06 May 2011

Cleaning with the Super Six

I've had some questions about the homemade washing soda (in the May 2011 Journal).

Yes, you can make washing soda at home. And yes, it really is as simple as heating the bicarb.

I spoke to Mr. B. the chemistry teacher at the kids' school to confirm the process. He looked at me a little quizzically when I asked, but he confirmed that yes, you can indeed turn sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate in your kitchen. My oh-so-clever middle son then told me that of course it could be done, it was a very basic chemistry experiment he'd done at school. What can I say - he's a teenage boy, he could have told me before I asked his teacher, or when I was testing the process. He just didn't think of it!

Anyway, according to Mr B. the trick is to get the bicarb up to temperature quickly so pre-heating the oven is essential. It must be up to temp before you put the tray of bicarb in. Then keep the door closed to keep the temperature up.

It's that simple and easy. If you can't find washing soda to make your Cheapskates Washing Powder try making your own, it's a breeze.

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by making not just washing powder, but all your cleaning products at home and you don't need a whole lot of chemicals either.

It is possible to clean your whole house, from top to bottom with just six everyday household products:

1.  white vinegar
2.  bicarb soda
3.  eucaplyptus oil
4.  borax
5.  washing soda
6.  laundry soap or dishwashing detergent

Throw in a few knitted cleaning cloths or some $2 shop microfibre cloths and you have a cleaning kit to rival any chemical cleaners you can buy.

There's something to be said for using simple products to clean your home. Apart from the pride I feel in having a clean home for my family there's the pride in knowing that the products used are as safe as can possibly be for them, for our furnishings and for our environment. It's also the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing I haven't washed hundreds of dollars down the drain.

I've been thinking a lot lately about that. About how much money goes down the drain or into the garbage bin in the average household. Waste doesn't just happen in the kitchen. It can be using too much of something or using the wrong thing for a particular job. It can be using what we believe are convenience products when there are better, cheaper alternatives that are just as convenient.

The Cheapskates washing powder is a classic example. So many people like the idea of cutting their laundry cost to around $10 a year, but they don't make the powder because they think it's too hard.

Well hello folks! It takes under 5 minutes of your time - yes, really - and the tiniest bit of elbow grease to grate the soap and mix it with the washing soda and borax. The main reason they give is that it will be too hard to grate the soap. Hmm. I've grated chocolate that's been harder!

And how convenient is it to spend 5 minutes and not have to repeat the process for another year? No lugging heavy boxes home each week. No overpowering scents to make you sneeze and itch. No spending hundreds of dollars for the pleasure of lugging, sneezing and itching. Now that's convenient.

It's just as convenient to make other cleaning products. Window cleaner, bath and basin cleaner, floor cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners can all be made using the super six above.

 You'll find the recipes and instructions for making window cleaner, drain cleaner, copper cleaner and a good all-purpose cleaner here, at my post on Blog Action Day.

You'll find the instructions for making Cheapskates Washing Powder here.

And if you go to Homemade Cleaning Products, in the Tip Store, you'll find recipes for dozens of other cleaning products you can make yourself. 

For a few minutes of your time, you'll have a clean and healthy house and a lot more money in your bank account.


  1. What a fabulous blog Cath!
    I have been trying to find an email address to contact you on (without success). Please could you contact me jolene@mumslounge.com.au. I would love to tell you about an opportunity to be featured on the Mums Lounge new website section 'The Billboard' when we relaunch next month.

  2. I love the idea of making my own washing powder and have started looking for the ingredients - (which don't appear to be all sold at the same place). My initial calculations do not appear to come in any cheaper than buying generic washing powder in bulk. Can you please tell me what I should expect to pay for borax and washing soda ? Thanks in advance.

  3. I don't know where you are so I can't help you with specific stockists. You should be able to get all the ingredients for my washing powder at your local supermarket.

    You'll find the laundry soap, washing soda and borax in the cleaning aisle. You may need to look for all of them, they are usually hiddedn. If you add bi-carb you'll find it in the baking aisle.

    The most common brand of washing soda is Lectric Soda, as pictured above. It will be on the bottom row, under the washing powders.

    Harper's borax used to be sold at Coles, they now carry Bare Essentials, in a white tub with a green lid. You usually find borax with the drain cleaners etc

    I buy my bicarb in 5kg bags, it is far to expensive at the supermarket.

