You might not guess it, but I get a surprisingly large number of questions about how to clean up DIY messes. Beeswax, shea butter, clays, and other assorted powders can make some pretty mighty messes that outclass a kid’s pizza party pretty fast. Here’s how I deal with those DIY disaster zones.
I made a video on this topic, too!
Spatulas—The awesome, thin-edged silicone ones. Use these bad boys to scrape as much of your concoctions as humanly possible out of your pots, pans, and assorted mess vessels, and into your lip balm tubes and wee jars. Less mess, more product. Score! This is probably my favourite spatula—thin edged, super flexible, and useful for pretty much everything.
Boiling water—It is oh-so-helpful for un-solidifying your waxy, oily concoctions and washing them safely down the drain (just be sure we’re talking about smears and wee bits here, not giant clods—scrape those into the bin).
Cleaning powder—It dissolves greasy messes brilliantly when you put a spoonful into the bottom of your mess holder and top it off with boiling water.
Dish detergent—That industrial strength stuff has to be good for something, right? I’m extra-super in love with Axion, a mildly abrasive super-concentrated dish washing paste I discovered in Costa Rica.
Elbow grease–There’s nothing like a good scrubbin’, though you shouldn’t need to exert too much effort if you follow all the other tips 🙂
Paper towel—Give your prep cups and measuring cups a quick wipe with paper towel before washing them to speed things up even more; this is especially awesome if you’ve been making something highly pigmented and greasy, like lipstick! I went through a lot of paper towels while developing the recipes for my book.
What are your favourite clean up tips?
I was wondering what kind of diy laundry detergent you use, if any? I have done the headache eraser and love it! Umm, I’ve done a couple of the lip balm with my girls. Thank you for you site and all the time you put into it!
Hi Dira! I actually haven’t tackled laundry detergent yet—probably because I don’t have a family to do laundry for 😉
Thanks so much for reading & DIYing with me!
Hot water and soda crystals, soak for a few minutes – all off
Soda crystals are amazing! They’re a primary ingredient in my cleaning powder—no wonder it works so well 🙂
Great minds think alike, I have a post with the same title schedule to post on Monday.
Neat! Looks like you’re a fan of the paper towel method, too 😉
Elbow grease and hot water. I make hot processed soaps so clean up of my immersible blender and crockpot or pans are always a snap. But for body butters, lip balms, other balms, salves, and polish, plenty of hot water, strong soap or dish soap, and elbow grease. 🙂
Sounds about right! I’ve become much better at washing up since DIYing 😉
About the only reason I keep paper towels in my kitchen is for cleaning up waxy messes. While the product is still soft in it’s mixing vessel I wipe out as much as I possibly can with a paper towel and clean the tiny smears that are left with hot water and dishwash. It may seem easy to just add hot water to a messy container and pour it down the sink but it will eventually result in a waxy build somewhere inconvenient in your plumbing. If I have a liquid mess containing wax I line a sieve with paper towels and pour through that to catch all the residue.
I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t use paper towels as part of my DIY clean-up 😛 With my spatula I get my pots and pans as clean as they’d be from a paper towel wipe-down, so I’m not worried about my plumbing—things just feel a bit greasy, they don’t have big chunks of wax and oils sitting in them.
Hi Marie! Thanks for the tip on the skinny spatula. I just ordered something similar from Williams- Sonoma. (also, Julia stole my thunder on the paper towel as balm cleanup tool- so much easier)
Let me know how you like that spatula! I’m considering ordering a back-up… 😛
Very happy with it, Marie! Cheers, Jane
Boiling water and paper towels. I scrap as much residue as possible and i finish the rest with hot water. Then I wipe with a paper towel to catch the remaining wax/oil/butter. Very easy and quick.
When I finish blending soap, I put the immersion blender in a bowl full of hot water straight away. Like this the soap does not solidify around the blade and the rest can easily be cleaned in the dishwasher along with the other utensils. After soap making all my pans are nice and shiny.
Great tips! And don’t you just love how clean pans are after soaping? Raw soap picks up stains you didn’t even know were stains! I might try a touch of it on a pot I just picked up at the op-shop 😛
Yes, I love it! The best results are in the pan used to make the lye solution.
Soap making is like a beauty treatment for my pans 😉
If only I had something so effective for me after a camping trip 😉
Thanks so much for this post! I am a beekeeper and sometime maker of creams and balms to give away when honey supplies are low. As you might imagine between melting beeswax, harvesting honey, and making lotions and what not there are a lot of messes! Hard to clean ones. This is prefect. Love everything you do!
Happy to help!
you know what is better than boiling water to remelt something you want to wipe out? an oven! put it on it’s lowest heat (170 fahrenheit usually) and put the glass measuring cup/whatever right in the oven. soon the product is melted and you can paper towel it all away without putting anything solid down the drain. BAM. clean.
Just to pile on about de-waxifying, I recently took on a grungy paraffin bath/heater and was bereft to find that standard measures did not suffice to get it tolerably clean, especially the exterior. But it came to me in the night (ok, not really)- the hairdryer I no longer need because I just had all my hair cut off! I heated small sections and then scrubbed with paper towels. It was a tiny miracle.
