76 Responses to “DIY 101 – Working With Water”


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  1. alona

    what is the best water purifier that you recommend aside from berkey?  i live in israel and am looking for a good water purifier.  thanks!

    • AndreaT

      Can you recommend any preservatives to use in these type of products?

      • Sara

        Hi AndreaT, there are some better for you type preservatives. I use Optiphen at 1% of my formulations, it is a  paraben and formaldehyde-free preservative. 

         My thoughts on the topic: 
        When a product doesn’t smell off or display visible mold doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t contain other bacteria/yeasts/molds. I probably wouldn’t use anything unpreserved with water in it after two or three days, even if it had been refrigerated. Anhydrous products like scrubs don’t require preservation, but it’s a good idea to keep it away from the bathroom to avoid contamination. Also, use a clean spoon to scoop out what you need into a container and bring that into the shower instead. If I were to sell scrubs I would include a preservative because most people use bare hands to scoop scrub, “double dip” and store it in humid bathrooms.The reason why grapeseed extract sometimes works as a preservative is because most of them contain upwards of 11% conventional preservatives. That is a lot! 

    •  I really don’t know what you have available to you in Israel, but try googling to find recommendations/product reviews. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  2. Well done you! This cannot be said enough, and you said it very well. :)

  3. Dee

    Very good suggestions on the preservatives, but would just like to mention that Rosemary EO would have about the same level of effectiveness as the Grapefruit seed EO…it would be an exceedingly mild preservative. You would want to use the Rosemary EXTRACT, because just like the Grapefruit seed, it is a more condensed antioxidant preservative. 

  4. Sarah JP

    Hehe – this rings so true. I made a simple facemask/scrub combining raw cocoa powder, baking soda, and a little water a couple of weeks ago. Had some leftover and put it in the bathroom cabinet. Opened the jar this weekend to find an interesting new ecosystem :p

  5. Jalcml

    Great post! I have been very concerned about some of the pinterest recipes and they take off like wildfire because of pinterest. I love your point that natural isn’t supposed to last forever, we are so darned lazy though, taking something out of the fridge or whipping it up once a week has just become too much work, I think if we remember why we do these things like making them once a week becomes an act of love for our earth, ourselves and the people we care for then it doesn’t seem so hard!

    • Adial

      Want to see something very sad? Check out some of the “organic products” on etsy! All have water, no preservatives, and a two YEAR shelf life!!

  6. Bet

    Can one use the rosemary and grapefruit seed extract tablets? All the liquid extracts I saw contained even more water.

  7. If it looks weird, don’t use it. Well said. And so useful. I’m adding this to my files, because I’m making stuff all the time! Thank you!

  8. Great post!  I just started trying to make as much as I can for our home and these are some very good tips to keep in mind, thanks!

  9.  I have a Big Berkey, and the reservoir rusted around the bottom within two months. :/
    Anyway, I have been using a wipe warmer with a homemade wipe solution for the cloth baby wipes, and I thought that adding TTO would inhibit mold growth. Not so much. I had been using Bert’s Bees baby wash but then switched to Dr Bronners in the solution, and within a couple of days, I had bright green–NEON!-mold that stunk to high heaven. I think we will have to follow your guidelines the next time I make the solution. That was an unpleasant surprise.

    • Tanyanntom

      Oh no! That is how I had planned making mine as well! What can be added to it? Now I’m worried!

    •  I’m really glad you mentioned this, Kristen, because I TOTALLY forgot about this particular idea and how it was a little iffy. I don’t have a baby, and when mine WAS a baby I wasn’t crunchy at all, but if I did, I’d probably just use a jar with water (emptied every two or three days) and reusable cotton cloths to wipe with. Not sure why there needs to be much more when washing a bum, and if there’s ever an issue with a rash or whatnot, there are plenty of things you can make (without water) to take care of that.

