Get Rid of Cable = Save Money for Preps

Today we returned the cable boxes and unhooked ourselves from Comcast cable.

It all started out when we moved to a smaller unit a few months ago (part of the plan to downsize).   We weren’t on a contract but we had one of those “bundled” plans that was discounted.  At the same time, we were aggravated by their service issues.  We realized that out of roughly 200 channels, we were really only watching a handful.

Here are a few ideas on getting shows:

20130827_163109 - CopyMohu Leaf TV Antenna - Copy

  1. An indoor HD TV antenna or a regular antenna allows you to get all the free channels.  Cost is around $12 for “rabbit ears” antenna or $36 for an HD antenna, and the monthly cost is $ 0.
  2. Get shows via Hulu and Netflix, at a fraction of the cost.  Cost is around $7.99 for either one if your TV is a newer model and allows the access.
  3. Watch shows directly from the networks via internet.  Cost= free.
  4. The Roku 3 is small box that is connected to the TV that lets you stream shows from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu Plus; accessing 1000+ channels and growing.   Initial cost of the Roku 3 is $89, monthly cost depends on what services you subscribe to.

For us, getting rid of cable saves $70 from the monthly bill.  Currently we are on Option 1 but may consider adding services later.  Even adding a small monthly $7.99 bill from Netflix is still only a fraction of what we were spending.

If you are wondering how you might find some savings for the emergency fund or buy some preps, consider cutting out cable TV.    Small steps you can take:

  • Evaluate your family’s viewing habits for a week.
  • Write down the channels you most often watch.  I bet most of those channels are not being used.
  • Do some research on what’s available, talk to the family, then decide.

With all the alternatives available, I am certain we won’t miss it at all.


© Apartment Prepper 2014



Self-Sufficient Saturdays: How to Brew Coffee without Electricity

This post is by Bernie Carr,

Today I am trying out a new feature, “Self-Sufficient Saturdays” where we take small, practical steps to becoming more self-sufficient.  I used to have a Starbucks habit, but managed to kick it, not by giving up a tasty cup of coffee (I know it’s an acquired taste), but by learning to brew a great cup of coffee at home.  And, at the same time, I have backup plans for my coffee, in case of an emergency.

A coffee drinker who is missing his or her daily coffee knows a caffeine withdrawal headache is coming.   You have a few choices to avoid that pain:

  • Instant coffee – the “just add a heaping teaspoon to hot water” kind that comes in a jar (not my preferred choice)
  • Individual packets of Starbucks or a similar brand (Not bad, even after it expired)
  • Single cup bags of coffee – also just needs hot water (this is good too)
  • tea
  • Give it up (I’m not ready to do this right now)
  • Brew it yourself

I have a few backup plans, including all of the above, but will only give it up if I have to.  This time I am brewing it myself.

You will need:

–campfire popcorn popper (or small covered skillet)

–green coffee beans

–manual grinder

–French press

–measuring cup

–wire mesh colander (optional)

How to Roast Green Coffee Beans

  1. Since I am trying to have a backup plan in the event of an emergency and we are off-grid, I used our propane camp stoveWarning: I do not recommend using a camp stove in your kitchen:  this would be unsafe and can cause carbon monoxide build-up.  Camp stoves should be used outside.  Also, I read from various articles that roasting green coffee beans may cause a lot of smoke.  Our apartment has a very sensitive fire alarm which gets set off very quickly, so we did this outside,  so the fire alarm does not go off.  We don’t want a visit from the fire department from having the fire alarm go off while we are roasting our beans!  If you are roasting on a stove indoors, turn on the exhaust fan or open a window to make sure your area is well-ventilated.
  2. Assemble all your materials in advance:  green coffee beans (I used Kona coffee), campfire popcorn popper, measuring cup, wire mesh colander
  3. To start small,  I measured about a quarter of cup of green coffee beans.
  4. Turn on the fire to low setting.  Preheat the popper on low flame.
  5. Pour the green coffee beans into the skillet/popper, cover and shake.
  6. Keep the popper moving around and start listening for a popping sound.
  7. Check under the lid and look at the beans.  They started to turn brown after about 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. The popping is not constant like popcorn, but happens every few seconds as the beans crack.  This  is about the time the beans start to smoke a bit.
  9. After about 10 minutes, I checked again and it looked like the beans were brown so I turned off the fire.
  10. You will notice some bits of chaff:  pour into a wire colander or just blow on the beans and the bits  fly off.  Now you are ready to grind the beans.
Coffee beans

Roasted coffee beans and green coffee beans

These photos show the difference between the green beans and the roasted beans.  The smell is also quite different: the green beans do not smell like coffee at all, they have a pungent, plantlike smell, while the roasted ones indeed smell like the strong coffee smell we all know.  The aroma does linger long after you have finished roasting them.

