Natural Oven Cleaning Recipe

Oven cleaning stinks. It is time consuming and the chemicals that are used in most conventional oven cleaners are toxic! I’ve been working on switching all of my cleaning to more natural methods…

That is why this particular tip is one of my favorites because it is so easy, cheap and natural!

Natural Oven Cleaning

If you are like me, your oven occasionally (or once a week in my case) gets burnt on food on the bottom, splattered food on the sides, or dried food stuck on the rack.

I do not have a self-cleaning oven as some do, so I had to find a way to solve this problem. (As a side note, I’ve read a lot of cases of self-cleaning ovens experiencing problems after using the self-cleaning cycle as some sources suggest that they high heat may cause fuses or elements to burn out more quickly. There are also some concerns about substances released into the air from the high heat of the self cleaning cycle.)

I also checked our specific oven cleaning products at the store, and definitely did not want those ingredients in my oven around the food I was cooking for my family. I tried a variety of natural treatments before stumbling on the best oven cleaner, natural or not, that I have ever found: baking soda!

Baking Soda Natural Oven Cleaning

Though it seems like a simple fix, baking soda is really effective and makes the daunting task of oven cleaning a little easier. All I have to do to get a shining oven is spray the whole oven down with a water bottle so that it is damp, and pour on a thick layer or baking soda, especially on the bottom, until there is about 1/4 inch layer of baking soda paste on the bottom. If any of the baking soda is still dry, I mist it with the water bottle.

Then, I walk away, and leave the baking soda there for a few hours (with the oven off, unless you want to see some amateur special effects… I don’t recommend this!) After a few hours I simply wipe up the paste with a cloth and all the grime comes with it. For really baked on grime, this may take a couple applications, but it always works and it is 100% natural!

I’ve found that it is important to make sure that the baking soda residue has been completely removed before using the oven as any remaining baking soda may smoke if left in contact with the heating element.

See some of my other natural cleaning ideas here!

Update

Did you get here by clicking on a post about how I’ve also used a product called Branch Basics to clean my oven? That post has been redirected to this one while I do further research on the company and their proprietary formula as recent information has emerged that calls into question the disclosure of the ingredients used in their formula.

For oven cleaning: Baking soda is a safe and effective way to clean an oven and I would recommend this method either way. I’ve also found that Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is an effective substitute for many cleaning products when used in correct dilutions. I share many of my uses in this post.

4 Natural Cleaning Recipes

Cleaning a house naturally is not any more difficult that cleaning it with harsh chemicals. It improves indoor air quality and is much safer, especially for children.

We’ve switched entirely to natural cleaning products and our house is just as clean (or cleaner) and I don’t have to worry about the kids getting sick if they lick the floors (what, your kids don’t do that?) The other great thing about natural cleaning recipes is that it is safe for kids to start helping with cleaning jobs at an earlier age. I’ve found that 2-4 years is a great age to get them to really start doing regular chores as they naturally want to help at this age!

Natural Cleaning Recipes

Here are a few easy and inexpensive natural cleaning recipes to use around the house:

Tile Grout Cleaner– Mix 1 part water and 3 parts baking soda mixed into a paste. Apply to grout and let sit, scrub with toothbrush, remove with sponge.

Cookware– Use sea salt or course salt mixed with a little lemon juice and scrub. Also, try baking soda and water made into a paste.

Fabric Softener– Mix 1 part vinegar, and 2 parts water together. Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup during the final rinse cycle.

Toilet Cleaner-Use undiluted white vinegar, pour around the top of the toilet bowl, scrub until clean.

Here are some other great natural cleaning recipes and ideas:

Make Your Own Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent-Video Tutorial
Natural Stain Treatment Reference Sheet [Printable]
Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe
Natural Oven Cleaning
Natural Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe
Easy Homemade Scouring Powder Recipe
Natural Cleaning and Organizing Checklist
Natural Bathroom Cleaning
Natural Kitchen Cleaning

How to Make Laundry Soap (Liquid or Powder Recipe)

Making your own natural, homemade laundry detergent is one of the easiest parts of a transition to natural living. This natural laundry soap recipe a great way to save money on laundry detergent and is incredibly easy to make. This homemade laundry detergent post is an updated version of this recipe that addresses high efficiency washers and borax safety.

Why Switch to Natural Laundry Soap?

Conventional laundry detergent is loaded with chemicals like sulfates, fragrances, phenols and more. Many brands contain things like petroleum distillates, which are linked to cancer and lung disease. Fragrances in these detergents are made of a mix of harmful chemicals.

Luckily, making your own laundry soap is an easy and fast process! You only need three basic ingredients to make either a powdered or liquid laundry soap:

DIY Laundry Soap Ingredients

Washing Soda (Arm and Hammer Brand available at most stores)
Borax (20 Mule Team Borax available at most grocery stores)
Bar Soap (Dr. Bronner’s,  Ivory, or other natural, unscented bar soap) – If you have ever made your own soap, the laundry version of this coconut oil soap recipe is hands-down the best bar soap I’ve ever found for making laundry soap.
Washing Soda and Borax should be available at your local grocery store on the laundry aisle. Natural bar soaps are in the health, beauty, or organic sections of the store, or online. You can also add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to help freshen clothes.

