I’ll admit to being a laundry nerd. Removing tough stains gives me joy and a sense of accomplishment. Caring for my family’s clothing allows it to last as long as possible while ensuring they’re clean and presentable and I find that strangely fulfilling. I’ve even been known to wash other people’s clothes (coats, blankies, kids car seat covers…) when they come to my house because I have have uptight perfectionist issues. It drives me nuts when my husband does a load because he doesn’t do it the way I would. I have to bite my tongue and thank him for his help though I’m dying to just rewash it all. What can I say? I’m a weirdo.
Perhaps the isolation of being a stay at home mom has made me a bit odd and I don’t have much else to keep me busy other than housework. At any rate, laundry is my thing. Also vacuuming- I look forward to getting our carpets clean and fluffy each day. Ah, the thrilling life of the homemaker! Anyhoo…
I’ve been using plain white vinegar as a fabric softener for the past 5 years and can vouch for the fact that it does work. It’s undoubtedly better than using nothing at all, which we did for several months before discovering the vinegar trick. White vinegar is cheap and eliminates static cling as well as build-up in your washer, but it isn’t the same as having luxuriously soft garments and towels like you’d get from Downy or Snuggle.
When I found that there were other alternatives to buying traditional fabric softener I had to try them out. Since this recipe (originally found on Wikihow) has been a success I’m excited to share it with you. This is a cheap and effective alternative to store bought softeners.
- 6 Cups (1500 ml) hot water
- 3 Cups (750 ml) white vinegar
- 2 Cups (500 ml) hair conditioner
In a large pitcher, combine the hot water and conditioner then mix until smooth. I like to use a whisk for this step. Once the conditioner is completely mixed in, add the white vinegar and stir to combine. Transfer to your container (I reuse old vinegar bottles for this) and allow to cool completely before use. I like to let it sit overnight. Measure out 1/4 to 1/2 C of softener for each load of laundry. Administer as you would any other fabric softener, either via Downy ball, by adding before the rinse cycle or placing in your machine’s built-in dispenser. This amount makes about 3/4 of a gallon or 44 loads at a 1/4 cup each.
Your own cost will vary but here is what I spent:
- 2 gal. of white vinegar for $4.83 (2 gal. makes 10 batches at about 48 cents a piece)
- 2 12 oz. bottles of hair conditioner at 88 cents each (I used 1 and a half for this recipe, so we’ll say $1.32)
Total for about 88 oz. or 44 loads = $1.80
For the sake of comparison, in the first quarter of 2015, a 50 oz bottle of Snuggle costs about $4 and a 96 oz. bottle is about $7.
I try to avoid soy which makes buying salad dressing off the shelf difficult. Also, I like fresh and am totally picky when it comes to condiments. Homemade tastes so much better than store bought, am I right? Here are 3 of my family’s favorite salad dressings that are simple to make as well as delicious. Make them your own by tweaking the recipe to suit your tastes. Diced, pickled jalapeno would be a yummy addition to the thousand island for example. Mix it up!
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1 1/2 C canola oil
- 1/4 C water
- 1/2 C white wine vinegar
- 2 t montreal steak seasoning
- 1/2 C sugar
- 2 T mayonaise
- 1 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- 1 t prepared mustard
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until creamy. Pour into a quart mason jar and store in your refrigerator. Shake before using and use within 5-7 days.
Thousand Island Dressing
- 1 C mayonaise
- 1/2 C ketchup
- 1 T sugar
- 1 t onion powder
- 1/2 t garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1-2 T water to thin (depending on the consistency you like)
- (optional) 1-2 T sweet pickle relish
- (optional) 1 t hot sauce
Stir ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Can be used as a dip or dressing. Refrigerate any leftovers and use within 7-10 days.
Blue Cheese Dressing
- 1 C sour cream
- 1/2 C mayo
- 2 t white wine vinegar
- 1/2 t minced garlic
- 1/8 t salt
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1 4 oz. container of crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola
- (optional) milk to thin
Whisk ingredients together in a bowl. This will be thick and rich but you can thin it out if you want it to be easier to pour. This is wonderful as a dip with vegetables or hot wings. Heck, I like it with potato chips! Refrigerate any leftovers and use within 5 days.
I recently gave up on a long standing money saver- homemade laundry soap. For a couple years, I’ve been increasingly less satisfied with the state of my laundry and kind of wishing for better (store bought) detergents. This discontentment helped me (slowly, I was a die-hard) warm up to the idea of spending money on laundry soap again. My husband really fought it though; he just loves when I spend less money. The real clincher was the state of our towels. They just never smelled really clean, especially the kitchen towels. All of our household towels had stopped being absorbent though we never used fabric softener -usually the culprit- on them. As a result I was always washing things on hot, and heavy duty as well as going through a box of borax each week. This was not saving us money!