Grinding the Beans

  1. I used the Danesco Manual Coffee Grinder.  Adjust the grinder for maximum coarseness, if you will be using a french press.  To do this, take off the handle and adjust the cog wheel up and tighten it back up.
  2. The grinder does not have any cushioning under the bottom, so you will need to stabilize it on the counter by placing a towel or pad underneath.
  3. Remove the cork stopper from under the grinding mechanism.
    Coffee off grid1

    Coffee grinder

  4. Pour the beans and start grinding.  Hold the grinder stable with the left hand and grind with your right hand (vice versa if you are left-handed).
    Coffee grinder

    Grinding roasted coffee beans

ground coffee

Ground coffee beans

I have to say this was the hardest part!  It took a bit of muscle power to continuously grind the beans and hold it down.  All in all, it took about seven minutes to grind the quarter cup of beans.

Brewing with the French Press

  1. I used the Bodum Shatterproof 8 cup French Press Coffeemaker.  Eight cups sound like a lot of coffee, but actually, the “cup” is actually a 4-ounce cup, not an 8-ounce mug that most of us are used to.
  2. The quarter cup of whole beans made about 2 level scoops (measuring scoop came with the french press) of ground coffee.  The rule of thumb is to use one scoop per cup of coffee.
  3. Boil water in a separate pan.  I boiled about 2.5 cups of water.  Turn off fire once the water boils.  Because this is a plastic press, the instructions indicate the water must be hot but not boiling.  I would think a glass french press would work with boiling water.
  4. Remove the cover/plunger of the french press.
  5. Pour the ground coffee into the bottom of the press.
  6. Pour the hot water.
    French press coffee

    Brewing in a French press

  7. Slowly insert the cover/plunger.   Turn the lid so the opening/pour spout is sealed and away from you.  and press the water/coffee gently until plunger cannot go any further.   Do not apply too much pressure or this may cause the water to splatter up.
  8. Once the coffee is pressed, it is ready to drink!

I have to say this was a fine cup of coffee.  It seemed like a lot of work for two cups, but it was worth it.  The result was a very fresh tasting, strong cup of coffee.  Roasting the green coffee beans was not hard at all;  I can roast a larger batch next time.

In a disaster situation, you can’t beat a nice comforting cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Even if we never need to make coffee off grid, knowing how to roast green coffee beans saves money in the long run.

© Apartment Prepper 2013

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Home Remedy for Sinus Allergy Sufferers

Sinus Rinse IngredientsMy allergies have started bothering me, with itchy, watery eyes, early morning congestion, sneezing, signaling the start of the fall allergy season.

At my last physical check-up my doctor asked me if I’ve had any health issues bothering me, and I did mention my sinuses bother me every fall and spring.  I can always tell the seasons by my chronic sinus congestion.  I told him I already take antihistamines, but sometimes they don’t help, and I don’t really want prescription inhalers if I can avoid it.  A fellow allergy sufferer himself, he recommended I try the new nasal rinses in the market.  I told him I was not successful with the Neti-pot, but he said the new ones are actually just sinus rinses that work by spraying.  This is the one I tried:

sinusrinseI gave it a try, and it actually gave me some relief.   I used up the pre-made packets, but instead of buying more, I am making my own.  After doing a bit of research, I found a mix that works.  (Please note this is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice.  Check with your own doctor before trying out any health remedies.)

Here are the ingredients:

8 ounces lukewarm distilled water (DO NOT USE TAP WATER or any other water except distilled)

3 tablespoons non-iodine salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all together, fill in a sterile bulb syringe and use as a nasal spray.  (Discontinue use if you feel any irritation/ discomfort or if it doesn’t work for you)

So far it’s worked for me and it does not feel any different than the store bought kind.  I am still keeping a few of the pre-made packets for emergencies and travel, but for now, I am using the homemade version.  I still keep the antihistamines handy, but in an emergency, I am glad I have a backup remedy for nasal allergies.