Wonder What’s in These Ingredients?

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral made up of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water. It is an ingredient in most of the natural soaps available now (Seventh Generation, etc.) but it is much more inexpensive to make yourself. There are some concerns about the safety of Borax, but here’s why I feel comfortable using it, especially for laundry.

Washing Soda, sometimes called sodium carbonate or soda ash, is made from common salt and limestone or found as natural deposits. If you can’t find this locally, you can make your own from plain baking soda with this tutorial. Here are some other great household uses for washing soda.

Dr. Bronner’s soaps are fair trade and made with vegetable castille soap and pure organic oils.

Natural Laundry Soap Recipe

Grate the bar soap or mix in food processor until finely ground. Use the soap of your choice. I personally use homemade coconut oil soap if I have it or Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Bar Soapbecause of its exceptional quality, and because it is available in several different natural scents like lavender, tea tree, peppermint, almond and others.
In a large bowl, mix 2 parts washing soda, 2 parts Borax and 1 part grated soap. I use 1 bar of grated soap and 1 cup each of washing soda and borax.
Store in closed container. I keep mine in quart or half gallon mason jars. If you are using a big enough container, you can skip step 2 and just put all ingredients in storage container or jar and shake.
Use 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup per load of laundry.

How to Make Liquid Laundry Soap

Grate one bar of soap with cheese grater or food processor.
Put grated soap in pan with 2 quarts water and gradually heat, stirring constantly until soap is completely dissolved.
Put 4.5 gallons of really hot tap water in a 5-gallon bucket (available for free in bakeries at grocery stores, just ask them) and stir in 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of Washing Soda until completely dissolved.
Pour soap mixture from pan into 5-gallon bucket. Stir well.
Cover and leave overnight.
Shake or stir until smooth and pour into gallon jugs or other containers.
Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load.
These recipes are also a great way to save money on laundry. By my calculations, I am saving over half on my laundry bill by switching

A Note About Soap vs. Detergent

As mentioned above, there is chemically a difference between soap and detergent. The advantage of conventional laundry detergents is that they are formulated to work specifically in washing machine environments. Many soaps are designed for skin and are not as strong. Some sources suggest that over time, natural soaps can leave buildup in washers.

I’ve found that while this recipe works well for me, it isn’t suitable for all water types and washer types. If you’ve used natural laundry soap and experienced clothes getting dingy, this may be the reason.

I’ve found one natural detergent that works brilliantly and can be used alone or in combination with homemade laundry soaps like this one. I often add 2-3 Tablespoons of Dr. Bronners Sal Suds per load as a natural detergent. Sal Suds gets out tough stains and odors and is still a natural product (though technically a detergent/surfactant and not a soap).

Don’t Want to Make it?

We usually make our own detergent, but for times when we are traveling or I haven’t had time to make it, I’ve found a few good brands of eco friendly laundry detergent that actually work (all received an “A” by the Environmental Working Group):

2 Tablespoon Sal Suds + 1/4 cup Baking Soda or Washing Soda (highly effective and super simple!)
Ecover Zero Laundry Detergent– Works well, relatively cost effective and low/no risk of developmental or reproductive toxicity and cancer according to the EWG.
Emma Eco Me Detergent – Also rated well by the EWG and cleans up to 64  loads for $12. Good scents.
Planet Natural Detergent –  Relatively eco-friendly and cost effective at $9 for 32 loads.
Obviously, the most frugal option is to make your own, but these natural alternatives are a good choice if you aren’t able to make your own or don’t want to.

Natural Tile and Grout Cleaner

Making the switch to natural cleaners for tile and grout is incredibly easy and very inexpensive. You likely already have all the things you need, and they are more effective, in my opinion, than store-bought alternatives. You also don’t have to worry about your kids bathing in a chemical cocktail after you clean the tub, or a toddler crawling around on a floor covered in carcinogens.

I’m a big fan of homemade cleaning recipes and these were born out of necessity for me. A few years ago, we moved in to our first home (that we ever owned). It needed a lot of work and we remodeled most of it ourselves. One thing we left was the vintage tile in the hall bathroom. Thankfully, it was a light blue color and not a horrible yellow or bright pink as many other 1970s bathrooms.

Unfortunately, this bathroom came with complimentary mold in the grout and tile and I had to figure out how to get rid of it. I read that bleach doesn’t actually kill mold but just bleaches it so you can’t see it so I didn’t want to go that direction. (Plus, with toddlers in the house, bleach wasn’t something we kept around anyway). These natural tile and grout cleaner recipes were created in response to our mold-decorations in the bathroom and they cleaned them right up. 🙂

Natural Tile and Grout Cleaner Recipes

Light cleaning of water spots or dirt- Get a damp sponge, dip in a bowl of regular baking soda and wipe down tub or tiles. Rinse with warm water.