Great tip, thank you! 😀
Been reading up on clea ing soaping equipment and came upon Down to earths blog on using vinegar to neutralize lye (she also has a good liquid soap tutorial there too) and a cleaning regimen for the multi-function (other than soaping) stick blender bowls, etc.
Ive always been wary of buying “single function” items and even though many people insists its cheap to just buy a dedicated soaping set, I cant help but feel guilty as i only soap for gifts and not that often either.
Ive seen you recommend getting a dedicated set too but have you any thoughts on the alternative?
Hi Drei! In the time since I wrote the post on buying duplicates I’ve definitely chilled out quite a lot on that front. The only thing I have that I don’t use for both food and DIY is a coffee grinder. I use it for grinding up mineral makeup, and every wee cranny of it is irreversibly crammed with tiny bits of powder I don’t want in my coffee. Beyond that, I’ll double-use anything. A quick trip through the dishwasher will do the trick, though I’ll just hand wash most things without worrying about it. No need to really fuss that much about it and ensure things are “neutralized” or whatever. Just make sure they’re clean.
For hard solids that seem glued to the countertops (hard butters and waxes) I use a straight razor blade. You can get them at any hardware store- they are marketed for scraping paint off windows- and they really work a treat! Perfect for solid surface countertops and glass top stoves, but I wouldn’t recommend this method for other surfaces such as Formica as it could scratch the material.
Just scrape up the mess and whisk it into the bin or back into the original container for reuse!
Great idea, Stephanie—this would be fantastic for lip balm spills (of which I have many haha).
Hi,Marie! Love your blog and personality! 🙂 I have a question about sterilizing tools before new projects.How do you do it? Thanks!
Hey Elina! I usually run everything through my dishwasher—it gets really hot (steaming) for 90+ minutes. You could also give everything a rinse in a 5% bleach solution and leave it to air dry 🙂
My little tip: Once jars and utensils are mostly clean from wax & oils, I spritz some Rubbing Alcohol on them and then wipe them with a paper towel to further clean them and really remove the oils. Then, into the dishwasher they go, if they are going there. Rubbing Alcohol also works great for wiping down just poured lip balm tubes or tins so the labels stick better and to sanitize utensils before using. I just keep a spray bottle filled with Rubbing Alcohol in with my DIY supplies. It’s inexpensive & works great. Thank you for all your recipes & tips Marie!
Great tip, thanks Michelle! Do you usually go for the 70% or the 99% stuff?
I like to rub out my oily/waxy dishes right after I’m done using them so wax/oil doesn’t harden on
Good call! Prompt clean up always helps with messes like these, once they set you’ll usually want to reheat the mess to make it easier to clean up. Thanks for reading!
Every time I make products with beeswax, I only use hot water and kitchen paper towel to clean up my containers. Also, I make sure to cover my entire work area with newspaper just in case I’ll accidentally spill some beeswax on my kitchen counter.
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
In my DIY projects, I’m finding the following is working best: 1) 70% rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or sponge. This cuts right through the oils/wax. Also great for cleaning lip gloss containers after filling. 2) Clorox wipes…these cut through everything. Love them. 3) Hot water and dish soap.
*Prompt cleaning or rinsing as you go really makes a different. I also sometimes put a warm pot of soapy water in the sink and toss items in it as I finish, this helps prevent solidification as I move through the process.
Thanks! You are so right about the warm cleaning—I’ve had to re-heat a lot of messes to clean ’em up!
Great tips! I may have to grab some of those wipes next time I’m at Costco… they’d likely come in handy for when Lottie excited-pees when people ring the doorbell, too. The joys of dog ownership, lol.
Hi Marie! All your videos (and especially your book) have been so helpful, although I must admit I’ve made more than a few mistakes. What do you do with all the the stuff that doesn’t work or is totally the wrong color? Throwing it all out seems like such a waste! 🙂
I throw it out. For a while I forced myself to use it, but I decided it’s still pretty wasteful to force myself to use something I hated (I once forced myself to use a massive batch of lotion that I hated the smell of, and I still gag a bit when I recall it LOL). In the end I usually don’t use those kept flops anyways; I’ll just let it waste space in a drawer or cupboard until it has gone rancid, and then I’ll throw it away. Just chalk it up to learning and bin it—and work in small batches when trying something new so it’s not so heartbreaking if you have to chuck something!
Just started with the homemaking DIY lotions and potions. That makes me feel like a scotch ha ha. Where can I find your book. Love your blogs and recipes.
One thing I do find difficult is sourcing products here in the UK. You mention something new and then I can’t get it here, so disappointing.
Look forward to your next post.
Thanks, Karen! It is frustrating that ingredient availability for this hobby is far from global; I had to order the ingredients for my Formula Botanica hair care course from Germany and have them shipped to the UK when I was there last year! You can get things I can’t and vice versa. Hopefully as this hobby grows in popularity access to ingredients will improve! Happy making 🙂
Do you have an easy formulation for a thick rich face cream using olive oil/avocado oil for beginners please… formulation in grams would be appreciated.
Thank you in advance