perfect.  I also had to buy a spray bottle for this.  I found empty spray bottles in the cleaning supply aisle for $0.98.  Although this recipe does not fill the bottle, I have not doubled it yet because I want to make sure the shelf life is long enough to last through a double batch.

1/4 cup lemon juice (I buy organic lemon juice in big bottle at Costco because I use lemon juice all the time when I cook)
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
tea tree essential oil
lavender essential oil
1 tsp castile soap

All Purpose Cleaner

Just pour all the ingredients in a bottle and shake.

The castile soap and essential oils are listed as optional on the recipe I used.  I LOVE the smell of the oils so I did add them.  When I originally bought the oils, I bought lemon, lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus.  If you just want the basics, I would stick with lavender and lemon.  I will use tea tree as long as my original bottle lasts and then will probably switch to lemon.  Also, castile soap is an all natural soap that is great.  It is also VERY expensive.  We had enough on hand for this so I used it.  If you don’t have it, you could either substitute dish soap or just skip it.

Going Natural – DIY Dishwasher Cubes

Dishwasher Soap

This is one of the first things I found, and the product that has required the most experimentation.  We have used detergent “cubes” in our dishwasher.  They are more expensive but I just like the simplicity.  So when I saw a recipe for dishwasher soap cubes, it looked kind of fun.

The first mistake that I made is that I bought ice cube trays that made cubes that were too big for the soap compartment in my dishwasher.  I didn’t think this would matter because the blogs I read said to just toss the cube in the bottom of the washer.  Unfortunately, my dishwasher has a rinse cycle that would dissolve all the soap and then drain it so there was nothing left by the time the wash cycle started.  This little problem requires me to stand next to my dishwasher while the rinse cycle goes, then open it up after it drains and as it is filling back up for the wash cycle.  Not only is this a pain, but I have some sort of attention deficit disorder and NEVER get this right.  It took me 3 tries and 3 cubes to get it right one morning.  Long story.  The solution is to buy small ice cube trays and test them first.  I made ice cubes in the 2nd set of trays, then took an ice cube and made sure the soap compartment would close.  Now I just have to use up the first batch that I made.  If you don’t want to mess with this, I will give you the powder alternative at the end of this post.

1 cup Borax
1 Cup Super Washing Soda
1/4 cup Epsom salt (or kosher salt) – this is a natural “scrubber”
1/2 cup lemon juice

Dishwasher Cubes

Mix the dry ingredients first.  Then mix in the lemon juice so it is a wets all the dry ingredients and is mixed well.  Put scoops of this in ice cube trays and press down.  Let the mixture dry overnight.   I got over-eager in the first batch and tried to take them out after a couple of hours because they seemed dry on the top.  Those crumbled a lot.  The ones that I let sit overnight popped out of the trays very easily the next morning and didn’t crumble.

After using this for a few loads, we noticed that there was a film on the dishes, especially the plastic ones.  So I researched some more and discovered that vinegar is a great rinse agent.  I poured some in the rinse agent compartment in my dishwasher and the next load came out perfect.

If you want the dry powder alternative, use ½ cup of citric acid (found with canning supplies at the grocery store) instead of the lemon juice.  Citric acid is about $3 for 1 cup so it is more expensive than using lemon juice which I always have on hand.

September 2013 Update: I am still looking for a recipe that really works.  I have seen lots of posts out there with this (or a similar) recipe and they claim it works great.  But even with vinegar in the rinse compartment, my dishes still had a film.  I really like sparkling glasses, so am not using this anymore.

Citric Acid

Going Natural – DIY Fabric Softener

Fabric Softener

This is probably the product that had the most variety in options.  Many say to mix a bottle of your favorite conditioner with vinegar.  Some just said to put Vinegar in your Downy ball or the compartment for liquid fabric softener in your washer.  This is how I learned that Vinegar is a natural softener.  (By the way, baking soda is also a natural softener so the homemade laundry detergent will already have some softening properties).   For the variations that included conditioner, I learned that the conditioner was just for the smell.

I settled on a liquid recipe.  There are also many options out there for “dryer sheets” if you prefer that.  I thought they seemed like a bit of a hassle so wanted something that I could put in my Downy Ball.

1 cup distilled water
1 cup baking soda
2 cups distilled white vinegar
essential oils for fragrance (I used lavender)

Fabric Softener

IMPORTANT: This one is quite the chemistry experiment.  It is very important to mix the baking soda,  water, and essential oil into a paste FIRST.  Then SLOWLY pour in the vinegar. It will fizz up a lot so if you dump it all in at once, you will have a mess.

