Monday, October 24, 2011

How To Make Your Own Cleaning Products

This article is on how to make your own cleaning products, using everyday household items that have minimal impact on the environment.  The additional benefit of these products is that they are dual use and rather inexpensive to buy.  It is extremely easy to make your own green cleaning products using my cleaning products recipes below.

Each of the cleaning products recipes shows the various uses for baking soda, uses for Borax, uses for castile soap, uses for lemon juice, uses for white vinegar and uses for salt.  Many of the green cleaning recipes will combine these simple ingredients to make your own home made green cleaning products which have minimal package and provide loads of convenience.  All you need to do is scour your kitchen and laundry room and grab some clean, dry spray bottles and rags and you’re ready to go!

Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a common kitchen staple used for baking.  However baking soda has a variety of uses throughout the home, due to its mild abrasive properties.  It scours, deodorizes, and mildly scrubs surfaces.

To clean counter tops, sprinkle with baking soda and wipe with a damp cloth.  Rinse with clean water.  To deodorize a carpet, garbage can or counter top composter, sprinkle baking soda and let sit for 15-30 mins, then rinse with clean water.  For a carpet, leave on 30 mins then vacuum.  Add baking soda to laundry to remove perspiration and bad smells.

Mix baking soda and white vinegar in hot water to pour down a clogged drain.  It will eat away the hair and unclog the drain.  This treatment may have to be done 2 times before effective.


Borax, or sodium borate, is a common laundry additive, disinfectant and mild abrasive.  It also serves as an eco-friendly pest control measure, and will repel and kill fleas, ants, roaches and mice.

It is a common ingredient in home  made cleaning products.  It is also an effective pot scrubber.  A mixture of lemon juice and Borax will remove rust and a past eof lemon juice and Borax will remove stains from stainless steel and porcelain.

Mix ½ c of Borax with 1 gallon of hot water, add essential oil like sweet orange or grapefruit, and put in a spray bottle for a disinfectant cleaner.

Castile Soap

100% pure castile soap is a good household cleanser.  It can be scented, or plain, whichever is preferred.  It is a mild surfactant that will remove oil from clothes, counter tops and dishes.

Mix 3 T castile soap with 2 L water and add 20-30 drops of tea tree oil to make a disinfecting counter top cleaner.

It is a good soap to use on hand washing items that are hung on a line or rack to dry.  It is also a good dish soap.

Club Soda

Excellent for stain removal from carpets and upholstery.  Can be used with lemon juice on items that are not affected by fading or contact with the sun.

Hydrogen Peroxide

It is an anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-mold and anti-bacterial, so it is a good addition to any cleaning kit.

Hydrogen peroxide is a good replacement for bleach to whiten whites in laundry.  It can be used to disinfect cutting boards and counter top compost bins.

½ c of hydrogen peroxide mixed with hot water is an excellent solution for cleaning kitchen floors.

Add a ¼ to dish water to sanitize dirty dishes.

Fill a spray bottle with one part hydrogen peroxide to the remainder of water and use as a spray to sanitize fruits and vegetables before eating.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is an all purpose astringent and will brighten whites and degrease, neutralize hard water deposits and tarnish on silver.  One of the major benefits of lemon juice is the pleasant smell.  Another of the uses for lemon juice is as an anti-bacterial.

A combination of lemon juice and salt is good for scrubbing down a cutting board.  It is also a good mixture for cleaning a coffee pot.  A paste of lemon juice and salt is an excellent brass cleaner.

To make furniture polish, mix 1 cup lemon juice with 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp water, and apply sparingly to furniture using a soft cloth.  After it sits for a little while, buff. 

Place straight lemon juice on hard water stains to soften them enough wipe away.  Let sit for 10 minutes before wiping.

Kosher or Table Salt

Salt is a good scourer and deodorizer.  It can be easily mixed with other household ingredients to make an effective cleaner.

To clean the refrigerator, sprinkle and even amount of salt and baking soda and wipe down shelves with a wet cloth.  Rinse with clear water.  This will scrub and deodorize in one easy step.

Spills in the oven and on the stove will wipe up easier if sprinkled with salt. 

Rubbing glasses or a coffee pot with salt will help remove hard water stains.  Clean with soap and dry as usual after scrubbing.  It will not scratch glass.

White Vinegar

White vinegar cuts grease, kills mildew and mold, stains and wax build up.  It is an acid, so use sparingly. 

For a good all purpose cleaner mix ½ c vinegar with ¼ cup baking soda into ½ gallon.  Store in a large container and add to spray bottle as needed.

White vinegar can be added to laundry rinse water instead of fabric softener.  

Use a mixture of white vinegar and water to clean windows.  Wipe with newspaper for a streak-free shine.  This works on any glass surface.  Don’t forget to recycle your newspapers afterwards!

The smell of white vinegar dissipates when it dries.

So there you have it – the basics of making your own natural cleaning products using these easy green cleaning recipes and ingredients.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Basic Sewing Kit, Hand Sew, Easy Hand Sewing Projects, Hemming, Buttons

Today, we’ll address hand sewing basics.  One of the most frugal and green things a person can do is to repair or alter his or her own clothes when necessary.    I also find hand it very soothing to hand sew, and it keeps my hands busy during cooler months when I am listening to music or watching a program on TV  While hand sewing has its devotees, for most people living in the modern world hand sewing is a lost art.  I can’t tell you how often I have been able to employ hand sewing basics to make or repair clothes, or make or repair items to improve my home.

