Category: How To’s & Quick Tips


How To: Apply Polyurethane Sealer

It's important to top off your home's wood flooring and furniture with a few coats of polyurethane for both protection and an appealing shine. Follow these five steps for a smooth—and simple—application.

How to Apply Polyurethane Sealer

Photo: shutterstock.com

More than a mere shine, polyurethane sealer protects and preserves the finish you’ve chosen for your furniture or flooring. To apply polyurethane in such a way that it actually performs its intended role, precision is key. If you’re going to cut corners, then you may as well skip the sealer. It’s an optional coating, after all.

Perhaps the first thing to know is that there are two types of polyurethane: oil-based and water-based. Both work equally well, but oil-based polyurethane imparts an amber glow that many people find pleasing. The downside? It takes longer to dry and smells quite strongly. Water-based polyurethane, meanwhile, goes on clear, dries faster, and has almost no odor. It usually costs about twice as much as the other option, though, and some say it’s not as tough.

High-Quality Bristle Brush

Photo: shutterstock.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Polyurethane
- High-quality bristle brush
- Sandpaper (100- to 220-grit)
- Razor blade
- Polishing compound
- Tack cloth
- Mineral spirits (optional)

STEP 1
Polyurethane is going to accentuate the surface inconsistencies, so before applying the coating, take pains to properly sand the surface you are sealing. After, remove all dust and debris with tack cloth.

STEP 2
Stir, don’t shake, the can of polyurethane. Shaking creates air bubbles, which in turn leave bumps on the surface. While stirring, if you notice that the polyurethane has an overly thick consistency, thin it out with mineral spirits.

STEP 3
Using a bristle brush, apply the first coat of polyurethane in long, broad strokes. Keep the application thin, so it goes on evenly and neither pools nor drips. Coat the entire surface. Once finished, wait for the polyurethane to dry. Allow 24 hours for oil-based polyurethane and 4 to 6 hours for a water-based product.

STEP 4
Having allowed sufficient dry time, test to see if first coat is dry. Do so by lightly sanding an inconspicuous area. If the polyurethane remains wet, stop sanding and wait another hour or so. Once you’re certain the surface is dry, remove any dust or debris that may have stuck to the surface during the drying process. If sanding doesn’t cut it, you can use a razor to remove imperfections that wouldn’t otherwise budge. When working with the razor, be careful not to scuff the wood.

STEP 5
Apply the second coat just as you did the first, with long, careful strokes. Spread the polyurethane evenly over the surface and let it dry completely.

STEP 6
Once the second coat has dried, sand or shave off any imperfections as you did in step 4. With many oil-based polyurethanes, two coats will be enough. If you’re happy with how the job looks, wait a few days, then finish by polishing the surface with a polishing compound. If it seems necessary to apply a third coat of sealer, simply follow the process you’re familiar with by now. Note that you should never need to apply more than three coats of oil-based polyurethane. Sometimes water-based poly requires more than a few (up to a dozen) coats. Thankfully, it dries quickly enough for this not to become a weeks-long saga!


DIY Pallet Potting Bench

Pallets aren't the easiest wood to work with. But with a combination of scrap wood and pallets, you can make your own DIY potting bench.

Bob Vila Thumbs Up - Wood Pallet Projects

DIY Pallet Potting Bench - Complete

http://bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com

When gardening season is in full swing, there’s nothing like a trusty potting bench to help you reap the season’s bounty. Instead of buying an elaborate potting bench, you can DIY your own rustic solution from scrap and pallet wood. That’s just what Becky from Beyond the Picket Fence did—and the results are incredible! This DIY design has us in the mood to garden. Want to make your own? Read on to see how it’s done.

MATERIALS
- Wood pallet
- Painted wood trim
- Window sash wood
- Tongue-and-groove boards
- Old hardware (for hanging)
- Screws
- Power drill

STEP 1

DIY Pallet Potting Bench - Top

Photo: bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com

Using half a pallet as the tabletop, I built a potting table that is ready for spring.

STEP 2

DIY Pallet Potting Bench - boards

Photo: bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com

I filled in the empty spaces between the pallet boards with some painted trim pieces.

STEP 3
I created the legs from old window sash pieces and some found tongue and groove boards for the bottom shelf. Attach all your wood pieces using a power drill.

STEP 4
Even with the bottom shelf, she was still a little unsteady on her feet so I added a cross piece in the back which stabilized the table beautifully.

