A DIY Natural community member recently asked this question that left us wondering why we had not written an article about it:
“Do you have a basic list of ‘must-have’ items (an essential oil, beeswax, castile soap, vinegar, etc.) that every DIY-er should have at home? Thanks!”
Sometimes we just need a little nudge to write about the things y’all want to know, so be sure to ask.
Excellent question, right?
I’ll share some of my favorite must-have items for DIY projects, both for cleaners and personal care products. Once you have a good idea of which items are most useful, you can keep these on your grocery list, buy them in bulk, and always look for the best deal to save you a little moolah.
Essential ingredients to have on hand for DIY projects
Aloe Vera Gel (pure): Unlike the green variety you’ll find at the drug store, pure aloe vera gel has no harmful chemicals added, and is moisturizing, healing, and pH balancing. It can be used in many different DIY personal care products, from shampoo to hand creams. (Find pure aloe vera gel here.)
Apple Cider Vinegar: This ingredient is most useful for homemade personal care products. It has astringent properties, restores natural pH levels to skin and hair, and can be great for itchy, dry skin. We use it mostly for our homemade ACV conditioning rinse and treating blemishes. (Find it here.)
Arrowroot Powder: An ingredient similar to cornstarch, arrowroot is not made from corn, so you won’t have to worry about it being genetically modified. Its absorbent properties make it a hard-working ingredient in homemade deodorant or body powders. (Find it here.)
Baking Soda: Found in most kitchens, this cheap ingredient is the perfect gentle scouring agent when used dry or mixed with a little soap. It’s completely safe and non-toxic, and deodorizes everything from carpets to armpits! We scour bathtubs, sinks, and toilets with baking soda, but we also use it as a gentle exfoliating facial scrub, as an ingredient in our homemade shampoo, and in oral hygiene products like toothpaste, tooth powder, and mouthwash. We keep a natural brand on hand for all of our personal care recipes, but buy the cheap stuff in bulk for cleaning purposes. (Why, you ask? The natural brand is mined directly from the ground in its pure state. The cheap stuff undergoes a chemical process, through which a mined ore, called trona, is heated to make soda ash, then dissolved in water to create baking soda.)
Beeswax: This wax is produced in the beehive of honeybees and can be melted down and added to personal care products to harden them or act as an emulsifier. Perfect for lip balms, lotions, or ointments. (As a vegan alternative, Carnauba Wax [from palm trees] or Emulsifying Wax [vegetable based] can be used with similar results.) Find natural, filtered beeswax here.
Borax (Sodium Borate): We always keep a box of borax on hand for cleaning. It’s a must-have for our popular laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent formulas. It’s also a great multi-purpose cleaner, with whitening, stain-removing, and deodorizing abilities. Find it in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores or online here. (Note: It’s MUCH cheaper if you can find it locally.)
Cosmetic Butters: Cocoa butter, shea butter, or mango butter are all superb ingredients for body care or cosmetic recipes. They add a wonderful creaminess to natural products. One or more of these soothing, moisture-rich, healing butters should be a part of your essential DIY ingredient stockpile. Find them all here.
Castile Soap (liquid): This natural olive oil-based soap is gentle enough to use for just about any cleaning project. It’s gentle enough to clean your baby with, but concentrated enough to clean the dirtiest grout! We add it to our facial cleanser, and even use it in our windshield washer fluid. Find it at your local health food store and some large grocery chains, or online here.
Citric Acid: This weak, organic acid can be used in your DIY dishwasher detergent to eliminate streaking and cloudiness, or in personal care products as a natural preservative. Find it in the canning aisle at your local grocery store, at home brewing supply stores, or online here.
Coconut Oil: This oil is a must-have for DIY beauty recipes. It’s good for all-over use, and can be blended into creams, used in hair treatments, or as an after-sun treatment. It has natural antibacterial properties, making it a beneficial ingredient for many products that will end up on your skin. Purchase high quality unrefined coconut oil here.
Distilled White Vinegar: Great for many DIY cleaning recipes. Most hard surfaces in your home can safely and effectively be cleaned with diluted or full strength white vinegar. Vinegar is naturally disinfecting, cuts grease, removes soap residue, and is a great stain remover. It replaces bleach and other harsh chemicals in my home. (Find it in bulk here.)
Essential Oils: If you don’t want to invest in a whole set of essential oils, I would recommend having one or two that contain antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties. You can add a few drops to homemade cleaners to boost the cleaning power. Customize personal care products with an oil that’s perfect for your hair/skin type, or just add a few drops to impart a lovely scent. If you only own ONE essential oil, consider the following: tea tree, lavender, peppermint, or lemon — they’re all anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral. Find 100% pure essential oils here.
Hydrogen peroxide (3%): Hydrogen peroxide is not only gentle on the environment, but can also be used to replace ammonia and chlorine bleach. Among its many uses, it is a stain remover, cleaner, and powerful disinfectant. Purchase it at your local grocery store or pharmacy.
Oils (light, non-greasy): Pure oils make up a large part of my DIY ingredient collection. They have superior moisturizing and skin-conditioning properties. I use olive oil in many personal care products, but also cherish my lighter, quickly-absorbing oils like jojoba, grapeseed, or sweet almond. They have found their way into my shampoos, soaps, body scrubs, lip balms, hair treatments, and sometimes I just use them undiluted to moisturize my face. Find pure high-quality carrier oils here.
Vegetable Glycerin: Used as an emollient, glycerin improves your skin’s softness by attracting moisture from the air. I love adding a little bit of this to certain personal care products for added skin benefits. (Find it here.)
Vitamin E Oil: This skin-nourishing oil can be used as a natural preservative in many DIY skin care recipes or as an added moisturizing ingredient. It contains antioxidants, making it ideal for mature or damaged skin. You can use Vitamin E capsules by poking them with a needle and squeezing the oil out, or buy containers of it here that are easy to pour.
Vodka: For sipping, in case your DIY project is a flop. Kidding!!! We use high-proof vodka or grain alcohol as a natural preservative to extend the shelf life of some DIY beauty products. We also use it as the base for our homemade spray deodorant and in our glass cleaner to eliminate streaking.
Washing Soda: Washing soda is a wonderful natural laundry booster, but can also be dissolved in DIY cleaning solutions to help cut grease, deodorize, or disinfect. Find it in the laundry aisle or online here. (Note: You’ll pay about half the price if you can find it locally.)
The list goes on
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ingredients you will need for DIY projects. Just a few of my personal favorites that I couldn’t do without. I’m sure I’m missing many great essentials though.
Help the community by leaving a comment with your favorite essential ingredients for DIY cleaning or personal care products!