You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

a successful Experiment in DIY Cleaning Products

In the interests of living naturally, sustainably, saving the earth, etc., I know it's a good thing to make your own cleaning products rather than buying pre-packaged substances of questionable origin and consequence. I have made and used homemade cleaning products before, and I knew all the amazing things you could do with vinegar and bicarb soda, but I'd somehow fallen back into the habit of using supermarket preparations for convenience. It happens when you're travelling, and it's not really very practical to buy all the ingredients and make up a whole batch of a product, when you can just buy a little packet of something all ready to go.

Enter blog inspiration. I saw a post about a lady making her own spray cleaning product out of basic ingredients. The one I wasn't familiar with was borax. I had a little google around and read many different homemade recipes for spray cleaners, laundry soaps, dishwashing products, etc. They all varied around a basic theme and I really had to check out this borax stuff. Turns out, it's the extra kick that the vinegar-and-bicarb never quite had.  I didn't measure ingredients or follow a recipe specifically, so much as just intuitively mix together the ingredients, keeping in mind everything I had read about all the different varieties. I hit the jackpot first try. This stuff is the best spray cleaner I have ever used, seriously. My battled-scarred old wooden kitchen bench looks cleaner that it ever has. The cleaning cloths dry out and stay clean rather than going festy and smelly overnight. I gave some to my mum to try and she agreed that this is better than anything you can buy at the supermarket. The Spray'n'Wipe lady ain't got nothing on me.

Buoyed somewhat by this promising success, I turned my hand to a laundry powder. I finally located the washing soda that was, according to all those green/DIY blogs, the kick I was looking for to improve on my old pure-soap-and-bicarb mix. The first test wash is now drying on the line and I am totally impressed with the results.

I can't give specifics on the quantities, but these are my recipes -

Spray cleaner - water, vinegar, lemon juice, bicarb soda, borax, essential oils of lemon, lavender and eucalyptus.

Laundry powder - finely grated pure soap, bicarb soda, borax, washing soda, all in approximately equal proportions, essential oils of lemon, lavender and eucalyptus.

Next on the production line will be dishwashing liquid. To that end, I have secured a bottle of glycerin. Apparently that's the stuff that will turn your soap into liquid.

The next logical step, it seems, would be to make your own soaps. I got a few books on the subject of soapmaking, but I don't think I'm ready to tackle a process that requires protective equipment and two different thermometers at this stage. I was thrilled, however, to come across the origin of the word 'soap.' It goes back to Roman times when women would wash their clothes in the Tiber River under Mount Sapo. (You can see this word, a place-name, at the root of many Romance words for 'soap,' such as savon and sapon. It's also part of the word for the chemical process of turning fat and lye into soap - saponification.) Animal sacrifices took place regularly on Mount Sapo. The fat from the animals washed down the hill along the river, as did the ashes from the burnt offerings, which produced the lye necessary to create soap. A white lathery substance was produced along the banks of the river in this area, and women found that if they took their clothes to those places, their clothes came out cleaner.

I think I will just look around for a place to buy Castile soap at this stage.

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