STEP 5

DIY Pallet Potting Bench - Hardware

Photo: bec4-beyondthepicketfence.blogspot.com

Add eclectic hardware pieces to hang tools from.

Thanks, Becky! If you want even more pallet project tutorials, see the other great projects she has at Beyond the Picket Fence.


DIY Pallet Ottoman

Most pallet projects look like, well, pallets. But this DIY ottoman could change the way you see wood pallets for good.

Bob Vila Thumbs Up - Wood Pallet Projects

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Complete

Photo: domesticsuperhero.com

What’s made from a pallet but looks nothing like one? This DIY ottoman! Allyson at Domestic Superhero totally transformed an ordinary wood pallet into a warm home accent—and that deserves a thumbs up in our book. And for only $70, it’s a totally affordable custom piece that you can make too. Here’s how:

MATERIALS
- Wood pallet
- Saw
- (2) sheets of plywood
- Fabric for upholstery
- Thick foam
- Batting
- (11) tufting buttons
- Power drill
- Aluminum button cover kit (optional)
- Liquid nails (optional)
- Spray adhesive
- Upholstery needle and thick string
- Brackets
- Ottoman legs
- Wood stain (optional)
- Muslin
- Scissors

STEP 1

DIY Ottoman Pallet

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

I decided I needed to make it a bit smaller. It was just a little too big for the space. I cut it down to 36 inches by 30 inches.

STEP 2

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Step 2

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

As you can see, the bottom side wasn’t totally filled in with wood, and I didn’t want any foam sinking into those gaps, or to have a hard time stapling the fabric on. So I sanded the entire pallet really well (I wanted to get off all the yuckies), and then I added plywood to the bottom side.

STEP 3

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Plywood

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

I cut the plywood into 2 sections, so I could cover the entire pallet. Then I nailed the plywood onto the base, and sanded the top of the plywood and along the outside edges.

STEP 4
My next step was be to upholster. Before I could do anything with the fabric, I had to go to Home Depot and have a piece of wood (thin wood, like plywood, really thin) cut to the exact measurement of the pallet. I would use this wood to put on the top of the pallet, and secure the foam, batting, and fabric to it.

STEP 5

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Tufts

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

Next I purchased thick foam (can be found at any craft store), and batting as well. I cut the foam to the exact size of the top of the pallet (I used the thin wood as an outline, since it is the same size). After this, I used the thin wood to figure out where I would put my tufting buttons. I measured everything out, and spaced 11 evenly on the board. I marked where each one would go with a sharpie, and then drilled a small hole in the wood at each point.

STEP 6

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Upholster

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

Ok, so next I layed the fabric face down on the carpet, and placed the batting on top of that. I used spray adhesive to attach the thick foam to the wood, and then placed that on top of the batting (foam down, wood should be at the very top, facing you).

STEP 7
For securing the buttons, I would recommend you have someone help you. Luckily I had both my mom, and my husband helping me, because I definitely could not have done this myself. You need an upholstery needle and very thick string (I used a thin cord).

I put the cord through the needle, then doubled it over, and tied a knot at the end. I tied 3-5 more knots over that knot to make a large knot that would not be able to fit through the hole I drilled into the wood. I put the needle through the wood, then poked it out the front of the fabric. Then I strung the button onto the cord, and pulled the needle back through the same hole. When the needle comes out of the hole on the wood side again, then I tied more knots around the initial knot, ensuring it would not be pulled out.

Make sure that when the needle poked through the fabric, the fabric was tight and not bunched up, and that the button is pulled to the same depth as the other buttons.

STEP 8
Next, I took the pallet and glued the left over foam to the sides. I didn’t want any hard edges poking out, so I thought this would help with having a softer cushion on the outside. I also put the batting on top, so there are multiple layers of cushion.

STEP 9

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Foam

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

Next, I took the pallet and glued the left over foam to the sides. I didn’t want any hard edges poking out, so I thought this would help with having a softer cushion on the outside. I also put the batting on top, so there are multiple layers of cushion.

STEP 10

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Legs

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

After this was done, I attached the brackets that would hold the legs. I stained the legs and let them dry.

STEP 11

DIY Pallet Ottoman - Brackets

Photo: azcubed.wordpress.com

After the brackets were screwed in (the power drill is your friend here), I used a scrap piece of muslin to cover the bottom. I didn’t want the bottom to be exposed or have the possibility of little toddler hands playing with those staples on the bottom. I used hot glue to secure it around the bottom, tucking the edge under so it wouldn’t show.

