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Easy Paper Towel Replacement with Upcycled Reusable Cloths

Relying on paper towels to clean up spill after spill stinks. Sure, it’s not so eco-friendly, but, even more immediately distressing to me, at least, is it’s practically throwing money away. Plus, a paper towel is usually not as good at cleaning up a mess.

There’s always the option of buying a huge supply of kitchen towels and cloth napkins, but the initial cost of buying enough to keep up with a toddler’s destructive capabilities is off-putting to say the least. Retiring old clothes, sheets, etc. to rags is a viable and frugal option, not to mention you’re upcycling (or is it recycling? or repurposing?). I don’t really mind just using scraps as rags, but I prefer something a little more aesthetically pleasing, especially if guests are involved.

There’s also the convenience factor to consider. I have limited storage space, so devoting a kitchen drawer or part of a cabinet to hold all the towels isn’t practical. Neither is a basket on the counter, because counter space is even more limited.

My reusable paper towel solution

Here’s my solution. First, I cut up any appropriate worn fabric (t-shirts, flannel sheets, old bath towels, anything soft and absorbent) to whatever size I want. I started with something close to paper towel size but then started cutting some smaller to make more use of the fabric. Then I serged the edges to make them pretty. You could also do a zig-zag, overcast stitch or even just a straight stitch a little in from the edge on a sewing machine. If you are really ambitious you could do a real hem. I’m going for nice but quick to do in bulk. Any edge finishing is unnecessary for t-shirt knits, but they will be more durable being finished. Wovens like flannel will need something to keep them from fraying.

Easy storage with limited counter space

For the storage, I made a hanging tube similar to a plastic bag dispenser. If you have one of those around it will probably work perfectly. If not, there are tons of tutorials for them floating around. The basic design is a tube of fabric with a handle at the top and elastic at the bottom. The elastic tightens the opening enough to keep the towels/bags from falling out. This solves my lack of space problem because I can hang it anywhere and it’s as easy as pulling a paper towel off a roll. They stay in and dispense better if I just shove them in the top without folding them, so no extra laundry folding time.

Un-paper towel dispenser
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This was my quick nap-time prototype. I made it out of half a t-shirt. You can easily make one out of any fabric to match your décor.

I also made a little tote bag to hang in the kitchen to put the dirty towels in. Unless they are really gross or soaking wet, there’s no reason to keep them separate from the rest of the laundry.

Since making these, I have almost eliminated my need for paper towels. I do try to keep a roll on hand in case the cats do something gross because eww. I have to hide it, though, to keep other people from reaching for them out of habit.

If you need some heavier cleaning cloths, double up the fabric. To use up smaller scraps of flannel, finish the edges of small squares to use in place of cotton balls.

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Want to be Featured?

Want to be featured

Want to be featured?

In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.

Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.

Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.

Handmade shop/website features

For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to csloan@subearthancottage.com. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.

I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.

  • Name and Business Name
  • Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
  • What made you get started in your business?
  • Anything else you’d like to share?
  • Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
  • Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
  • Email address (This will NOT be published)

Guest posts, tutorials and everything else

Please contact me at csloan@subearthancottage.com with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.

If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.

Matisse Creativity Mug Mugs featured
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All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

We are all becoming more aware of the types of products we use everyday. Whether it’s a concern for the environmental impact, the effect they have on our health or the safety for our pets and children, we want to know we aren’t inadvertently introducing harmful things into our homes. Something I do to feel confident in the safety of cleaning products I use around my family is to make my own where possible. One such product is a simple all purpose cleaner I use for cleaning hard surfaces, such as kitchen and bathroom counters and walls. It only uses a few ingredients, all of which you probably already have on hand.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Liquid soap, either dish soap or something like Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Optional: Essential oil of your choice

Supplies:

  • Clean, empty spray bottle
  • Liquid measuring supplies if you aren’t comfortable just eyeballing it
  • Optional: A funnel might make it easier to fill the bottle.

How to make it:

Measure about 2 tablespoons of soap, one cup of vinegar and one cup of water into the spray bottle. It doesn’t have to be exact. I usually just eyeball it. If you would like to use an essential oil, add 3-5 drops as well. Do be aware of safety guidelines regarding any essential oils you use, especially around pregnant women, children and pets. Tea tree oil or lavender are nice for cleaning and generally safe for most people. If the soap you use is scented or if you or your family members are sensitive to scents, you may want to skip the essential oil.

Swirl the bottle to mix everything without making the soap foam up too much. 

That’s it. Now you have an all purpose cleaner that works as well as any other I’ve tried, with the added benefit of being safe enough that kiddos can help with the cleaning. 

If you like this cleaning recipe, you’ll also like my DIY soft scrub for tougher cleaning jobs. To make sure you don’t miss out on future posts, sign up for my newsletter.