Once this is mixed, the baking soda will settle in the bottle.  Give it a good shake to mix it up each time you use it.  I use about ¼ cup in my Downy Ball.  Some sites say to use ½ cup but I have found that ¼ cup works just fine for us.

I use distilled water because I read on one site that it will reduce the likelihood of creating a petri dish with the natural ingredients.  I tend to think that vinegar would prevent this, but decided at $0.88 per gallon, distilled water was a good safeguard and I use it in all the products that call for water.

Going Natural – DIY Laundry Detergent

For those of you who follow my regular blog, please don’t go away!  I am diverting from my normal posts for a series on DIY natural cleaning products.  I want to break it into a series of posts so that people can easily find information on specific products later.   If you aren’t interested in this topic, please don’t unfollow this blog.  I will return to my regular programming after this cleaning intermission. J  Email followers, you will probably get a series of about 10 emails in pretty rapid succession as I plan to post these all at once.  Once the initial flurry is finished, my blog life will return to normal.

Laundry Detergent

This is the first DIY cleaning product that I saw.  Before that, it really hadn’t occurred to me to make my own.  My cousin posted this on her blog as a money saving alternative to store bought detergent.   When I started researching natural products in earnest, I was surprised to find that this fell into that category.  I have chosen to use Fels Naptha soap in this detergent because I felt that a laundry soap would be more effective.  However, I have seen variations that call for the milder Ivory soap or an store bought all natural soap (like Bronner’s soaps).   It is simple and very inexpensive to make, regardless of what soap you choose.

1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Super Washing Soda
1 Bar Fels Naptha soap

Laundry Soap

There are many different recommendations on how to mix this soap.  I tried several different ways, and after some trial and error came up with the following:

Mix the first two ingredients together.  Using a hand grater, grate the Fels Naptha soap.  It is yellow so will actually look like grated cheese.  Then put the grated soap in a food processor and pulse until it is broken down into a very fine “powder”.  Mix with the dry ingredients, close container and shake.

Many of the sites I found said to mix this in the blender, including the dry ingredients.  This did NOT work for me, and nearly burned out the motor in my blender.  I do not recommend this method. J

I found all 3 ingredients in the laundry soap aisle of Walmart.  The boxes of Borax and Super Washing Soda will easily make 6 batches.  The total cost for 6 batches (including 6 bars of soap) is about $12.50.  High Efficiency washers need about 1 Tablespoon of this.  I do NOT have a high efficiency washer so I use about a Tablespoon and a half (use more for heavily soiled clothes).  Each batch makes 3+ cups.  At 1 ½ Tablespoons per load, this translates to 32 loads.  Six batches should wash 192 loads.  Total cost per load is $.065 per load.

Additional note: I made some of this for a friend and she asked if it was good for sensitive skin.  That prompted me to Google “DIY natural laundry soap for sensitive skin”.  This exact recipe popped up in several blogs.  Comments on those DIY blogs indicate that it is indeed good for sensitive skin.  Some people commented that they have family members with extremely sensitive skin or eczema and that this worked great for them.  If you don’t want to take your chances, replacing the Fels Naptha with an different bar soap should eliminate any worry.

Going Natural – DIY Cleaning Introduction

For those of you who follow my regular blog, please don’t go away!  I am diverting from my normal posts for a series on DIY natural cleaning products.  I want to break it into a series of posts so that people can easily find information on specific products later.   If you aren’t interested in this topic, please don’t unfollow this blog.  I will return to my regular programming after this cleaning intermission.  Email followers, you will probably get a series of about 10 emails in pretty rapid succession as I plan to post these all at once.  Once the initial flurry is finished, my blog life will return to normal.  As soon as I get all the posts uploaded, the product list below will link to the related post.

Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Take care of your environment and take care of you.

A few weeks ago, I started researching natural cleaning products of the DIY variety.  I don’t know exactly what prompted it.  For a long time, I have made the effort to buy cleaning products that are labeled as environmentally friendly or “green” but they are expensive and I wasn’t convinced they were as good as they were purported to be (with the exception of the REALLY expensive stuff that I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on).  I was inconsistent to say the least.  Then a few months ago, my cousin, who has a great blog, wrote a post about DIY laundry detergent.  At the time, that seemed just a little over the top.  But I didn’t forget it.  I think she gets the credit for getting my wheels turning.