Tough stains or set in dirt- Use a damp sponge in full strength white vinegar to wipe down entire surface. Immediately scour with baking soda and a brush or sponge.

Really tough stains and spots– Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 TBSP of washing soda and 2 TBSP of borax. Add 3 TBSP of Liquid Castille soap and stir (if you don’t have liquid castille soap, you can use liquid dish soap). Pre-wipe with full strength white vinegar and scrub with baking soda mixture. For tubs, wipe with white vinegar, sprinkle with mixture and let sit for 15 minutes. Scrub with heavy-duty brush and rinse.

Moldy Grout Stains- For mold on grout make a mixture of 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray on grout until saturated. Wait 45 minutes and wipe down with sponge and rinse well.

How to Make Natural Floor Cleaner for a Healthier Home

When my oldest child was about six months old I suddenly became much more interested in finding a natural and homemade floor cleaner recipe because I had a pint-size inspector who would eat/lick anything I missed!

At the time we had several different types of floors in our tiny one-bedroom apartment, so I had to find something multi-purpose and easy to make with ingredients I had on hand: white vinegar, washing soda, and dishwashing liquid.

The great news is I discovered natural cleaners are incredibly easy to make and save a lot of money too!

Why Try and Make Natural Floor Cleaner?

So with all a mom already has to juggle, why not just use conventional store-bought cleaners?

Ever read the ingredients in regular floor cleaners, Swiffer mops, and other store-bought floor cleaning products? Here’s a sampling, all of which have a D-F rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Dipropylene glycol
Methylisothiazolinone
Dialkyl dimethyl
Ammonium chlorides
Didecyldimethylammonium chloride
Preservatives
Artificial fragrances
Most of these substances are a) not natural in any sense and b) known to have health and environmental concerns. Not what I want my little one crawling around in!

Don’t Have Time to Make Your Own? That’s OK!

Of course life has changed a bit since I first experimented with homemade natural cleaner recipes years ago. I’ve had a few more kids (just a few!). Schooling and working from home makes for crazy hours sometimes. In fact, I often get the question, how do you do it all?!

The answer is … I don’t! Life goes through certain phases and I certainly didn’t tackle living a healthier life all at once. I’ve learned, experimented, and grown bit by bit. And since vinegar stinks and Borax is controversial, once I found store-bought brands I liked, I’ll be honest … my homemade cleaners appear less and less on the scene.

The good news is there are a lot of health-conscious companies and brands out there now, thanks to consumers who ask for these products and support them with their dollars. I’ll be sure to list my favorites at the end of the post.

But first, on to the recipes that started it all: my easy, sustainable, DIY natural floor cleaner recipes!

Natural DIY Floor Cleaner Recipes

Here are my favorite homemade floor cleaner recipes from over the years. With a little practice, they are so easy to make it becomes almost automatic.

Natural Wood Floor Cleaner

Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (finally a good use for it!). Add 1 cup of water. Mix well and rub lightly into floors to bring back shine and clean spots. Add a few drops of essential oil of choice for nice scent. (Make sure to wipe off completely to avoid slippery floors!)

Natural All-Purpose Floor Cleaner

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and dampen mop. For really tough stains, pre-treat with 2 tablespoons of washing soda dissolved in 16 ounces of water. Mop well. Damp mop with pure water to rinse.

Natural Carpet Stain Removal

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Spray on stains, let sit for 5 minutes, and scrub with soft brush. Add 1-2 drops of dishwashing liquid for tough stains.

For tough grease stains, pour cornstarch liberally on the stain and let sit until dry. Vacuum up and then use method above.

For heavy-duty stains that won’t come out, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub into the stain. Let sit until dry and vacuum up. Use methods above if any part of the stain remains.

My Favorite Store-bought Floor Cleaner (+ Other Good Options!)

Vinegar and water make for a pretty easy recipe, but when a ready substitute is needed, try these brands which are rated by the EWG Consumer Guide.

Sal-Suds (A rating, and the one I use the most personally as it works for everything from floors to laundry)
Babyganics Floor Cleaner, Fragrance Free (A rating)
BioKleen Bac-Out Floor Cleaner (B rating)
How do you clean your home naturally? Any floor questions I forgot to cover here? Share below!

References:

Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guides, Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Natural Homemade Baby Wipes

Ever checked the ingredients on your baby wipes? Yeah, I hadn’t either. The Cosmetics Databasegives you a complete list and a hazard rating of the different brands of wipes. For instance:

Pampers Clean and Go Wipes Contain

Water, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Caprylic Triglyceride, PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Sodium Hydroxymethlyglycinate, Citric Acid, Fragrance

Clean and Go Wipes are given a 5 for hazard (out of 10) and warnings include possible allergies, immunotoxicity and organ system toxicity. No thanks!

