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Homemade products sometimes work wonders

May 10, 2012|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I just might have the world's best smelling bathroom.

The skeptic would ask if I've smelled every bathroom in the world.

The answer, of course, is no. And the rest of the answer is, "Have you smelled MY bathroom?"

Not to brag or anything, but the scent of my loo and its surroundings calls to mind a field of sprightly lavender on the outskirts of a quaint village, perhaps on a Mediterranean shore.

I'm not sure my teenage sons would explain it just that way, but I'm saying, it smells good.

I have my friend Kris to thank for it. She made the nontoxic, heavy-duty, lavender-scented cleaner I've been using.

Kris became interested in making products at home mainly for economic reasons. She began with personal care products.

"I really love to have good stuff for my skin and I can feel the difference when I use it," Kris said. "But a stroll through the drug store depresses me. I can't afford those things. So I started to make my own."

She said knowing exactly what is in her concoctions — as opposed to the unpronounceable litany of substances in commercial products — is a bonus. Plus, she said, "I really, really think they work better."

Her baking soda-based lavender exfoliating scrub made me a believer. It's grainy yet gentle and the aroma takes me back to that subtropical Mediterranean shore.

Though Kris makes her products in a variety of scents, I'm into lavender right now. I've read that the flowering plant was used in the biblical temple. I'm thinking if it was good enough for the holy essence, it's good enough for my aging skin.

Historians say lavender sold in ancient Rome for 100 denarii per pound. That was roughly a month's wages for a farm worker. In an ironic and pleasing turn, Kris snags the same precious stuff in essential oil form these days for less than 10 bucks a bottle. Using just drops per recipe, one bottle goes a long way.

With the success of homemade personal care products under her belt, my industrious friend ventured into making cleaning and laundry products. I'm not talking your basic vinegar and water glass cleaner, though that is a fine standby. Actually, she replaces the vinegar in that blend with club soda to avoid the pungent odor.

While still feasible, the cleaners I'm referring to are the next level of homemade products. Among my favorites are an effective, no-frills laundry soap made of just three ingredients.

"All the ingredients are very cheap and can be found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store," Kris said.

I'm all for saving money and avoiding the mysterious substances in commercial products. And I am with Kris — the homemade mixtures I've tried work very well.

In addition, I think mixing these useful brews would be fun and educational to do with the family. Here are some recipes I intend to try myself.


Lavender exfoliating scrub

1 cup water

2 to 4 tablespoons baking soda, depending on desired thickness

10 drops lavender essential oil

1 or 2 drops avocado oil

Mix well. Apply to  face with damp cloth or hands. Massage and rinse.


Nontoxic heavy-duty cleaner

1 cup water

1 teaspoon Borax

1/4 cup vinegar

10 drops orange essential oil

5 drops lemon essential oil

Mix water and Borax and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and add to Borax mixture. Pour into a clean spray bottle. Shake, wipe surface clean, and rinse. Ideal for grimy surfaces.

Option: Replace citrus oils with lavender or others as desired. Adjust amount for preferred scent.


Laundry soap

1 1/2 cups Borax

1 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated

Combine. Use 1 or 2 tablespoons per load.


Fabric softener

2 cups hot water

1 cup vinegar

2/3 cup Suave Naturals Refreshing Waterfall Mist conditioner

Combine. Use 2 tablespoons per load.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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