      • Bluemosquitoes

         This is what we did, and it was fine – just little cloth wipes (make them yourself – cut your old jersey knit sweatshirt or something similar into small squares.  Done.  You’re using it to wipe up poop, why make it pretty & fancy?) and a squirt bottle filled with water to moisten them individually (you know the perineal rinse bottle they give you at this hospital?  Perfect for this purpose!).  I never felt the need for any fancy wipe solution – but if you do, you could do it the same way.

        Its possible that your mold problem is exacerbated with the wipes warmer – bacteria & molds LOVE to be warm, moist, and in the dark.

  10. Betty, thank you. Really, truly, honestly, thank you! I’m one of the guilty ones who’s cooking spray went viral on Pinterest a few weeks back, and I’ll admit I didn’t even think of this. Granted, I did make a small batch, but I definitely have NOT been storing it in the fridge, and I didn’t make enough of an effort to add important disclaimers about working with water, as you so eloquently have done here. I’ll go edit the post now and link back to your post. Thanks again for giving us the smack upside the head we all needed ;)

  11. Kesha

    Leslie, your timeliness amazes me. I’ve been using an ACV hair rinse in the shower for a few years now, usually prepping it for the next time after my showers, and it’s worked great–but just 3 days ago, I found blue/green mold floating on top! EW! I didn’t even know that could happen. That was inconvenient.

    So I want to point out that even adding *some* vinegar will not necessarily preserve it well. In the future I know I’ll use water from my Berkey, make sure I’m adding enough vinegar to the concoction, and maybe even boil the water if I really reaaallly want to make sure it doesn’t do that.

    Thanks a million for this wonderful information!!

  12. Shannon

    “Also, I keep noticing recipes on Pinterest that combine water with
    things like oil (to make a cooking spray) or hand soap (to make a
    foaming soap substitute), and typically there’s no mention of what needs
    to be done to keep these things from going bad.”

    AMEN! And thank you.  Ultimately I look for ways to tweak my recipes as much as possible to not include water, i.e. making ointments and salves instead of lotions and creams.

  13. Stacy @ Stacy Makes Cents

    Well this is just genius. It never occurred to me before…so, thanks for putting this out there! :-) I love using Grapefruit Seed Extract – awesome stuff! 

  14. Good to know! I don’t make much with water (just a vinegar/water spray for cleaning windows and countertops), but I have never thought to boil the jars/spoons I use for making face wash and tooth powder.

    I’m curious though–why would anyone use water in a cooking spray? All you need is a Misto (or similar sprayer) and some extra virgin olive oil.

    • Pi Nation

      I would love to get a Misto, but I won’t and here’s why:

      To buy one in my area costs $20 for two of them, and I can’t seem to buy them as a single.  I don’t need two, and unfortunately no one I know has an extra laying around!  So I bought a small $1 spray bottle from my grocery store and filled halfway with oil and added a couple tablespoons of water so it sprays in a mist and not a thick stream.

      I just have to make it in small batches that only last 5-10 days so it doesn’t start growing sentient life or something!

  15. Atalanta0jess

    I might be mistaken, but isn’t there also a rule about not making your own oil covered edible concoctions? Like, you shouldn’t make your own flavored oils by sticking herbs in oil for example. Because it can grow botulism, which unlike other yuckies is tasteless and flavorless and killer. 

    • SHill

      I’ve always made my own and we’ve never gotten sick, knock on wood!

      • Brownladygodiva

        I really would do some more research on why this is not recommended. Botulism is paralysing, and the effects are long term, ie. being sedated and on a ventilator for 6 months while you can’t breathe for yourself. And that’s if the hospital makes the correct diagnosis in time. Botulism is serious stuff! (I’m sure there are other things that can happen too, but respiratory care is my specialty.)
        Not to be a buzzkill, but if you want to take the risk, it’s your business. But I wouldn’t be giving these out as Christmas gifts unless you’re willing to tell people they could get sick…because that knowledge could mean the difference between prompt treatment and being killed.

      • Atalanta0jess

        Yes, like Brownladygodiva said, this isn’t something I personally would feel comfortable using a “knock on wood” philosophy about. It is just not safe, period…because even if you go 100 times without negative effects, the 1 time when something does happen is not “oh, I have an upset stomach.” It’s “oh, I might die.” For real. Botulism KILLS, and not infrequently. 