Huggies Cucumber and Green Tea Wipes

Ingredients: Water, Potassium Laureth Phosphate, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, DMDM Hydantoin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Malic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Fragrance

These wipes have a hazard rating of 7 and ingredients have been linked to cancer, immunotoxicity, allergies, developmental problems, reproductive toxicity, organ dysfunction, endocrine disruption and cellular changes.

I used these wipes for years, figuring that if they were made for a newborn’s skin, they must be safe. Apparently not!

Are There Safe Alternatives?

My discovery of what was in baby wipes led to a search for healthier alternatives. I found out that there are natural alternatives, including wipes made from bamboo, but they are expensive! I stumbled on some recipes for homemade baby wipes, but they suggested using baby oil (mineral oil) and baby lotion- check those out on Cosmetics Database too. I figured that if you could make your own with those ingredients, you could make a healthy version too!

Homemade Baby Wipes Recipe

After much trial and error (mainly error), I finally have a great recipe for baby wipes that after using it on two kids for several weeks, has shown no irritation. A side benefit to my wipe making experiment is that homemade wipes are a lot cheaper. When I buy ingredients in bulk, the wipes end up costing less than one cent each, saving us almost $200 a year with two in diapers. Healthier and cheaper- I’ll take it!

Homemade Baby Wipe Ingredients

1 roll of heavy duty paper towels (Note: I use Bounty for wipes. I don’t use them in my kitchen, but cheap paper towels do not work for wipes… I’ve tried)
Rubbermaid #6 or #8 container- (Old wipes containers,  plastic shoe box containers, old plastic coffee containers or empty gallon plastic ice cream buckets also work. )
1 3/4 cups boiled water (or distilled)-cooled but still warm – (can just use regular water if you use them in less than a week like we do)
1 Tablespoon of pure aloe vera– check the ingredients
1 Tablespoon of pure Witch Hazel Extract
1 teaspoon of Liquid Castille Soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s)
10 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract or 2 capsules of Vitamin E (optional)
1 teaspoon of Olive or Almond Oil (optional)
Essential Oils of choice (optional- I use 6 drops each of orange and lavender)
How to Make Homemade Natural Baby Wipes

Cut the roll of paper towels in half using a sharp knife
If using a plastic shoe box or old wipe container, accordion fold the wipes into the container. If using a Rubbermaid #6 container (I highly recommend), place the wipes, cut side down in container.
In bowl or quart size jar mix the water, aloe, witch hazel, castille soap, GSE/Vitamin E and oil and stir.
Add essential oils if desired and stir.
Pour over paper towels in container and let absorb- this takes about 5-10 minutes.
Flip the container over to make sure wipes are well soaked.
If using Rubbermaid container, pull the cardboard roll out from the inside This should also pull the innermost wipe out and start them for you. Depending on the brand of paper towels you use, you might have to experiment with the amount of water to get the right amount.
Use as you would regular wipes, and smile, knowing you are not causing your beautiful child any future health problems!
Note: If your child has extremely sensitive skin, you may need to leave out the essential oils or use calendula or chamomile.
Reusable Homemade Wipes

If you like the disposable wipes you make, you can make reusable ones also. Just cut up old receiving blankets and t-shirts into 8×8 squares. fold them into old wipes containers and pour the same mixture (above) onto them or spray on each wipe with a spray bottle before using. These are an even cheaper option, and I am working on using these all the time.

This has been one of my most fun homemade discoveries. These wipes are definitely kid approved. Every time I change the baby, the older two hover around the wipes to smell them, and usually try to steal one, which they use to clean things. (Guess I’ve instilled this a little too well). We inadvertently discovered that these wipes also clean tile, counters, leather, and flooring well, but they leave residue on stainless steel.

I now make a lavender or tea tree version to use for all purpose disinfecting when we’re traveling and reusable make up removing wipes for me (stay tuned for that recipe).

Please try making your own wipes. It really takes very little time and is a great alternative to store bought wipes.

7 Practical Uses for Junk Food

If you haven’t already gotten rid of the junk in your pantry, now is the time! To make the transition easier, I compiled a list of ways to use those non-foods for other household purposes.

I hate to waste as much as the next person, but I finally had to realize that my body is not a garbage can, and I refuse to use things just to finish what is in the house. When we switched to a real food diet, I donated all the unopened non-perishables, but what to do with the opened packages of flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc?

I remembered some natural beauty recipes and kid-friendly activity ideas I’d read in the past, and the kids had a blast (and I got pampered) while we used up the rest of our “junk food.”

