Switching to Homemade Household Cleaners!

By Whitney Allen

Daily, we are inundated with dozens of commercials extolling the wonders and magic of household cleansers. Clothes need to be �brighter than bright� and �whiter than white� and we are called upon to battle stains and odours with all the power that cleaning products can muster. We must find and destroy the nasty germs lurking everywhere! We are made to believe we are in a battle, and phrases such as �grease fighter�, �attacks tough stains�, �blasts clogs�, �advanced stain fighting�, and �tough on stains and dirt� are plastered on product labels. In order to do battle, we need a strong, bald man in the kitchen to help us disinfect and deodorize, clean and polish. We don�t just need effective cleaners, we need �extra strength�, �extra scrubbing power�, �professional strength�, �oxygenated cleaning power� and most of all, we need �the powerful scent of clean�!

There are cleaners in the form of powders, foams, sprays, liquids and gels for toilets, sinks, counters, floors, woodwork, laundry, ceilings, furniture, ovens, microwaves, showers, ceramic, porcelain, silver, linoleum, vinyl, the air, chrome, brass, etc. etc. etc. and we are told we need them all to win the �war on grime�. The real war is the war on �hype� and our cleaning habits.

Since WWII, the chemical industry has grown enormously and so has the growth in the �household cleansers� industry.  We become convinced we need a multitude of different cleaners for categorically different dirt/grime/germs/stains in various places in the house. Do we?

The reality is, that prior to WWII, most householders used a limited number of simple substances to keep most things clean and odour free. Folks knew that common household items could be used alone or in combination to clean, disinfect and deodorize simply, effectively and cheaply. We can learn to do the same things, get back to the basics and do ourselves and the environment a favour.

The great news is that there are really only 6 key ingredients needed for most household cleaning tasks.

White vinegar
Baking Soda
Castille bar soap*
Lemon Juice

With these 6 ingredients, you can make household cleaners to take care of most of your everyday cleaning needs. Add salt, club soda and your favourite essential oils to the list and you�re ready for any challenge!

When you make your own household cleansers, the advantages and benefits are that, compared to commercial cleansers, homemade cleansers are:

� Less expensive
� As effective (they really work!)
� Safer for everyone in your house
� Environmentally friendly.

So why wouldn�t we use these?

There are 2 reasons: old habits die hard and we can never underestimate the power of advertising. As consumers we are bombarded by ads for household cleaners and we become convinced that we NEED the advertised cleansers to really clean. We�re told to not be satisfied with just clean anymore, we need things cleaner than clean and we need the products (or we think we do) that deliver the �magic�.

If you�re feeling conned and are ready for a new adventure, try using homemade cleaners!

Glass Cleaner

�cup (60 ml) vinegar + 1L warm water
2cups club soda

Put in spray bottle, spray on glass and rub with crumpled newspapers. (this one really works, folks)

Scouring Powder

1�cups (375 ml) baking soda (yep, that�s it)
5-6 drops disinfectant essential oil like thyme, clary sage, tea tree or grapefruit seed extract. You can add 1Tbsp (15 ml) borax for extra whitening.

Put it in an empty parmesan cheese shaker. LABEL IT!! Use it everywhere you�d use a powdered cleanser.

Drain Opener

1�cups (375 ml) vinegar + 2 Tbsp (30 ml) baking soda. Pour into drain, wait 5 minutes, pour in hot water.
�cup (125 ml) salt + �cup (125 ml) baking soda. Pour into drain and pour in boiling water.

Laundry Soap

8cups baking soda
6cups borax
4cups grated Castille soap
1Tbsp (15 ml) essential oil of lavender, lemon or grapefruit.
Mix in a large ice cream pail and use only 2 Tbsp (30ml) of powder per load.

Fabric Softener/Clothes Freshener

�cup (60 ml) baking soda + 3-4 drops essential oil
1cup (250 ml) vinegar
�cup (125 ml) lemon juice.

Add to final rinse cycle.

Floor Cleaner (Wood, Linoleum and Vinyl)

�cup (190 ml) vinegar + 5 drops citrus essential oil + 4L warm water

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1cup (250 ml) vinegar. Pour in toilet bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. (Take time to think about how much money you�re saving by using these homemade recipes). Sprinkle baking soda (from parmesan cheese shaky container) onto toilet brush and scour.
Pour 1cup (250 ml) borax into toilet bowl before going to bed.  In the morning, scrub and flush. For extra strength, add �cup (60 ml) vinegar to the borax.