Pinterest is a great source of information, so I started pinning and researching and pinning some more.  I created a board for all the stuff I was finding.  I noticed that there were lots of common elements to the products.  Some had more focus on natural, others had more focus on DIY and saving money.  I decided to focus my research on DIY AND natural.

First, I’ll mention my key learning and then I will get into the actual products I have made and how I adjusted them to make them work after my first try.  First, I learned that vinegar is the bomb!  It does just about everything.  It disinfects, it sanitizes, it softens, it cleans and it is cheap!  I learned that baking soda is both a softener and can be an abrasive (like for sink cleaning).  I learned that Borax is a natural element that has been used for cleaning for a long long time.  I learned that washing soda is just baking soda that has been baked (or something like that).  This process increases its cleaning properties but maintains the natural characteristics.  I learned that essential oils have all kinds of aromatic, disinfecting and cleaning properties as well.  There are TONS out there.  I’ll tell you more about the ones I settled on later.  Essential oils are the only pricey ingredient that I have used.  Everything else that goes into these are either things I already have in my pantry or were very inexpensive.  All of the products could be made without them for the truly budget conscious, but I think they make a big difference in how my house smells.  In other words, the aromatics were important to me, especially since I learned that my kids hate the smell of vinegar.


The Supplies

Pinterest was great for finding lots of information, but when I got ready to actually make my first batch of products, I found it to be a bit disorganized.  Lots of sites list multiple products in a single post (or pin) and I started to have trouble finding the things I wanted to make in the midst of all the noise.  Because I had pinned everything I thought had promise or good information, I couldn’t find the things I wanted to make easily. For that reason, I will be breaking this into a series of posts.  This is the introduction.  After this, I will make one post per product so things don’t get lost in the shuffle.  It will also be the way I re-organize my own boards on Pinterest so my adjustments are easy for me to find later.

The products that I will be detailing are:

1)      Laundry detergent

2)      Liquid fabric softener

3)      Dishwasher cubes

4)      All Purpose Cleaner

5)      Soft Scrub

6)      Glass Cleaner

7)      Furniture Polish

8)      Cleaning Wipes


The Products

These are the products I have made so far and I love them all. I will be sure to tell you what makes my favorites so fabulous, but I really do like them all.  Click here to see or follow my “All Natural” Pinterest board.

04/09/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Live Another Day

Today’s advice is a re-blog from Ellie in Ireland.  She shared the story of a young man of 16 who is in his last months of life.  He is spending some of that time with an important message about the gift of life, specifically to those who give in to despair and take their own life.

Live another day.  What a great message.  Thanks Ellie!

But if you were 16 years old and knew you only had months to live, what would you do with your time?  Would you rush out and live it up as much as possible? Would you travel, go bungee jumping, go to concerts, parties and gigs with your friends?  What would you do? (click the link to read more and to see this young man’s interview)

Live Another Day.

4/2/13: Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Facebook is NOT real life

I gave up Facebook for Lent. I felt that I needed to do this because in the months leading up to Lent, Facebook had taken on a new dimension for me. I found that I was spending hours reading every article, watching every video and reacting to every divisive thing that I saw. Facebook debates were quickly becoming vicious, and even the “safe” ones, the ones among friends and like-minded people seemed to result in misunderstanding and hurt feelings. They certainly resulted in frustration for me. I was checking constantly…from my computer to my phone, regardless of where I was. I needed to know the latest thing that someone had posted on the last topic that had upset me. It just wasn’t healthy.

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, my daughter sang in church. She read Scripture aloud and I was moved to tears. I took a few pictures and videos and decided to end on a high note, a few days before Lent actually started. I posted those pictures and a video and signed off. In order to avoid temptation or the possibility of clicking on it by habit, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I soon realized how much of a reflex it had become for me to type Facebook in my computer browser or go to that app.

It turns out that I really didn’t miss it. The stress of dealing with all the drama was gone. I was still aware of it because even though I wasn’t on, occasionally, I would hear about a Facebook “battle” and I could feel the wobbly feeling in my stomach that I had become so familiar with as the “someone is wrong on the internet” button was pushed. What a relief that I didn’t have to go fight that battle, that I COULDN’T go fight that battle.

What did I learn from all this? During my Facebook fast, I learned that not only has Facebook become a stressor for me, but it had also become a crutch. I realized that there were people that I interact with on Facebook and although I may run into them at a school function or something, I had absolutely no other way to get in touch with them. I didn’t have their email or a phone number. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FIND ME TO GET ME MY GIRL SCOUT COOKIES??? (Facebook fast crisis #1: true story). There isn’t necessarily anything bad with using Facebook as the primary mode of getting in touch with someone, but the result was an unwanted DEPENDENCY on it. (Dependency on technology could be a whole post by itself).