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Easy! 5 Steps to Clean Small Felt Toys.

Making felt toys and accessories has been a bit of an obsession for me lately. They’re cute and easily customized with my Brother embroidery machine.

Felt finger puppet toys
Dog, daughter and mother finger puppets waiting to be cut out.

I was concerned that I didn’t know the best way to clean them so I could share that information with my customers. Luckily (HA!) it didn’t take Thaddeus long to soak the finger puppet set I gave him for his birthday in a smoothie.

Washing them in the washing machine on cold and air drying was a possibility. I think that would work, but I worried about them getting distorted, fuzzy or lost with all the socks that go missing. Plus, Thadd was very anxious to see that they weren’t ruined, so the quicker I got them clean, the better.

Here’s the steps I used to clean his felt finger puppets:

  1. Fill a large bowl about halfway with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a drop of dish soap.
  3. Place the felt finger puppets into the water and gently swish. Heavily soiled items may need to soak for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water to remove any soap residue.
  5. Press the excess water out between towels and lay flat to air dry.

This method should work well for any small toys without a lot of stuffing, as well as for my felt snap clip covers. I would remove the metal barrette for the snap clips first. In general, I think the keys to keeping them looking like new after washing are making sure the water isn’t hot, minimal friction and air drying.

Finger puppets

All of the finger puppets seen below can be found here: https://subearthancottage.com/?s=finger+puppets&post_type=product Felt and thread colors are customizable. Purchases of five or more come with a random print drawstring bag for storage.

Felt snap clips

All of my felt snap clips are found here: https://subearthancottage.com/?s=snap+clips&post_type=product

 

 

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DIY Soft Scrub Cleaner

I like getting my kiddos involved in housecleaning. Not just because they are highly involved in making messes, but because it is important that they know how to take care of themselves as adults. I’m pretty choosy as to what cleaning products I will let them use. So many cleaners are irritating to the skin, eyes and lungs.

Not only do I want my cleaning products to be safe, I like things that multitask and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Often, I’ve found the best way to achieve this is to make them myself, like with my natural furniture polish. With a few simple ingredients I keep around the house anyway, I find I can cover most cleaning needs.

My most recent cleaning concoction is soft scrub. It works well for when I need a little extra scrubbing power than I get with my usual all-purpose water, vinegar and dish soap mix.

Soft scrub in a jar
Soft scrub in a jar

Soft Scrub Ingredients

  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of liquid soap
  • 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide
  • Optional: 2-3 drops of essential oil

Instructions

Place all the ingredients into a big bowl and mix until a uniform paste forms. To store, I like to scoop it into a wide mouth canning jar, but any lidded container will work. The mix will expand, so use a container that allows for at least double the amount to be safe.

Mixing the soft scrub
Mixing the soft scrub

Variations

Type of Soap

Liquid castile soap will work, but for extra cleaning power I prefer a detergent soap, like Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds or even Dawn dish soap. You could probably get away with any liquid hand soap or liquefied bar soap, but I haven’t tried those yet. The only time I haven’t liked it was when I made it with Ajax dish soap because that is what I had on hand. I think there was something in the Ajax that reacted badly with the baking soda or hydrogen peroxide. That mixture was fluffier and had an odd smell. I’m not quite sure what it was that caused it, but because of that, I recommend staying away from any dish soap that advertise extra cleaning additives. For the soap, basic is better.

Scent

I rarely add any essential oils for fragrance. Usually the soap I have is already scented, so I don’t see the need. Really, unscented is fine, too, unless you just prefer a scent to signal that something is clean. If I were to add an essential oil, though, I would probably use either peppermint, lemon or tea tree oil. If you choose to use an essential oil, please be aware of safety guidelines for using them around children, pregnant women, pets, and other sensitive individuals.

How to use

To use, I scoop out a dollop of the soft scrub and apply a layer to the area I’m cleaning. I usually let it sit for a minute or two then buff it off with a rag. If there’s a residue left, I’ll either wipe it down with a damp rag or mist it with my all purpose vinegar, dish soap and water solution and wipe it clean.

Results

I almost forgot to take a before photo. This is an embarrassing photo of tomato sauce splatter left on my stove overnight.

Before using soft scrub to clean last night's spaghetti sauce.
Before using soft scrub to clean last night’s spaghetti sauce.

This is a photo of what it looks like after using my soft scrub and minimal elbow grease.

Shiny stovetop
Shiny stovetop

I do apologize for the blurry photos. Lighting in my kitchen isn’t the greatest, and also I was in the middle of cleaning.