These were my solutions:

Make Play Dough or Paper Mache for Your Kids

A win-win situation- you get to spend quality time with your kids and teach them that the best use for flour is not in their mouths or digestive tracks. (If you don’t have kids, this could be fun for grown-ups too… consider it stress relief)

To Make Basic Play Dough from That Flour You Shouldn’t Be Eating:

In a large pot, pour two cups of water and 1 cup of salt.
Heat over low heat until salt is dissolved.
Stir in 2 cups of flour until well mixed. (thing #1 to get out of the pantry)
Add 2-3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil (another thing to get out of the pantry)
Add 1 Tablespoon Cream of Tartar (optional)
Keep stirring over low heat until it thickens and pulls away from the sides into a ball. (like when you make bread -another thing to get out of the pantry)
If it is too sticky, keep stirring over low heat until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and let cool until you can handle it.
Add kool-aid for color (another thing to get out of the pantry)
Unhealthy things you used up: flour, vegetable oil, table salt, kool aid!

To make Paper Mache Paste:

Mix equal parts of white flour and water to make a glue-like paste. (hmmm, flour and water make a glue like paste… probably shouldn’t eat that!) Let your kids use their hands and some old pieces of newspaper to make creations. Once it dries, it is much like a sculpture (yeah, definitely shouldn’t eat that!).

As kids, we used to blow up balloons and put paper mache over them. When they dried, we popped the balloons, cut them in half and painted them to make masks.

Make a Luxurious Facial Scrub or Kill Ants

Exfoliating Sugar Scrub: Sugar= bad for your body but good for your skin. Make a spa-quality facial scrub that costs pennies. Mix 1/2 cup of sugar with enough olive oil to moisten it and any essential oils you like (optional). I use lavender and orange oils. Mix well and put into a small jar. Use a little scoop with wet hands to exfoliate your face and body.

Ant Poison: If rubbing sugar on your face isn’t appealing to you, mix 2 parts sugar with 1 part borax (which is great to have on hand for cleaning). Put in a little container or jar that ants can crawl in and out of. Make sure your kids can’t get to it. Borax is poisonous to ants, but they can’t resist sugar. It won’t kill them immediately, but they will take it back to the nest and eventually kill all of them. I’ve used this twice to get rid of ants in our house. Killing ants=good use for sugar!

Clean Your Hardwood Floors Naturally

There are natural ways to clean any type of floor, and that nasty vegetable oil (or canola, soybean, cottonseed, etc) lurking in your pantry makes an awesome cleaner for hardwood floors. Rather than letting it skew your Omega-3 and 6 ratios, use it to make your floors shine. Mix 1 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil OR lemon juice to make a very effective floor cleaner. Benefits: clean floors and clean bill of health!

Dry Out Electronics that Got Wet

I’ve had three cell phones thrown or dropped into water by my kids (and one I dropped myself). Three of the four were saved by rice. Store your rice in jars and when an electronic gets wet, put it in the jar and close the lid tightly. The rice will absorb the moisture and pull it out of the gadget. Unless there is structural damage, this usually works. It can take a few days or even a couple weeks, so be patient.

Get A Facial or Calm Itchy Skin

I don’t recommend eating oatmeal, unless you are a fan of insulin. I do recommend using it on your skin. For a relaxing facial, powder oatmeal in a blender or food processor and add warm milk to make a paste. Rub on face, let dry and wash off. It tightens pores, removes blackheads and moisturizes. You can also use the powder as an oatmeal bath for sunburns or itchy skin.

Clean Your Toilet

Toilet dirty? I’m sure yours is not, but mine sometimes is. Pour a can of coke in a toilet and let sit an hour. Use a brush to remove stains and flush. It will shine. We even tried this on a 30-40 year old toilet in a house we remodeled- it worked (and that toilet probably hadn’t been cleaned in 30-40 years). To me, that is enough reason to never ingest the stuff but if not, here are some other things you can use it for so you don’t drink it:

Removing gum from hair- soak hair in it for 10 minutes and gum comes right out
Unclog drains- just pour in the coke and wait (Did I mention you should not ingest this stuff!)
Remove that gunk from car batteries-pour on and it come right off
Clean grout- soak a sponge in it and use to clean grout stains
Remove grease stains on clothes-soak the stain in coke and wash well
Things not to use soda for: human consumption.

Polish Stainless Steel

Oh the fingerprints! Stainless steel shows smudges, a lot. After normal cleaning, pour or rub some flour onto the stainless to make it shine and remove fingerprints or water spots. Caution: keep flour away from mouth!

Hope this gave you some alternate ideas for that junk food that might still be lurking in your pantry. If you haven’t already, consider getting rid of (or creatively using) wheat and gluten containing floursof any kind and products made from them, harmful fats and products made from them, and sugar or sugar-containing foods.

How to Make Natural Toothpaste

Since learning about how diet can drastically affect oral health and the need for minerals in the body for oral health, I’ve increasingly turned to homemade mineral-rich natural toothpaste options.

Why Use Natural Toothpaste?

