Author Archives: Sarah Littleton


How To: Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

When you use homemade laundry detergent, you have complete control over the ingredients and save money with every single load.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Photo: shutterstock.com

Two primary advantages recommend homemade laundry detergent. First, mixing your own costs very little in comparison to purchasing a container at the pharmacy or grocery store. Second, homemade laundry detergent gives you complete control over the ingredients doing the dirty work. For some, particularly those with allergies or sensitive skin, the chemicals in commercial products make them a non-starter. But no matter why you want to create your own, the process is actually easier than you might have expected. In fact, only three ingredients are necessary (four, if you wish to make a scented batch). Read on to learn how it’s done.

What you’ll need:
- Pure borax
- Washing soda (otherwise known as sodium carbonate or soda ash)
- Unscented bar soap
- Essential oils like lavender or tea tree oil (optional)

How you combine these ingredients determines what form the detergent takes—powdered or liquid.

Homemade Laundry Detergent - Grating

Photo: shutterstock.com

Powdered
First, grate the unscented bar soap into flakes. (If you have sensitive skin, test the soap on your wrist first to see if it causes any irritation.) Next, mix one part grated soap with two parts sodium carbonate and two parts pure borax, the latter of which kills mold and mildew. For a fresh scent, add a few drops of essential oil to the powder. Any oil should be fine; choose the one whose scent you like the best. Finally, put the detergent into an airtight container, keeping it there until you need it next. When it comes time to do laundry, use about 1/8 cup of detergent (or 1/4 cup, if the clothes are very dirty) for each load.

Liquid
Grate a full bar of unscented soap, then dump the shavings into a large saucepan along with two quarts of water. Heat on low and stir until the soap has dissolved into a smooth, thick liquid (do not bring to a boil). Meanwhile, add a box of borax and a box of washing soda into a bucket filled with four and a half gallons of warm water. Once the soap has dissolved in the saucepan, pour the solution into the bucket. Mix well. If you want, put in several drops of your favorite essential oil, then leave the detergent to settle overnight. When it’s time to do laundry, shake up the detergent before adding 1/2 or one cup to the washing machine.

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Now to extend the shelf life of the generous batch you’ve just made, remember to store the homemade laundry detergent in an airtight container. Keep it safely out of reach of children and pets, because although the ingredients are natural, they still may be harmful if swallowed.


How To: Transform a Cabinet with Spray Paint

You can revitalize almost any piece of furniture with a few coats of spray paint. And once you've got the technique down, you'll be surprised at how easy—and addictive—spray-painting can be!

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Detail Before

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

Is there a dated, shabby, worn-out cabinet hogging space somewhere in your home? If so, you may feel tempted to get rid of the old eyesore. But if the only thing you don’t like about the furniture is the way that it looks—if it’s unlovely but perfectly functional—bear in mind that you can completely transform the cabinet quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Yes! The key: spray paint. Invest in one or two cans of spray paint; spend an hour or two on the makeover, depending on the size of your cabinet; and you’ll be amazed (I certainly was) by the difference. Best of all, the project costs a mere fraction of what it would to purchase a brand-new cabinet.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Rust-Oleum Universal spray paint
- Drop cloth
- Wood filler (optional)
- Sandpaper
- Tack cloth or cotton rag
- Protective gear
- Screwdriver or drill (optional)

STEP 1
Whenever you’re spray-painting furniture, it’s recommended that you work in a well-ventilated area. On a nice day, you might even choose to work outside, provided there’s little to no wind. (You don’t want gusts to blow yard debris onto your project during the drying stage.) Another benefit of painting in the driveway or backyard is that you don’t need to worry about overspray. Working indoors? Open the windows and use drop cloths to cover anything you wish to protect from the spray paint.

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Detail Spraying

Photo: JNoonan

STEP 2
Now that you’ve readied your work area, the next step is to prepare the piece of furniture you’re going to spray-paint. First things first, remove all hardware (for example, hinges or handles) and set it safely aside. Next—this is optional—fill any scratches or holes with wood filler, closely following the directions from the product manufacturer. Finally, sand down the furniture, not only to even out nicked edges, but also to give the spray paint an accommodating surface to which it can adhere easily. Once you’ve finished sanding, wipe the furniture with either a tack cloth or a damp cotton rag. Wait for the piece to dry completely before proceeding to paint.

STEP 3
Don the appropriate protective gear—in this case, a dust mask (spray-paint particulates are very fine and can be accidentally inhaled) and safety gloves (well, these kinds of projects are known to get a little messy on occasion).

I used Rust-Oleum’s Universal spray paint. Because it works on any surface, I was able to use it on both the wood and the metal cabinet hinges. Another plus: It can be sprayed from any angle—handy if you need to reach into corners.

Whenever I spray-paint furniture, I apply several thin coats instead of a single heavy coat. That strategy has seemed to yield the best results. Holding the can 8 to 12 inches from the surface, pull the trigger on the spray-paint can, applying the paint with a sweeping motion. As you go along, let the spray fall a few inches past the left and right edges of the furniture. Remember that spray paint dries quickly; subsequent coats can be added within two hours. For further details about application, be sure to read the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

STEP 4
Give the paint at least 24 hours to cure fully before reinstalling hardware or placing any objects on or inside of the furniture. That may seem like a long time to wait, but personally I’d wait five times as long if it meant revitalizing a cabinet that I would have otherwise hauled to the Dumpster. Spray paint really is an amazing thing. With a little practice, you’ll be able to spray-paint like a pro. And then if you’re anything like me, you’ll look at the world in a new way, always finding things around the house to revamp and totally renew.

How to Spray Paint Furniture - Cabinet Makeover After

Photo: Jennifer Noonan

This post has been brought to you by Rust-Oleum. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.