My husband & I knew that our washing machine wasn’t great and to some degree thought it was responsible for our dingy laundry. Being in very tight financial circumstances we didn’t attempt to replace it, though. My husband limped it along with repairs and replacement parts for years before we gave in and bought a newer, better model. For a while I told myself that we were saving a lot of money by not buying laundry soap so the lackluster results were acceptable.
After several years of washing with the homemade stuff, I made one last attempt to improve my formula. Thus trying a different amount of borax, washing soda, brand of bar soap, and even adding a little real laundry soap to my mix before finally quitting altogether. When nothing we tried improved the state of our laundry I finally had to admit that my detergent making days were done.
So, resigned to start buying laundry soap again, and longing for good smelling really clean clothes my husband turned to the professionals for detergent advice. Which was the best bang for our buck? What was best for our machine? Because my new washer needed to be treated well and last us at least another decade. He works for a company that services appliances and asked the technicians what laundry soap they recommended. The answer was to chose between, Tide, Whisk, and Kirkland Signature. These were, in their opinion, the best performers and recommended by the manufacturers for best performance in our HD machines.
We chose the Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) which was surprisingly affordable at about $15 a jug. There’s some buzz that the Costco brand is made by Tide. I’m inclined to believe it but can’t confirm it. Since we use much less than previously needed with the DIY stuff the giant jug lasts about 2 months. Not bad. We also don’t have to wash on heavy duty/hot anymore. Our clothes are clean on the “normal” setting without any added boosters or stain-fighters. Also the towels smell nice and fresh and are absorbent again. And so I’ve have fallen off the DIY laundry soap bandwagon and our laundry is better off for it.
Our kids are old enough to make their own PB&J though apparently not old enough to wipe up afterward. My kitchen counters used to get smeared with sticky globs of jam & jelly daily from the occasional toast or sandwich. I think it’s sweet and encourage their independence. I LOVE them being able to do things for themselves. However… I am all for making their journey to self sufficiency a little less messy and/or wasteful. So I shopped for the squeezy jams at the grocery store and was disappointed to find that I’d be paying more for my clean counters.
Epiphany! I have a food processor! I can puree my own jams and jellies and refill those expensive bottles! So that’s what I did. I wash and sanitized these bottles ( I have one for strawberry too) before each refill but you certainly don’t have to buy the expensive squeezies like I did. I thought of this after purchasing the jelly bottle, but YOU can just use one of those reusable condiment containers people take to BBQs and picnics. They probably work better since this jelly version tends to be slightly looser than the store bought and the smaller opening will slow the flow.
Here’s what I used.
Puree, then pour.
The finished product! I’m not fussy about the old labels being attached, but if you want to pretty up that bottle use some Goof-Off. It stays in the fridge though so who will know if you don’t?
…there really isn’t a recipe to give you. But I have photos, see? Just buy (or make) some jam or jelly, puree it in your blender or food processor, funnel into a squeezy bottle and refrigerate. No need to add any other ingredients like oil or thickeners. Easy!
One thing that my kids LOVE to do outside is squirt water. So we bought some cheapy little party favor squirt guns to entertain them but they had to be refilled every couple minutes and ultimately broke within a day or two. I started saving my dish soap bottles and, after a few good rinses with cold water, they’re a great substitute for squirt guns. Sometimes we put food coloring in the water and they call them their rainbow squirters. These are also a lot of fun in the bathtub!
Let them water your plants!
Another way we play with water is to have the kids water plants. Our daughter, Miss S, loves to water every bush and rock she sees until she’s soaking wet and covered in mud. It’ll entertain her for a good hour or so at least. So we gave Miss S a cleaned out gallon milk jug as a watering can. My husband used a tiny bit to drill holes in the cap to let the water out. We’ve also done this with 12 oz. water bottles and plastic juice containers.
I started making my own cleaner to try and cut down on some of the harmful chemicals in our home. At first I used a recipe that included white vinegar but after a while gave that up because it didn’t clean very well. I needed something more heavy duty that would also sanitize. This recipe includes ammonia which has a relatively streak-free shine that makes it good for glass and stainless steel surfaces as well. I use it in on all the surfaces in my home. The ingredients themselves are very inexpensive: Ammonia was $1 at my local Wal-Mart, I make the laundry soap so that was about 20¢ per gallon. The only other things you need are a spray bottle* and a funnel. If you want to make this in bulk to save time, also have a clean jug handy to use as your refill bottle.
- 2 C tap water
- 1 T ammonia
- 1 T liquid laundry detergent
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and gently swirl to combine. Store tightly closed, away from children & pets.
*It can be dangerous to reuse old spray bottles if they originally contained any ingredients that may react with your homemade cleaner. I recommend purchasing a new spray bottle for this recipe. The one I have here cost about $1.50 at the grocery store.