Extreme DIY: 11 recipes to get you started

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From the January 12, 2012 edition

Whether you want to “extreme DIY” to save the Earth, save money or save time, here are 11 recipes to get you started — from kitty litter to lip gloss, air freshener to disinfectant — supplied by local self-sustainability fans.

1) Shredded newspaper + water + liquid soap + baking soda = Kitty litter

How to: Soak the shredded paper in warm water and a few squirts of (preferably biodegradable) dish soap. Drain and repeat the process without the soap. Wearing gloves, sprinkle and knead baking soda into the mixture. Squeeze out as much remaining moisture as possible, crumble the pieces over a screen and let the litter dry for several days.

DIYer: Cathy Tiffany of BeABetterEarthling.com

2) White distilled vinegar + water = Microwave cleaner

How to: Mix half-cup vinegar and half-cup water into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat it to a rolling boil. Wipe off the loosened baked-on food.

DIYer: Jesse Lear of V.I.P. Waste Services, a doorstep recycling and trash service for apartment communities

3) Vaseline + eye shadow = Lip gloss

How to: Spoon petroleum jelly and a few chunks of eye shadow into a mint tin or old contacts container. Stir together and apply.

Another favorite lip color recipe Tiffany uses involves boiling 12 fresh cranberries, 1 tablespoon avocado oil, 1 teaspoon honey and two drops of vitamin E. Crush the cranberries until you get your desired color, let it cool for 10 minutes and then strain the liquid and let it cool until hardened.

DIYer: Cathy Tiffany of BeABetterEarthling.com

4) Baking soda + water + sea salt + peppermint extract = Toothpaste

How to: Mix 2/3 cup baking soda, 4 teaspoons fine sea salt, 1 to 2 teaspoons peppermint extract with however much water it takes to reach your desired toothpaste consistency.

DIYer: Danielle Allison of Green Columbus and GreenSpotGirl.com

5) Eucalyptus oil + water + liquid soap = Fabric refresher spray

How to: Add two drops of eucalyptus oil and a squirt of liquid soap to a spray bottle full of water. Mix and spritz.

DIYer: Michelle Taphorn of Dirty Girl Cleaners

6) Orange peels + water + cinnamon sticks = Air freshener

How to: Simmer on low heat a mix of water, orange peels and a couple cinnamon sticks until water is almost evaporated.

DIYer: Danielle Allison of Green Columbus and Greenspotgirl.com

7) Cornstarch + water + white distilled vinegar = Glass cleaner

How to: Into a spray bottle, mix 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, one tablespoon cornstarch and one quart warm water.

DIYer: Dan Weisenbach of Green Columbus and Weisenbach Recycled Products

8) Essential oils + vinegar = Dryer sheets

How to: Put a few drops of essential oils and vinegar on a clean piece of scrap fabric, and toss it in with the load of drying clothes.

DIYer: Danielle Allison of Green Columbus and Greenspotgirl.com

9) Essential oils + distilled water + (optional) cosmetic-grade glitter = Body spray

How to: Combine into a spray bottle five to 10 drops of essential oils (recommended scents include linen, rose petal, vanilla or chamomile) with half-cup distilled water and half-teaspoon of cosmetic-grade glitter (find it at beauty supply stores).

DIYer: Cathy Tiffany of BeABetterEarthling.com

10) Eucalyptus and tea tree oils + water = Dust spray

How to: Add a couple drops of eucalyptus oil, which helps get rid of dust mites and allergens, and a couple drops of tea tree oil to hot water. Use the mixture to moisten your dust rag.

DIYer: Michelle Taphorn of Dirty Girl Cleaners

11) Borax + warm water + essential oils = Disinfectant

How to: Mix 2 tablespoons Borax and a few drops of essential fragrant oil like lavender or rosemary with one quart of water. Shake until the Borax is dissolved. Apply to surfaces and wipe clean.

DIYer: Dan Weisenbach of Green Columbus and Weisenbach Recycled Products, a manufacturer of products made from recycled materials

Fabric softener alternative:

Add 1/4 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle or add 1/4 cup baking soda in the wash cycle.

“Even better and free,” said Danielle Allison of Green Columbus, “remove your clothes from the dryer while they’re still damp and line-dry them.”

Furniture polish alternative:

“This is kind of like cooking,” said green blogger Cathy Tiffany of BeABetterEarthling.com. “You add ingredients to your liking.”

Add 3/4 cup vegetable oil with 1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice for furniture polish. Add more oil if you want more shine and more vinegar if your concern is cleanliness. Pump in 10 to 15 drops of essential oils if you want the glossy stuff to smell good.

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Baking soda: Full name, sodium bicarbonate. Its abrasive scrubbing powers can be used in everything from oven cleaner to face exfoliant. Baking soda also is revered for its odor-absorption abilities, hence an open box’s presence in the back of many refrigerators.

Citrus: Nature’s hardest-working class of fruits. Lemon juice can act as bleach for light rust stains, and its antiseptic qualities make it great for cleaning solutions. Run cut-up clementine, orange and lemon peels and pulp through the garbage disposal to freshen.

White distilled vinegar: Versatile, safe (for you and the environment) and economical, but still acidic enough to kill bacteria and odor. Spray it on floors, sinks and countertops, or leave it out to eliminate pests such as fruit flies — one dish of white distilled vinegar will take care of them.

Essential oils: These liquids — find them at Whole Foods — are distilled from natural elements like bark, leaves, herbs and flowers. Typically use these guys for olfactory purposes. A few drops of the scents go a long way.

Sources: Franklin County Extension; Simply Living; Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.