Feeding your family great food on a budget isn’t just about what you plate up and take to the table. It isn’t just about the produce you buy or your cooking techniques, it’s a reflection of your entire cooking environment. How you organise your space, prep your food and even how you launder you tea towels, will affect the quality of your final product. Here in the Scrap House we try our best within our budget to eat healthy nutritious food and avoid ingesting any unnecessary chemicals. One of the best ways to do this (besides buying pesticide free produce etc) is to eliminate the chemical cleaners.
I’ve posted a few times recently with recipes for homemade cleaning products, but I get so many emails and messages about them all I thought it would be nice to have them all in one place (ie.this post).
I also get asked about how much it costs to switch over, how much time it takes to organise it all and what extras I needed to buy to switch over.
The short answer is, it costs next to nothing and no special equipment needed. You probably already have everything you need in your house already.
The long answer is, it might cost you a few dollars to get going (I’m talking maybe $20 or $30 if you don’t have things already but if you divide it by 12 it works out to between $1.20 and $2.50 a month, although if you don’t have things like a mop and a broom it may cost a little more).
What you need
Not a lot. You probably have most of these things already. One of the great things about cleaning this way is that you can buy a few things in bulk and by just mixing them in different ways you can make lots of different “products”.
For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that your cleaning cupboard already contains cleaning cloths, a mop, scrub brush, broom, buckets and so forth. If you need to purchase any of these things it’s obviously going to cost a little (or a lot) more than $10 for the month.
White Vinegar we use approximately 2 litres per month ($1.20 for 2 litres in a recyclable plastic bottle or we use homemade Apple Scrap Vinegar but its not quite as strong. I have seen a few places online that sell bulk but they also come in plastic bottles and work out more expensive at around $2 per litre so until we find a place that has bulk on tap we’re sticking to the cheap supermarket brand).
Bicarbonate of Soda (500 gram homebrand at Woolworths is $1.59 but it comes in a plastic bag, the McKenzies brand (in cardboard box ) is $2.49 at most supermarkets, we buy in bulk 5kg lots for $20.50 through a soap maker and go through about two lots per year and reuse the buckets for various things before they go into recycling).
Washing Soda is currently $3.85 a kilogram at Woolworths in town. This is the cheapest I can find it locally. There was cheaper online but by time I added postage it worked out closer to $5 a kilogram (if you can’t find it in the supermarket you can make your own from Bicarbonate of Soda if you scroll to the bottom of my previous post about dishwasher tablets you’ll find the instructions I shared with readers to make it in the comments). We use about 10 kilograms a year.
Bars of Soap (about $1 a bar. We average about one a month for household cleaning purposes (more if you count the ones we use for personal hygiene). We hunt around for palm oil free varieties when possible, if you wanted to you could make your own so you know exactly whats in it or if you’re not fussed you can get boxes of plain laundry soap in boxes of 5 or so from the supermarket laundry isle for under $3).
Essential Oils (Not strictly necessary but a nice addition. I like Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lavender and Lemon for their anti-fungus properties, smell, they generally cost a little less per ml than most others and at a pinch are available from your local supermarket in decent sized bottles. You can currently get 200 ml of Eucalyptus oil for $10 at Woolworths ).
Citrus peels & Juice (orange, lemon, lime etc. If you don’t have enough peels save them in the freezer until you do). We don’t buy lemons as lots of people we know have trees and are only too glad to offload a few during fruit season. They freeze just fine whole so I always just throw a few in the bottom of the freezer for when we’ve got none fresh. You can also pre-squeeze them and freeze the juice for later but I’m a bit lazy, so I usually just throw in the whole fruit.
Total cost for all this is approximately: $12 soap + $41 bicarbonate of soda+$30 essential oils + $30.85= $113.85. If you divide this by 12 you get $9.48 (ie. less than $10 per month).
There’s other things you could add like citric acid, methylated spirit, borax, extra oils etc which can be handy for stubborn stains etc but you don’t really need them. A few recipes use salt and sugar (dishwasher tablets and vinegar for example) but they use very little and most of us already have these things in our pantry cupboard anyway. I try and avoid borax even though it can be great for stain removal and give extra omph to some homemade cleaning products as I found when we used it the Uni Students eczema flared up, it might be coincidence but if we can do without it why take the chance.