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8 Everyday Tips For Frugal Apartment Living

 800px-United_States_one_dollar_bill_obverseA Guest Post by Mark Russell

In this economy, everyone is thinking about saving more money and spending less. Whether you are a millionaire or a starving artist, times are probably tougher than they were ten years ago. This has led a lot of people to try to pick up extra work here and there, doing odd jobs like babysitting for the neighbor or gardening for the man down the street. In addition to trying to earn more, other people are saving more.  A lot of people are downsizing their lifestyles, trading in giant gas guzzling SUVs for smaller, more efficient hybrids – or sometimes even bicycles – and many people have transitioned from large houses to smaller apartments. Almost everyone, though, is on the lookout for ways to save some money. If you live in an apartment, then you might have your own set of challenges when it comes to spending less of your hard earned cash. Below are some everyday tips for frugal apartment living.

 TIP #1 – Cook at home. Many people living in apartments get used to ordering takeout and dining at restaurants simply because they do not have large kitchens and so they avoid the room entirely. But even a small kitchen can be used successfully if you just try and learn to work with what you have. Make sure you have basic cooking tools, head to the supermarket, and whip up your own dinner tonight to save some extra money!

 TIP #2 – Make more storage space. Storage space is always a challenge in a small home, but many people don’t take advantage of the space that they already have. Make sure your bed is on lifts to create more space underneath it. Install shelves on the walls so you can store on those as well. Use every inch – all the way up to the ceiling – of your closet. Once you have this extra storage space you can start using it in ways that will save you money.

TIP #3 – Buy in bulk. Preppers love to buy in bulk – whether it’s toilet paper, canned food, or bottles of water. But this can be a particular challenge to those living in small apartments where the amount of storage space is limited. However – that is why you have created all the new storage space using the last tip. Buying in bulk doesn’t just prepare you for disasters – it saves your money!

TIP #4 – Get rid of your car. If you live in an urban area with a good public transportation system, then ask yourself why you own your own car. Owning a car costs a lot of money – between gas, insurance, and parking, you are just pouring money into this car ownership. Trade your expensive car in for a much, much cheaper bicycle. You can store your bike on your wall instead of having to pay for a parking spot! And this is, of course, more environmentally friendly too!  If you decide to do this tip, make sure you have a backup way to get out of the city in the event of an evacuation or disaster.

TIP #5 – Donate your unwanted clothing and furniture. Anything you own that you don’t use is simply wasting your space and your time. It takes up space to have extra, unwanted t-shirts – but it takes up a lot more space to have unwanted chairs or tables. You can donate these items to a nearby thrift store or through the Craigslist “free” section. Keep a receipt and deduct the value from your taxes next April!

TIP #6 – Cancel your gym membership. Being a member of a gym is expensive, and for many people totally unnecessary. You can exercise for free (or almost free), both in your apartment and outside of it. You can run outdoors, especially if you live near a trail or park. To exercise in your apartment, just invest in a few free weights and a mat. You can save hundreds of dollars by finding alternatives to a monthly gym membership.

TIP #7 – Drink more water. If you live in a small apartment, you may have an extra small refrigerator. Even if you have a large, or normal sized fridge, your space in there is limited. So instead of taking it up with sugary sodas and other drinks, why not just get a Brita and drink water instead. It’s healthier, it doesn’t cost anything after you buy the Brita, and it will save you a lot of precious fridge space!

TIP #8 – Get rid of cable. Are you paying a lot for cable every month? Cancel your membership and sign up for alternative options like Hulu Plus (less than $10 a month), Amazon Prime, or Netflix. There are plenty of cheaper ways to watch television than to pay more than a hundred dollars every single month.


Mark Russell is a writer who specializes in writing about apartment living and ways to live frugal specifically around apartment living.  Mark is a writer for


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Bartering For Preppers

Bartering for Preppers is a Guest Post by Robert Creech

As everyone who engages in some form of prepping knows, it’s expensive. Most of us will never have all of the gear and resources we want, instead we prioritize and get by with what we can. However I’ve found that many people are leaving money on the table, so to speak, because they have skills (and maybe resources) that they aren’t fully utilizing. Yes, I’m talking about bartering.