What I really learned didn’t become apparent until Easter afternoon when I logged in again for the first time. It took me 30 minutes just to get through the news feed updates for about 1 day. I clicked on an article that someone had posted on some political or religious topic (can’t even remember what it was) and after reading a couple of sentences, I realized that if I let it, Facebook could suck my life away. Before I was done with that first login, an hour had passed…an hour I had intended to use for something else, an hour that was gone forever. What had I gained in that hour? I got to see some cute Easter pictures, which was nice. I got to get caught up on all the nice birthday wishes that people had left me. But other than that…I gained nothing. I didn’t get smarter. I didn’t become a better person, wife or mother. I didn’t learn anything new about the hot topics of the day that I hadn’t already heard by spending a few minutes listening to the news. The cute cartoons and shared pictures didn’t give me new insight into people or myself. All that happened is that I donated another hour of my life to Facebook. Dependency is the Facebook game. And Facebook is winning.

I realized then that the personal interactions I had over Lent with people far superseded anything I could get from Facebook. I learned that in order for people to feel “safe” discussing a highly charged topic on Facebook, a closed group was important. And closed groups tend to attract people who think similarly, and although valuable and interesting in some ways, also tend to create a group think atmosphere that ends up being more about my ego than a personal interaction would be.

I learned that you cannot possibly get to know someone by what they post on Facebook. We present a different persona to the “public” world than we present in our daily interactions with people. Life is glossed over and reduced to the latest accomplishment of our children, the latest vacation picture or what I had for lunch. The things that are really important to me, that really matter…my STORY can only be known from spending time with me. That time can be virtual, but it isn’t Facebook. Before you get upset, I’m not saying that the things we put on Facebook don’t matter, because when I see a picture of someone’s child and it makes me smile, that is good. It just isn’t real life. It isn’t the same as being in the same room as that child and hearing the giggle first hand and being a person that they KNOW.

At one point during the 40 day hiatus, Mark and I were talking about this and he said that Facebook is evil, and he wasn’t jesting. At first I thought that seemed over the top…but it made me think. Is it really good? Is it good that I have too easily replaced personal interaction with a computer screen? Have I judged someone or jumped to a conclusion or reduced someone to being not much more than the latest political/social stance they have taken? Have I let Facebook replace personhood with snippets of a life that may not even be real? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is yes. I have done all of those things. I have done them because I confused Facebook with real life and it just isn’t so.

I am not giving up Facebook altogether, because at the end of the day, I enjoy those pictures of people’s kids, and seeing what my distant cousins are up to, and seeing what kinds of quirky posts my beautiful goofy daughters put out there. I like sharing ideas about my latest project (natural cleaning products) and Facebook is a convenient forum to do that. I like being informed about school activities and parent groups and other organizations that use Facebook pages as another avenue of communication. I like having another place for my blog to live (after all, MAYBE I’m going to start using it again). But I am limiting what shows up on my news feed. I am not going to be watching videos and reading controversial articles and digging into whatever stance my friends may be FOR or AGAINST. I’ll leave those things for real conversation. At this point, I’m not re-installing the app on my phone. I can still access Facebook through the browser on my phone when I want to, but it is just inconvenient enough, less easy to navigate that I will be more deliberate about it. I am not going to turn my email notifications back on. I just don’t need THAT much notifying and I certainly don’t need any more reason to spend more time.

Please remember that what gets posted on social media is not the whole of you, and it also isn’t the whole of anyone else. It is just a snippet, a glimpse, a piece. Real life is more than that.

12/21/12: Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters ~ Don’t let your expectations steal your Joy

As seen in the posts of the past few days (here and here and here), this is one of those lessons that I had to learn the hard way…and then some.

And although I am still learning and struggling, today, I have a greater sense of understanding about how our expectations about where we SHOULD be, how we SHOULD feel, how the world SHOULD line up for us gets in the way of where we are.

Joy is not happiness.

Joy is the peace that comes from the knowledge that we are where we are supposed to be. In this moment.  Now.  Even if we don’t like it.  Joy is the deep knowledge of God’s grace.  Joy is finding the opportunity in the place where your hope and fear and happiness and pain intersect.  It sets aside what we want and what we expect and makes space for who we are meant to be.