STEP 12
Lastly, I used a pair of scissors to poke a little hole where the leg would screw in (you don’t need a big hole), and screwed the 4 legs into the brackets.

DIY Pallet Ottoman - In Room

Photo: domesticsuperhero.com

Thanks, Allyson! To read her complete tutorial, or find even more great DIYs, check out Domestic Superhero.


DIY Pallet Bench for Kids

Want to create kids furniture that won't break the bank? Try this tot-sized DIY pallet bench!

Bob Vila Thumbs Up - Wood Pallet Projects

DIY Pallet Bench - Complete

Photo: ourthriftyideas.com

Kid-sized furniture is cute but it isn’t cheap. And kids outgrow tiny furniture quickly. So upcycling a pallet into a DIY kid’s bench is an idea that deserves a big thumbs up. This affordable project from Vanessa at Our Thrifty Ideas captures our imagination and makes us want to make a DIY pallet bench of our own. Follow her tutorial below to find out how to do just that!

MATERIALS
- Wood pallet
- Screws
- Power drill
- Saw
- Measuring tape
- Wood stain
- Hammer

STEP 1

DIY Pallet Bench - Cut

Photo: ourthriftyideas.com

So, we started by cutting the pallet in half. Then, one of the half’s we cut again. So we had 3 pieces. One was 1/2 the original size, the other 2 were 1/4 the original size.

STEP 2

DIY Pallet Bench - Assembly

Photo: ourthriftyideas.com

Now, pull off the bottom slat from the 1/2 piece. You will need this for the seat of the bench.

STEP 3
Place the 1/2 piece, and one of the 1/4 pieces standing upright.

STEP 4

DIY Pallet Bench - Step 4

Photo: ourthriftyideas.com

Then screw the last 1/4 piece to the other pieces, with the slats lining JUST above the front legs. This will ensure that the extra slat you attach will be the same height. We didn’t like the extra gap at the back, so we cut it down a bit.

STEP 5
Once you screw the seat together, attach the extra slat to the front legs.

STEP 6

DIY Pallet Bench - Finished

Photo: ourthriftyideas.com

Now stain it, and add a cute banner if you’d like.

Thanks, Vanessa! Want more tutorials for a kid-friendly house? Visit Our Thrifty Ideas for more!


Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000 Warmer Bathroom Floor Give-Away—TODAY!

Win $3,000 in radiant heating products and installation from SupplyHouse.com!

With the chilly weather settling in, getting going in the morning is always a little tougher. But with radiant heating underneath your floors, you’ll never fear the ice-cold touch of your bathroom tiles again! This month, one lucky winner will receive up to $1,500 worth of radiant heat products and $1,500 installation from SupplyHouse.com! Supply House offers multiple product and installation options, so you’re sure to find the best fit for your bathroom. Whether you’ve been considering the switch to radiant heating, or just want a warmer bathroom this winter, now’s the time to enter.

ENTER HERE TO WIN

Today and every day this month (from noon EST Friday, October 31st, through 11:59 a.m. Sunday, November 30th), enter to win one $3,000 prize applicable towards a new radiant heating system from Supply House! (see Official Rules below).

 

Photo: corbis.com

If you win this month’s give-away, you’ll get a prize valued at up to $3,000–$1,500 for radiant heating supplies, and $1,500 in installation costs.  Install a premium radiant heating system in your bathroom, courtesy of SupplyHouse.com! Their goal is to bring you the highest quality plumbing, heating, HVAC, and electrical supplies at competitive prices. Their products include PEX plumbing supplies, radiant heat supplies, VisionPro Honeywell thermostats, taco pumps and mini-split air conditioners, and much more.

Enter Bob Vila’s $3,000 Warmer Bathroom Floor Give-Away daily to increase your odds of winning $3,000 of radiant heating and installation from SupplyHouse.

To learn more about SupplyHouse.com, their top-rated customer service, and products, click here.

The “Bob Vila’s $3,000 Warmer Floors Give-Away” is open only to permanent legal U.S. residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest Period for Prize runs from 12:00 p.m. (EST) EST Friday, October 31st, 2014 through 11:59 am Sunday, November 30th, 2014. One entry per household per day on BobVila.com. Alternative means of entry for Drawing is available by faxing your name and address to 508-437-8486 during the applicable Entry Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. By entering, all entrants agree to the Official Rules.


5 Things to Do with… Candy Wrappers

Looking for a reason to have yet another piece of chocolate? We'll give you five. These sweet DIYs have us reaching into the candy bowl again and again.

