Experiments In Homemade Home Products

This was a busy weekend, and a rather self-imposed one at that.  Saturday I had a great burst of energy, and I decided to try out some recipes I have found for various home cleaning products.  And I have not one photo to document it all because I never remember until afterwards.  *sigh*.  Next time.

My reasoning for trying out these recipes is simple.  I want to see if things I can make at home cheaply and simply can compare to those which I’ve bought in the store.  I’m not trying to see if they’re better, just if they can compare.

Laundry Soap

I’ve been using Tide Free & Clear powdered detergent for a while, it works pretty well.  Since it comes in a nice recycled cardboard box there’s nothing bad I can say about it.  For comparison, I made my own with washing soda, borax, and soap flakes.

  • 1/2 cup borax
  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup soap flakes (approx 1 bar grated solid soap).

Combine all 3 in a bowl.  Stir with a spoon, which will further break down the grated soap, until it’s all powdery-looking.  Use 1-2 Tablespoons per load, 1/4-1/2 cup for more soiled loads.  I’ve been told it works with HE front loaders too.  For step-by-step pictures and more information, try this blog, which uses the same recipe.

The borax is easy to find.  The washing soda is very hard to find here in NJ.  It’s an arm & hammer product, but nobody carries it.  I found it online here at Ace Hardware, and went to my local Ace store to pick some up.  They didn’t have any in stock but happily transferred it to their store for me so I didn’t have to pay shipping.  I used a bar of Dr. Bronner’s unscented castille soap, grated fine on my old cheese grater.

The laundry soap works fine, but don’t expect bubbles.  That’s actually why it’s ok for HE front loaders, because it doesn’t suds up.  I don’t have hard water, so the soap powder seems to break down fine, even in cold water.  (With harder water you might need to try a liquid version, which uses the same ingredients but mixes them with hot water.)  The clothes came out clean and non-smelly.  I was working on blacks, so I wasn’t especially looking for stain removal, though honestly I don’t get good stain removal with the commercial brands anyway.

Initial assessment: Success.  Works fine as basic laundry soap, using a fraction of the amount and at a seriously reduced cost.  I think I found it worked out online to be less than $0.05 per load.

Stovetop Cleaner

I’m terrible at getting around to cleaning my stovetop.  The food gets baked on  long before I get to it, so when I clean it’s usually a big long ordeal.  I decided to compare Dawn Power Dissolver to a Lemon and some coarse kosher salt.  I cleaned one side of the stove with each method.

With lemon and salt, you put a small pile of the coarse salt down, and use a half of a lemon and grind the salt into the surface.  The salt provides the scrubbing, the lemon provides the grease cutting and makes a darn good scrub handle.  The lemon and salt requires scrubbing time, that’s for sure.  You scrub, move to another part and let the lemon juice/salt soak in a bit more until you get back to it.  Then you take a rag and scoop up the salt and put it in the sink, rinsing out the rag and going back to rinse the stovetop and make sure you get up all the salt. However, it worked very well.  The stove was nice and clean, with the exception of my #1 burner, which had the most severely baked-on spots.  About half the baked-on stuff was still there, and will require more drastic measures if I want to clean it off.  Total elapsed time was about 10 minutes.

With the Dawn product, you spray the stovetop and walk away.  I loaded the dishwasher for about 5 minutes and returned and started to wipe the area with a wet rag.  Basically, it took me several minutes of scooping this gook off of the stovetop, rinsing the rag out in the sink until it wasn’t gooky anymore, then grabbing more gook.  I didn’t put a ton on the surface, but it sure took quite a while to get it off.  Once it was wiped off properly it looked nice and clean.  The front burner which had some more blackened baked-on spots did not come completely clean, but about half of it was gone.  Total elapsed time was again 10 minutes.

Initial assessment: Success.  Both methods got the stovetop clean with the exception of the severely burnt portions.  Both took about the same amount of time, though the commercial product did require less elbow grease.  The lemon and salt, however, is nontoxic and nonirritant and I don’t mind the thought of it going down the drain into the water supply.

All Purpose Cleaner

I tried making an all purpose spray cleaner to use on appliances, comparing to an all-purpose “green” product by S.C. Johnson.  I used each on one half of the front of the stove.  I started out with this simple recipe:

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon borax

The borax is dissolved in the hot water, then added to the spray bottle with the vinegar.

In all, it wasn’t the greatest recipe.  After an initial attempt at the side of the stove, I added a couple drops of liquid dish soap to the mix, to give it slightly more sticking/washing power.  That helped.  I used a basic microfiber cleaning cloth, wet.  It cleaned the front of the stove, though it was kind of streaky, I think due to the high water content.

The green cleaner I used the same wet (but rinsed) microfiber cloth, it cleaned the front but was just as streaky as the other side, probably from the wet rag.

Initial Assessment: Success.  I’d have to say both sides were pretty equal in cleanliness.  I’d like to play with the recipe a bit, I think there are some definite improvements to be made with some essential oils for degreasing.

Glass Cleaner

Glass cleaner is basically like all purpose cleaner, except it doesn’t include the borax, and I added a few drops of lemon essential oil.  I didn’t do a comparative study on this because I don’t have any dedicated glass cleaner on hand.  This time I used the same microfiber cloth as in the previous experiments, but I used it dry.  So I sprayed the cleaner on the window and then wiped it off with the dry microfiber cloth.  This cleaned the window and cleaned up any streaks.  Really I think it was the cloth that did most of the good work, but it worked just fine with the cheap home-made cleaner.

In summary:

As far as surface cleaning goes, I think it really doesn’t matter so much what products you use, the commercial ones aren’t noticeably better than the homemade ones.  And the homemade ones are generally a fraction of the cost and are non-toxic.  What really seems to matter is the tools, in these experiments most notably a set of good microfiber cloths, one for the washing and one for the drying.

Leave a Reply