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Natural Furniture Polish

I have quite a bit of finished wood furniture that I love, except when it comes to polishing. There’s always some sticky fingerprints or a glob of something unidentifiable (thank you, Beckett). Most commercial polishes do okay on relatively clean surfaces, but don’t do a great job on the really messy stuff. Sometimes I’d spray some polish right on the spots, polish the rest and hope the globs loosened up enough to wipe away. Once in a while it worked. Other times it resulted in a ring around the spot while the sticky may or may not have loosened at all.

I finally did a little research on homemade furniture polish recipes. Here’s the one I use.

Ingredients:

3 parts olive oil
1 part vinegar
Splash lemon juice (optional)

Combine everything in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Some recommend storing it in the refrigerator or only making what you’ll use in a day. I make about 1-2 cups worth at a time  and keep it at room temperature. So far I haven’t had problems with it spoiling.

IMG_1875IMG_1878

For light polishing, I spray the rag and wipe. For heavier cleaning, I spray directly where needed. I have never had it leave a ring, and it buffs nicely without leaving a residue. It works equally well on furniture with a matte stain and pieces with a high gloss varnish.

I love that this recipe uses things I have around the house and costs less than even the cheap commercial polishes.  I also like knowing that it is completely nontoxic. I can let Beckett help without worrying that it might hurt him if he sprays it in his face. Or my face. Seriously, you never know with this kid.

You could probably customize it with a few drops of essential oils, too. I think something citrus-y would be nice. Also, if you don’t have olive oil, you could try swapping it with whatever you have on hand.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. If you’d like more “green” cleaning options check out my handmade laundry products at http://www.etsy.com/MySubEarthanCottage.

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Why I kind of like Mondays.

I love being home with my family. I love hanging out at home watching movies or going on adventures to exotic places like Thrift Town or WalMart together. I love watching the boys play together. I love not having to rush to go anywhere.

Except

Chris was sick this weekend *coughmanflucough*. So he needed to rest, which meant that I still had to manage the kiddos while trying to get things done. Fine, I can do that. But I also had to do things differently than I would if it was just me and the boys, since he was home. Not bad different, just slightly more work different.

For example, if Finn and Beckett and I got busy playing or if I managed to really work on cleaning while they kept each other entertained and lunch rolled around, I could throw together a pbj and carrots for Finn, some applesauce and/or toast for Beckett and any of the above for myself. Done. Breakfast could be oatmeal or cold cereal or scrambled eggs. Chris, on the other hand, requires more food. And when he’s sick, I’m cooking and entertaining the baby and fielding Finn’s 1,000 questions while he rests.

Fine. Just like in any group situation, when one person needs help, the rest have to chip in so everything keeps moving along as it should.

Even on a normal, everyone healthy weekend, though, I have Finnian, who will never ever need coffee if he maintains his energy when he’s older, and Beckett, who wants to be held or wants to get into everything. With Finn around, Beckett doesn’t nap well at all, either because B is excited that Finn is here or because Finnian is noisy. I really don’t think Finn can help it. He does try, but I think six year old boys have their own volume settings of noisy, noisier and really, really loud. The more he tries to be quiet, the louder he seems to be. Even though I try to keep the tv or radio on during the week, Finnian noise isn’t something Beckett can sleep through.

Since Chris is off on weekends, he understandably wants to work on things he can’t get done during the week. So, I try to work around his plans for meals, grocery shopping, etc. He says I don’t have to do this, but one of my biggest peeves is cooking a meal and not having everyone at the table eating together shortly after it is ready. Trying to time it so we can all sit down together is my way of trying to keep everyone happy (read “not kill someone”).

With everyone home all day, there is more mess, more laundry, more dirty dishes, and more cooking. There’s less sleep for Beckett and less time for me to do what needs to be done.

Weekdays, however, I set the schedule. Sure, there’s the morning rush to get everyone out the door on time and the afternoon pick-up, but everything in between is on my time. Beckett actually takes decent naps, even if they usually happen while I’m holding him. I get a break while he naps or I can take care of bills and anything else I can do one handed while sitting. Since he’s able to nap, he isn’t cranky later so I can be more productive. With just the two of us home, I can clean without worrying about someone making more mess behind. (Usually. Beckett is getting good at dumping things out.)

If I have the car and need to run errands, I can leave as soon as I’m ready. I don’t have to wait for Finn to put on his shoes or for Chris to stop whatever he’s working on to watch Finn. I can time the errands so we leave as soon as Beckett wakes up from a nap so I have plenty of time to get everything done before he’s tired and cranky. Meals are easier because everyone is on their weekday schedule, so everyone is ready to eat at about the same time.

Complaints aside, I do miss the time together during the week and I do look forward to the weekend. But, I do look forward to 8:30 on Monday morning when the house is calm and my coffee is ready and Beckett is starting to get sleepy and ready to nurse down for his first and usually longest nap.  That is my time to make plans for the week and relax after a busy weekend.