Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DIY Furniture Polish, Soap, and Toothpaste

Recently I decided that it was time to start phasing out products in our home with unnecessary chemical additives.  We've already been cleaning the counters, bathrooms and carpets with vinegar and baking soda, with great success.  I've got a big bag of cleaners that we haven't used in over a year which I fetched from under the sink, all ready to go out to another Freecycler.

However, I realized that without that bottle of Pledge, the beautiful China cabinet we got from Freecycle wasn't gonna start lookin' any younger.  So I set out to figure out what could be used as a natural wood polish.  After reading several articles online about this topic, I decided to go with a mix of equal parts distilled white vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.  I put it all in a clean glass molasses bottle and shook vigorously. After wiping the china cabinet down with a microfiber cleaning mitt, I poured a small amount of the mix onto the other side of the mitt and rewiped. The cabinet looks shiny and bright, but not greasy.  I don't know how long the mixture will last under the sink before the olive oil goes rancid, but I guess we'll see!

My next project was making my own soap.  Not my own bar soap: I'm not that ambitious yet, and I'm a bit leary about doing anything in my kitchen that requires gloves and goggles with the baby around.  I did, however, order two lbs (8 bars) of very natural, very clear soap from a lady on ebay for about $10.  I've been using one bar in the shower and I like it, it's so slippery!  Does leave my skin feeling just a tad dryer than I'm used to afterward, but only for a minute or so...the natural glycerin in it does help retain moisture. 

My project was making the bar soap into liquid soap.  I kept reading that I needed to use a gallon of water for one bar of grated bar soap.  Heat the water to steaming, not boiling, add the soap, stir (or blend with a hand mixer), let sit overnight.  Then stir/blend again, let sit for awhile longer, stir blend again... and you have liquid soap.

Well, apparently the 1 gallon of water was too much for this particular bar of soap.  I kept having to reheat the mixture to steam more of the water out, because the soap was not getting thick.  Finally, after two days of periodic steaming and mixing, I reached a consistency I could live with, and poured some into the bathroom soap dispenser and the rest into a clean gallon vinegar jug.  I had decided not to add any fragrance or essential oils, but now I'm thinking I might.  Natural liquid soap, it seems, has a mild yet distinct, not entirely pleasant smell (for some reason I don't notice this smell with the bar soap, but I do remember the bar soap from high school chemistry classes smelling similar).  I'm not sure what to add though.  I hate floral scents, especially on Jem or myself, and don't want to use anything that could irritate his sensitive skin.  Anyway, the liquid soap is largely a success, but not perfect.  Next time I'll use half a gallon of water and adjust as needed.  It works pretty well as a handsoap and as a baby soap for Jem, but I can't wash his hair with it like I could with his other baby soap.  At least not easily.  I have, however, recently discovered that some people wash their hair using nothing but baking soda and water.  Next experiment...? Probably wouldn't work for my finicky hair, but for Jem's super-fine baby hair and Chris's straight thick hair it just might.

Today's project was making toothpaste.  I found all kinds of recipes to do this online, none of which I decided to use.  I had my heart set on using both baking soda and xylitol, two excellent natural dental cleansers, but couldn't find a recipe that used both.  So I decided to wing it.  I started out stirring together about half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of powdered xylitol with several tablespoons of water and a tiny bit of peppermint extract.  Apparently this was too much water and too much baking soda, because what I ended up with was a very runny, mildly pepperminty salt solution.  So I added more xylitol... and more... and more... until I went through the entire 1 lb bag.  So I ended up with a lot of toothpaste, but that's okay.  The problem was that the texture turned out kind of weird... the baking soda/xylitol mix kept clumping up at the bottom and was all watery at the top.  I went out on a limb and followed the advice of one of the other recipes I had looked at and added about a tablespoon of melted coconut oil.  Mix mix mix, stir stir stir... Finally I had a nice looking, and tasting, baking soda toothpaste.  I tried it out immediately and it worked great!  I mean we'll see how it's working six months from now, but for now I'm happy with it.  A few hours after I put it in the bottle (a clean Thayer's witch hazel bottle) I did notice that it started to look kind of liquidy again... I wonder if that has something to do with the heat in our apartment re-melting the coconut oil.  (See updated recipe below!) Anyway, once again I guess the moral of the story is use far less liquid than you think you'll need and add more as needed. Still, I'm happy with my toothpaste!

And with my soap...

...and with my furniture polish.  I feel thrifty, resourceful and quite crunchy.  Best of all, I know I'm introducing fewer potentially harmful chemicals into my home, and I feel good about that!

Recipes (these are mostly approximations and may need improvement.  I'll be sure to update with further experimentation!):

Furniture Polish:

Equal parts white distilled vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.  Store in a clean bottle in a cool place.  Check for oil spoilage and shake well before each use. Apply small amount to preferred cloth or sponge and wipe down wooden furniture thoroughly.

Liquid Soap: UPDATED

1 grated bar (about 4.5 oz or so) all natural clear glycerin soap base (I buy mine in bulk on ebay)
JUST UNDER a half gallon (2 quarts) water
Several drops of your favorite essential oil or fragrance (optional)

In a large pot, heat water till steaming and add grated soap. Remove from heat and stir well. Cover.  Let sit several hours or overnight. It should be a thick, gelatinous consistency. Whip by hand with a wire whisk until it is a pourable consistency.   Very carefully pour into clean bottles, using a funnel if you have one handy (I keep my soap in an empty half gallon SoftSoap container).  Store in a cool place.

Using this updated formula, I can now use this soap as baby shampoo for Jem as well! It lathers great!

Toothpaste (bulk recipe... adjust as needed) - UPDATED

1/2 cup baking soda
1 lb xylitol, powdered (I used my blender to powder)
1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
Peppermint or cinnamon extract (optional)
Water or hydrogen peroxide (use sparingly...optional)

In large bowl, sift together powdered xylitol and baking soda. Mix in coconut oil a tablespoon at a time to achieve pasty consistency, and add several drops of flavoring (optional). If you're having trouble getting the consistency right add water or hydrogen peroxide half a teaspoon at a time. Don't overdo it, remember oil and water don't mix well, and water doesn't absorb xylitol the way it does sugar.  
Store in c
lean container in a cool place.  May be suitable in pea sized amounts for children, but large doses of xylitol may cause tummy troubles.  Please keep away from dogs, xylitol is more toxic to them than even chocolate.


  1. Nice article, thanks! I learn something new on blogs everyday and yours is stimulating and provides new ideas. Thanks and keep up the good work!
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  2. Great article. It really looks beautiful. I like your idea of using liming wax for furniture polishing. Thanks for sharing this information.