You have to remember that every other prepper is like you; they’re trying to acquire skills and resources on a limited budget, to learn everything they can about self-sufficiency. They’re also people trying to make a living and get by, so any opportunity they have to barter, to gain something, is almost always welcome. How about you? Are you willing to teach someone a skill, or trade a service or resource you have?

Do you have a particular skill set that others might be interested in? Maybe you’ve become quite adept at apartment gardening and have perfected ways to grow essential plants in a terrace garden or from balcony planters. You would be surprised at the number of people in your area who would be willing to trade something they have for you to teach them how to start gardening, one of the fastest growing areas of interest among city dwellers.

Maybe you know how to can or preserve foods, how to reload ammunition, how to set snares for trapping, how to secure an apartment from intruders, how to make primitive weapons… almost everyone has skills or knowledge that others would like to have. If yours is academic knowledge, then you can put it in a guidebook or e-book, and offer it that way. And it may not even be prepping related, the skills or resources you have to barter. If you’re a mechanic or plumber you’ll almost certainly find people willing to barter their resources for your time or guidance on a project.

So how do you set it up? Craigslist is perhaps one of the greatest resources people have… the Barter Kings use it for a reason. You can list your skills or resources in two different sections… the first is the For SaleBarter section, and the other is under Services. Simply write in what it is that you have to offer (or what you will do for them), and what it is you’re looking for. If you want someone to help you set up a solar oven, then say so. Perhaps you are looking for a new backpack because yours is too small, simply tell the reader what you can offer and what you’re looking to get.

More times than not people will contact you offering something other than what you asked for, but that is fine. Bartering is always good and maybe they have something else you can use, or that you can trade further. In fact you might be surprised to find that you like the art of bartering and meeting new people, and at how much you are able to learn along the way. Since you live in an apartment, maybe you’ll be fortunate and meet someone out of town who has property that you can use… for gardening or target practice.

And the final point to this whole bartering activity is perhaps the most important… you will be actively engaging in networking, building contacts and resources along the way, many of whom will be like-minded preppers. Before you know it you’ll be amazed at how much you can acquire and learn through bartering.

About the Author   Robert Creech began a career in law enforcement in the early 1990’s, culminating in serving as the elected Sheriff of his county for two terms. He’s a graduate of two state law enforcement academies as well as many executive level training programs for law enforcement administrators. Robert writes almost exclusively on Squidoo; check out his latest article about Prepping.


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Drying Herbs without a Food Dehydrator

Dried mint leaves

Dried mint leaves after 2 weeks

Dehydrating food is a handy skill to have but may not seem practical while living in an apartment in the city.  You may not have room for a food dehydrator in your small apartment kitchen, but you can actually dry herbs without one.

Most recipes call for just a pinch of herbs but when you buy it at the grocery store you end up with large bunch that ends up withering in the fridge.  But it doesn’t have to go to waste if you air dry it.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Wash the herbs thoroughly.
  2. Without tearing or crushing the leaves, gently dry them with a towel.
  3. Lay the herbs on a clean kitchen towel, or on a paper towel.
  4. Leave the entire thing on a high shelf or another out-of-the-way spot in the house where it can be undisturbed for a couple of weeks.
  5. Check in one week.  The photo above was after two weeks.  The rate of drying depends on the humidity level in your area, so your drying time may be quicker if you live in a dry climate.
  6. After three weeks, the herbs should be thoroughly dry.  This is what the mint looked like after it was completely dry.

Dried mint leaves after 3 weeks

You can tell it is ready when you feel the leaves and stems are somewhat brittle and can easily be crushed by your fingers.  Store whole in an airtight container, or crush the herbs and store in a recycled clean spice container.

Now you’ll have dried herbs whenever you need it for a recipe.


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Other Uses for Homemade Laundry Detergent

In a previous article, I posted about trying out Survival Woman’s super easy homemade detergent recipe.