Your opportunity in the place you are right now is not a mistake.  It might not feel good or comfortable, but it is not a mistake.  The real opportunity for you, the real joy, comes from how you respond to where you are, and is born from the acceptance that everything that has led you to this place and has prepared you.  It has prepared you to be exactly who you are right now.  The pain has prepared your heart for compassion.  The challenges have prepared you to overcome.  The loneliness has prepared you to reach out.  The roadblocks have prepared you to persevere.

Life is full of a mixture of pain and happiness, loneliness and contentment, peace and turmoil.  God uses all of those things to make you the person that He wants you to be.

Your expectations can make you miss it.  If you are too busy looking for what you want, what you expect, what you think you deserve, you may just miss the JOY that comes from the now, from this place, from the reality that combines all that you have been with all that you can be,  if you can just stop expecting and start accepting.  The you that is unencumbered by all the pressure of expectations is so much greater than the you who might miss it all.

Grace.  Joy.  You.

Don’t let your expectations steal any of them.

The “Joy” of Christmas

After the zen of my tree leaning decorating time with family, I headed to church on Sunday morning with an unusual sense of obligation.  After all, I had put it out there that I was feeling un-Christmas-like and I knew my community would not ignore that.  That’s what I get for being honest.  Oh well…off I go.

I sat down and the music started.  Christmas music.

I started to feel the lump in my throat grow, but I pushed it down.  I just didn’t want to cry.

As we were singing, something settled over me.  As best I can recollect, this was it: “This pain is ok.  How you feel is ok.  Your past, these feelings, your failures…they make you who you are.  I have turned that pain into your compassion, your empathy, your ability to feel so much.  That is My gift to you.  Without that pain, you wouldn’t be you.  When you understand someone, that is the gift that comes from your pain.  I have made you this way and it is all ok.”

And it WAS ok.  I didn’t feel a huge weight lifted. I didn’t hear angels singing, and I didn’t start feeling all “fa-la-la”.  But I was ok.  And in that moment, that was enough.

But God wasn’t going to leave anything to chance on this Sunday morning.

When all the announcements and songs were finished, Pastor Steve got up to teach.   I was stunned by the first part of his message so  I am not sure I will get this all right even though I was frantically trying to scribble it all down.  I’m not sure I can do it justice…but this is message (gift) I received.

On the 3rd Sunday of advent, we light the Joy candle.   JOY comes from the base Greek word,  “Charis” which means grace.  Joy does NOT mean happiness.  Instead, joy is the feeling that comes from knowing that we are in the midst of God’s grace.  Advent is the time of preparation.  All the circumstances of my life, even the dark places (no…ESPECIALLY the dark places), all the joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies have all brought me to this place, to be ready for a time such as now, to THIS time of Joy and preparation.

The state of living in the middle of God’s grace, being home there, no matter what it looks like,  THAT is joy.  Joy enables us to wait for what is to come, even if we don’t know what that is….and yes, to be ok with that.  In order to be ok with what is to come, we also have to be ok with what has gone before, all that has led us here.  Joy.

When we are looking for something we “expect”, like, I don’t know…specific Christmas-y feelings, we miss the moment for which we have been brought, the reason we are here.  <Note: These were not Steve’s exact words, but they reflect the combination of what I believe he said and how they translated for me.>

WHAT????  How did my pastor know all that stuff that had come into my head and heart before he even got up to speak??

Steve continued talking and I continued scribbling.   He said that the place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.  The intersection of hope and fear (and dare I say pain and happiness) is where we find what we are made for.

Now sometimes I know I can be dense.  And there have been times in my life (more than I like to think about) that God had to use a 2×4 to get my attention.  But on this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in advent, He just used Saturday tree decorating, some quiet thoughts and the compassionate words of my pastor to help me see without any doubt what He has been trying to tell me.

It is ok.  I don’t have to live up to any expected ideal of what Christmas is supposed to look like or feel like.  Reconnecting with my past hurts is my way to build heart connections to other people’s pain, so that I can be a more empathetic mom, a more compassionate friend, a more contented wife.  The expectations I have each holiday season have gotten in the way of seeing the grace and the beauty of the gifts my pain has brought.  The words that settled over me at the beginning of the service, combined with the words that were given to my pastor left no room for doubt.

I might still feel sad and lonely.  Expectations might still threaten to steal my peace and trick me into believing that I am not enough. Those things are ok, as long as I remember that those things are what brought me here, and this place, this time, this me is exactly where I am supposed to be, bah-humbug and all.

Tomorrow….some advice.

P.S.  If you are interested in hearing the entire audio of the Sunday message from Pastor Steve North, it can be found here.