Customer Reviews: Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living
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on March 18, 2003
I'm single, a downtown apartment dweller, and I've been using natural, homemade cleaning products for almost three years. I have read - and use regularly - several natural cleaning books, including another of Annie Berthold-Bond's titles, "Clean & Green." However, I have become interested in "green living," not just cleaning. That means switching from commercial household products to homemade products for personal care, pest control, etc. That is what led me to "Better Basics For the Home."
"Better Basics" is far easier to use and much better organized and written than "Clean & Green." It is set up in logical sections according to the products' uses. The index is very good. You can find a recipe quickly, although I would suggest you read through the book once and get a feel for how to go about things. Also, one of the best aspects is the "Sources and Resources" section near the back. If you live in an area without health food stores, woods or land suitable for growing your own herbs, then this will be essential for your ability to find ingredients to make your own green household products.
This book is also suitable for the beginner green cleaner. Most of the recipes, once you have the correct ingredients, are very easy to make and quick to put together. That being said, this book is also for people who are really serious about green cleaning, personal hygiene, pest control and other aspects of running a household. I say that because some of the ingredients used in many of the recipes are costly if you have to buy them instead of gathering them from your yard or a nearby wooded area. Also, essential oils - literally essential in green cleaning! - are expensive. (A little goes a loooong way, though.) This is a lot more than vinegar-baking soda-Castille soap cleaning and requires a higher level of commitment financially.
As a single person, I also found that many of the recipes, especially the ones that are highly perishable, would make too much for me to use in the time they are fresh. Of course, the easy way to get around this is to simply cut the recipes in half or even a quarter. If you can cook or do some simple math (I'm terrible at math and I have no troubles), then you as a single person can cut the recipes down to a manageable, useful amount. I have already cleaned my leather couch, made lanolin hand lotion (great stuff!) and protected my hemp shower curtain from mildew with a spray-on solution containing tea tree oil. How long did it take? I did it effortlessly in one day, around other chores. Very easy.
I would recommend, if you are really interested in green cleaning by desire or necessity, to buy this book and also get "Clean House, Clean Planet" by Karen Logan. To me, Logan's book is the single best way to get someone involved in green cleaning. Her recipes tend to be cheap, easy and effective. This book has a far greater range of recipes for many more uses, but they are overall more expensive and specialized.
Also, a few tips if you are going to get into green cleaning:
1) Get equipment that is used only in making your cleaning products. Some essential oils and other ingredients are very bad for you to eat, and mixups and residues could make your day very long and very bad. I have a simple list: a medium-sized Pyrex bowl and 2-cup Pyrex measure, a silicone spatula, *metal* measuring spoons, a whisk and some glass jars with metal screw-on lids you can get at any decent-sized grocery store. With about $20-$30, you can have nearly all the equipment you will ever need.
2) Start with one product that is cheap and easy to make, and works on something you want to clean right now. Instant gratification is a great way to get into the habit!
3) Especially if you want to clean rather than make personal care products at first, buy one small bottle of essential oil that smells good AND disinfects to cut down costs. I happen to like tea tree oil, but if you prefer a wintergreen type smell, choose lavender. If you find out that green cleaning is for you, then you can branch out into other essential oils more suited for other tasks.
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on December 3, 2003
When I first bought this book it was very hard to put down. Most of the recipes are very easy to follow and are inexpensive. My favorite recipe for "soft scrubber" contains ingredients that I already add to my bathwater anyway, so it's nice to take a bath without worrying about any leftover chemical residue lingering in the tub with you. Another plus is the gentle, caring manner in which it's written. The author explains the benefits of going green without coming across as condescending or judgmental.
Keeping in mind that I think this is a wonderful book, and well worth the cost, there are a few things I'd like to point out. I found that a lot of the skincare recipes were geared for people with dry skin. This is understandable considering the author's dry/sensitive skin, but I wanted to let other readers know to expect this. I tried many of the basic lotion, cream, and soap formulas and found that many of them felt way too greasy for my skin-especially if they contained beeswax. There is a small section with recipes for people with oily skin. That was helpful, but the skincare recipes in general are probably a little more suited for dry skin.
I also found that some of the yields seem a little off. (This is more so for the skincare recipes than the cleaning recipes.) I follow all of the instructions very carefully, but still end up with yields that are sometimes significantly off. You can tell just by reading some of the recipes that it's unlikely they could yield what they say. Also, some of the recipes for the cleaning products seemed a little repetitive. (Not a significant enough difference between some of them to warrant separate recipes.)
One very important point that needs to be mentioned is that in the instructions for soapmaking, the author suggests adding water to the container after the lye. Almost every soapmaking resource I've used suggests just the opposite. (Doing this step improperly can cause an almost volcano-like reaction.) While I'm very grateful that this book introduced me to soapmaking, I would strongly suggest that beginners read a book dedicated to soapmaking rather than start with the soap recipe in this book. There are a few helpful pieces of information missing from her soapmaking instructions.
Lastly, a lot of these recipes work great and are wonderful replacements for the commercial items you buy in stores. However, a few of them simply do not work as well no matter how much I want them to. I prefer to use natural methods anyway, but there may be some readers who will still want to resort to an occasional commercial cleaner from time to time. It's still such a payoff to use as many of these natural recipes as you see fit. Great book overall!
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on August 9, 1999
I found Better Basics to be a very practical instructional book for making my own blends of home and body care mixtures, and Ms. Berthold-Bond included an extensive list of suppliers for the less common ingredients. Next to the phone book and a favorite cookbook, this is the 3d most-consulted book in our house. It is well worth the price, and I intend to share several with friends and relatives who understand the value of making our own, like our ancestors did.
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on April 14, 2006
I purchased this book because of the positive reviews at this site, and have not been disappointed.

