I know that a “night out” should not generally have anything to do with green cleaning products — but it did this week for 20 mom in my town. My friend Stacey and I coordinate the moms’ night out activities for Moms & More, a West Hartford, CT based group of some 200 mothers. We’ve done movies and manicures, drinks and dinner, book club and cooking class. This week, we tried something new: a hands-on class to learn to make your own green cleaning products. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with a skewed sense of the words “night out” as this event drew a bigger attendance than last month’s night out at our upscale taco/margarita bar. We were glad to see so many mamas (many of whom were pregnant) eager to green up their cleaning routines.
In keeping with our theme, I made a big batch of green fries and a healthy caesar salad, and Stacey made some energy bites that she either took home or were devoured before I had a chance to eat one. The two bottles of wine I left out went unopened; we had other concoctions in mind.
Our Natural Green Cleaning Guru
Armed with a million pinterest links, we nearly tried to teach the class ourselves. Gratefully, a local organic cleaning pro agreed to share her expertise and philosophy with our group.
Sheila (“Shal”) Gagne, owner of Maid Organic LLC in Bristol, Connecticut credits her mom for “instilling the importance of eating organic and all-natural foods as well as using all-natural products to promote a healthy body and a healthy home.” Raised with a brother with severe allergies, she eventually started an all natural cleaning business using only natural products. Shal tested nearly every “natural” cleaner on the market, and like many of us have found, discovered they either worked great and contained not-so-natural products or smelled great and didn’t work at all. Ultimately, Shal set up a cleaning products lab in her basement and created her own line of natural green home cleaners, available for purchase here (along with her signature green microfiber cloth).
Shal believes in very simple ingredients – the base of her cleaning sprays are distilled water, distilled vinegar and essential oils like lavender, peppermint and tea tree oil. As a mom to a one year old and as a professional house cleaner, Shal knows the importance of having safe and environmental friendly products that clean effectively, without tremendous scrubbing effort.
What We Made: Cleaning Products
We settled on four products to make with the group – an All Purpose Spray, an Disinfecting/Anti-Bacterial Cleaning Spray, a Facial Scrub and Lotion Bars. I set up stations for each with recipes, ingredients, supplies and of course, some cute stickers for our products.
First, the sprays:
The spray recipes are very simple. No heating, just measure and mix.
Shal provided us with the adorable two ounce spray bottles. It would be green to recycle other cleaning product spray bottles, but you really don’t want to taint your products with any chemical residue. Distilled water and vinegar are inexpensive ($1-$3 per gallon) and available at most markets. Distilled water (and vinegar) is key because the distillation process removes impurities. The essentials oils (available at health food stores and online) run between $12 and $25 for 2 ounces, but a small bottle will go a long way (our group of 20 DIYers hardly made a dent in these bottles) and will not spoil.
The Early Results
I’ve been using the products we made along with some of Shal’s cleaners she generously left behind for me (sooooo glad I hosted this event at my home) since our class. When my six year old came home from school Wednesday, before he even took off his jacket, he said “What have you been cooking? It smells SO good in here.” The house does smell awesome – clean and fresh, not at all over-fragranced or perfumed. Ryan immediately hijacked my new products, insisted on washing all the windows downstairs and cleaning a cabinet in the bathroom. He used about half a bottle of window cleaner (spraying is so irresistible) and somehow spilled half the fruit and vegetable wash on the floor. I could still scream about it but I’m trying to focus on all the green cleaning enthusiasm here.
What We Made: The Beauty Products
Next, the facial scrub (also Shal’s recipe and the one she keeps in her shower for daily use). This one is a bit messier – honey, cornstarch, lemon, brown sugar, honey, heated up and then mixed with apple cider vinegar. I’ve been using it the last few days and I’m loving it. My skin feels good, clean and exfoliated and the scrub tastes pretty delicious too.
Do I look happy? I was deliriously happy with how the evening and our products turned out.
It was a good decision to hold this “party” when Scott was out of town. This doesn’t look much like a cleaning class, does it?
Last, the lotion bars I had read so much about here and here and here. This time of year, I’m always looking to soothe my own dry skin and my kids’ excema patches. Shall hadn’t tried this one, but approved the ingredients – organic beeswax, cocoa or shea butter and coconut oil.
With the right supplies, these bars are incredibly easy to make. I ordered beeswax pellets (“pastilles”) and chunks of cocoa butter instead of solid bars. This made measuring easy. We cooked ours on the stovetop in a covered glass container set in a pot of hot water set on medium heat. The oils melted within minutes (the beeswax took the longest) and were easy to transfer into muffin pans.
To use the lotion bars, just rub between your hands to warm and apply wherever needed. I worried it might be a bit greasy but it soaks right in and my skin feels healthy and soft. I even used a little on my face today and didn’t feel greasy or shiny at all. Crunchy, wholesome and thrifty, yes. A bit like Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie, you betcha. But greasy, no.
Have a favorite green product or DIY tip — please share it below!