Once a month pour 1cup (250 ml) vinegar into the toilet bowl and let stand over night. Keeps your toilet FRESH!

All Purpose Cleaners      (These are genuinely fantastic!)

1� tsp (8 ml) borax + 2 Tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice + 1cup (250 ml) hot water.
Mix in a spray bottle.
� cup (125 ml) vinegar + 1 tsp (5 ml) salt + 1L water + 2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil. Mix in a spray bottle.
� cup (60ml) baking soda in 1L warm water. Dissolve and pour in spray bottle.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) vinegar + 1 tsp (5 ml) borax + � cup (60 ml) grated Castille soap + 1cup (250 ml) hot water + 8 drops favourite essential oil. Dissolve and pour into a spray bottle.

All Purpose Disinfectant

� cup (125 ml) borax + 4L hot water
2 tsp (10 ml) borax + � cup (60 ml) vinegar + 2 tsp (10 ml) disinfecting essential oil + 1L hot water.

Furniture Polish

� cup (60 ml) olive oil + � cup (60 ml) vinegar + 2 tsp (10 ml) lemon juice. Mix in spray bottle.
� cup (125 ml) olive oil + � cup (125 ml) vinegar + 2-3 drops lemon essential oil.

Extra Hints:

Instead of bleach, use 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 8 parts water. It�s great for pre soaking extra dirty clothes.

Spot remover: saturate the spot with club soda or lemon juice or salt. Handmade soap is an excellent stain remover.

Essential oils of thyme, clary sage, tea tree and grapefruit seed extract have antibacterial properties.

A paste of baking soda + water relieves insect bites and stings.

An all natural lip balm with tea tree oil and Vitamin E helps heal bites, stings and scrapes.

Please remember that although these cleansers are homemade and environmentally friendly, they must be kept out of the reach of children, properly labelled and stored safely at all times!
Test ALL new cleaners in an inconspicuous place.

Here�s the Challenge!  Switch to Homemade Cleaners!

Our family is taking the challenge! We are switching to homemade cleaners. (My husband is already hooked on vinegar + water + newspapers for windows! No more W****x for us!).  We will save money, clean our house effectively, we will guard the health of our family and we will promote environmentally friendly products. Admittedly, it will be difficult to give up my reliance on bleach and scouring powder for tough jobs, but I�m going to give it a try.

You are invited to join us as we replace commercial cleaners with homemade ones.  Your challenge is to do the same. Over the next 3-4 months, replace your commercial household cleaners for safer, effective, less expensive and environmentally friendly homemade cleaners. It�s better for everyone!

Please write/email me at [email protected]with your own home made recipes and stories and please let us know how you�re doing with THE GREAT GREEN CLEANING CHALLENGE!  It�s time for a change!


ps.  Recently I wandered through the cleaning products aisles of our local supermarket, and after 25 minutes of studying labels, I noticed some products, boasting  �the power of baking soda!� and �the power of vinegar� or �open window fresh� or �stress free� or claiming the benefits and properties of �aromatherapy�! How ironic!  Products which are anything but natural are promoting themselves as �back to the basics, pure and powerful� and are claiming to reduce stress and anxiety through aromatherapy as they clean!

* True Castille soap is mild, olive oil, pure soap. Any all natural, all vegetable, biodegradable and phosphate free bar soap will work. Simply grate it with a cheese grater! Be sure to read labels carefully to ensure that a product called �Castille� or �All Natural� is genuine and doesn�t contain sodium laurel sulphates, synthetic preservatives, artificial colouring or scent, or foaming agents.

Other Articles by Whitney Allen:

Harrowsmith’s Truly Canadian Almanac 2010: January 2010,”Our Top 10 Household Green Cleaners”

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: February 2004, “Soap Opera: How to Make Soap Naturally”.

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: April 2007, “Clean Up your Act: Green Household Cleaners”.

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: June 2007, “Don’t Bug Me: Do It Yourself Bug Repellent”.

