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Sunday, July 31, 2011

DIY Cleaning Products ep.2

Anyone try the DIY spray cleaner and glass cleaner? If you haven't, you should it's really good. Anyway here's the next one to try. It's a bit more complex and you will need to do some specialist shopping but it is worth it. If you want to try some to see if it works as good as the store bought stuff; you can buy it ready made here

(This is another one from Wendyl Nissen by the way)

Laundry detergent 
½ bar Castile or vegetable-based or Sunlight soap, grated
1.5 litres of water
½ cup washing soda
50 g borax

1 litre hot water
5 more litres of hot water

20 Drops of Essential Oil - try lavender or eucalyptus (optional)

Place soap in a saucepan with the first quantity of water and heat on low until soap is dissolved. Stir in washing soda and borax. Stir for a few minutes until thickened and remove from heat. (If you're using Castile or vegetable-based soap it won't thicken straight away, but don't worry, it will overnight in the bottles). 

Add 1 litre of hot water to a bucket. Add soap mixture and mix well. Fill bucket with another 5 litres of hot water and mix well. Add the essential oil now if you are using some. Pour into old milk bottles or other containers and set aside for 24 hours or until mixture thickens. Use ½ cup of mixture per load.

This is how ours turned out.
If you do the maths right it adds up to 7.5 litres, all for under $10 - even if you use the expensive soap. It will be gluggy, commercial products add chemicals to make them smooth but just give it a good shake before use and it's all good. 

Ingredients - Some chemistry:

Soap - The cheapest option is to use sunlight soap, it only cost around $3 for four bars from the supermarket but it contains palm oil and beef tallow; so not the best ecologically. The best soap to use is Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap that I talked out here.

Washing soda - Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3) and it is baking soda's (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, NaHCO3) bigger bader cousin. It is a good general cleaner, and while, unlike baking soda, you wouldn't put it in your food, it is pretty safe. Can be bought from the supermarket as washing soda crystals.

Borax - Sodium Borate (Na2B4O7) and is a very effective antibacterial, fungicidal, cleaning and bleaching agent. It won't bleach your clothes at the dose you use here but it is very good at at removing stains. It is the least safe ingredient in this recipe and care should be taken when handling and storing it. It is a bit trickier to find than the other ingredients, you can get it from chemists, but it can be expensive. Get it from trademe or the sites I will talk about next.

We have found two websites that are great for buying ingredients: and They both sell similar products but some things are cheaper on one site than the other. We found essential oils were cheaper from soapcraft but borax was cheaper from lotusoils. (Wendyl Nissen recommends lotusoils by the way).

We have been using this for a couple of months and it works great. We were a little sceptical about using it with modern cloth nappies at the start, but if anything, it works better than the shop bought stuff!

So give it a try, let us know what you think. Check out Wendyl Nissen's website too there's some great stuff on there. If you find a good source for ingredients let us know too.



  1. This is a great post!! I've been researching this myself lately (But I'm based in Sydney)
    Here's a couple of little things to add to your awesome list:

    TOILET CLEANER: White vinegar instead of using toilet duck.

    OVEN CLEANER: Bicarb soda and salt.

    CLOTHES & NAPPIES: My friends here are using and highly recommend "Soap Nuts" which naturally grow on trees! In OZ, you can get these off Ebay, but I'm not sure where they are shipped from (ie: maybe not local?). I googled and found a NZ site: with more info if you're interested.

    Furthermore, another HUGE is replacing your commercial shampoo and conditioner! There's a lot of people who believe in going "No-Poo" (short for No Shampoo). Some people go completely without and swear that their hair and scalp are MUCH more healthy, but others make their own using various recipes (search online). A simple one is bicarb soda, apple cider vinegar & coconut oil. Personally, I haven't been brave enough (yet) to go "no poo" but, I stopped using the expensive crap and have been using an organic all-natural shampoo that uses ecologically sound packaging (made from plant oils). My hair feels MUCH less oily and less frizzy than it has for years!!

    Sorry, this is a long post! I was getting excited with all the ideas! LOL

  2. Thanks Rebekah!! Is it exciting once you get started huh?
    We have tried soapnuts, though I can't say I'm convinced they do a particularly great job, though perhaps we haven't persisted enough. I do love that once you've used them, you can just pop them in the compost. Maybe we'll give them another go!

    Kel has been 'no poo' for well over a year now and I've been 'no poo' for a couple of months.I was doing the straight just rinsing with water every day, but I've found that my hair really benefits from a baking soda/cider vinegar wash every week. Great that you've found something that works for you! I was an avid Pantene user, but aside from the $$, it has some potentially nasty crap in it!
    We did a post on going shampoo free here:
    and Heather put a comment with some great other ideas too :)

  3. I'm definitely going to start using home made and eco friendly cleaning stuff, as well as being better for the environment, I'm sure it is better for us - not breathing it in, not getting it on our skin etc!
    I've started using organic shampoo too, and love it! :)

  4. Just a thought: I see that both washing soda and borax appear in your recipe. These chemicals both 'soften' hard water. If the water has lots of minerals in it (i.e. it is 'hard') then these minerals 'bind' to the soap molecules meaning lots of the soap is tied up with that and can't actually clean anythig. Both washing soda and borax 'soften' the water and leave the soap to do its job.

    However, Auckland's water is really pretty soft and so you don't need both. We've washed our clothes with just grated soap and washing soda for a year or so with no problems, although admittedly we don't have children!

    And if you're going to take out either the washing soda or the borax from your recipe, I think the clear environmental choice is the borax. Borax is pretty troublesome stuff. A bit like palm oil, borax is (relatively) harmless to the consumer and harmless in the environment, but it's produced in a pretty non-ideal way.

    Borax is mined. For me, mining is always a danger flag (although it's completely impossible to remove all mined products from your life!).

    Firstly, anything that you mine is, by definition, non-renewable. This is more of a problem the more scarce a substance is: iron is technically non-renewable, but it'd take us millenia to run out and anyway it's easily recyclable! But boron's only found in a couple of places on the planet and will run out one day, plus it's very hard to recycle something you dissolve in water and send down the sewer.

    Secondly, all mining except open-cast mining is pretty dangerous, and open-cast mining (which I think they use for boron) is pretty bad for the local enviroment. I like to ask myself if it is really worth someone having to go down a mine in order for me to have XYZ.

    If you find that the detergent doesn't remove really tough stains once you've removed the borax, maybe you can use two recipes: an everyday one without borax, and a tough stains one for when you really need it.


    --Heather :-)

  5. Hi Heather, I'm pretty sure (but I could be wrong) that washing soda and borax do more than just soften the water. But yes Borax isn't the best for the environment and health, and you can leave it out if you want. However the recipe only has 50g in 7.5L so it's not a big deal. With a nearly one year old and the job I do, we need all the stain removing power we can get!

  6. Personally, I'm of the opinion that perhaps we should try a small batch without the borax and see whether it works ok. The washing powder recipe on doesn't contain borax so surely it would work without?