Category Archives: DIY Household Products

Homemade Matching Card Game

A few weeks ago I started doing “preschool” with Mikayla.  It’s a bit of a shift for us in that it’s more involved and intentional than what we were doing but it’s not quite a full blown preschool program either. This fall we plan to either enroll her in a preschool somewhere or I will do a full blown preschool program at home – haven’t decided yet.

Anyway, I’ve been researching preschool stuff and putting together some sort of plan and “curriculum”. My friend introduced me to a blog by a homeschooling mom with TONS of homeschool tips and information and free, printable downloads. The blog is Confessions of a Homeschooler and I would recommend any homeschooling parent (or anyone thinking about homeschooling) check out her vast collection of information.

I was inspired by all of the printable curriculum available from Erica. One thing I wanted to get for Mikayla was a matching game. She plays one on my phone and loves it but I don’t want her nose in a screen all the time so I wanted a paper matching game. Sure you can buy them for about $8 but if I can make my own laundry detergent I can surely make my own matching game.

I already had thick cardstock so this was essentially free – other than the ink used to print the cards. I printed the back side of each page with an all-over design so that the cards would be the same on one side once I cut them out. Turned the pages over and ran them back through the printer to print the front of each card. And, since it was so fun and easy, I wanted to share them with you. Feel free to print and use them yourself or be adventurous and make your own! Also, if you have access to a laminator, it’d probably be a good idea to run these through it to make them more durable.

Color Matching Cards
Shape Matching Cards
Sky Matching Cards
Number Matching Cards (print this page twice so you have two of each card)
Alphabet Matching Cards (print this twice)
Animal Matching Cards (print this twice)

Matching Cards Back – Here’s what I used for the back of my cards. Another idea would be to use scrapbook paper that is printed on one side and white on the other.

Happy Matching!!

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DIY Fabric Softener

In an effort to save money I have been making my own household products. My requirements for such products are simple: 1. save money, 2. be quick and easy to make, 3. work well. For us, homemade fabric softener did not meet these requirements but I wanted to share with you anyway because it may work for you.

A little background – I can’t use liquid fabric softener. For some reason it makes me very itchy. So, we have always used Bounce Dryer Sheets. I can usually buy a box of 120 sheets for $4-5 on sale and with a coupon. So that costs about 3 or 4 cents per load of laundry.

In looking for alternatives to a store bought fabric softener or dryer sheet, I found two common options. The first option, you buy a bottle of liquid fabric softener, pour it into a 5 gallon bucket and add 2 fabric softener bottles full of water. Through some sponges in there. When you’re ready to dry a load of clothes, shake out one of the sponges and toss it into the dryer with your laundry. Simple, comments say it’s effective, definitely saves money. But, doesn’t work for us due to the previously mentioned itchiness.

The second option is to use white vinegar as your “fabric softener” in your washing machine. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to either the fabric softener spot on your washer or use one of those downy balls that you just throw into the washer. This combined with adding a couple dryer balls to your dryer is supposed to help rinse away soap residue, soften clothes and reduce static. But it costs between 7 and 8 cents per load, depending on the costs of your vinegar. Definitely quick and easy, comments online say it’s effective though I’m not sure myself, but it doesn’t save money compared to the dryer sheets I’m already using.

So, for us, the DIY Fabric Softener doesn’t really work. We will continue to use the dryer sheets. But, if your motivations for making your own products are different than mine, or if you aren’t allergic to fabric softener, these options might work for you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

DIY Laundry Detergent

Motivated to save money I’ve started making my own household products. I’ve been using homemade laundry detergent for about a month and I’m in love. It smashingly meets all three of my “homemade product requirements” – save money, be quick and easy, and work well.

Much like the Dishwasher Detergent I posted about last week, it’s important to note that not everyone will have the same results. A quick Google search will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Laundry Detergent including the fact that your water has a huge impact on how well it works for you. That said, there are a ton of different recipes out there (most using the same ingredients in differing quantities) for powdered or even liquid detergent. Start with a small batch and adjust if you need to.

I went with a powdered detergent because it required a lot less work.

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Powder (not baking – washing powder is found in the laundry isle)
1 Cup Borax powder (also in laundry isle)
1 grated bar of soap (I used Fels-Naptha – a “laundry soap”, found in the laundry isle)

Combine above ingredients thoroughly. Use 1 – 2 tablespoons per load. (I’ve used just 1 TBSP per load with good results but add more for extra large or heavily soiled loads.)