The first thing I recommend is to assemble a basic sewing kit.  A basic sewing box to hold your sewing kit will also be helpful, but even a small zipper or canvas bag will dol.  Often sewing boxes or old plastic storage boxes can be found at second hand stores very inexpensively.  A variety of thread can be obtained by purchasing a small sample kit of miniature spools, often contained in a plastic storage box themselves.  In your kit, there should be the following:

1. Needles
2. Needle Threader
3. Magnifying Glass
4. Seam Ripper
5. Thread
6. Snips, or Scissors
7. Thimble
8. Tape Measure
9. Fasteners, like hooks and eyes or buttons
10. Straight pins and baby pins, and a pin cushion.
11. Tailor’s chalk

Sewing kits can also be purchased online, or in stores.  Prices may vary, and quality of the items in the kit may vary, as well.  Buttons can be had from flea markets, fabric stores and also off of garments purchased.  Buttons are also often found, and can be removed from shirts and other clothes that are being recycled or repurposed.  I recommend 100% cotton thread for cotton items, 100% polyester thread or blends for polyester items.  Silk and linen can be repaired with cotton, or silk, thread which is more expensive, so I tend to use a brushed, shiny cotton thread on those.

Some additional items maybe be needed or acquired over time.  These may include fabric, patches, patterns and iron/ironing board for pressing.  A good sewing book for beginners is:  Sew With Confidence: A Beginner’s Guild to Basic Sewing by Nancy Zieman, published 2004.  It is available online in used or new condition.

Basic sewing stitiches to practice include a running (basting) stitch, which may either be tight or loose, and the back stitch – which is the strongest, and most commonly used, hand stitch.  The other common hand stitch is called over handing, and it is used to make a flat hem or seem that is virtually invisible at first glance.  It is important to practice even, straight stitching on a piece of scrap fabric until you get the hang of doing it, and then work on a small project.

The most common clothing repair is to replace a button that has come off.  It is also one of the simplest repairs, able to be completed by even novice hand sewers.  Thread your needle with a long length of thread that matches the fabric of the item to be repaired.  The length should be long enough to be doubled.  Knot the end.  With tailor’s chalk, mark the correct spot where the button should go.  Holding the button to the fabric with your non-sewing hand, put the thread through the fabric and once through put the need button holes back through the fabric in an opposing hole.  Repeat 6-8 times, running the thread through all available holes.  Tie off the thread and snip it, leaving a tiny tail to ensure no damage to your sewing work.
To make a hand sewn button hole, snip a small cut in the location you would like your button hole.  Ensure you have aligned this location with the location of the button to avoid gaping in the fabric closure.  Snip a small slit in the fabric.  Thread your needed with a long length of thread that matches the color of the item you are working with.  Double the thread and knot off the end.  Using a whip stitch, carefully sew around the edges of the slit, to keep the fabric from unraveling.  The stitches should be very close together, and even in length to appear neat and tidy.

The second most common repair is a ripped seam.  It is so easy to hand sew a ripped seam in few simple steps.  Turn the garment inside out.  Locate the ripped seam.  Using straight pins, pin the hole closed.  Thread your needle with a long length of thread that can be doubled and knot off.  Start just beyond the edge of the ripped seam and using a back stitch, sew in a direction moving towards the opposite end of the ripped seam.  Sew just beyond the other end, knot off your thread and snip it, leaving a small tail behind.  Be sure to use a thread that very closely matches the color of the fabric, or your repair will be obvious to the casual viewer.  If desired, press the seam down. 

Lastly, hemming pants or altering pant legs to a custom length is also something many people need or want to do.  This technique will also turn pants into shorts, if for some reason the knees of the pants cannot be patched.  This is also the only repair where you will probably need to use a measuring tape and get some assistance.  Put the pants on turned inside out.  Have someone help you fold the fabric up to the desired length, forming large cuffs.  With a bit of chalk, make a small mark on the leg  in a couple of places to show where the hem should be. (If making shorts, where you would like them to be on the thigh).  Using a  tape measure, draw an even line all the way around.  Extra fabric is fine as long as it isn’t too much.  It’s always easier to cut something down then expand it, so if you find you need to let the pants leg down later on, it will be nice to have the extra fabric.  Pin the pants and use a over hand stitch to secure it.  Press the pants leg for a nice final effect.

I have used hand sewing to make clothes, make cushions for a house, to repair clothes and alter them, too.  It is much more economical and green to fix something you all ready own than to toss it or buy a replacement.  Hand sewing basics c are easy to master with practice.  Once you have hand sewing down, look into purchasing a basic, economical sewing machine.  Your first sewing machine will probably only do basic stitching like zig zag, straight stitch, button holing and backstitching.  Many of them can be purchased second hand online or in shops.  It will enable you to make basic clothing items quickly, and to fix large household items like sheets, curtains, or to make toss cushions and slipcovers for furniture.