Thursday, 26 September 2013

Frugal Homemade Laundry & Cleaning Products


Frugal living in the country means no mains sewers, sometimes no mains water and certainly no ‘nipping to the shop’ to buy an individual item if you run out of it, so we need ways of combating such problems, should they arise.

Washing Soda is our friend! First and foremost, it is suitable for use in septic tanks, which is where all the flushed or drained waste goes from a rural property. It should certainly make you think about what you flush down the toilet or tip down the plug holes if you aren’t used to dealing with your own waste – there are no sewers in the rural countryside! I am stunned by how many relocation households from town to country aren’t aware of this fact and go willy-nilly with all sorts of cleaning and laundry products, fancy bubble baths and bleach products. It’s quite shocking that they abuse our waterways in this fashion.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own waste and, when relying on a septic tank, you are relying on the liquid (water) by product draining into the ground, into the local steams and rivers and then into the sea. Those of us with any sense, decency and respect for the environment will look after our septic tanks and be wary of what goes in there.

Washing soda is septic tank friendly in that it isn’t contaminating your personal sewage treatment plant with toxic chemicals which, ultimately, may end up in the waterways. Washing soda is also cheap, at around £1 per kilo (at time of writing). It’s a giant leap forward in the frugal living stakes knowing what it can do. The back of any pack makes for a great place to begin your own research.

Washing up liquid and laundry cleaner are two uses for soda crystals and by making your own, you can save a small fortune over the year. This is how I make mine…


1 bar of soap, grated
1 cup of washing soda (or Soda crystals)
1 litre water
A few drops of essential oil (if required)

Boil the water, dissolve the soda crystals and soap in it, add the fragrance and then dilute to at least 5 litres if you don't want your liquid to set. Personally, I prefer to allow it to set then dissolve it one part cleaner to five parts water, then add to machine. For speed, dilute it, but for spacesaving, store in a wide neck container or bucket and dilute as required.

You can store this in whichever plastic bottles or buckets you prefer. 5 litre vinegar containers with wide screwtop lids are ideal, but a lidded bucket is better

I make 2 lots, one has a few drops of blue dye in it to help 'whiten' whites.

Washing soda is suitable for use with septic tanks, which is what I most like about it! Rural living means no mains sewage connections, so all flushed or drained waste has to go into a tank. Abusing your septic tank can have far-reaching consequences, as many a newcomer to the country has found out at their expense and humiliation.

FRUGAL TIP: I've been using this diluted to up to 7 litres and it works really well. I use the 'natural extracts' soap, which is a natural, antibacterial vegetable soap with tea tree & lavender extracts, so no need to add in extra essential oil unless you prefer a stronger scent.

Washing soda is one of the basic 'staples' of a frugal household kitchen cupboard. This, along with lemon juice and vinegar are excellent for so many things. Some people also keep *Borax and Epsom Salts in their store cupboards.


Heaped tbsp grated soap (Natural, not heavily scented)
Heaped tbsp soda crystals
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 litres water
A few drops essential oil (tea tree and lavender)

Make up exactly the same as for laundry gloop.

Please note that this will NOT lather up like ordinary washing up liquid. The mass produced liquid is chemically enhanced in the commercial product to create those soapy bubbles. I used 'Natural soap with lavender and teatree' soap. It's about 35p per bar, but it grates to give 8 heaped tablespoons.

You can use vinegar as a fabric softener.

I use same quantities of above that I would if using the shop-bought equivalents.

Another option is soapnuts instead of washing liquid or laundry detergent. See for free sample (just pay postage) and for more information.

The following is part of an old blog post from (American site)

How to Make Your Own Cleaning Products By Frugal 101

For kitchen and bathroom floors you need a mixture of 1 gallon of hot water with cup of white vinegar. The mixture is safe for hardwood, linoleum, tile, and pretty much every washable surface. You can also use this to clean your entire bathroom, not only floors.

To make your own dishwasher liquid use water with lemon juice. All you need is cup of lemon juice and cup of warm water.

To make a disinfectant spray mix a cup of borax with 1 gallon of hot water.

To clean your windows use a mixture of 1 cup of water, 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.

For cleaning kitchen cabinets use a mixture of cup lemon juice dissolved in 1 gallon of hot water.

Toilet bowl cleaner can be made by mixing cup of baking soda with 1 cup of vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so, and scrub it with brush.

Making these products doesnt require a degree in Chemistry. You will not only get the unnecessary chemicals and toxins out of your house, but save quite a bit of money.


Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and washing soda (or crystals) are available in local stores and supermarkets. Borax is available on Amazon if you can't find it anywhere else.


I have been asked several times about why I don't use Borax. There are a couple of reasons:

1. I have never needed it, even if it was available locally, which it doesn't seem to be.

2. Despite Borax allegedly being as safe as table salt to handle, it is now listed in the Substances of Very High Concern list and has been reclassified as Hazard class Re-protoxic, Category 1B. Any product that contains above a particular % concentration of borax (about 4-8%) should display the warning "May damage fertility and May cause harm to the unborn child."


  1. As far as I am aware, we can only buy borax substitute in the shops. It is of course different on line but we would never buy borax.

    1. Same here, but it seems to be present in some form or another in plenty of other products. According to Wikipedia, it also goes by the term E285 in the additive stakes. E500 is sodium carbonate / soda crystals / washing soda.


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