Today I wanted to share some quick tips & tricks to improve your DIY’ing lab/making space. These are things I’ve picked up and figured out over 10+ years and five different homes. No matter what your making situation is—whether you work from your kitchen or have a dedicated making space—I think these tips can help improve your formulating life!

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Get a mid-sized plastic tub

Before I had a dedicated formulating room I stored my ingredients in the basement and formulated in the kitchen on the main floor (this was four moves ago). I used a big-ish plastic tub to carry ingredients up and down the stairs to reduce the number of trips + the chance of dropping things.

Now that I have a formulating room/lab/studio space I use a plastic tub for my dishes. I place dirty beakers, spatulas, spoons, and prep cups in the tub, and when it’s full (or when I run out of something!) I carry the whole thing to the kitchen to do the dishes. Once everything is clean (including the tub!), I use it to carry everything back to my studio.

Made a mess? How to Clean Up Your DIY Messes

My dishwashing tub, clearly ready to be washed up!

Power bar + zip ties

If you work from a table (rather than a counter/bench against a wall), zip-tie a power bar to the leg or a cross beam of the table. This will reduce the number of cords snaking across your floor (reducing tripping hazards!) and gives you plenty of room to plug in scales, blenders, grinders, and more. You can also conveniently cut power to everything with the flip of a switch. Handy dandy!

A new use for CD towers

For easy access and quite visual inventory, I like to store my glass ware (beakers, prep cups, watch glasses, etc.) and camera gear in some second-hand IKEA CD towers. You can often get these really cheap as nobody really has CDs anymore (when I moved the young men with the moving company thought these were very odd bookshelves!). Make sure you get the type with moveable shelves so you aren’t confined to the dimensions of a CD case.

Reduce waste with better caps

Which ingredients do you find yourself constantly grabbing a new pipette to measure out? Swap out the solid, default cap on those ingredient bottles for a turret cap or some other type of lid that’ll let you dispense the ingredient more easily. I’ve done this with ingredient slike preservatives, glycerin, vitamin E, and distilled water—and it improves my formulating life SO MUCH.

Suppliers often sell the bottles they package their ingredients in, so see if you can order some extra—better—caps from them when you place your order. If you’re not sure what sort of bottles they use to package their ingredients, see if you can find an ‘unboxing’ video featuring their products on YouTube.

You can also just fully re-package ingredients into something better if needed, but I love how swapping the cap can make a big difference with very little waste.

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Open up new storage possibilities with round sticky labels

I think the best way to store essential oils and fragrance oil is in a drawer (rather than a cupboard), which allows for a great top-down view of your collection… as long as you can see what you have rather than a see of black caps. Grab some wee round sticky labels and label the tops of your bottles so you can store them in a drawer. Bonus points for colour-coding things for different types of scents, or essential oils vs. fragrance oils!

Work with the rainbow

I store all my micas, pigments, and other colourants in a set of drawers. Rather than sorting by the type of ingredient (mica, oxide, dye, etc.), I sort by colour! One drawer is red/pink, the next is yellow/orange/brown, the next is green/blue/purple, and the last drawer is black/white/grey. Pretty and functional!

Random spoon love

I love spoons, and I like to think my random second-hand spoon collection lives its best life in my studio. I have spoons of all different sizes and shapes—small and pointy, large and oblong, short and stubby—in my studio. Some are best for measuring tiny amounts of powders, others shine for scooping out powdery surfactants and creamy butters, and some just make really cute photo props.

Every time I’m at a rummage sale I’ll check out the spoon section and leave with a few more for a dollar or two 😄

Colour coded spatulas

To help you keep track of different phases and batches, I highly recommend spatulas in a variety of colours. If you can’t get different coloured spatula blades easily, add some variety to the handles with electrical or gaffers tape.

NorPro sells their spatulas in blue and red, and the ones with wooden handles have white blades—learn more here. The green, grey, and pale blue ones I have were sold by a Canadian shop called Kitchen Stuff Plus ~2013 and were discontinued years ago 🙁

Double bag + spoon

I’m all about reducing dishes. To reduce the number of spoons I wash, I’ve stared double-bagging some powdered ingredients and keeping a small spoon in that outer bag. That spoon is only used to dispense that ingredient. This reduces potential ingredient spills from bag failures, too!

Mini ingredients, mini drawers

I’ve picked up some great sets of moveable plastic mini-drawers at thrift shops and they’re brilliant for storing small ingredients that come in baggies. This is where you’ll find ingredients like gums, powdered vitamins, gelling ingredients, powdered actives, and anything else that’s a bagged powder, really. My current three drawer setup is divided into synthetic gelling ingredients, gums & other natural water-soluble thickeners, and powdered actives like panthenol (vitamin B5) and allantoin.

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What are some of your favourite lab-enhancing tips & tricks?