I’m not a dentist or a doctor, just a mom who has tried a TON of different toothpaste options and read a TON of books and medical literature. I first started making my own toothpaste after getting frustrated that I couldn’t find a store bought brand that didn’t have questionable ingredients, including:

Sweeteners: Sorbitol, sodium saccharin and other artificial sweeteners are often used in toothpaste to improve taste, even though there is no evidence that these sweeteners are beneficial (or even safe) for use in the mouth. Xylitol has shown some positive benefits for oral health in some studies, but it remains a controversial ingredient in toothpaste.
Fluoride: The most controversial toothpaste ingredient. I personally have to avoid it like the plague because with my thyroid disease, I can’t take iodine in any form. Iodine is known to neutralize the affects of fluoride so it is easier for fluoride to build up in my body. Additionally, fluoride interferes with my thyroid hormone uptake. Our family doesn’t use fluoride toothpaste and we filter it out of our water, but there is definitely research on both sides. You can read Mark Sisson’s take here and Dr. Mercola’s opinon here. Whatever your opinion, fluoride does come with a warning to call the poison control center immediately if ingested and after seeing a close friend’s scare when her son ingested some fluoride, it isn’t something I keep in our house.
Triclosan: A chemical used in antibacterial soaps and products. Triclosan was recently found to affect proper heart function in a study at University of California Davis and the FDA is currently re-evaluating it for safety in human use.
Glycerin: Another controversial ingredient, glycerin is found in many toothpastes, especially natural toothpastes. Glycerin is a sweet, colorless liquid and some research says it can coat teeth and prevent them from benefitting from the minerals in saliva. I know that when I used glycerin toothpaste in college, my teeth started to yellow, but the research is still mixed on whether glycerin is harmful or not. Especially when I was working to remineralize cavities, I decided that it was better to just avoid glycerin.
Surfactants: Many toothpastes contain surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, which gives toothpaste its foam and lather. Some research shows that SLS can cause mouth ulcers and canker sores.
Many toothpastes also contain artificial colors/dyes or synthetic flavors. There are a few good natural toothpastes out there, but after looking at the ingredients, I realized I could make a similar concoction at home… and the toothpaste experiment was born.

I admit, I had several failed attempts before I figured this recipe out. I originally tried mixing coconut oil and baking soda in equal proportions which makes coconut tasting salt. I also tried using pure ground stevia leaf, but my husband and kids couldn’t get past the green color.

I finally made a concession to use stevia powder (the most natural one I could find) though I would like to try xylitol too, as it has some supposed benefits in dental health.

I finally found one recipe that tastes pretty good and that the kids don’t spit out!

Natural Toothpaste Ingredients

About 1/2 cup coconut oil
2-3 Tablespoons of baking soda
2 small packets of stevia powder
15-20 drops of peppermint or cinnamon essential oil
10 drops myrrh extract (optional)
Natural Toothpaste Instructions

Melt or slightly soften coconut oil.
Mix in other ingredients and stir well. If using semi-hard coconut oil, use a fork, if not, use a spoon. If you are using completely melted coconut oil, you will need to stir several times while the mixture cools to keep the baking soda incorporated.
Put mixture into small glass jar (I make different ones for each family member)
Let cool completely.
To use: dip toothbrush in and scrape small amount onto bristles. Could also use a small spoon to put on toothbrush.
Does Homemade Toothpaste Work?

We have been using this natural toothpaste for a while now, and it seems to work great. I’ve noticed less plaque when brushing our teeth, and my teeth feel smoother. I will keep you updated after our next dental checkups, but I have several friends who have used similar concoctions for years and never get cavities.

More Toothpaste Recipes

Since I originally wrote this post, I’ve created a few additional toothpaste recipes which are even easier to make! I still love this recipe, but you may also want to check out these:

Simple whitening toothpaste
Homemade remineralizing toothpaste
Tooth powder
Pre-Made Natural Toothpaste Options

If you don’t want to make toothpaste yourself, thankfully, there are several pre-made natural toothpaste options that are both effective and safe. Some of my favorites are:

OraWellness Brushing Blend

I use OraWellness Brushing Blend as an ingredient in many of my homemade oral health products, but I also just like using it alone. It is great for traveling, even for flying since it comes in a small bottle and since you only need a few drops, it lasts forever.

We also use OraWellness Bass Toothbrushes regularly at our house.

Earthpaste

Earthpaste is another favorite at our house. The kids like the lemon flavor and my husband and I like all three mint options (cinnamon, peppermint and wintergreen).

How to Organize a Healthy Shopping List

Healthy meal plans have made a massive difference in my family’s health, and I found that 90% of the struggle of meal planning is having a good plan and a good shopping list when I go to the farmer’s market and the store.

A recipe for failure is going to the store hungry and without a plan. To simplify, I’ve started creating a rotating list of meal plans that use seasonal produce and corresponding shopping lists that are organized by the part of the store the food is in.

