Author Archives: Anna Paige

Does Your Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner Really Work?

toilet bowl



Many of us prefer to make our own cleaning products because they are much less expensive than commercial brands. Plus, they’re made from common household ingredients that are non-toxic and biodegradable, so we trust them to be safe for us and our pets, and also good for the environment. And, in most cases, that’s true. However, your homemade toilet bowl cleaner could be deceiving you. Sure, the toilet looks clean when you’re done, but is it, really?

If you search the Internet for “homemade toilet bowl cleaner,” you’ll find an overwhelming number of recipes. But, if you look closely, you’ll see most of them are the same—or at least very similar. All the recipes call for baking soda and regular white vinegar. And then, some say to add a few drops of castile soap and/or a few drops of tea tree oil (or another anti-bacterial essential oil).

The theory here is that the baking soda will act as a mild abrasive that aids in scrubbing off the grime and hard water deposits. Then, the vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid, will act as a mild disinfectant. Good old fashioned soap boosts the cleaning power. And finally, the tea tree oil, which is a much stronger disinfectant, will blast away what’s left of the germs.

If you’ve ever tried this recipe, you know that when you add vinegar to baking soda, it fizzes like crazy. This can be fun to watch, and the fizzing action gives the impression that it’s working. But—here’s the kicker—in reality, it isn’t doing anything!

Here’s why. Any eighth grader who’s been paying attention in chemistry class could tell you that baking soda is a base and vinegar is a mild acid. When you mix the two together, they cancel each other out. In this case, it causes a chemical reaction that produces water and a type of salt. It also produces a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide gas, which is what causes all that fizzing.

So, at this point, if you scrubbed with the baking soda first before adding the vinegar, your toilet is probably a little less grimy. But it really isn’t any cleaner, and it certainly hasn’t been sanitized in the least because once the vinegar hit the baking soda, it got transformed and lost its disinfectant properties. All that’s left in your toilet now is water and a little bit of salt, neither of which is an effective cleaning agent.

If your homemade toilet bowl cleaner recipe calls for castile soap, adding a little bit at this point will at least give you the dirt transporting ability of the soap. Well, maybe… But, if there’s any vinegar left over that didn’t react with the baking soda, then it will react with the soap! That’s because castile soap is a base too—just like baking soda!

Vinegar breaks down (unsaponifies) castile soap and reduces it to the oils that were originally used to make the soap. So what you end up with is some whitish, curdled goop floating in your toilet bowl. Even worse than having no cleaning power at all, this oily goop gets all over whatever you were trying to clean, and everything you used to clean it. So in this case, you have a greasy toilet bowl and a greasy toilet cleaning brush. Yuck!

This recipe doesn’t seem to be working very well at all so far, is it?

The final step, which only a few of these DIY recipes recommend, is to add an antiseptic essential oil, such as tea tree oil. It takes a fair amount of tea tree oil to be effective because it gets diluted when you add it to the water in the toilet bowl. How much tea tree oil do you need? No one seems to know, exactly—although some recipes recommend adding 50 drops or as much as a teaspoon or so. But essential oils are expensive, and some folks feel that adding them defeats the purpose of making your own toilet bowl cleaner because it’ll end up costing more than a commercial product. But, here’s the rub. Even if you decide that adding tea tree oil is worth the added expense, you won’t be getting much bang for your buck because the antiseptic properties of tea tree oil aren’t strong enough to kill viruses and robust bacteria.

So, bottom line, that popular homemade toilet bowl cleaner recipe is not much more effective than swishing your toilet bowl out with plain water. Indeed, if you added castile soap, it could be making your toilet even dirtier because the unsaponified oils coating the interior of the bowl provide an inviting surface for bacteria to stick. And finally, the tea tree oil, if you choose to add it, is not an effective antiseptic, unless you add a LOT. But that could bust your budget in a jiffy. And even then, it’s not really doing the job well, anyway. So, if you’re concerned about your family’s health, you might want to avoid “cleaning” your toilet with a homemade toilet bowl cleaner.


Can you think of a way to modify this recipe to make it more effective without busting out the bleach or other toxic chemicals?



Authored by: Anna Paige

How to Fix Your Health by Fixing Your Gut

Did you know that your body’s overall health depends on the bacteria in your gut? It’s true! We have more bacteria in our GI tract than we have cells in our bodies. Collectively, these colonies of gut bacteria are called the microbiome. Scientists estimate the average person has 100 trillion micro-organisms in their gut. About 500 different species have been identified, but only 20 types make up 75% of the total.

bacteriaMany of these bacteria are beneficial, but we can have bad bacteria too. Good bacteria are protective. They help us break down food, absorb nutrients, and guard our immune system. On the other hand, bad bacteria produce toxins that wreak havoc in the body.

Optimum health depends on minimizing bad bacteria. We do this by encouraging more good bacteria to grow, so they crowd out the bad kind. And also, by eliminating the things that damage our gut and feed bad bacteria.

Fermented Foods Promote a Healthy Microbiome

To improve the health of our microbiome, we first need to protect the good bacteria we already have by eating foods that help good bacteria flourish. These include foods that contain prebiotics, which is a type of soluble fiber found in certain plant foods like garlic, onions, and asparagus. Our microbiome also thrives on probiotics, which are living bacteria found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and even dark chocolate. Continue reading

Q&A: Why Our Cheese Press Doesn’t Need a Pressure Gauge

A customer asks: I recently purchased your Ultimate Cheese Press and now I see that it has no pressure gauge. Many of the cheeses I’d like to try need to be pressed at a certain pressure for a certain amount of time. Can I make those cheeses with this press, and if so, will the texture come out right? I’d like to know how I can make sure I’m putting the correct pressure on my curds.