Does it Save Money:

This cost $1.80 per batch and made enough to wash 37 loads. Previously I was buying All Free and Clear which costs about $7 for 32 loads if you pay full price. I could usually find it on sale for $3-4. So the homemade version saves me about half, maybe a little more. If you currently use a more expensive detergent, like Tide, this recipe will save you a small fortune.

Most of this cost was the Fels-Naptha soap which I found for 97 cents a bar at Walmart. Many recipes online say you can use a regular ol’ bar of Ivory soap which runs about 30 or 40 cents a bar. But, I also found some warnings about using Ivory soap with a septic tank – which we have. Rather than risk clogging our septic system, I’ll just spend the extra 50 cents for laundry soap.

Is it Quick and Easy:

The bar of soap has to be grated. When I first started that process I thought it would be a nightmare but it really only took about 5 minutes. I just used a simple hand grater that is for “fine” grating. After that you just stir. How hard is that? I haven’t had any issues with clumping like I did with the Dishwasher Detergent. Just combine and put in a container with a lid. About as easy as it gets.

Is it Effective:

Yes. But, there are a few things to consider. First, the Fels-Naptha soap has a very strong smell prior to being poured into the washer. However, when clothes come out of the washer they really smell like nothing. As I stated before, we had been using the All Free and Clear so we are used to smell free laundry – prefer it really. But, if you like heavily scented laundry detergents, this isn’t it. Perhaps the Ivory or another bar soap would have a more lasting scent, but I’m not sure.

Secondly, there are concerns about the Fels-Naptha causing white clothes to look “dingy”. Is this happening to us? Maaayybeee. I can’t really tell. Some things might sort of look a little dingy but they may have been that way before. Clearly, it isn’t very noticeable. I think I will increase the amount of Borax I put in the next batch to maybe 1 1/2 cups since Borax is the “whitening” agent and see if I notice a difference.

Sensitive skin? Us too. I can’t use liquid fabric softener because it makes me incredibly itchy. And Mikayla breaks out almost every day from some unknown skin irritant. Anything rubbing too tight or if it’s too hot she breaks out. So, I was hesitant at first but after using it for a month we’ve had no problems. And I’ve washed everything we wear plus towels and bedding with the homemade detergent. If sensitive skin is a concern, start with a smaller batch and wash something that won’t cause too much discomfort if you do have a bad reaction – in other words, start with a shirt not your underwear.

A note about front load washers – I don’t have one. BUT, from what I understand, front load washers need “special” detergent because they need low-suds. This homemade detergent is very low-suds, or even no-suds. I found many comments on several different sites stating it was safe to use in front load washers. Again, a quick Google search will probably give you more information than you care to have.

In summary, I’m thrilled with the homemade laundry detergent and consider this a successful DIY project. Effective detergent that costs less than half the store bought kind and is fairly simple to make…perfect. Plus there’s a good chance this is better for your family and the planet. A WIN for everyone!

Ever made homemade detergent? How did it turn out?

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Last week I shared my three requirements for homemade household products:

1. Save Money – homemade products must cost less than the store bought version
2. Quick and Easy – homemade products must be very simple to make, with few ingredients
3. Effective – homemade products must actually work and work well

I’m happy to report that my homemade dishwasher detergent meets all of these requirements! And, as for #3, it actually works better than the store bought, name-brand variety. At least for me.

Before I tell you what I use, I feel it’s necessary to point out that the individual success of this product seems to greatly vary. From comments I’ve read online it seems that what works wonderfully for one person is a complete failure for another. Factors other than the detergent itself can impact it’s effectiveness – the hardness of your water, the age of your dishwasher, the dried-on-ness of food on your dishes – to name a few. So, I definitely suggest giving it a try, but maybe make a smaller batch to start with.

Also, buying four different products to make dishwasher detergent probably seems excessive. However, if you’re going to make other homemade cleaners, these are staples that you’ll use in other things.

On to the recipe. I found several recipes that call for varying amounts of the same basic ingredients. Depending on the factors listed above, you might have to tweak the amounts to figure out what works best for you. And if you want to see other reviews, comments or recipes a simple Google search will give you a ton of reading material.

1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda, washing soda is found in the laundry isle)
1 Cup Borax powder (also found in the laundry isle)
1/2 Cup coarse Kosher salt
1/2 Cup Citric Acid (hard to find, but the key ingredient)

Mix these four ingredients in any container by shaking or stirring thoroughly. And viola…dishwasher detergent. Use 1 tablespoon per load.

Does it Save Money:

My cost was $1.93 per batch. This may vary depending on where you buy your ingredients. (FYI – Walmart was the cheapest, as much as I hate to shop there, it was worth the savings.) The Citric Acid made up half of that total so if you can find a deal on that, please share. I was using Cascade which I can usually purchase on sale for $2-3. So, not a huge savings but every penny counts, right? Plus, it seems like this will last a lot longer but since I never tracked how many loads were in a bottle of Cascade, I’m not really sure.