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: February 2008, “Lip Service: Do it Yourself All Natural Lip Balm”.

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: June 2008, “Skin Deep”, Homemade Hand Cream.

Harrowsmith CountryLife Magazine: December 2008, “Take a Long Hot Bath”, Homemade Bath Salts.

Exposure Welcomed by Local Soapmaker to Spread Environmental Message

Reprinted from the Kenora Daily Miner & News, Feb. 21, 2008                By Jon Thompson

The local Lake of the Woods Sunrise Soap Co. is about to put making soap into the hands of the nation.

Soapmaster Whitney Allen was informed on Tuesday that she will be a guest star on CBC’S variety program, “Living Winnipeg” for an 11 minute segment teaching a do-it-yourself approach to homemade soap. Her partner Greg Sparks isn’t afraid to disclose the company’s secrets. For him, it’s about exposure and the environment.

“We firmly believe that if people learn how to make environmentally friendly products and use them at home, it will be better for the environment,” he explains. “If 100000 people watch that show and a percentage make their own product, that’s great. And if a percentage finds our website and buys product from us, that’s great too.”

Sparks hopes that should the segment be successful, they might be invited in for a season long series of home made do-it-yourself episodes celebrating going greeenly clean.

The simplicity of her product is part of the allure for Allen. She has been writing a series of articles for country living magazine Harrowsmith on how to make homemade, deet free insect spray, skin lotion, lip balm and her soaps. The products use all natural ingredients and are basically made from beeswax, olive oil and local flavour.

With soap titles like Boreal Forest, Northern Garden, Manitoba Wildflowers and Wild Blueberries and Roses, the branding is intended to convey the same imagery as tourism campaigns in the region attempt to capture.

“The whole ecotourism thing, moving Kenora forward is so obvious because of what we have: the Lake of the Woods and this environment,” says Sparks. “We can create world class products in Kenora. We can partner with businesses, government and other stakeholders and we can make this city the ecologically important, dynamic centre of Canada.There’s no reason it couldn’t happen.”

Extracting the scents and skin care properties of local botanicals, wild rice and mint, sweetgrass, red osier dogwood, cedar and sage, Allen scoops her ingredients right off the land. That creates a market advantage that can’t be bought in New York or Los Angeles. These ingredients only grow in the land once know as the Great Northwest.

To take that that special flavour a step further requires the consumer to feel as though the product was made for them alone. While a kenora brand soap is in the works, four secret custom soaps are on deck to be exclusively sold at the Blue Heron gift shop this summer. Another exclusive custom soap will be sold at Pykerman’s Nursery, which will be known as “Gardener’s Bar”; a tough soap designed for people whose hands spend time taking in the outdoors.

Sparks argues that the products are better for the skin because of the absence of dehydrating synthetics. Experiencing complications from using mass produced cosmetics, Allen began making her own soaps at hime a decade ago and her perserverance has helped her rise to the top. Her soaps are now sold at 12 locations in Kenora alone, two in Clearwater Bay, plus six in Winnipeg, product reaching through Fort Frances to Thunder Bay and moving into Gimli and Steinbach this summer.

Anyone interested in learning more should look for the name in local stores, look for Allen at the Farmer’s Market come spring or check out the company website at:

Cocoa loco
We’re crazy for chocolate, and who can blame us?

Sat Dec 2 2006

Your sofa may be upholstered in chocolate suede. Those new candles can fill the room with the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. And in your closet, chocolate is the new black. Perhaps the oddest use of chocolate comes from LG appliances and electronics. Its new line of cellphones is called Chocolate.
ALL of a sudden, chocolate is hotter than a cup of the stuff after an afternoon skating on the Red River. Whether it’s the colour, name, fragrance or flavour, everything from the cocoa bean is in vogue.

Blame our chocolate obsession on the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. The crafty Mayans and Aztecs figured out how to convert the bitter bean into a tasty drink. Pick up some drinking chocolate from Black Pearl Coffee and sample the thick and spicy brew.

At this time of year, there is no shortage of chocolate the way most of us love it — as a tasty indulgence. Everything seems to be bathed in chocolate, from coffee beans (Starbucks) and popcorn (Second Cup) to ripple potato chips (you’ll have to visit Widman’s in Grand Forks, North Dakota for that treat).