On the spectrum of vice, there are many things worse crimes than having a sweet tooth. Sure, doctors and dentists tell us that candy’s bad for our health. But we know of at least one good thing that results from a candy binge—the wrappers. For people who like to make things, colorful candy wrappers are wonderful, endlessly versatile challenges to creativity. Scroll down to see five snapshots in the afterlife of your favorite chocolate bars and sour treats, and who knows? You might start buying candies based on their packaging. Or if not, you’ll at least have a new reason to indulge your hunger for the sweet stuff. Yum!

 

1. WASTE NOT

Reusing Candy Wrappers - Waste Basket

Photo: tenthousandvillages.com

Hit the jackpot on Halloween? Once you’re done feasting, ride the sugar high by shaping the wrappers into links that lend themselves to many amazing creations. Here, in a stroke of delicious irony, wrappers were repurposed to make a waste basket. No appetite? Buy your basket pre-made from Ten Thousand Villages.

 

2. GET ARTSY 

photo: seanebrown.wordpress.com

Take decoupage to a whole new level, following the lead of Sean Brown, whose preferred art supplies are colorful candy wrappers. The average person probably couldn’t conjure a Warhol-style Marilyn on the first try, but you might be surprised by the beauty you can bring out of things like Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls.

 

3. GIVE THANKS

Reusing Candy Wrappers - Napkin Rings

Photo: replayground.blogspot.com

Transform your Halloween discards into Thanksgiving decor! To make these candy wrapper napkin rings, you need only basic crafting supplies to get started (think scissors and a glue stick). Visit RePlayGround for help mastering the origami-like technique, and soon you’ll be completing a full set for your dining room.

 

4. ZIP IT

Photo: punkinpattern.blogspot.com

Honor your favorite candy by preserving the original condition of its wrapper along the way toward creating a small pouch. Use it as a wallet or to corral miscellaneous bits and baubles. Besides the wrapper, you’ll need some iron-on vinyl and a zipper. Head over to Punkin Pattern for the full instructions.

 

5. DRINK UP

Reusing Candy Wrappers - Coasters

Photo: recreationsproject.wordpress.com

Coasters crafted from cardboard and bright, glimmering wrappers manage to say, “See me? Set your drink down here.” Bloggers at Re-Creations Project used foil from Quality Street, a confection company popular in the U.K. But leftovers from any foil-wrapped treat would work equally—that is to say, exceptionally—well.


How To: Get Rid of Mildew Smell

What's that smell? The musty odor on towels, tile, and basement walls can be a sign you have a mildew problem. Don't worry: With a few simple pantry items, you can completely eliminate the odor and stymy future mold growth. Here's how.

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell

Photo: shutterstock.com

Among household odors, mildew undoubtedly ranks among the worst. And unfortunately, it’s all too common, lurking in the dark, damp corners of your home. If you were looking for a quick fix, there isn’t one. The smell of mildew can literally develop overnight, especially during periods of damp and humid weather. Getting rid of that smell—and making sure it doesn’t return—is an ongoing effort. But luckily, it’s not a particularly difficult effort: You can get rid of that mildew smell pretty easily, using only items found in most pantries, so long as you can identify the source of the odor. That’s the tough part. The rest? Persistence.

Search and Destroy
Sniff around. The first step in getting rid of a mildew smell is to locate the source of the problem. Remove impediments to your search. In the bathroom, that means taking down the shower curtain and temporarily relocating toiletries that would obscure your view of the likeliest breeding grounds (e.g., grout lines or tub caulking). In the basement, pack up old newspapers, cardboard boxes, and any other disposables. Focus your attention on surfaces vulnerable to moisture.

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell - Mold Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

The Beauty of Bleach
If you’re successfully able to isolate the mildewed area, that means you can spot-treat it without going through the effort of cleaning the whole room. However, if you’ve searched high and low but cannot find any obvious mildew growth, cover all your bases by giving the entire space a once-over. In a large bucket, mix one part bleach to four parts water. Scrub the walls and floors with the homemade mildew killer you’ve concocted, being sure to rinse away all bleach residue once you’ve finished the job.

Freshen Fabrics
Scrubbing the walls and floors isn’t necessarily going to cut it, though. It’s not uncommon for the smell of mildew to emanate from fabrics, such as towels, and from other personal belongings (e.g., sneakers). Can the mildewy item be placed in the washing machine? If so, soak it in all-fabric bleach for about 30 minutes. After rinsing it off, run it through the washer as you would a normal load of laundry.