    •  Well, I know there are several food sites that encourage making flavored oils with DRIED herbs. (And that’s often a gift-giving recommendation, as well.) Honestly, I can’t say for sure, except from Wikipedia it seems like the biggest concern for botulism is in home canning. Here’s some stats.

      Between 1990 and 2000, the Centers for Disease Control
      reported 263 individual ‘cases’ from 160 foodborne botulism ‘events’ in
      the United States with a case-fatality rate of 4%. Thirty-nine percent
      (103 cases and 58 events) occurred in Alaska, all of which were
      attributable to traditional Alaska aboriginal foods. In the lower 49
      states, home-canned food was implicated in 70 (91%) events with canned
      asparagus being the most numerous cause. Two restaurant-associated
      outbreaks affected 25 persons. The median number of cases per year was
      23 (range 17–43), the median number of events per year was 14 (range
      9–24). The highest incidence rates occurred in Alaska, Idaho,
      Washington, and Oregon. All other states had an incidence rate of 1 case
      per ten million people or less.[19]

  16. Michele

    Dear Leslie – i am writing this to THANK YOU for all you do!!!  Your tips and recipes and comments make my day.  You keep me thinking of ways to improve my whole life through your crunchy tips and i just love you for it.  Thank you again for being such an inspirational person!  If you have noticed more followers of your blog from San Diego, it’s because i tell everyone, even strangers, about your wonderful tips!

  17. Beignet

    I learned the hard way by using tap water in a glycerin mixture that I was using for my skin. Found the green floaties after I had sprayed myself with the homemade brew. I was literally jumping around my bathroom gagging as I had used some on my face! Never made that mistake again! Distilled only for me now.

  18. Mallory Paige

    I had know idea – thanks for the thorough insight into the diy water situation :) 

  19. Diana Ford

    Whoa, you’re good. I mean like, crazy “someone’s bugging my phone” kinda good. A friend and I were just talking about this today. I made a simple lotion recipe with water and thought I could be uber-crunchy and include no preservative except Vit E. Hmmm, upon comparing notes we realized they both went moldy at the same time in two different environments. Used tap water (we’re on a well) but I won’t be doing that again, no sir… just ick!

  20. Kala

    Vitamin E is not a preservative, it’s an anti-oxidant, meaning that, while it may help to delay rancidity in a vegetable or nut oil, it does nothing to kill bacteria/fungi.

    Sugar is definitely not a preservative; just the opposite. Numerous types of bacteria utilize sugar as a food source.

    • Ann

      well, honey is essentially made of nothing but sugar, and is bacteriostatic (it doesn’t kill the critters, but it does prevent them from making little baby bacterias!). So no, table sugar may not work, but honey may. Although the reason it’s bacteriostatic is because it is hygroscopic (it is not friends with H2O), so who knows what happens when you mix it with water….

      • Kala

        Honey contains sugar, yes, but what makes honey antibacterial is a complex combination of enzymes (such as glucose oxidase) and proteins (bee defensin 1) that are not found in table sugar. Sugar should not be listed as a natural preservative.

    • Jake

       With sugar it all depends on concentration. At low to moderate concentration, sugar is a nutrient and will promote bacterial and fungal growth. At very high concentrations (e.g. in jams and fruit preserves) the sugar is bacteriolytic just by making the medium really hypertonic. You could sort of use any solute for that, sugar’s just easily available. I can’t think of any outside-my-body use for something that was that sugary, though. It would be super sticky (like jam).

      This makes sugar different from the other antimicrobials listed, all of which should just work less effectively at low concentrations, so I don’t think it belongs on the list.

