Household DIY: Cleaning and Care from Pets to Plants

This is our very first home. This is BIG in any regard, especially being in the younger generation. My husband is the antithesis of the ‘millennial’ definition. He got married before 25, his car is paid off, we got our house right after he turned 30, and we are looking at possibly having kids in the next 5 years, (the powers that be willing.) Now comes the better times in our life right: the settling-in phase and being ‘true’ adults finally, right? To this I say, “LET THE HOUSKEEPING BEGIN!”



House Keeping


Cleaning is a necessary evil we all have to contend with. While packing up the cleaning supplies, the thought occurred to me that maybe this was a good time to switch over to all-natural and home-made products. I broke out my copy of Good Housekeeping from the nineteen-fifties and read through it to see what would work. YouTube was the next research phase, then on to the other books at the Apothecary, and calling friends to see what they were using.



Ingredients and Containers and Labels

The first step was ingredients. I had to think about which ones I felt comfortable with using and would keep me in the all-natural realm. White vinegar, baking soda, water, essential oils, and borax seemed to be the big five with a few other random ones in between. All of these are relatively safe when used properly, except the borax - that only gets used in things that have a good rinse like the laundry pre-treatment and detergent, toilet cleaner, or the dishwashing tabs. If you choose to use this in other things, I HIGHLY recommend you look up the safety and warning issues with it before making your decisions.


Storage

I bought a rolling, tiered storage rack for all the bases and Ball mason jars in different sizes for anything that would be extra and not in re-sealable packaging. Glass has always been my storage go-to because it prevents the leeching of any plastics or smells into whatever you store inside. For the application containers, I hit up Big Lots and the Dollar Tree for aluminum spray bottles and tins. Cardboard dispensers always seem so very wasteful, as you cannot refill them and they can only be used once or they tear or get misshapen.


For the labels I decided on using a wide name tag protector and taping it to the outside. This way, when I make more and it there is a limited shelf life; I can just take out the tag and flip it over. Plus, cutting an index card in half works just as well and you can get stacks of blank ones for a dollar. I name the products simply. The mixture used for glass is labeled “GLASS.” That way, no one can question it or mistake it for something else. The shelf life also gets put on the tag along with the creation date; again, so there is no guesswork on when I need to make more.


Shelf Life

The theory that makes most of these blends work is the acid-base reaction. The neutralization process that occurs from mixing an acid and a base causes protons to move from one molecule to another to create a conjugate base and a conjugate acid. When this happens, the process absorbs surrounding heat to help the reaction. This is all depending on the strength of the acid used, (white vinegar, most of the time.) Some cleaners will need to be used right away others can stay in bottles or cans until they are mixed with a base, (baking soda for the most part.) As long as these are separate or kept chilled, they will last. Just something to keep in mind that other recipes won’t tell you, so make sure you have the time to make an individual batch each time in that case!




Recipes

The best mixes evolved from the ones my Grandmother had told me about when she was little. Have to clean your windows? Black tea and newspaper works fantastic. She always knew the easiest and simplest ways to get things done. With more access to supplies though, I’ve been able to make custom types for the newer surface materials and fabric types my lifetime has seen come about. To clean pleather you can use hand cream and a square of fleece. Electronic screens smudged or dusty? Diluted vodka in a small spray onto a microfiber cloth and wipe. How about everyone’s bane, rust? Try ketchup or cola and plain toothpaste.


I found many DIY combinations for almost every type of cleaner or care product I bought in the store. It took about 2 weeks for me to make and test small amounts before deciding which “recipe” I would record in my book of from scratch concoctions. All the work pays off in spades though with money saved and less caustic materials being breathed in. Our laundry detergent formula costs about 10 bucks to make but I get 10 gallons. For our household, that is a savings of over $50 every 6 months. That is just ONE thing replaced. We did the whole gamut of almost 10 products so our investment of about an hour every 3 months is well worth the return of savings.