And Don’t Come Back!
Of course, the best way to get rid of a mildew smell is to prevent it from developing it in the first place. An arsenal of tools can help you keep your spaces dry and clean and mildew-free:

• Install dehumidifiers in problem areas; with the humidity level low, mildew cannot grow.

Ceiling fans help keep areas dry and are at home mildew-prone areas like the kitchen and laundry.

Odor absorbers like baking soda, charcoal briquettes, and kitty litter are all effective in keeping mildew at bay. Fill a large container about halfway with your chosen deodorizer and leave it to work its magic in whichever rooms you’ve been encountering issues with mildew. Replace every month or so.

With regular attention and the occasional use of a few household staples, you can get rid of that mildew smell you hate so much, along with the hazardous, unhealthy mold those smells belong to.


How To: Get Rid of Bats

When bats takes up residence under your roof, you're in danger of more than merely foul odors. Be rid of your unwanted guests by following these steps.

How to Get Rid of Bats

Photo: shutterstock.com

The good news: Bats are not aggressive. The bad news: If there are bats in your house, it’s only a matter of time before their waste begins to pose a serious problem. Health concerns aside—and there are indeed viable health concerns—bat droppings and urine can actually destroy wood and other building materials, gradually compromising the structural integrity of your home. So even if you are not skittish and don’t mind the idea of bats dwelling under your roof, there are very good, wholly rational reasons to act fast. Follow the steps outlined below to get rid of bats and prevent them from returning.

STEP 1
Familiarize yourself with local laws. In most states, bats are a protected species, which means that it’s illegal to kill them. One humane approach is to install a bat house on your property prior to evicting your unwanted guests. Chances are that once barred entry to your home, the bats would take up residence in the new accommodations you’ve prepared for there. From there, you could count on the bats to continue their beneficial service of eating the insects on your property.

Bats

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
When the goal is to get rid of bats, it’s essential to figure out what type of bat you’re dealing with. So the first thing to do is learn what types of bats are common in your neck of the woods. Next, try to get a good look at the bats, if you haven’t already, so you can compare your observations to your research. Vampire aficionados could easily guess that you  best chances of seeing a bat are at dusk and dawn.

Once you know what kind of bats are in your house, you can move on to determining whether or not it’s maternity season for that particular species. If you prevent the mother bat from regaining entry to your house while the babies are still inside, those babies are going to die. And no matter how you feel about that, you’re definitely not going to like how it smells. So if it’s maternity season, wait it out.

STEP 3
Sure that maternity season is over or has not begun yet? OK—time to get serious. Watch your home closely at dusk or dawn, with the aim of pinpointing where exactly the bats are entering and exiting your home. Bear in mind that a bat colony usually has more than one access point, and these can be as small as a half-inch. You may need more than one evening to locate the different openings being used.

STEP 4
Cover each distinct opening with a one-way exit valve, one-way tube, or one-way bat netting product. Such items are commonly sold at home centers and pest control dealers. The ingeniousness of these designs is that, while they allow bats to exit the house with ease, they provide no way for the bats to return. If your chosen device seems to be working, leave it in place for a period of about three days.

STEP 5
Once there are no more bats left inside, you have a messy job on your hand. Inevitably, the bats will have left droppings and urine in their wake. When cleaning, it’s imperative that you wear the proper protective gear—full-sleave clothing, work gloves, and a respirator. In fact, think seriously about hiring a professional cleanup crew. Once the area is no longer toxic, proceed to seal all the holes you identified.


Genius! DIY Pumpkin Keg

DIY Pumpkin Keg

Photo: celebrations.com

This time of year, it seems like everyone’s got a thing for pumpkins. But even if neither pumpkin pie nor pumpkin-spiced lattés are on the menu for your Halloween bash, you can still find a place at the table for fall’s most famous gourd. Introducing the pumpkin keg.

Christina Stiehl, editor at Celebrations.com, first tipped us off to this genius little hack (and for that, we’re forever grateful.) Christina, it should be said, loves pumpkins—cooking them, decorating them, and yes, drinking out of them.

While it may tempting to gut the pumpkin in haste to make your pumpkin keg, Christina reminds us that it’d be waste to speed through the process. ”Pumpkins are super cute on the outside,” she says, “but the insides are filled with a bunch of delicious good-for-you stuff. After carving a pumpkin and cleaning out all the ooey-gooey insides, I love saving all of the seeds to roast. After washing them, I usually toss them in olive oil and some kind of seasoning (usually Cajun or a ranch packet), then bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees. It’s a tradition we always did when I was a kid, and I like to continue it every year.”