    • tamsranch

      wrong sugar is a preservative

  21. Ashley Strachey

    Wow I’m so impressed! I saw a few comments on one of your recent posts, warning you not to add water to your recipes. I got worried  for a few minutes, remembered I hadn’t made anything in large batches that require water, and calmed down. :) Anyway, here you are just a few days later, writing a whole post about it. I like and respect you more every time I visit this blog! :D

    I do have a question though; I’ve been steeping some herbs in vinegar, all ready to make a cleaning spray. I’ve seen versions where you should add just as much water as you have vinegar, and I’ve seen recipes that are 100% vinegar. Which is best to use? Does the water dilute the vinegar and render it a little ineffective as a cleaner, and, most important, will it spoil before I use it all up? 

    Thanks anyone who provides me with some insight! 

    • Daisy

      Ashley Strachey, I used dried herbs and fresh lemon peel in my vinegar
      and then after it was done infusing I added some fresh vinegar – no
      water needed!

      • Ashley Strachey

        Alright thank you! I put dried herbs in mine, and meant to go back and put in some lemon peel when I bought some the next day…. but forgot. :) I’ll just add some fresh vinegar to top it off, too. Thanks again!

    • Like Daisy, I add fresh vinegar (same volume as the infused one) and store it in a glass bottle. It is supposed to be good for 6 months. Then, I use it in many recipes, some that contain water.

  22. Daisy

     I have a bunch of leftover SmartWater* and the bottle says it’s vapor
    distilled. Is it okay to use that in recipes that require water?

    *I know, I know, I avoid bottled water as much as possible but when we
    went up to Tahoe last summer, the water at the cabin was okay for
    showering but not drinking or cooking so we bought a case of bottled
    water and brought back the leftovers with us.

  23. Holly/Green Penny Pincher

    Great advice!

  24.  I love love this post. :)
    My crunchy daughter made a hair conditioner last month with water and coconut oil as the 2 main ingredients and when I borrowed it earlier this week, it smelled like cheese…. She said it was ok. I guess she’ll change her mind after reading this. Thank you.

    What about tea tree oil and lavender EO? I thought these were antibacterials.

  25. Diana Coe

    I use Dr Bronners with essential oils in a foam pump for hand soap, but I have reverse osmosis so I’m not sure that makes it ok so maybe I’ll add vinegar or grapeseed extract to be safe.  Thanks for your awesome posts!  Love love your blog!  Informative and funny… can’t beat that!

    • Reverse osmosis does not take out many of the “impurities” in water. Distilled and then boiled on top of that once you add your other ingredients is the way to go.

  26. Sjedrom

    I’m sticking this here because I don’t know where else to put it. I’d pinned the Not a Secret Homemade Deodorant link a few days ago because I didn’t have time to make it. Now I have time and the link is corrupt.
    Help? Thanks!

  27. Thank you for posting this! I have been concerned about the growing number of water based home recipes also.

    Regarding preservatives, I know that Grapefruit seed extract is actually NOT a natural preservative. It does have anti-microbial properties, but it is due to processing, not the natural seed. Take a look; 

    Ammonium Chloride, Benzethonium Chloride, Triclosan, Methyl Paraben. Yum!

    Tea Tree as mentioned by another commentor below does have strong anti-bacterial properties.

    But my favorite has to be the four thieves blend. Full spectrum anti-microbial; kills bacteria, fungi, viruses, and yeast, and it’s just essential oils; clove, lemon, cinnamon (bark), eucalyptus and rosemary. Here’s the science; 
    (scroll down a bit on the second link)

    However, as great as this is, I would still be very cautious about any product with water in it, as essential oils are oils, and oil does not like to mix with water very well.

    I have tried asking a couple of people who are more synthetic chemical advocates what the science is on using essential oils as a preservative in a product that is properly emulsified, but none of them seem to want to answer, so we’re left guessing for now.

    I hope this helps! Thanks again for a very important and topical post.

  28. CJ

    This was really interesting to read. I’ve never tried making my own, but now I know what I need to watch out for! I’m a new follower here, would love a follow back at when you have time! :D Have a great week.

  29. Great info – thanks a heap :)

  30. Stephanie Moran Heald

    So, when using GSE oil as a preservative how much does one use? I’be been meaning to make some body scrubs and although they don’t contain water (I know, this post is about water :p) but can a ‘natural preservative’ be added to extend their shelf life or my brown sugar/olive oil mixture will not go bad if left out a couple weeks? Thanks!