My Wellness Mama Meals subscribers get these each week to simplify things, but you can do this at home as well. Below, I’m sharing what a sample week of meal plans and a corresponding shopping list would look like for our family:

The Meal Plan

Monday: Tacos served on Romaine Lettuce with salsa or chopped tomatoes, onions and sour cream, cheese and hot sauce (all optional)

Tuesday: Chicken Stir Fry With Chicken, Onions, Squash, and Broccoli

Wednesday: Pork Chops with baked apples served with spinach salad

Thursday: Chili and salad

Friday: Baked Fish of choice with baked cauliflower and sweet potatoes

Saturday: Roast with Onions served with sweet potato fries, broccoli and salad

Sunday: Baked Chicken, Broccoli, and winter squash. (or leftovers if I don’t feel like cooking)

The Organization

To simplify the process, I write my recipes on 3×5 index cards with the ingredients on the back. For each ingredient, I write the amount needed per person (not total!)

This allows me to easy adjust the recipe up or down if we are having company or if some of the kids won’t be home for a certain meal. In other words, the back of one of my recipe cards might have:

1 chicken breast
1/4 pound broccoli, fresh
1 sweet potato
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp basil
etc
To make the shopping list for the week, I just multiply the per-person number by the number I’m serving for that meal and add to the list.

Shopping List

Note: this particular shopping list is based on the meal plan above and is designed for 2-3 people, so adjust up or down as necessary! I’ve also organized by the part of the store foods are in so I don’t go up and down each aisle multiple times.

Meat:

3 lbs ground beef or turkey
8 chicken breasts or 16 thighs (or more if you will eat it)
One 3-4 pound roast of choice
2 pork chops (or more if you want leftovers)
2 servings fish of choice (or more if you want leftovers)
Produce:

2 medium size sweet potatoes
1 medium to large winter squash (acorn or butternut)
1 bag carrots
1 bag onions
1 red pepper (optional)
1 Small bag of apples
2 or more heads Romaine Lettuce
1 Large bag or box of spinach
2 medium or 1 large zucchini or squash
2-3 tomatoes (optional)
Any other vegetables you want for salads or snacks including cucumber, more carrots, celery, peppers, etc.
Frozen:

3-4 lbs frozen broccoli
3-4 lbs frozen cauliflower
Canned:

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
Dairy:

1 pound butter (organic is best)
cheese (optional)
sour cream (optional)
3 dozen eggs (not dairy, I know, but in the same area)
Other:

Cumin (spice aisle)
Chili Powder (spice aisle)
Hot sauce (optional)
If you’ve never pre-organized your shopping list before, I highly recommend you give it a shot, as it continually saves me time and money at the store.

Organic Gardening: How to Grow a Thriving Backyard Garden

Gardening was once a normal part of life for most people, and in almost all parts of the world, we still have the ability to grow some of our own food, at least part of the year. Yet, statistically, many of us don’t (especially in the US).

Back to a Backyard Garden…

As the population has moved away from agriculture and into more urban settings, gardening is not as necessary and there isn’t as much land to grow on, but it is certainly still possible.

In war times, families were encouraged to grow “victory gardens” to help prevent food shortage and at their peak, there were over 20,000,000 of these gardens in the US.

With rising food & gas prices, droughts, and issues with the food supply, perhaps it is time to bring back the backyard garden.

Growing some of your own food, even in small containers on a patio, will let you have fresh, organic produce at a fraction of the cost. If you have the room, a medium to large garden can produce enough food to feed a family, especially if you have time to devote to preservation and storage.

Decide What To Grow

The first year especially, it can be tough to know how much of each variety to plant. When I started gardening, we often ended up with too many tomatoes to use and wished we had more cucumbers. This website has a good list with an average of how much to grow for a family of four.

My strategy now is to grow foods that (a) we eat the most of and (b) are the most expensive to buy organically. For us, this means lots of spinach, strawberries, winter squash, tomatoes (which are canned or fermented), herbs, cucumbers (naturally fermented to preserve), blueberries, sweet potatoes and peppers (usually dried to preserve).

To help figure out how much of each plant to grow and when to plant, check out GrowVeg.com. They offer a free 30-day trial of their garden planning guide, which lets you see visually how many of each variety to plant.

Here’s a picture of what our spring garden looked like one year using this garden planner:

They also give you a great chart of planting dates for your climate:

Start Seeds Indoors Early

Starting seeds indoors lets you get a head start on the garden and a longer growing season. For plants like tomatoes and peppers, starting them inside is almost necessary for a good growing season.

To make it easy, get small seeds starter trays that can be kept on a kitchen table or counter. They even make organic versions of these! Start tomatoes and peppers about 4-6 weeks before you plant them outside, so for us that means starting early April indoors and transplanting outdoors in mid-May.