If you want to remove most of the "dangerous" chemicals from your home this is an excellent resource for how to prepare your own cleaning products at home. The book does cover some of the dangerous chemicals that are normally in the products that most of us buy everyday. However if you want a more thorough discussion of potential toxins in and around the home check out either "The Healthy Living Space" or "Toxic Overload". Both of these cover the topic of potential toxins in the home in more depth.

This book does a nice job of covering the basic products that you can use to clean and disinfect your home. The author gives many recipes in this book for a variety of products.

The book is organized as follows:
1. The Basics
2. Housekeeping
3. Skin Care
4. Whole Body Care
5. Gardening, Pets, and Pest Control
6. House Care and Hobbies.

I was surprised, but pleased, to see that the author included formulas for lip balms, cuticle cream and mouthwash.

If you are really interested in keeping a green home I would suggest a steam cleaner in addition to this book. I have written a review of the SAECO Piccolo, also on this site, if you are interested. Which ever brand you select, a steam cleaner is an excellent product to have if you are interested in green cleaning.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for those that just beginning to embark on a green home program.
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on February 2, 2003
What an wonderful book! I've been meaning to try moving to less toxic methods of cleaning my home, but had just never taken the time to do it. A few weeks ago when I was cleaning my bathroom, I looked at my bottle of tile cleaner and realized that if my two year old got a hold of it, it could kill her. So I got out a big box and put in every household cleaner I had that had a warning label on it -- then I hauled it out to the garage and told my husband that he had some toxic waste to dispsose of.
I picked up this book from my library, went out and bought everything I needed to replace ALL of the cleaning products I normally use, and spent all of about $12... Then I indulged in a couple of bottles of essential oils, and my house smells better than it ever has, and looks and feels as cleaner than ever.
The recipes are easy to make, inexpensive, and very effective. No more expensive, store bought, toxic chemicals in my house!
This book is an excellent place to start for beginners like me. I thought I'd better get my own copy before I put too many dog ears and spills on the library's! Next stop... my bathroom cupboards. =)
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on July 8, 1999
I am new to attempting to run a green household. I have found this book invaluable. The recipes are straight-forward & easy to implement. Provides all needed information without extraneous rambling. I may eventually want to know the chemical properties and interactions for everything, but this book provided that info on a need-to-know basis only. Also, the author doesn't waste time attempting to convince the reader of the benefits of going green or of the detriments of not being green: she simply states the facts, which are convincing enough. Very well done. I think I'll be buying many more for gifts.
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on January 28, 2001
I liked this book a lot. It is much, much better than "Clean and Green" and covers all sorts of cleaning issues. I rated this only 4 stars for a couple of reasons. In one place she says that she doesn't use borax in her body care recipes because some may be contaminated with arsenic where it is mined, but it (borax) is listed as an ingredient in her shaving cream recipes. Well? Where do you get pure borax if you can't use the laundry borax? Secondly, her suppliers list is not the greatest. Suppliers could and should have been listed at the end of each chapter as well. It is still a good reference book for any home library.
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on June 18, 2007
I really enjoyed many of the household cleaning products in this book but when it came to purchasing the products needed for the skin care I found it really disappointing. The websites that are given to purchase products (soap bark, plumeria flower essence, powdered Vit A) cannot be purchased anywhere. There are no suggestions as to what alternatives can be used. I am really frustrated at having to spend hours and hours of research time trying to track down these items.
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on May 3, 2002
You'll quickly recoup the money spent on buying this book. (Her recipes cost pennies compared to commercial products.) While I don't suffer from chemical sensitivities like the author does, I do have two young children whose safety concerns me and I have always tried to be environmentally conscientious.
The book has several sections, on subjects ranging from housekeeping, face, body and hair care, environmentally-friendly building materials, recipes for paint and stains, and hobbies and crafts. The sections that were of the most immediate use to me were on housekeeping and skin and hair care. As you can imagine, this book packs a LOT of information, but it's not overwhelming...easy for a lay-person to assimilate.
I would have loved to have had this book when my children were babies! There's a wonderful chapter of skin-care "recipes" developed specifically for babies. (Sorry, Johnson & Johnson.)
Other, similar books I enjoyed were The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier and Rosemary Gladstar's Herbs for Natural Beauty.
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on September 28, 2005
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in a healthy, environmentally-friendly, budget-conscious lifestyle. It is amazing how much information this book contains. There are good basic recipes for just about any concoction you could imagine keeping around your house, from soap and toothpaste to window cleaner and wallpaper paste to actual paint. The book is very informative and well-written as well, a relief in this age of junk publishing.

I use this as a core reference book, and when I feel like doing more research on a specific subject I fan out from there (there is a bibliography in the back). I have learned a lot from this book, and it has inspired me to work towards a 100% natural lifestyle.

This book is money well-spent. Great for wedding presents too!
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