  31. I never would have thought of this, so I’m SO glad you posted it.  I think I’m going to have to bookmark this page for future reference!

  32. Dinah8

    Question! I make an apple cider vinegar toner with distilled water and keep it in the fridge. How long will this last?

    • TheGnome

      I’ve kept mine for weeks and it still seems fine, but my fridge is very cold (my water freezes in there sometimes) and I only take it out for like 2 minutes once a day.

  33. Noel Crave

    I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award!

  34. Cherie

    I have attempted to make my own body wash with Betty’s recipe.  It was recommended to me to try using colloidal silver as a preservative.   Any comments on that?

  35. Ashley Teare

    I love your blog! And thank you for stating what I have been thinking for months! When I started finding things growing in my water bottle (usually when left in the car for weeks at a time), I started to wonder how to stop it! Thank you!

  36. Carie

    As you say, “clean” ingredients aren’t the only concern . . . as with home canning, it is just as important to have sanitized containers and/or utensils. The sanitize cycle on your dishwasher is wonderful for this! Thanks for all the great info. 8)

  37. Dawn Montiel

    Could someone let me know if there is a way to preserve homemade rose water to carry in a spritzer for your purse? I’m trying to figure out what the proportions would be and how long it would last, etc.

  38. What about using good bacteria eg water kefir, whey, to extend shelf life? Just a thought. Also my water bottles my doctor told me to add iodine as in Lugol’s iodine solution and also to keep them in the dark

  39. Jelly house

    Thank you for this post. While I sterilize everything I use to make my face lotion, I am wondering about rose water. As it is still water, do the same rules apply? I make a lotion with jojoba, rose water and beeswax for emulsifier. I keep half in the fridge and the rest in the bathroom in a pump bottle. So far so good, no creatures but now I am concerned….

  40. Long Haired Hippie

    Thank goodness someone finally tackled this! I love to make my own stuff but I have an auto-immune condition and since my body spends more time attacking me than microbes I have to be extra cautious. It drives me bonkers when i get mocked for adding little alcohol to things when other people just add tap water and think its fine for everyone to use. I dont appreciate getting a rash from your diluted hand soap thank you very much! Glad to have some sensibility added to the conversation :) Thank you.

  41. WholeFoodChomper

    What great advice!

    Regarding: “Using distilled or filtered (and we’re talking high-quality Berkey-type filter, not, say, Brita) and then boiled water really cuts down on the chance that you’re introducing a contaminant to your recipe.”
    1) Is store bought distilled water okay to use? 2) Should one also boil distilled or filtered water? 3) Is it okay to make homemade cosmetics with just boiled tap water?

  42. JaniceC

    I store everything in the fridge and also use fermented radish root (aka leucidal). If one is really making a lot of things with a lot of ingredients that include water, there are microbial test kits available–they usually run around 50.00, but would be worth it to be sure if one is going to be making a LOT of stuff.

  43. Jennifer

    Darn it Dr.Bronner and your

    “dilute, dilute, dilute…”

  44. Wendy

    Thanks so much for this kind of scary, but very necessary post! I have been adding water to my
    Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap (to make a foaming hand soap) for a while now without even thinking about it – although I should have! — It makes perfect sense since I know that water contains all kinds of bacteria. I guess I just assumed that the soap would stop any problems from forming. I have never noticed a bad smell, but I have been developing some allergies over the past few years, and am now wondering if this bad habit may have been exasperating some other problems that I have been having.
    Please keep your important posts, and helpful information coming! I appreciate it so much!

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  46. Cheryl

    Excellent post! This info of using ONLY distilled or boiled water water is also necessary when using a Neti Pot. While the instructions that come with a Neti pot say to do this, I’ve recently read of a case of someone getting a brain-eating bacteria that they believe was caused from using a Neti pot with regular tap water.

  47. WIldcraft

    I am wondering what you think about sterile water (medical grade)? Would this water remain bacteria free? You can make it your self or buy it.


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