Is it Quick and Easy:

1. The Citric Acid seems to be the key ingredient for making sure your dishes are film and spot free, but it’s a bit tough to find. I saw some comments online that it can be found in the “canning section” at Walmart. I wasn’t able to find it in the store and actually ordered mine from Amazon. Some commenters suggested using unsweetened lemonade powder instead – feel free to experiment if you dare.

2. The Citric Acid (clearly the trouble maker in this recipe) causes some major clumping of your detergent mix. A couple solutions to this – mix the other three ingredients together and add the Citric Acid separately to each load (too much work for me) OR after you mix your ingredients leave it on the counter for a few days and “open, stir well, close” several times a day. Admittedly, this was somewhat frustrating but magically after about 48 hours it stopped clumping. And, it works so well I don’t mind the extra stirring.

Is it Effective:

YES!! I’m so thrilled with how well this works. As I mentioned, I was using Cascade. I envisioned Cascade as being top of the line and never really experimented with other store bought brands. It worked fine but on my plastic dishes it left a powdery film. I don’t know how to describe it, I couldn’t really see a film but I could feel it on my dishes. Sometimes it was bad enough that I felt I should rinse my dishes before putting them away.

With this detergent there is no film. Everything is quite literally squeaky clean – glass, aluminum pans, plastic, silverware – all looks great!

What about the Rinse Aid? I’m not sure you know this but Jet Dry is stinking expensive. Just under $4 for a tiny little bottle that may fill up your rinse aid compartment twice. Instead use white vinegar. That’s right – vinegar. Just put it in your rinse aid compartment. Works like magic! And it’s about $2.40 for a whole gallon. PS – if you’re going to start making your own cleaning products, vinegar is going to come in REALLY handy. Go ahead and buy the whole gallon.

In summary – given my main motivation to make my own products (save money) and my three requirements listed above, this is a successful recipe. Yes, it takes a tad more effort than the store bought bottle but since I’m already using these ingredients in other things, it really isn’t that big of a deal to also make dishwasher detergent. If your motivations are more noble than mine (health of your family or the planet) than this would definitely be worth it. You get the health benefits of fewer chemicals plus save a little money and it is a very effective product. Win. Win. Win.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

DIY Cleaning Products: My Motivation

I posted last week that I was attempting to make my own cleaners and such rather than buying pre-made products at the store. This is a whole new game for me. I’m not a DIY-er. At all. In fact, if I could afford a cook and a maid you bet I’d have one. So the idea of making my own anything is a drastic change.

One thing I’ve learned from couponing over the last few years is that those pinched pennies add up. A 35 cent coupon may not be worth the time it takes to cut out. But if you use a 35 cent coupon for 10 items and your coupons are doubled at the store and those items happen to be on sale – you’re saving a substantial amount. $7 just from the coupons, plus the 25-50% off sale price. Do that every week and you’ll see a significant decrease in your grocery spending.

I’ve taken that idea to a whole new level with making my own products. Couponing allowed me to save 50-75% on cleaning products. What if I could cut my “coupon price” in half by making them myself? Here’s the thing – my time is valuable too. As a stay at home mom, no I’m not making money with the way I spend my day but I am investing my time in keeping our home, in cooking our meals, and (most importantly) in raising our child. If I spend an excessive amount of time making laundry detergent that only saves me $1 it isn’t worth it.

So, my criteria for making my own products are 1) that it actually save money. If it costs more to make it myself, I’ll probably just buy it already made from the store. 2) that it be quick and EASY. A few ingredients are all I can handle. If I find a recipe with too many ingredients or steps I immediately look for something different. As valuable as those pennies are, so is my time. And 3) homemade products have to work well. It doesn’t save money (or time) if it doesn’t work.

There are other benefits to making your own products. Many people have environmental concerns as their motivation. Usually you can make your own products with simple ingredients that are environmentally friendly versus the contaminated stuff on the store shelves. Plus there’s less packaging waste. Homemade products often allow you to reuse the same container or reuse a container from another product that you might’ve thrown away (like an empty milk jug, for example).

There are also health concerns. Many products have been loosely tied to health risks. Anti-persperant deodorant, for example, has (loosely) been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. (I say loosely because I haven’t really researched this for myself and I don’t know how substantial those findings are.) Whether those claims are entirely true or not, using natural (often edible) ingredients in your home or on your body has to be healthier than using the chemical laden stuff you buy in the store. Right? Right.

