Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Your Own Cleaners and Detergent

Cleaners, and detergents are expensive. About ten years ago I went on a kick to make my own to save money, feel a sense of accomplishment, and just for the fact that I could, and they would be just as good as the store bought stuff. All were successful, except for my flypaper strips. Let me tell you about these. I picked up a book called Cheaper and Better by Nancy Birnes. There are a lot of food recipes, clothing care, personal care, children's play items, and holiday ideas. It is a super resource and I have adapted many of her ideas. But fly paper was not one of those super fantastic ideas.

"These hairy, speckled items (fly paper) could be the ugliest-looking thing in the world, but if you want to get rid of flies in places where you don't mind looking at their dead bodies hanging stuck on long strips of paper, then this is just the ticket. You can hang them in out of the way places like barns, sheds, and even in guest bedrooms."

I was convinced that I could make these and hang them out at the barn and hen house to reduce the infective numbers of flies that we get in the summer time around here. So I followed the recipe.

Fly Paper

2 C milk
2 TB black pepper
2 TB white sugar
2 TB brown sugar
brown paper bags cut into strips

Boil the milk, pepper and sugars together for 5 min. Simmer uncovered for 5 min. more, until thick and let cool. Wind the paper strips into a tight roll and drop into the milk mixture. Let become completely saturated. Rewind strips and let them air dry on a cookie sheet. They are ready to use when sticky to the touch. Suspend from wherever flies are a problem.

DH got home from work that afternoon and I showed him my latest attempt at being self sufficient and creative. He was like,"Gross, what on earth is that?" "Homemade fly paper. We'll just hang it up and the flies will stick to it like the store bought kind. The book says they're just the ticket." He tried to be supportive, but I could tell he had his doubts. He was secretly laughing. We hung them up all over the place. And waited. Friends came over and were like, "What is that?" I tried to explain how I was being frugal and thrifty and homemade items were just as useful and effective as store bought. "Than how come there aren't any flies stuck to the paper?" Not one fly to be had. Yes, these were a real disaster. We both have had a good laugh about that over the years.

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a year and a half now, and it works just as well as the store bought and costs pennies to make. Here are some tried and tested recipes that work.

Laundry Detergent

3 pints water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated (1/3 C)
1/2 C Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, NOT baking soda
1/2 C 20 Mule team borax
2 gal. bucket
hot water
You can get the Fels Naptha, washing soda, and borax at Fred Meyer. Look on the top or bottom shelf.

Mix the grated Fels Naptha in a sauce pan with 3 pints water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and 20 Mule team borax. Stir until completely dissolved. Add 1 qt. hot water to the 2 gal. bucket. Add soap mixture and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water and mix well. Set aside overnight. It will gel and kind of separate when you mix it again. Don't worry. Just use 1/2 C of mixture per load of laundry. That's all you need, I promise. I even have a large capacity washer. I do like to add 2 TB. of softener when I wash laundry. It helps with the static and clothes are softer.

Fabric Softener

2 C baking soda
2 C white vinegar, or herbal vinegar
4 C water

Mix ingredients in a plastic container. Label. To use, add 1/8-1/4 C to final rinse water in your washing machine, or in the fabric softener receptacle in you washer.


Kris Watson over at Simply Living has a wonderful Windex/409 recipe.

Windshield Washer Fluid

3 C isopropyl alcohol
1 TB liquid detergent or soft soap
10 C water

Pour alcohol and detergent into a clean gallon size plastic jug and add water. Shake well. Label. To use, shake well and pour into car's windshield washer compartment.

All Purpose Cleaner

1 C ammonia
1 C washing soda, NOT baking soda (Arm and Hammer)
14 C warm water.

Pour ammonia and washing soda into a clean gallon size jug. Add 2 C warm water and shake jug to mix. Fill the jug with the rest of the water. Close and label. To use, pour 1/2 C of solution in a bucket and fill with warm water. Great for scrubbing wall surfaces or floors. For small jobs, fill a spray container (label) and use full-strength on appliances and tile, or any washable surface.

Coffee Pot Cleaner

1 C white vinegar
1 C water

Mix together and pour into your automatic coffee pot reservoir. Turn on and run solution through. Discard solution, or fill your thermos and let soak for 30 min. Fill reservoir with clean water and run coffee pot again to rinse.


  1. Oh My Goodness! Thanks for posting the 'recipes'. I started making the laundry soap this summer and I'm in love with it(if one can be in love with laundry soap - hee hee). The major thing I've noticed is when drying on the line, my clothes are not "crunchy" when dry. I use to toss in the drier for a few to soften up. Don't have to now and DH dosen't complain about scratchy towels anymore. I'm sold and so is my pocketbook! I'm gonna to try your other cleaners.

  2. On the all purpose cleaner I would pass on the ammonia. Why because when mixed with bleach even by accident causes a gas that can take out an elephant.

  3. herdog, I love the laundry soap, too. My towels do tend to get scratchy, but the fabric softener helps. We have fairly hard water here, so that may contribute. I also soften them in the dryer, which helps.

    Rob's Bunker, good point about mixing chemicals. I don't put bleach in the all purpose cleaner, so I haven't had any problems.


Your thoughts are welcome!