Many herbs were important in running the household in Colonial times. Herbs were essential for flavoring the food that was prepared for the family, housekeeping chores and “Dr. Mom” tasks that made up a typical day. Medical applications may have included everything from treating fevers and upset tummies to relieving female complaints. Herbs were also important in housekeeping and utilized in cosmetics, dyes, cleaners, insect repellents, air fresheners and sachets.
This Spring, why not incorporate natural ingredients – that are probably in your pantry – and a few herbs to freshen your home? For example: baking soda (a mild alkali), white vinegar, slightly acidic (Heinz is made from grains), lemon, lime & grapefruit juices are acidic and anti-bacterial, borax, a mild alkali salt loosens dirt, stains and odors, lavender and tea tree essential oils, disinfectant and aromatherapeutic.
Here’s a few recipes to try. Lemon-Mint Window Wash – Squeeze juice from one lemon, 2 cups water or club soda, 1/2 tsp mint essential oil, one tsp corn starch. Mix ingredients and put into a spray bottle; shake before using. For streak-free windows, use newspaper to scrub and shine.
A few laundry tips: Add a cup of borax to the wash to remove odors and to boost your detergent cleaning power. Or, make your own laundry concentrate: 1/4 cup clay powder, 2-3 T essential oil of your choice, 13 cups borax, 12 cups baking soda, 4 cups sodium lauryl sulfate (a detergent derived from coconut oil). Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove soap residues.
A sweetly scented soft soap can be made with 1 cup grated castile soap, 1 cup boiling water, 1 T baking soda, 1 tsp borax and 1 tsp essential oil of your choice. Add soap to water and bring to a gentle boil; stir in remaining ingredients.
To make your own furniture polish, use 4 oz melted beeswax, 4 oz turpentine, 4 oz hot water, squirt of shampoo to emulsify. Mix until emulsified about 20 minutes; add 2 drops essential oil. Pour into a glass or tin jar.
In past days, many herbs were used as ‘strewing’ herbs. Use those sweet annie wreaths (try mint, catmint, pennyroyal, basil and rosemary too) to freshen the carpeting/floor rugs. Crumble the dried herbs over the rugs and vacuum. Sprinkle baking soda over the carpeting (or pets bed) and leave overnite, then vacuum.
Throw open the windows, put on some music, put a twist of lemon into your glass of water and have fun while chasing down the dust bunnies!