    I have no idea how much generic washing powders cost. The lasat lot of my washing powder cost $2.61 for a two month supply (12 loads a week minimum). That's just 2.75c a load.

    Yes, I shop for the best price for all ingredients, that's what I do. It would still be only around 4c a load if you buy all the ingredients from the supermarket, cheaper still if you use leftover soap slivers instead of laundry soap.

    1. Hi Cath, where can you buy bulk bicarb. Thanks naomi

  4. Hi Cath
    Where do you buy your bi carb soda in 5 kg bags.
    Thanks Veronica Harmer

  5. At the moment I am buying my bicarb from Costco in Melbourne. I don't know where you are so I can't be more specific, but bicarb is available at pool shops, stockfeed/produce suppliers in bulk, usually 20kg from memory. Bulk soap suppliers also stock bicarb and washing soda. It will be marked as unfit for human consumption which is fine as you are using it for cleaning, not cooking.

    1. Stock food places that cater for horses have bulk bicarb very cheap. It lasts a long time so I have only ever done this once! I decant it into jars with holes drilled in the lids and then it is as easy as ajax to use! It is coarser than the stuff from the supermarket, so I buy from the supermarket for baking.

  6. Thanks for the informative post. I'm a landlord with a modest number of small properties and I can testify the benefits of cleaning ovens myself and also using a professional company. It's posts like this that are giving me more confidence in my own abilities. In the past I used oven cleaning maidstone and oven cleaning solihull which I wouldn't mind recommending, but it's amazing what people can do when you put the power and knowledge in their hands, which this post does! Thanks again :)

  7. Thank goodness for the comments. Bicarb is expensive at groceries & I was wondering how it was obtained so cheaply. I was considering joining but live in a small, isolated community and don't have access to Costco (don't think it's even in my state) or any of these other stores. That really makes these hints of limited value without that access.

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I disagree with your comment on the value of the hints. I'm not sure where you are but generic bicarbonate soda isn't expensive at all, bought in 20kg bags from a stock feed it's even cheaper. If you are using it for cleaning it doesn't have to be branded!

      You don't need access to Costco, and it's the only store mentioned in this post, to buy cheap bicarb soda. You do however need to be prepared to hunt around for the best price. Prices vary from store to store, let alone city to country, town to village. Even if it does cost you more where you live, it will still be a cheaper and better option than a chemical based commercial cleaner.

      You've missed the point of the post entirely and are limiting your ability to save by being focused on how much someone who lives in a different place, and shops at different stores pays for goods

      Forgive me for being blunt, but I've lived in rural towns and villages and I managed to keep our family of 5 fed and clean on $200 a month. If I'd spent my time complaining about the cost of things compared to city prices, or having one tiny local shop compared to a choice of dozens, I'd never have been able to do it.

      If you really want to make your own safe and reliable cleaning products, ignore how much anyone else pays for the ingredients and do your best to get the lowest prices you know are available where you live.

  8. Thanks for your helpful post. I am looking for bulk:

    Castile soap (liquid & hard)
    Washing soda

    Would love to know if anyone has located these in Sydney?

    The cheapest borax I have found is in Bunnings $7.98 a KG.

    Look forward to hearing from someone. I am loving making my own cleaning products.


  9. $4 per kg for borax or $50 kg for 25kg at http://www.australianwastemanagement.com.au/products/household-garden-chemicals/
    They don't mention shipping at all and I have contacted them to see if they'd ship to me in NSW. I hope they do

  10. I didn't know you had to heat the oven in order to get the bicarb to work properly. I always tried to use it on a cold oven. Could this be why it did not work properly?? Last time I gave up and ended up calling in oven cleaning sheffield that is a company based near me.

    When the oven is dirty again I will give this a go, and be sure to do your essential step of pre-heating the oven.

  11. Love those tips! I cannot imagine that eucalyptus oil and borax can be an all-purpose cleaner at home. I also used some of those homemade cleaners, but recently we switch to ready to use cleaning products. Nothing to worry because it’s chemical-free and eco-friendly cleaning supplies.

  12. You can get bicarb from stock feed suppliers like Hubble Barn for $31/25kg (June 2016).


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