Whether you want to save money like me or perhaps you have a more noble motivation of saving the environment, making your own cleaning products is a great way to start. I have been really happy with the stuff I’ve tried so far and I can’t wait to share more details with you. I’m trying to thoroughly test things out to make sure there aren’t any surprises before I tell you to go pour vinegar in your laundry. (Sounds crazy! I know!)

In the mean time, I have two websites you should check out. The first is Homestead Revival. This is a lovely blog by a lovely family with a lovely house and many lovely DIY tips. They really take DIY a lot farther than I probably ever will – raising bees and chickens and such. But, I love the mission and the spirit of this blog and it’s a great motivator if your thinking about making anything yourself.

The second is DIY Natural. Matt and Betsy Jabs share a TON of DIY tips and recipes and ideas. Great place to start if your looking for easy recipes to make your own products.

Ever thought about making your own cleaning products? What would be your motivation? Or your concern?

Cutting the Budget: DIY Cleaning Products

It started with a budget…

I’ve been “couponing” now for almost three years. I’ve built up a fairly decent stock pile and rarely (if ever) pay full price for household products like toiletries, detergents, paper towels, etc. In fact, I usually pay only half price or less for the majority of non-food items we use. Half price is great! $7 bottle of detergent for $3-4, yes please! Couponing has taught me that I don’t have to use a specific brand and that I don’t have to pay the store’s price. If I buy items when they are on sale and let go of “brand loyalty”, I can decrease the amount I spend on non-food groceries by a considerable amount.

If you’ve never done any couponing or other extreme cost cutting, you may not realize how addictive saving money can be. It can be quite exciting to leave a store knowing you saved 60% or 70% or 90% on items your family will actually use or eat or enjoy. It’s like a game…where the prize is a debt free vacation. On average, I cut my grocery spending by about 60% each week just by following a few basic couponing principles. And, I was shopping at Walmart before, it’s not like I was buying high-end products. Now I can shop at Publix (favorite store ever), purchase name-brand items and still save money.

Then a few weeks ago, Mike and I took a serious look at our budget. I have a love/hate relationship with budgeting. I know it’s necessary and I love being able to save for vacations or other fun things but sometimes I hate having to be all grown up and responsible. In looking at what we spend on groceries each week I wondered if I could find a way to save even less. What if I could save another 10-20% each week?

One way to cut costs is to eat less meat. Chicken and beef are quite expensive and with the price of beef being so high, it’s almost impossible to find it on sale. So, we’ve pretty much cut beef out of our weekly menu rotation. And we try to eat two or three non-meat meals every week. Healthier and cheaper – win win! Instead we eat fruits, veggies and we’ve gotten creative with sandwich toppings. An additional benefit being that dinner preparations are much less stressful when I’m only cooking a “full meal” three nights a week instead of six.

Then I started getting low on laundry detergent. I didn’t have any in my stockpile and it wasn’t on sale. Great, I’ll have to hope I don’t run out and hope it goes on sale next week OR I’ll have to spend the whole $7 on a new bottle. I was low on dish detergent too. And the only hand soap in the house was already in the containers at the sinks. What happened to my stockpile and why have I not kept up with it??

Maybe I can make my own…

A little background – I have always been a firm believer in “why do yourself if you can afford to have someone else do for you.” Admittedly, this is not a very good motto to live by. It’s a tad selfish and really not responsible money management. But, it’s true. If I could pay someone to cook and clean for me I’d have a hard time telling myself that it was excessive. Maybe it was cutting cable. Maybe it was awareness of how a little money (by my standards) could greatly impact the work of organizations like Blood:Water Mission or WorldVision. If I can save $25 a year on my grocery budget and send it to BWM to provide clean water for someone in Africa, shouldn’t I do it? Whatever the reason, my motto has started to change. 

Now I wonder why I would pay more for pre-packaged cleaning products, when I can make them myself at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention avoiding all those crazy chemicals, reducing waste and using more environmentally friendly products.

Oh no! I’m about to be all grown up and responsible.

I have already made my own laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, dishwasher rinse aid, bathroom cleaner and hand soap. I plan to also make my own face soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, lip balm, dish soap, deodorant, maybe even candles. I haven’t had a chance to extensively test everything but what I’ve used so far I really like. And, I am not kidding, spending pennies instead of dollars for products we use every day.

I’ll post about each product as I test them out to give you the formulas and the results. I’m excited about this new DIY adventure. Next thing you know I’ll be gardening and sewing and raising chickens.

Question: Anyone else make their own household products? What have you tried and liked?