Sometimes there’s no place like a store

Do you ever wonder who makes up all of those do-it-yourself
household tips you see in magazines and newspapers? I have a hunch
they are invented by the same type of people who clean the slats in
their mini blinds, organize their linen closets by color and whose
primary function in life is to make the rest of us look bad.
Do you ever wonder who makes up all of those do-it-yourself household tips you see in magazines and newspapers? I have a hunch they are invented by the same type of people who clean the slats in their mini blinds, organize their linen closets by color and whose primary function in life is to make the rest of us look bad.

Their motto is, “truly domestically gifted people never need to buy household products,” especially when they can spend more time and money making them at home.

I recently went through a phase where I was brainwashed into believing that even I could make household products that were better, cheaper, and more politically correct than those I could find at the store.

My first creation was a recipe for an all-purpose (and I use this term loosely) cleaning product. The recipe promised to produce a mixture that I could use as a solvent, air freshener, carpet deodorizer and perfume.

Armed with nothing but a big metal bucket and limited domestic experience, I poured in the first two ingredients: vodka and tea tree oil.

But, just as I was beginning to daydream about my sparkling clean tile, I got to the part about adding “lime essential oil” and “grapefruit essential oil” that I had apparently missed before.

I was sure I didn’t have any – even though I had no idea what “essential oil” was, other than the kind you have to change in the car every three months – so I tossed a capful of orange juice into the bucket instead.

When I was finished, my homemade cleaner smelled more like a cross between dandruff shampoo and a mimosa – and I wasn’t sure whether to clean my grout, wash my hair or prepare hors d’oeuvres.

Next, I found a recipe for making homemade deodorant. I’m not sure what intrigued me more, the challenge of having to use a double boiler or the thought of saving three dollars.

Nevertheless, I prepared a mold from a recycled toilet paper roll and melted a combination of beeswax, distilled water, rubbing alcohol, cornstarch and baking soda in the double boiler. When it finally cooled, three hours later, I had a perfect tube of homemade deodorant. Cost: $17.32.

And so for a while I swore off making anymore household products. Then I read an article about how I could get rid of all of the snails in my garden by setting out pans of beer.

According to the author, snails were supposed to be attracted to the beer, slither over for a sip, become intoxicated, then fall head-first into the pan. This seemed plausible since I had seen many of my friends do this in college. But what if it didn’t work?

I envisioned a band of snails carousing through my garden, trampling my geraniums while doing the limbo, then waking up all of the neighbors singing loud, off-key versions of “Louie, Louie,” into the early hours of the morning.

I decided to try it anyway because it seemed fast, cheap and easy. Besides, what did I have to lose?

But, by the time I had used up my last six pack, my garden didn’t look any better, I hadn’t found one inebriated snail, and the only living thing actually drinking from the pans of beer was my husband.

Once again, I swore off making my own household products.

Then my neighbor, who I suspect is a distant relative of Martha Stewart, brought over a soap recipe that she swore was the best thing since homemade hairspray.

And all I needed was nine pounds of animal fat, a cup of borax, some rosin, a can of lye and a giant vat.

I would just have to save up the fat, figure out what the other ingredients were and then melt them together. It could be a nice little project if I had nothing better to do for, say, the next three months.

Instead, I decided to go to grocery store and buy a bar of bath soap for eighty-nine cents.

Sometimes it’s just easier that way.

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