Amy Kolb Noyes: Discovering the Benefits and Beauty of DIY Cleaning Products | On the House #30

In this episode, host Gabriella Joustra is joined by Amy Kolb Noyes, an accomplished artist, author, photographer, and award-winning journalist from Vermont, USA

Traditional cleaning products often contain harmful chemicals, prompting a need for safe and cost-effective alternatives made from readily available household items. Homemade cleaners crafted from everyday items like soap, baking soda, and vinegar provide a natural and eco-friendly option for individuals seeking healthier cleaning alternatives.

Meet Amy Kolb Noyes

Amy is an award-winning and 30-year veteran Vermont journalist working in print, broadcast, and digital media. She is also a nonfiction author and illustrator of works published by Chelsea Green.

Her interests include environmental reporting, local government, higher education, snow sports, arts, and entertainment. She was also awarded the 2019 Education Writers Association National Reporting Fellow.

About the episode

Amy defines household management as more than just economics; it is about creating a comfortable and safe home environment. She addresses misconceptions about household management, emphasizing that it doesn’t have to be an all-consuming task. Organization is key to making household management a manageable part of daily life.

She says homemade cleaners are typically made from common household items like soap, baking soda, and vinegar. They benefit the environment by reducing plastic bottle use and providing a fun cleaning experience for children. They also reduce skin reactions to commercial cleaners with caustic ingredients.

Soap can be bought in the supermarket, but it comes in different forms, such as animal fat-based or plant-based. Liquid castile soap is a popular choice for cleaning. For Amy, soap is a natural product made with animal or plant fats, while detergent is made with synthetic materials.

Detergents were developed during wartime when there was a shortage of soap-making supplies, and they have benefits over soap for those with hard water. Hard water contains minerals and metals, while soft water does not. Soap is a solid bar used for cleaning, while detergent is a dishwashing liquid. 

In the kitchen, where disinfection is important, Amy suggests using antiseptic ingredients like vinegar, which is not a disinfectant by federal standards but effective for cleaning surfaces. She recommends scrubbing agents like baking soda to tackle hard water stains without scratching surfaces for bathrooms with mold and mildew concerns.

Borax is mineral-based, doesn’t scratch glass surfaces, and kills mildew when used correctly. However, it takes longer to work than harsh chemicals and requires more patience. Amy shared a formula for using baking soda on vertical surfaces, such as bathroom walls. However, depending on their ingredients, these DIY cleaning products may have different expiry dates.

While DIY cleaning may require more time or effort, it is worth it due to the absence of toxic fumes. Making your cleaning products offers cost savings, improved home environment, and reduced environmental impact.

In conclusion

Homemade cleaners, derived from common household items, have environmental advantages, child-friendly appeal, and skin-friendly properties compared to commercial alternatives. Attention to cleaning nuances includes distinctions between soap and detergent, considerations for water hardness, and versatile applications of vinegar and baking soda. DIY cleaning promotes a time-efficient and cost-saving alternative for a pleasant home environment, free from toxic fumes.

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