Ultimate Cheese Press

Ultimate Cheese Press

Jerri’s answer: Yes, you can make any type of cheese using our Ultimate Cheese Press. No pressure gauge is needed on any press because cheesemaking is a natural process and the whey will release only when it’s ready. The release of whey depends on many variables, such as the temperature at which the cheese was made, the temperature of the curd going into the press, the pH, the type of cheese, and sometimes I like to say the phases of the moon because you just never know. Cheesemaking is more of an art than pure science.

A long time ago, someone wrote recipes for the old fashioned danish cheese presses that used hanging weights to apply pressure to the curd. Then some folks took those recipes and transferred their weight information into modern recipes for presses that have a mechanism in place for applying pressure. And then, some folks decided that modern presses must need a pressure gauge, and so they built one into the press.

The pressure gauges on today’s presses aren’t particularly accurate because they base the amount of pressure on the number of turns of the handle. Of course, depending on the hardness of the cheese, and depending on whether pressure is applied near the beginning or the end of the process, the amount of pressure being applied varies.

Nowadays some manufacturers are adding pressure gauges to their presses. They drive up the cost, and they’re just not necessary.

The bottom line is that our press was designed to press any type of cheese the way it was meant to be pressed…that is, the natural, old fashioned way. You do this by transferring the curd into the press, securing the follower on top, and then turning the top knob by hand until it’s tight (not forced). When the whey is ready to release, it will come out of the bottom of the mold. And as it releases, the top knob will become loosened.

So all you need to do for the first couple of hours is to check your press every so often and make sure the top knob is tightened securely. The harder the cheese, the less whey will be released because it was already released before you transferred the curd into the press. A softer cheese, like a Colby, will release more whey. Sometimes you might even see some whey on top of the follower. If this happens, just tip the whole press over to allow that whey to pour out.

So if you have recipes that suggest specific pressures, ignore them. All you have to do is follow the directions for using our Ultimate Cheese Press and your cheese will come out perfect every time!

When you make cheese, you get whey as a by-product. Here’s a question from a customer about whey.

A customer asks: What can I do with the whey that’s left over after making cheese, Greek yogurt, butter, etc.? It seems like such a waste to throw it away.

Jerri’s answer: Whey is loaded with protein, so you definitely don’t want to throw it away! You can use whey in just about anything…soups, sauces, baking, protein drinks, etc. Adding whey to these foods makes them even more nutritious.

Q&A: Having Bread Yeast Nearby When Making Cheese Can Ruin the Cheese

A customer asks:  I’ve been making cheese successfully for quite a while now. But, all of a sudden, right after its done, it starts to grow into an ugly blob and smells awful. Is it contaminated and bad? Did I do something wrong?

Jerri’s answer: Great question! You must be baking homemade bread at the same time, or near the time you’re making cheese. The yeast used for making bread gets in the air no matter what you do.

Culture Sampler

Cheese Culture Sampler Kit

Here’s the solution: Instead of heating the milk first and then adding cheese culture, add the culture while the milk is still cold. Then heat the milk to the start temperature and continue with the recipe as usual.

There is competition between the bread yeast and the bacterial culture. When you heat the milk first, the yeast grows fast and kills off the bacterial culture when you add it to the milk. But when you add the bacterial culture to cold milk, the culture starts to grow right away; and then it can overcome the yeast and kill it.

And, by the way, that yeasty blob of cheese won’t hurt you if you eat it, but it’s very unappetizing and it tastes awful.

Q&A: What You Need to Know About Waxed Cheese

A customer asked: How long can I age my waxed cheese if it has spices or herbs in it, like chives or garlic, etc.?

Waxed Cheese

Waxed Cheese

Jerri’s answer: Usually, those types of cheeses need to be eaten within six months. If you use irradiated seasonings, and if you scald the herbs and spices before adding them to the cheese, then you can age it longer.

 A customer asked: Why do I have to flip a waxed cheese over while it’s aging?

Jerri’s answer: Freshly made cheese continues to release small amounts of liquid (whey). Gravity draws the liquid downward, causing it to collect at the bottom where it sometimes leaks out from the underside of the cheese. Flipping the cheese over helps keep the whey from escaping, If you were to age a cheese without turning it over, all the whey would leak out the bottom and turn the cheese into rotten mush.

Freshly made cheese that has been waxed or preserved needs to be turned over every day for the first two weeks. Beginning with the third week, the cheese should be flipped approximately every other day for at least another two weeks. When aging a cheese beyond 30 days, most cheesemakers continue to turn the cheese over at least once a week.

Q&A: How to Make Your Own Kombucha Tea Bags

A customer asks: Why don’t you sell the reusable muslin tea bags for making kombucha tea?

Kombucha Starter Kit

Kombucha Starter Kit

Jerri’s answer: Our supplier doesn’t sell those tea bags, nor do we use them ourselves at Homesteader’s Supply. Instead, we use a piece of cheese cloth. Just place some tea leaves inside the cheese cloth and tie it up into a bag. Then, when the tea is done brewing, throw away the used tea leaves and wash the cheese cloth to use again later. It’s much easier to clean the cheese cloth than it is to wash out those muslin tea bags.

In fact, we don’t even use or sell the muslin bags that many folks use to grow our Speedy Sprouts, either. You can’t see anything through the bag. And it’s so much easier to grow the seeds in a canning jar with a piece of cheese cloth over the top, secured with a canning ring. It allows air and water to flow through, and you can see your sprouts growing.

You can see how much we love our cheese cloth! We use it for so many things besides cheesemaking.