The Formula Book

Formula Book coverThe Formula Book

Submitter: The cover proclaims the instructions for personal care and household products are easy and safe to make. You will also save money. Looking closer, there is a safety warning on the verso. The termite proofing product has you mixing mothball crystals with denatured alcohol, but watch out for noxious fumes. Then there is the waterless hand soap with powdered asbestos and the flammable hair fixative. Some of the recipes are likely useful and may save you money or not. I did a quick google search for some of the chemicals. You can still buy some of them from chemical supply companies, but they are not necessarily affordable and may draw the attention of Homeland Security. The library has owned this book since 1978. It has circulated some but the last circulations were 1995 and 2012. The potential safety concerns and dated information makes this a weeder. If people are curious, there are about 780 owning libraries and lots of used copies on Amazon.

Holly: DIY household products is a popular topic in my library, but it is an area where an update is necessary. People who are interested in that kind of thing are often looking for chemical-free options. I make my own tub/shower cleaner, floor cleaner, and shampoo, but I only use ingredients like coconut oil, vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and that kind of thing. Probably no harm in weeding this one, especially if it hasn’t gone out in six years (and who knows if the patron was disappointed or got what they wanted out of it anyway?).

Around the house

Hair care

Hair Set Spray and Conditioning Cream

sources of chemicals



  1. I own this book! In the original, very much less professionally produced, version. The only recipe I can remember actually trying was a simple baking-soda-based mixture for keeping drains clear.

    Chemical availability has been tightened up a lot since 1975, besides the fact that a lot of the formulas in this book are potentially dangerous. I’d advise weeding it purely on the grounds of avoiding potential lawsuits.

  2. I like how the author says “slightly toxic” and “highly flammable” for the warnings on some of the ingredients.

  3. I’m curious to know what they used asphalt (presumably asphalt binder) for! Antimony chloride sounds like they are making an inheritance power and I’m curious if you can still get activated charcoal at a drug store.

  4. Holly, please, please, please change “chemical-free” to “without harmful chemicals.” Everything is made of chemicals. The only chemical-free thing is a vacuum.

    1. And ends with “rub it thoroughly, rinsing with clear water.”

      Honestly! Start and end with water, where’s the “waterless”!?

  5. “Powdered asbestos”, oh dear.
    Anything with lead in it, too? “Mix your own no-knock gasoline with tetra-ethyl-lead.”
    or “Refill your spray cans with CFCs”?
    “Agent Orange, great for weeding your back yard.”

    So this was before you could just look up material safety data sheets on the internet, so i guess this is at least ¾ information on the chemicals and general safety and handling advice, right? Right????

    1. The components of Agent Orange were commercially available from Dow Chemical for some time and may still be, for all I know. Check out the new public domain “Death to Weeds” industrial film on the Internet Archive for the civilian details.
      Any my grand mother’s fire extinguishers doubled as cold-weather starting aids for cars.

  6. If I bought the materials to buy all these ingredients, plus drove around to by the chemicals, I’m pretty sure it would cost more than just buying the products. Plus I could end up blowing up or burning down the house.

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