I really don’t consider myself the sort of person who buys organic, who makes her own bread from her own freshly ground whole wheat flour, or who does any number of homely but ultimately time-consuming, earth-mama-y things. I’m a modern girl, and while I do garden and can my home-grown produce, I generally don’t care enough to stop buying bread at the store, and I’m too much of a cheapskate to pay more for something that is probably better for my family when the alternative is not actually bad for them. I think the word for people like me is lazy or maybe apathetic.
Which is why it’s so surprising to me that I’ve suddenly gotten into homemade cleaning products. I just don’t feel like the sort of person who makes her own laundry detergent, you know? Not that I have anything against people who do; I just didn’t see myself joining their ranks.
But a few months back, I saw a blog post from someone who moved into a place with a horrible, old, black, gucky tub. Like mine, you might say. She tried a whole bunch of things to clean it and reviewed each one. In the end, the one she recommended most highly was . . . borax. Plain old-fashioned boric acid borax. I didn’t even know you could clean a tub with borax. I didn’t even know where I could acquire it. What I did know is that I’d tried a whole host of things to clean our nasty tub, and none of them had made much difference. If borax could get it whiter, I’d consider it a triumph. So I went to my grocery store’s laundry aisle and bought a box of borax. I scrubbed and scrubbed (she did warn that elbow grease was needed), and you know what? That tub looked better after I was done than I’d ever seen it. Not that it was perfect, mind you, but it was better. (Update: At my mother-in-law’s suggestion, I tried a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for some of the black spots on the tub, and it worked wonders as well. It didn’t do as good of a job on the general grayness as the borax did, though.) One downside is that borax doesn’t dissolve in water, so you end up with a gritty residue where you use it. It rinses off easily, though.
Now that I’d seen the power of borax on my tub, I decided to try it for its main purpose, laundry. I used it to freshen the scent of musty loads, and it does work great for that without the risk of bleaching the colors. It isn’t so awesome at stain removal, unfortunately.
I guess borax was my entry drug. After that, I was more willing to try cream of tartar (and later baking soda) to scrub my stovetop. Cream of tartar works great for greasy, cooked-on food stains. Again, it requires elbow grease, but it does work really well. Baking soda does not work half so well. I later used cream o’ tartar to scrub clean a cookie sheet that had had burned food on it (babysitter didn’t know it was in the oven when we left . . . oops), and it worked for that too. Too bad cream of tartar isn’t exactly cheap.
Well, after trying these, I guess the logical next step was to try making my own laundry detergent. To be honest, I kind of felt like I’d gone over to the dark side when I first started contemplating it. But the more I thought about paying $25 for three months’ worth of laundry detergent, the more I wanted to see if homemade detergent, which cost more like $35 a year, worked as well as some people online said it did. I had to find Fels Naptha soap and washing soda, the latter of which I actually had to ask an employee for help finding. I have to admit, my first load of laundry didn’t come completely clean with 2 Tbsp. of my detergent. But upping it to 3 Tbsp. seemed to solve the problem, so maybe I just do really big loads.
So yeah. Natural cleaning products for the win. Maybe I’ll mix up some vinegar and water and use it to clean my kitchen. Ca-RAAA-zy!