Pet Care


We had two books arrive this past month that looked perfect to explore natural and safe remedies for pets. We have the “10 herbs” books, one for cats and one for dogs too at Aurora’s. Having both types of pets in the house, this is really important to me as my one cat Portia, as a kitten, got into some baby’s breath and became so ill she almost left us as soon as we got her. That put me on alert to the other plants I kept in my house as she was the first to show any interest in them. Best to pet proof the house before having to call the vet right? Now, keep in mind, you still have to watch for any reactions if you choose to use ANY of these and always consult a vet first before moving forward. All pets are unique just like humans so they may be affected differently.


Cats- Did you know that cats get the majority of their daily water from food? Most are chronically dehydrated and could use a moist meal once a day. If you pour a kitty-safe tea over some dry food, they can get the moisture they need. We might have seen a kitten with an upset stomach once or twice as well. Perhaps they have something in their eyes? Maybe your cat is a nervous licker and has some bare “tracks”, this little novelette sized book gives you multiple uses for each herb and help on how to administer them.


Dogs- Ear drops, bald patches, itches, coat health, you name it this little book covered it. It even included a pain salve for minor cuts and scrapes which if you have an active pet, know happens more than it should. Most of the time, we are concerned with topicals and we always check ingredients to make sure they are safe for ingestion. We didn’t have time to make any before the winter season came, so we were really excited when Mrs. Aurora made some pay wax for our boys, our rescue German shepherd mixes. They lick all of the time and we thought it would be good to keep their pads protected from drying too much and buffer them from the burning salt on walks.


Plants

If you over-water your plants and they start to grow a bit of mold on the soil or plant itself, the simple and fast way to take care of it is to mix 1 part Peroxide with 4 parts water into a dark spray bottle. Use this to spray the plant down and the soil surface. The importance of a dark container is so your peroxide does not become inactive. Light will cause it to break down and become useless, that is why it is sold in opaque container. Diatomacious Earth was a new one for me to read about this year. You can use it as a pest repellent by sprinkling in around the edge of your flower pot or bed and even mix it with water and spray the plant to get any hiding undesirable insects that could harm them.


Personal Care

Besides the infamous Dr. Bronners liquid soap, making my own scented body wash seemed fairly easy. Using a few drops of essential oils I can make one for every season to go with what I need. Morning showers could get Citrus or happy aromas like bergamot and lemongrass and Night showers could be scented with lavender and vanilla to calm down and unwind. I’m very excited to custom blend my own instead of purchasing mass-produced ones that may include sulfates, silicons, parabens or thalates. The tryclosan that is in many liquid cleansers are a very hot issue as the side effects are terrible on health.


The anti-chaffing body powder is one of the things from Aurora’s that I can’t live without year round. It is an exception to my rule of a cardboard container since the paper base absorbs moisture to keep the product from clumping. I use this for chaffing prevention for my work outs or hiking, as a dry shampoo during those “lazy days”, and as a shoe deodorizer as needed. It’s also great on your sheets to refresh them or to help during the summer with the top sheets sticking to you.


Beauty


I am an ultra-oily girl so I had to look up the different oils that would be best for my skin. I plan on making whole breadth of facial products from an oil wash and essence to a good moisturizer and acne treatment. Masks will be the usual beast of, “make per use” and I am totally okay with the effort to get green beauty care.


Being that the skin is the largest organ we have, it also absorbs the most environmental damaging radicals. I’d like to actively not add on to the ones I’m already being exposed to just by existing. The deodorant adventure is something that will be fun as well. Arrowroot powder and few other ingredients will be needed to mix up and make a solid that will withstand heat pressure and cold. This will be my big Summer project to figure out these ratios and blends to record the keepers that work how I want them to.


DIY is one of the more rewarding tasks I can think of undertaking. Customizing everything to my tastes may seem picky, but when else do you get total control over what you are exposed to? I’d rather LIKE and enjoy the things I use without worry and maybe take a little pride in knowing I can create something for a purpose that is useful and beneficial for me in every way. If you too start this journey, I wish you all the luck and all the rewards that come with it.

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