It turns out to be even more useful than originally thought.  I was cleaning the toilet and needed a little extra help scrubbing with the toilet brush.  Normally I use plain bleach but decided to try something different.  (Note:  I don’t use any other chemicals in the toilet such as leave-in bowl cleaners.   If you are using them, do not mix in other chemicals.)  I reached for the homemade laundry detergent mixture and poured about half a cup into the bowl.  I left it alone for a few minutes, then swabbed it around with the toilet brush.   The stains came off easily and I did not have to deal with bleach fumes.

Next, I poured some of the homemade detergent into a spray bottle.  I sprayed a dirty counter with it and wiped it down.   I was able to easily clean the kitchen counter, and again, no chemical smells to contend with.   (Note:  Our apartment has formica counters; if you have granite or other types of materials, test on small area before spraying the entire surface.)  The homemade laundry detergent post post has the recipe.

Cleanliness is important for health and quality of life after a disaster or emergency.  It is good to know that by having just a few ingredients such as Borax, washing soda and a dishwashing liquid, you can whip up a batch of laundry detergent that also doubles as an all-purpose cleaner.



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Short on Cash for Preps this Month? Here are a Few Ideas


I had to do a double take when I noticed my paycheck this year has gotten much smaller. No, I am not working less hours, in fact, I have had to put in some late nights finishing up projects.  I compared the deductions line by line to see what had changed from last year:  health insurance went up, and mostly, taxes went up.  The country may have stepped away from the dreaded fiscal cliff, but for many workers, payroll taxes have taken a chunk out of their take home pay.

If I am feeling the pinch, I am sure a lot of other preppers out there are feeling strapped for cash as well.  But we don’t want to stop prepping.  Here are a few ideas to help you cope if you find yourself short on funds:

  1. Even apartment dwellers accumulate unwanted items and clutter:  Go through your home and find items you can sell easily such as books, CDs, XBox games.  List them on E-bay or Amazon.
  2. Save up for more expensive items such as a good water purifier by setting aside the budgeted amount for the current month to carry over to next month.
  3. Have a no-spend week where you buy nothing that week.  It’s not as painful as you think;  I tried it and described the turn-out here.
  4. Devote the entire month to learning skills instead.  Each weekend, choose one survival skill to try out and devote a couple of hours to learning that skill:  filter and purify water, build a fire without matches, cook over an open flame, build a shelter
  5. If you feel you are already experienced, practice something you haven’t done in a long time.  It doesn’t cost you anything to map out at least three routes out of your city, take a free refresher course at a hospital or Red Cross such as CPR, basic first aid, etc.
  6. Visit your local library, get a library card if you don’t have one.  Check out emergency preparedness and survival books.  If you already have a library card, check your library’s website online.  Most city libraries allow you reserve books that are already checked out.  If you plan ahead, you’ll avoid wasting gas.
  7. Instead of buying more stuff, do a thorough inventory of all your emergency supplies and get yourself organized.  You may be surprised and find things you forgot you had, or find items that can be repurposed for prepping.  How much camping equipment do you have around?  I found some nice sleeping bags we used for a camping trip five years ago that were perfectly fine and only needed freshening up.  We also used the sleeping bags as additional comforters when we had an unexpected cold snap last month.
  8. Even if you have only $5-10 to spare, you can buy emergency supplies at the dollar store
  9. Have you considered barter?  A lot of Craigslist users are not in it for cash, but prefer to barter instead. Again you would have to get yourself organized and find items of value that you no longer need.  Make a list of survival or emergency items that you need.  Then list your items for barter.   If you do try Craigslist, make sure you are mindful of safety at all times.
  10. Sign up for free samples.  Use the free samples to supplement your bug out bag, office emergency kit or personal care buckets.  First, you must set up an email address just for signing up for free samples.  Do not use this email address for anything else.  Google “free samples” and sign up for the sites that look good to you.  Even Target and Walmart have sites designated to give away freebies.  Checking early in the morning seems to glean the best samples as they usually run out later in the day.

Being tight with cash is nothing to be depressed about.  Instead, think of things you can do, instead of what you can’t.  With a little creativity, you can continue to prepare for any emergency whatever your financial situation might be.



Experimenting with the Easiest Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I had been wanting to try making my own homemade laundry detergent, but wanted an easy one.  Many recipes require grating soap, or boiling the soap mixture, which I wanted to avoid.

