Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting Crafty with Cleaning Supplies: Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs


For well over a year now, the Main Squeeze has been on a homesteading kick. I think some of it started when he read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan some years back.

We started being much more locavore in our food habits; though we've had a summer farm share for over 15 years, we started having a share in a root cellar three years ago, we have our own small vegetable gardens, and we also frequent the local summer and winter farmers' markets--we're those kind of people. He's also gotten into doing more homesteading: some canning, a lot of freezing, and making things like sauerkraut.

Somewhere along the way in all of this, he found a small book called Make Your Place: Affordable and Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs, which has recipes for all kinds of things. After being a little resistant at first (I don't know why), I decided to give some of her cleaning product recipes a try. And I really like them. The things I use most often are the toilet bowl cleaner, the almost all-purpose spray cleaner, and the soft scrub.

These cleaning products work very well, they are easy to make, don't cost very much, and I feel so good that I'm not putting bad chemicals into the environment! I encourage you to give 'em a try and see for yourself.

There are a few items you may need to invest in. The essential oils are probably going to be the most expensive, but you use so little, that it's really not that much over time. You'll want to have some old product bottles to put your concoctions in: a spray bottle for the cleaning spray and a shampoo bottle for the soft scrub.

Here are the various ingredients you'll need to make the recipes I'm going to share with you:
  • Baking soda

  • White vinegar

  • Liquid castile soap

  • Borax

  • Aspirin

  • Tea tree essential oil

  • Eucalyptus essential oil

  • Lemon or lavender essential oil
Toilet Bowl Cleaner (this makes enough for one cleaning--you'll see why)

1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup white vinegar
10 drops tea tree oil

Combine everything. (I recommend this order: baking soda, tea tree oil, then vinegar. The one time I added the soda to the vinegar? Let's just say it was like a science fair volcano experiment.) Then pour into the toilet bowl and scrub. I mix mine up in a 2 cup measuring cup and use a small whisk to get everything well combined. Expect it to foam up on you when you mix it together--that's part of the fun.

Almost All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

1 teaspoon castile soap
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon Borax
2 cups hot water
1/4 teaspoon each eucalyptus & lemon oils (the recipe calls for lavender oil instead of lemon, but lemon is what I have, and it works just fine)
3 drops tea tree oil

Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle. She says that you can use this on anything except glass and personally, I wouldn't use it on wood either. Just spray and then wipe off with a damp cloth or sponge.

Soft Scrub

1 cup baking soda
3-5 drops tea tree oil
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
2 aspirins, powdered

Mix all ingredients together and add enough water to make a paste. Keep in a shampoo bottle (or an empty liquid castile soap bottle would work, too). (Definitely don't do what I did, which is store it in an old liquid dish soap bottle. The cap keeps getting clogged.) I find that this has a tendency to get a little too thick between uses, but that's easily solved by adding a little more water until it's back to a better consistency. Use as you would powder cleanser or soft scrub--I use mine on the tub & sink and sometimes on the kitchen counter.

Those are just some of the recipes in the book. She has tons of them under the following categories: Health & First Aid, Non-Toxic Cleaning & Body Care, and Gardening. So you're sure to find lots of other useful recipes/information.

The book itself is inexpensive, you can buy it directly from the publisher here or from Amazon here or at your local bookstore, if you live in a crunchy enough town.

I give it eight out of eight tentacles, because who doesn't like getting crafty, being nice to the environment, and saving money?

Rating: 8/8


  1. I started using vinegar and baking soda for most applications a few years ago -- I'm convinced that baking soda is a miracle substance. Do the essential oils serve a purpose other than scent (which given how stinky vinegar is is not an insubstantial purpose)?

    1. The tea tree oil definitely has other properties, such as having antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic qualities. Eucalyptus oil also has some antibacterial qualities. The lemon and lavender oils are probably just for scent purposes.

  2. I have a hard time using vinegar to clean with. Yes, it's nontoxic and amazing but it smells! People say the smell evaporates when it dries, but that is a lie, my friends. I may try the softscrub thing-y though.

    1. Vee - The almost all purpose cleaning spray truly does not smell like vinegar, because of all the essential oils and the small amount of vinegar, so you might want to give that one a whirl too. I don't think that toilet bowl cleaner has that strong a vinegar scent, because of the tea tree oil *and* you flush it away when you're done scrubbing, so that one might also work for you.