Homemade Household Products from Under the Kitchen Sink

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Many of the natural items kept under your kitchen sink can be mixed to create homemade household products that compete with (if not beat out) chemical-ridden commercial products.
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In "The Country Almanac for Housekeeping Techniques," Richard Freudenberger and the editors of "BackHome Magazine" have collected hundreds of formulas for effective cleaning, gardening and home maintenance — as well as ways our ancestors saved on heating bills, prevented costly repairs and maintained a cozy, charming home with little besides ingenuity.

Recent studies show that modern commercial household cleaners are causing serious health issues for individuals and their families. The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money (Fair Winds Press, 2012) by Richard Freudenberger and the editors of Back Home Magazine shows you how to keep a clean and healthy home for just pennies a day. Using a collection of formula for effective cleaning, gardening and home maintenance. Don’t just clean your household, get the longest life out of every item. The following excerpt explains how to make homemade household products for common cleaning.

Be a Kitchen Sink Alchemist and Save a Bundle

Cost savings
Between $3.99 and $18, depending on the product you’re replacing

Natural, nontoxic, and inexpensive substitutes for common household products

Chemicals that are usual suspects in today’s commercial household cleaning products today didn’t exist in “the olden days,” and they got along just fine without them. The basic ingredients were mostly natural with no petroleum-derived synthetics or artificial additives — and they’re still available today. So, let’s take a look at how a little kitchen sink alchemy can still go a long way with natural homemade, household cleaning products.

Paint Stripper

This is an inexpensive and reasonably effective stripping solution for paint that uses washing soda (sodium carbonate) as the prime ingredient. Washing soda, also known as soda ash, is fairly alkaline, so protect your hands with rubber gloves when using it. The mixture is simple:

• Make a paste of the soda powder and slather it onto the surface to be treated with a rag or a broad putty knife.
• Keep the paste moist by spraying (not soaking) it over the course of 8 hours or so.
• Peel off the bubbled-up paint skin with a scraper. You do not want to leave the caustic soda in the wood grain, so it can be neutralized with a weak solution of white vinegar and water, mixed in a blend of 20 percent vinegar, 80 percent water.
• Allow the wood to dry completely after rinsing.

Wood Insect Treatment

Borax is a natural insect repellent and is blended with cellulose fibers to make an
insulation that is insect and fire resistant. Boric acid, a constituent of borax, is an antiseptic powder with similar repellent qualities. Mix it with water to the consistency of a thin paste, and paint it on to wood surfaces to prevent bug infestation from household pests such as ants and roaches.

Asphalt and Tar Remover

Remove asphalt and tar spots from bicycles, car panels, shoe soles, and other surfaces with a mixture of white distilled vinegar and raw linseed oil.

• Place a few drops of linseed oil into 4 ounces (120 ml) of white vinegar and stir.
• Apply with a cloth and rub; then dry with a clean cloth.
• You can substitute glycerin for the linseed oil for cleaning.

Lime Whitewash

Whitewash historically was an inexpensive substitute for paint. It’s still inexpensive and offers a nostalgic look to fences, outbuildings, walls, breezeways, signs, and even craft pieces. Its main constituent is mason’s lime, the hydrated or slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) also known as Type S used by traditional brick masons. (The agricultural lime we use in the garden has not gone through the heating and soaking process to make it “slaked,” and is not an acceptable substitute.) The beauty of whitewash is that it allows the wood beneath to breathe, plus it has natural insect-repellent qualities. Here are some pointers when using whitewash:

• Mason’s lime comes in 50-pound (22.7 kg) bags, so unless you have a lot of area to cover and helpers to do it, you’ll have to split the ingredients into more manageable lots.
• Fifty pounds (22.7 kg) of mason’s lime requires about 6 gallons (22.7 liters) of clean water (preferably rainwater or soft well water, without chlorine) to bring it to a pasty consistency; mix it with a hoe in a tub or wheelbarrow.
• Apply the mixture with a broad stiff brush; it will dry leaving a rough texture. For a longer-lasting, more water-resistant coating, add 1 1/2 cups (255 ml) of boiled linseed oil. For smaller lots, reduce the ingredients proportionally.

More from The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques

• How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
• DIY Recycled, Wooden Compost Bin
• Cleaning Appliances with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Reprinted with permission from The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money: Folk Wisdom for Keeping Your House Clean, Green, and Homey (Fair Winds Press, 2012), by Richard Freudenberger and the Editors of Backhome Magazine.