To speed up the process, you can pre-germinate the seeds in unbleached coffee filters or paper towels in unzipped plastic bags. To pre-germinate:

Just place about 10 seeds with space in between on 1 unbleached coffee filter.
Put another coffee filter on top and get damp with warm water.
Fold in half and put in a quart size or larger plastic bag, but don’t zip it!
Place the bag on a plate and put on top of your fridge or in another slightly warm place
In 2-3 days, you should see tiny sprouts coming from the seeds.
At this point, plant seeds in small pots indoors using tweezers.
Gardening in Any Backyard

I know many people who are fortunate enough to have a huge backyard with plenty of room to garden, but many of us live in the city and have limited space that gets enough sun.

Even a small backyard can produce a lot of food:

Grow beets, radishes, lettuces and some greens on a balcony or patio
Vines like beans, peas, and cucumbers do well in hanging baskets or in barrels on a deck or patio
Peppers, tomatoes and beans need more sun (6-8 hours per day) for optimal growth
Just make sure that any container plants get enough sun and water, and that the container has proper drainage.

Here are a few simple ways that I’ve personally tried for backyard gardening…

DIY Planter Box

I shared the instructions for my simple cedar planter box before, and this is one of the simplest ways to grow a small backyard garden.

This planter is only three feet long, so it will fit on almost any patio or porch. We are currently growing Kale, herbs and a few microgreens.

Natural Container Gardening

If you aren’t the DIY type and don’t want to build a container for gardening, there are many pre-existing natural containers that will work:

Bushel baskets
Old Barrels (cut in half)
Metal drums or planters
Wooden boxes
Ceramic pots
Just make sure that any container has adequate drainage and water container plants often.

Square Foot Garden

This is one of the first types of backyard gardening I tried when we moved into our first home. The basic concept is using a 4×4 raised bed (or several of them) in a very calculated way to maximize the amount of food that can be grown. The 4×4 foot bed is divided into 16 one-foot squares and each square is used for one type of plant (based on size).

For instance, you might plant one tomato plant in one square, four basil plants in another and nine spinach plants in another.

This site has some additional information about how to plan a square foot garden, but to get started, you just need:

A 4×4 raised bed kit (or materials to make your own)
Optional: a square foot gardening grid
Soil + sunlight
Raised Beds

An extension of the square foot garden is a larger raised bed. The square foot method can actually be used in a larger bed as well to optimize production.

We have permanent raised beds in our yard and they are big enough for us to grow most of the seasonal vegetables for our family.

By using companion planting and succession planting, we are able to grow food from April-October in our climate.

Prepare the Garden

Figure out how much space you can devote to a garden and plan accordingly. If you just have a few containers on a patio, make sure to get quality soil and use organic fertilizer to maximize production.

If you are growing an outdoor garden, consider using raised beds to maximize space and production.

Once you have the space for the garden reserved, you need to make sure you have decent soil to work with. Many county extension offices offer soil testing at very inexpensive prices. Getting your soil tested will help you pinpoint what, if anything, you need to add to the soil to make sure your plants grow well.

We tilled in several truckloads of organic compost over the last couple of years. While this was a little pricey upfront, it paid off in the long run. Our soil is naturally very acidic dense clay that doesn’t drain well. Adding the compost gave us beautiful, black soil that produced veggies in abundance last year!

Making the Most of Your Space

You can easily maximize your growing space and often prevent pests with the same methods. To make sure you get the most production from small spaces, practices like intercropping, companion planting, and succession planting can really help.

Companion Planting

Companion planting allows you to grow multiple plants that help each other in the same area. A classic example is the Indian custom of planting corn, beans and squash together. The corn provides a structure for the beans and squash, and the beans add nitrogen back into the soil to feed the corn and squash.

Another example is planting basil under tomatoes. Besides tasting great together, these two help deter pests from each other and improve the growing quality of each other. Check out this list for a chart of good companion plants.

My favorite plants to plant together are:

Basil with tomato to promote growth and keep pests away
Marigolds throughout the garden to deter pests and reduce nematodes
Dill with cucumber
Catnip, mint and chamomile in brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) to deter pests
Beets under cabbage to maximize space
Cucumbers with mammoth sunflowers- the sunflowers act as the trellis
Succession Planting

Planting a variety of crops in succession will give you more yield from your garden and extend your harvest season. For instance, right now, my garden has young cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, chart, spinach and lettuce. Once those are harvested, the same beds will become a space for melons or winter squash.

Vertical Gardening

Growing some plants up rather than letting them sprawl can reduce the amount of space they need and actually increase yield by reducing disease exposure.

Trellises and cages are great for tomatoes, cucumbers, vining squash and others. Here’s an informative article that explains more. I’ll be posting soon on the system we use to grow tomatoes that gives great airflow and maximizes production (its also very easy and inexpensive!)

So far, our garden is on track to produce lots of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, beets, radishes and others in the next couple of months. In the next few weeks, I’ll be putting plants in the ground for summer crops of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.

Natural Pest Control for Organic Gardens

It is so frustrating to spend hours working on your garden only to have plants destroyed by pests. With organic gardening, many of the normal pesticides are off-limits, but there are still many great ways to keep the pests out! Check out this post for a variety of natural pest control options.