Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Homemade Fair-Trade Parade!

Yes, it took me nearly 20 minutes to come up with the blog title. Yes I am an absolute nerd. :) You love me anyway, admit it.

I make a lot of my own household/beauty products and I often have folks ask me for recipes. So this blog series is a little self-serving. I'd love to have all my stuff together in one place so that when people ask, I can just email them the link instead of scrambling all over the house to find all my recipes!

I don't like all the unnecessary chemicals we add to products. And they have had the opposite effect of what's advertised: thanks to all those "great" antibacterial products, now we have MRSA.  Our nation is plagued by a million health problems, thanks to the additives and crazy sodium-levels in our foods, and we continue to put chemicals that we know cause cancer into cleaning products, beauty products, and our food. Awesome. The American Academy of Pediatrics finally admitted all children under two should be eating organic fruits & veggies. We're hurting ourselves and putting our heads in the sand about why.

I also don't like how many of our big companies make their profits off of abusing or oppressing others, both domestically and internationally. I absolutely don't want to give them my money if I know about abuses in the system ESPECIALLY if the companies are aware of the abuses and are doing NOTHING about it. Ugh.

All that being said, we are a small-budget family. My husband's a pastor and has a part-time job and I have a part-time job in order for us to be able to pay for our simple life. We don't have the budget for extravagant purchases and I have to be choosy about how I buy organic, because as much as I would love to do all my grocery shopping at EarthFare, we simply cannot afford it.

But here's what happens: making your own cleaning products is a bazillion times cheaper than buying it. Even if you are a coupon queen. So that loosens my budget to buy the more expensive fair-trade or organic items. It evens out, which is very helpful! And honestly, I pray that God will show my heart how to spend our resources. I would rather buy fair-trade coffee or chocolate so that I'm not participating in slavery than get a new shirt. That is the honest truth. God will change your heart to make it more like his if you ask him to.

So here's the Cassell way to be part of the Homemade Fair-Trade Parade!  This will be a series of posts, but we'll start with the basics:

1. All-purpose cleaner. 
I do not use any chemical cleaners in my house (okay, confession: sometimes I use Lysol wipes in the bathroom, especially when someone's been puking. It's my dirty little secret. Don't tell anyone, okay?)

I use a vinegar-based cleaner. When I first switched to it, I really noticed the vinegar smell. I don't anymore. In fact, now I can't even hardly walk down the cleaning supply aisle at the grocery store without getting a headache because the chemical-cleaner smells have gotten so offensive to me!

Here's my tried & true recipe:
Spray bottle
1/2 cup lemon-vinegar (I throw a bunch of lemon peels into a giant mason jar filled with vinegar. After two weeks, it's lemon-vinegar and the harsh vinegar scent is gone!)
2 Tbl Borax (buy a box in the laundry-detergent aisle)
Drops of essential oil of your choosing (I use tea tree & lavender - 10 drops each)
Hot water
I put my vinegar in a measuring cup and add the borax to it and swish it around a bit, then pour it into my spray bottle.  Then I fill the bottle the rest of the way with hot water and add the essential oils. If I feel like it, I add lemon juice.
Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. It takes less time to make it than it does to walk down the cleaning aisle in the grocery store.
Plus, it is SUPER cheap and I can wipe down all the surfaces in my kitchen without worrying that I'm leaving dangerous chemicals behind that will end up in our food! If I'm cleaning up raw chicken or something, I make sure to use a cloth that's been soaked in super-hot water.

2. Glass Cleaner.
It's just a mix of half hot water, half vinegar in a spray bottle (I keep a small one marked "Glass cleaner" so I don't get it confused with my all-purpose). That is IT! I use a lint-free cloth to wipe and I get streak-free shine every time.
I've also used this recipe:  I really love her website. She has tons of great homemade recipes!

And this really happened: just before our home study, my mother-in-law offered to wash my windows for me.  I handed her some Windex that I had left over from before I started making my own stuff. She got to cleaning...and I had to ask her to stop! I couldn't handle the chemical smell that was taking over my house! Headache city!  And I couldn't believe that I used to use that stuff all the time! Ugh - it's just awful!

3. Laundry Detergent
That "clean smell" they put in? It's not good for you. It puts chemicals in your clothes so that you get to walk around all day breathing them in. No thanks. Clean smells like NOTHING. That's how you know it's clean.

I've made my own laundry detergent for years, but I just recently switched the way I make it. It's the pretty much the same recipe only I keep it in this condensed, easier (I think) version! Here is the link:
The only difference is that she calls for 1 cup each of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and Borax. I use a cup and a half of each, since that's what my old recipe used. I might try just a cup next time and see.

My laundry gets CLEAN, folks. It has no smell. If you really want the smell, you can buy some wool dryer balls and use essential oil to scent them. That will give your clothes a light scent. I don't do it only because I feel like I spend enough time doing laundry and don't want to take the extra 10 seconds it would take to scent my dryer balls. ha!

Here's the other thing: now I can barely stand the overpowering smell of regular laundry detergent! If one of my kids' friends happens to leave an article of clothing at my house, I am always shocked at the smell and how strong it is! I thought I would be so sad to lose my beloved Tide smell. Now I can't stand it!

3. Floor-Mopping Solution
I don't use this recipe much anymore because I got a steam mop. Now I either just steam-mop plain or spray the floor with my all-purpose cleaner first.  But here's what I used to make for use with my regular mop. My recipe is adapted from the one in Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano, which is a GREAT book, although she is much more high-maintenance than I am. I changed her recipe a tiny bit.
Here's my version:
Fill a bucket with really hot water. Add a squirt of Dawn soap, 2 Tbl Borax (she says use 1/2 cup baking soda, but it left a film on my wood floors), and 20 drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils.
This is a good heavy-duty cleaner for cleaning baseboards and stuff, too.

4. Foaming Hand Soap
I make my kids wash their hands ALL THE TIME. And foaming soap is a great way to make sure they get their hands clean but we don't go through TONS of hand-soap.  But...holy cow is foaming hand-soap expensive! It makes me laugh when I see it at the store! I bought a nice glass foamer at Bed Bath & Beyond (with my 20% off coupon, thankyouverymuch) and all I do is fill it between 1/4 and 1/3 full with Dr. Bronners Castille soap. I fill it the rest of the way with warm water. Swirl it around and you're done! And Dr. Bronners comes in lots of different smells. Right now I've been using the peppermint kind. It's fabulous! I buy a big ole half-gallon from and have it delivered straight to my house. It doesn't get any better than that, friends. Fancy foam soap for a fraction of the price. And it's fair-trade to boot.

Now you've gotten your house all spic & span without the use of harmful chemicals! Congrats!

Have a recipe to share? Share away! If I get a bunch (or just some really good ones), I'll post them!
Up next:  Beauty Products!


  1. I just tried this one and love it:

    Add orange peels (or any citrus peel) to a quart of white vinegar in a closed container and let it set for two weeks. Combine citrus/vinegar solution half/half with water and use for cleaning. Works on floors, tile, fixtures, etc.

  2. Thanks for sharing all those. They are fabulous. I love having recipes for cleaners that people have already tried. In the all purpose cleaner - is that going to kill germs? That's what always worries you mentioned after someone has been sick, raw chicken, etc. Do you use that in the bathrooms too? Or another recipe?


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