Thrift Week — Day 1

by Katy on January 17, 2009 · 18 comments



Thrift Week

Ever heard of thrift week?

Yeah, me neither. (But it sure sounds like a holiday I can get behind.)

Thrift week was apparently a special week started after World War I, that subsequently petered out in the mid-1960’s. Well, J.D. over at was contacted by the publishers of Thrift: A Cyclopedia regarding a bring back thrift week campaign. And guess what?

Thrift week is back, baby!

The Non-Consumer Advocate will be devoting the blog this week to different areas of thrift.

Today is homemade cleaning products day.

I took the final step away from toxic cleaning products today, and craigslisted all our commercial cleansers. I listed them for free, and they were off my porch in 30 short minutes. (I love, love, love craigslist!)

Bye-bye aerosol cans of Lysol and Oust. Tilex? Don’t darken my doorstep again!

Here’s what I’ll use instead:

Borax for cleaning the sinks and tub. I have tried baking soda in the past, but the elbow grease necessary for the job was just too extreme. Borax seems a bit more abrasive without scratching the surface.

I make my own powdered laundry detergent, which is super simple and works great:

  • 2 cups of shredded Fels Naptha soap
  • 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, (not baking soda)
  • 1 cup of Borax.

I use my food processor to shred the soap. (Although I’ve done it by hand before) I then pulse the soap to break it up into smaller pieces. Mix it all together, and voila, you’re done.

Use 2 Tablespoons per load. (Less for a front washer)

I usually quadruple the recipe, as it’s no more work.

Spray Cleaner:

Mix one cup of white vinegar with once cup of water in a spray bottle.

Mostly though, I just don’t use that many cleaning products. I wipe down the bathroom sink with a wet hand towel whenever I’m about to put a fresh one out, and I mop with warm water with an added squirt of dish soap. 

I never buy paper towels or paper napkins. Instead I use small squares torn from an old towel and cloth napkins.

Just like the most green purchase is the one not taken, the thriftiest, (and greenest) cleaning product is the one not used.

Happy Thrift Week!

Please share your thrifty and natural cleaning products in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Tomorrow: The thriftiness of wasting no food.

UPDATE: I find all the ingredients for my laundry soap in the laundry aisle, although your store may be different. I store the detergent in an old plastic laundry detergent bucket from the stuff I used to buy at Costco. The scoop is from a container of Oxy-clean type cleaner.

Here are pictures, so you’ll know what to look for:

Washing SodaFels NapthaBorax

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Hy G. Ennick January 18, 2009 at 3:26 am

You can do away with laundry detergent for some of your heartier items of clothing by showering with your clothes on.

Unless you’re homeless or traveling very cheaply, this is probably a goofy way to do your laundry, but I did do it a few times many years ago, living for the first time away from home, in a college dorm.

However, speaking non-consumerly, absent particularly offensive soiling, ordinary bar soap like Ivory will do a decent job. It IS labor-intensive to wash your dungarees in the shower, as I recall, but it’s cheap! I’d be curious to hear from anyone who would admit they do this routinely.


Giselle August 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I kinda used to do that, but instead of showering with them on, I’d wash them in the tub. It was hard on the knees, though.


Mandy January 18, 2009 at 6:50 am

I lived in an old farm house for a while. Keeping the drains clear so that would drain properly was a night mare. So about once a week I would pour baking soda and vinegar down the drains. It didn’t do much for already clogged drains, but I felt it helped maintain clear drains.


Jinger January 18, 2009 at 7:03 am

What about stains on counter tops…old formica? Will Borax remove those? I am using up my Target Method products and want to buy no more and make my own.


Hippy Habibi January 18, 2009 at 8:01 am

I’ve been using similar recipes for a while…and they work great! (I use Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild soap instead of Fels Naptha.) I haven’t tried borax for the hard water stains yet…baking soda DOES require a lot of elbow grease!


alunatunes January 18, 2009 at 9:01 am

Mix the baking soda with a squirt of dish detergent. Make a paste and this works exactly like soft scrub. I haven’t bought scrubbing cleansers in years.


Wendy January 18, 2009 at 9:01 am

Some time ago, I began the process of elimination of [toxic] cleaning supplies. As a result, I now have plenty of room under my kitchen and bathroom sinks and have saved a lot of money in the process! Here is a partial list of what I have been using:

Furniture polish: olive oil
Laundry: soap nuts
Laundry spot remover: dish soap
Dryer: lavender sachet
Dishwasher rinse agent: vinegar
Drain opener: vinegar & baking soda
Toilet clogs: dish soap (works wonders!)
White laundry brightener: a capful of peroxide
Kitchen countertop, cutting board spray & degreaser: vinegar in a spray bottle
Microwave cleaner: lemon juice
Windows: straight white vinegar and a newspaper
Shower stall cleaner: apple cider vinegar

I have also begun a process of replacing toxic personal care products:

After shower powder: corn starch
Toothpaste: baking soda & salt mixture


Aleeya January 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Is the Arm & Hammer washing detergent the same thing as washing soda? I can’t find anything that says “washing soda.”


thenonconsumeradvocate January 18, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Washing detergent is NOT the same thing.

Here’s a link to what you’re looking for:

Here in Oregon, “Fred Meyer” carries it.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


luneray January 18, 2009 at 10:01 pm

I agree that for a lot of routine household cleaning, these tips work well but I tried a “green” dish detergent (it was essentially shredded soap mixed with water) and I hated it so much that I decided to go back to the “evil” petroleum stuff. Yes, there was a bit of guilt but the natural soap wouldn’t clean grease except in really hot water, gummed up the drain (which had be kept clean by pouring boiling water down at least once a week), didn’t rinse off cleanly either (the product’s website suggested rinsing with a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water to eliminate the residue). Plus it took a lot more soap to clean the dishes anyway.

So, to cut back on one petroleum based product, I had to offset it with a huge increase in water consumption, increased energy consumption (lots of hot water to wash the dishes AND keep the drain clean), plus having to buy gallons of vinegar (which resulted in an increased consumption of plastic bottles because I’ve never seen generic white vinegar available in bulk). So increased environmental effects plus being more expensive (extra soap plus vinegar). I went back to Dawn.


Jan January 19, 2009 at 3:55 am

These are great ideas – thanks for sharing, everyone!

Quick questions: 1. Where do you find Fels Naptha soap? Is it where the laundry detergent is or where the soap is? Is it in a box or is it bars of soap? And 2. What do you keep your homemade laundry soap in?


Jan January 21, 2009 at 4:32 am

Thanks for the update!


~G January 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm

I feel inspired! Looks like my daughter and I have another home project. Thanks!


Viki S January 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I mix white vinegar and water together, put it in a spray bottle, and use it for glass. It’s great!

As far as containers to use, you can use an old spray bottle from something else or splurge on some empty, fresh ones from the hardware store or check the dollar stores. Just be sure to label them!


Rachael March 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I have used vinegar (white) instead of fabric softener for years. I so prefer vinegar! It is much cheaper and better for the environment. Just put a cup or so where you would normally put the softener. And don’t worry, your laundry will NOT smell like vinegar. Vinegar rocks!


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