I’ve previously shared a few of the recipes we use regularly in earlier posts (you might have to do some scrolling to find them….
Apple Scrap Vinegar
I’ve shared some details about our Laundry Powder before which I make by mixing 1 bar of grated soap to 1 kilogram each of Bicarbonate of soda and Washing Soda. We add approximately 2 tablespoons worth to each full load in our 7kg top-loading machine. We don’t use fabric softeners at all, just 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse dispenser. If we want to add smelly stuff we drop in a few drops of essential oil or I make up lavender or rose water when the plants are in flower.
4 teaspoons of lavender flowers fresh or dried (if you have or know someone with a plant grab some flowers and dry them by tying a bunch and hanging them upside down somewhere dry and airy. Pop a paper bag over the flower heads while they’re hanging to catch any that fall off, when they’re dry you can just leave them in the bag in a drawer somewhere until you need them).
2 cups (500ml) Boiling Water
Steep the lavender in the water like you’re making tea. When it cools strain it into a container and add a little to your washing machine either in the fabric softener dispenser or during the final rinse cycle. To make it a moth repellent use 4 teaspoons of lavender and 2 teaspoons of rosemary (if you don’t have a rosemary plant handy the dried stuff from the supermarket will do).
50 grams of pure soap (any kind you like). Grated. I just use the finest side of an old fashioned metal box grater and do half a dozen bars at a time. I store the grated soap in an old Tupperware container for whenever I need it.
60 grams (1/4 cup) either Washing Soda OR Bicarbonate of Soda
4 Litres (16 cups) of water
A Big Pot I use my 20 litre stock pot but if you don’t have a big enough pot just divide up the ingredients into smaller batches.
Add a few cups of the water and the soap to the pot and stir until boiling. Turn it down to a simmer and whisk, stir,mash until all the soap is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the washing or bicarbonate of soda, stirring well. Pour into a large container (this is where our bulk buy buckets come in handy) and stir in the remaining water until its well blended. When its cooled it sets to a soft jelly. We use two cups of jelly per full load if the clothes are really grubby, or one cup for smaller loads or things that don’t require heavy cleaning like cotton sheets.
Hint to prevent yellowing of clothes
I’ve had lots of people tell me their clothes either don’t come clean or their lights go yellow when they switch to homemade variety powders and gels. In our experience this isn’t the homemade product, its actually the residue from the old detergents stopping the cleaning process.
To prevent your clothes from yellowing and make them actually come clean when you switch to the laundry gel or homemade laundry powder put your clothes through a cycle using washing soda only. You only need to do this once,the first time you wash using your homemade products. Make up a bucket containing 2 cups of washing soda dissolved in 2 1/2 litres of water (about 9 cups). When you’re ready to wash just add 2 cups to a full load and run it through without adding anything else, then wash your clothes again using your homemade powder or gel. just do it as each batch of washing needs to be done. The clothes already put through the washing soda only process just hold aside until the others have gone through,then throw them in and wash the whole load as normal.
For a good all purpose cleaner we use citrus vinegar. There’s heaps of articles on the interweb about it and I’m unsure where the recipe originally came from but I was told about it years ago (before we had internet – yes I’m that old, I can remember what it was like in the olden days without mobile phones or computers in every house) so hopefully I’m not plagiarising anyone here.
A jar or jars (we usually have a few batches brewing in the cupboard ready for when we need more).
Citrus Peels. You’ll need to make sure there’s no flesh on them, you just want the peels.
Fill your jar with citrus peels. Pour in the vinegar until peels are completely submerged. Put the lid on and put it in the cupboard or leave on the bench for at least 2 weeks so the citrus oils out of the peels infuse with the vinegar. Give it a shake when you think of it to speed the process up.
To use: Simply pour some into a spray bottle and dilute 1:1 with water. Give it a shake and use like any other spray on, wipe off cleaner. If you’re worried about it affecting your bench tops or anything, make sure you try a little in an inconspicuous spot first (the rim under your counter works well).
Note: You can leave this in the jar pretty much indefThe peels need to be fully submerged or you might find the bits that stick out go mouldy if you’re like me and shove the jar in the back of the cupboard and forget to shake it.