Roasted pumpkin seeds: the perfect snack to serve next to the DIY pumpkin keg you create for your guests! 

DIY Pumpkin Keg - Pour

Photo: celebrations.com

MATERIALS
- Pumpkin
- Marker or pencil
- Pumpkin carving kit (or serrated knife)
- Plastic spigot
- Beverage of choice

STEP 1
First, draw a ring around the top of your pumpkin. This will be your guide to carve the lid. Try to keep this pretty close to the top of the pumpkin, so you optimize the hollowed-out space that will hold the liquid.

STEP 2
Once that’s done, carve it! If you’re without a carving kit, you can use a serrated knife. Whatever your tool of choice, poke it in at an angle and work your way around the ring.

DIY Pumpkin Keg - Carved

Photo: celebrations.com

STEP 3
Once you’ve gone all the way around, pop the lid off and clean out your pumpkin. Make sure you get all the seeds out and most of the pulp, but don’t worry if some gets left behind, as it adds a little flavor to the drink.

STEP 4
Now find the spot where you want to place your spigot. Using your pencil or marker. Cutting the hole here will require a pretty fine serrated knife, so the carving kit proves really worthwhile at this point.

STEP 5
Once your spigot is secured, pour in your drink of choice. (Christine recommends Sam Adam’s Octoberfest, but you can try cider or other seasonal drinks.) Finally, pop the lid back on your pumpkin. You’re ready to go!

And that’s it! Be sure to check out the how to video at Celebrations.com, where you can also find seasonal craft and recipe ideas.


How To: DIY Your Own Dish Soap in 5 Steps

The next time you reach into the sink to wash off dirty plates and silverware, why not grab a bottle of your own homemade dish soap? With this recipe, you'll spare yourself the chemicals found in store-bought cleaners and save a pretty penny.

Homemade Dish Soap

Photo: shutterstock.com

Homemade dish soap. OK, sure. But why? For one thing, why not? But more seriously, homemade dish soap, which requires little time and effort to make, actually results in something that’s easier on the skin and easier on the wallet—we call that a win-win. So on your next run to the grocery store, add three extra ingredients to your cart, and you’ll be well on your way to concocting a homemade dish shop that really cuts through grease and does most of the dirty dish work for you.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS:
- Unscented, undyed bar soap
- Cheese grater
- Borax
- Essential oil
- Saucepan and spoon
- Washing soda (optional)

Homemade Dish Soap - Sudsy

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 1
Start by using a cheese grater—whatever you have, be it a box grater or a cheese plane—to shave down the bar soap into flecks. While many recipes call for castile soap, any unscented variety does the trick.

STEP 2
Next, combine about 1 tablespoon of grated soap with 1 tablespoon of borax in a bowl. Note that borax, also known as sodium borate, is a powerful antimicrobial cleaning agent (you can find it in the cleaning aisle of your grocery store). Be sure to purchase borax and not boric acid; they’re not the same thing.

STEP 3
Commercial dish soaps contain sodium laurel sulfate, an ingredient that besides producing lots of bubbles, doesn’t do much. (For some people’s skin, sodium laurel sulfate is an irritant.) If you think you’re going to miss the sudsy-ness of the dish soap you’re accustomed to, add 1 tablespoon of washing soda (also known as soda ash or sodium carbonate) to the grated soap-and-borax mixture at this point.

STEP 4
In a saucepan, heat 1 3/4 cups of water until it boils. Stir in the ingredients mixed in previous steps, and continue stirring until the soap has melted and the powders have dissolved. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture to cool for a few hours, stirring the liquid occasionally in order to keep it from solidifying.

STEP 5
Transfer your homemade dish soap into a squirt bottle. In the process, add 15 to 20 drops of essential oil in whatever scent you prefer (e.g., lavender, citrus, or peppermint). The addition of oil makes doing the dishes a sensory experience you might even enjoy. Citrus oils, in particular, can even improve the effectiveness of your homemade dish soap, making it better able to cut through accumulations of grease.

Additional Tips
Use homemade dish soap just as you would commercial dish soap. However, it’s best to shake homemade dish soap before using it, as the ingredients have the tendency to settle and in time, solidify. Even with the addition of washing soda, you are likely to notice that there are fewer suds in homemade dish soap. That’s to be expected, but don’t worry: It’s by no means evidence of an inferior cleaning agent. If anything, it’s a sign that there’s nothing in your soap that shouldn’t be!