By Kim Steele

Harker Heights Herald

It didn't take Maritza Kincaid long to realize the repercussions of learning how to make natural cleaning products during a recent workshop.

"Does this mean I have to go home and clean my house now?" quipped Kincaid. "I don't have any excuses, do I?"

Kincaid, a Belton resident, was one of several women participating in "Spring Cleaning, the Natural Way" at the Activities Center. The workshop, taught by local soapmaker Claire Grasse, was sponsored by the Harker Heights Public Library and featured recipes for making grease cutter, bath and tile cleaner, antibacterial spray and laundry soap.

"I'm a pediatric home health nurse, and I want to do natural cleaning around my young patients," said Kincaid. "They have a lot of allergies and asthma, and this is better for them. Also, I have cats at home, and they walk on the floor and clean themselves afterwards. I don't want them licking dangerous chemicals off their paws."

Grasse has taught several other workshops at the library, where participants made solid lotion bars, lip balms, body soap and salt and sugar scrubs. Grasse, who owned a skin care wholesale and retail shop called Ivy and Grace for several years, is a 911 dispatcher for the Bell County Communications Center and writes mysteries about a soapmaker.

At the Saturday workshop, Grasse placed buckets with empty spray bottles and containers on a table in the facility's kitchen, then lined up large boxes of baking soda, Borax and washing soda. Nearby, homemade liquid hand soap warmed in a stoneware pot, and bottles of lemongrass, grapefruit, lavender and peppermint essential oils lined a counter.

"When it comes to natural cleaning products, a lot of people take a bottle that has baking soda and vinegar in it and add essential oils like lavender to make it smell good," said Grasse, handing out recipes. "That's not what we're doing here. I did some research and found a lot of ingredients that are really good to use in cleaning."

As participants began adding grapefruit seed extract to their spray bottles and plastic containers, Grasse touted the benefits of the ingredient, which is sold in health food stores and online. Made from the seeds and pulp of certified organically grown grapefruit, the liquid is potent and kills staph, strep, salmonella, influenza, parasite and other infections.

Each woman placed a bar of Ivory soap in a food processor to produce shavings for laundry soap. Grasse said that because Texas water is so hard, she dissolves the mix of Ivory soap, Borax and washing soda in two gallons of hot water and lets it sit overnight before using it. That way, it becomes a gel, or what her family calls "laundry snot."

As the group worked, some members traded tips about removing cat urine from furniture and getting dishes spotlessly clean in a dishwasher. Other members focused their attention on heating water, measuring slimy liquid hand soap and thickening their bath and tile cleaner with baking soda so it could easily be scrubbed.

Yen Vazquez of Harker Heights said she attended the class because she can't stand the harsh product her husband uses every day to clean their home. Vazquez said she was looking for a natural product that would sanitize the house for her 15-month-old baby and leave a fresher, cleaner scent behind.

"I like things to be clean, but my husband loves bleach and uses lots of it," said Vazquez. "I want to find something else. This class is awesome and I love it. I want to learn to make these products on my own. It looks easy and it's cost-effective. And I want to know the ingredients of what I'm using at home."

Grasse said the workshop was her first on natural cleaning products, and she hopes to do more in the future.

Grasse said the need for such products has grown, because over the last 20 years, many people have developed allergies they've never had before. It all has to do with the nation's chemical lifestyle, said Grasse.

"Also, we've really done a number on our environment over time, and using natural cleaning products is less harmful," she added. "Making them takes a little longer, but I think they're safer for people's health and the environment."

Contact Kim Steele at or (254) 501-7567.

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