Then I found a super easy laundry detergent recipe over at Backdoor Survival.  Survival Woman’s recipe, found in The No Mess No Fuss Method of Making DIY Laundry Detergent did not involve grating soap or boiling ingredients.  The best part was, I already had these materials on hand.

Ingredients of homemade laundry detergent

You will need:

1/2 gallon container (recycled juice bottle will do)

3 TBSP Borax

3 TBSP Washing Soda

2 TBSP dishwashing detergent (Dawn Dishwashing Liquid was recommended in the article and that is the one I used)

8 cups water


  1. Boil 2 cups water (out of the 8 cups).
  2. Using a funnel, pour the Borax and Washing Soda into the bottle.
  3. Carefully pour in the 2 cups of boiling water.  Shake well until powders are dissolved.
  4. Add the dishwashing liquid and mix some more.
  5. Finally, add the remaining 6 cups of water and mix well.  That’s it, you’re done mixing.
  6. Use about a quarter to a half cup of this laundry detergent to a load of wash.

The Test

First, I washed a load of colors with the homemade dishwashing liquid, at the cold water cycle.  Our machine is just a regular washer.  I noticed the mixture is more watery than store bought liquid laundry detergent.  It is also odor free.

The second load consisted of whites.

The Result

The load of colors came out clean, with surface dirt removed.  I did not have any heavily stained clothes but any dusty pants and minor dirt came off.

The whites were clean enough, but because I did not use bleach like I normally do for whites, they are not bright white.  To be fair, the homemade laundry detergent results were about the same as store bought without bleach.

If you are used to heavily fragranced clothes, the unscented mixture may be an adjustment.  For myself, though I like the scent for fresh laundry, I used to get an allergic reaction when using too much Downey or heavily scented detergents.  I think we get conditioned to store bought products and expect cleaners to be extra sudsy and fragrant.  They do not need to do these to clean properly.  I believe the homemade laundry detergent worked as well as commercial detergents but is certainly much cheaper to make.

This homemade detergent experiment was certainly a success!  Thanks Survival Woman!


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Save some Money: Make your own Homemade Dishwashing Powder Detergent

Homemade Dishwashing detergent

Trying to free up money to for emergency supplies means cutting back on expenses elsewhere.  One thing I am trying is to cut back on commercially made products, and replace them with homemade substitutes.  One project that turned out well was to make homemade liquid soap.  I found a good recipe for homemade dishwashing powder over at Survival Common Sense.

Most of the grocery and Target stores in my area did not have Borax or washing soda but I found them at Wal-Mart.   They can also be found on Amazon.

Ingredients for homemade dishwashing detergent

You will need a clean empty jar (I used a recycled plastic jar), a measuring cup and a measuring spoon.

Here are the ingredients I used:

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1/4 cup store brand kosher store

2 packets of lemonade flavor unsweetened Kool-Aid  (1/4 cup citric acid can also be used but Kool-aid was easier for me to find)

White vinegar (as a rinse aid)

Mix all together in a jar.  Measure two tablespoons of the mixture into your dishwasher’s  soap compartment, along with three drops of dishwashing liquid.  Important:  do not put more than three drops of dishwashing liquid, as this will overflow your dishwasher with suds.

Add vinegar to the rinse aid receptacle to make sure your glasses are spot free.

I ran a dishwasher full of dirty dishes at the normal cycle.  After washing was completed, I checked the glasses.  They came out clean.  I had one that had chocolate milk stains all over it when I put it in:

Dirty glassThis is how it came out.

Glass washed with homemade dishwashing detergentNo chocolate milk stains were left in the glass.  They were not completely spot free, about one to two spots appeared in some of the glasses; but for everyday use, I’d say the homemade dishwashing powder worked just fine.

A note about storing homemade dishwashing powder:  I  initially stored the powder mixture under the sink with the rest of the cleaners.  The next day, I took it out to use it for the next load, I noticed the powder was starting to clump.  I think the humidity may affect the powder and cause clumping if left too long.  This does not have chemicals to keep it free flowing.  I shook the jar vigorously and most of the clumps disappeared so I will be able to continue using it.  If you live in a humid area, you may want to cut the recipe in half.   I moved it to another spot that has less humidity.

I consider this experiment a success and will continue to use the homemade dishwashing powder.


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