Friday, September 14, 2012

Mystical Magical Dr Bronner's Soap

One of the first earth mama products I tried was Dr Bronner's liquid Castile soap. Described by Dr Bronner's and his peeps as "magical", these soaps boast 18 different uses. Considering can you buy this stuff by the quart for about $17 and it's super-concentrated, it's not a bad deal for an Eco-friendly product.  Most of my interest stemmed from a desire to use this as a basic hand soap in my home. Long ago, we'd stopped using antibacterial soaps in our home but I wanted a greener option overall. So I figured any additional uses for this product beyond hand soap were gravy.  I excitedly picked up a couple bottles at my local Target to try.

I had read a bit about the Dr Bronner's Castile soap and knew that it needs to be diluted for most purposes since it is so concentrated. For hand soap, I had read to dilute it with about 4 parts water for each part of soap. This creates a really thin liquid which would be tough to use with a traditional dispenser so I picked up some cheap foam soaps so I would have their dispensers. (Technically, you can just buy the dispensers as well but I wasn't able to find any that weren't outrageously priced.) We have been using the Dr Bronner's soap I our house for about five months and, overall, I'm very pleased! I have begun diluting the soap a bit more than I was in the beginning but we have a water softener so soap goes a long way at our house. Also, the Dr Bronner's can be drying to skin so I try to use the minimal amount to get the job done. Overall, this is a great use for this green product and I have no doubts that we save money by using it. Plus, it is a toxin-free soap, which I love. (No icky triclosan or sodium lauryl sulfate here!) There are a variety of scents you can buy, including lavender, peppermint and almond and there is an unscented version as well.

Another use I'd read about was using the Dr Bronner's as a toothpaste. Since I've already ventured into natural toothpastes, I figured why not try this too? I put a little of our peppermint soap on my toothbrush and began to brush. It started out lovely and minty. healthy!! Go earth mama! Then, it suddenly wasn't lovely at all as it began to taste like...tar, maybe? Whatever the nasty taste was, I couldn't get past it. I never used it to brush my teeth again as it took a couple hours to get the putrid taste out if my mouth (even after using evil, chemical-laden Colgate).

Lots of people also love this soap for shampoo and body wash. I may try it as body wash at some point but I really love my (non-hippie) shampoo.  All in all, these are great products that are very economical as well. Dr. Bronner's is definitely here to stay at my house.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fabric Softener, Who Needs It?

Growing up and into early adulthood, I thought fabric softener was a necessity. I mean, if I didn't use it, I would surely have crunchy, staticky clothes, right? And it smells so yummy! I had heard of using vinegar as a softener but I hate the smell of vinegar so I certainly didn't want my clothes smelling like it. Well, fast forward to when I was pregnant and researching cloth diapers. Fabric softener is a huge no-no as it keeps the diapers from absorbing properly. Diapers that don't absorb = no bueno. So,  I just wouldn't use softener on my diapers, right? Many things I read recommended not using it at all as it can (supposedly) leave residues which will create problems for diapers even if you just use it on your regular laundry. *sigh* During this time, I also read of numerous other reasons to not use softener, including the following:

  • They contain chemicals which are linked to a variety of health issues including neurological disruption, lung irritation, allergies and even cancer. Those wonderful scents I mentioned earlier singlehandedly cause lots of issues for people with allergies and asthma.
  • The liquid softeners are known to make clothing more flammable. The manufacturers even warn against using them on children's pajamas for this very reason.
  • It makes your towels repel just like diapers and really should never be used on them. This makes sense, I just never really thought about it.
  • It just isn't necessary. HUH?? Of course it is, right? Many sources mentioned getting dryer balls to increase dry time and decrease static but they aren't even necessary.

So, I decided to try to eliminate fabric softener from our routine. Guess what, I don't miss it at all! Apart from the strong smell (which really bothers me now), I don't think it ever did anything for my clothes. I have also tried using vinegar in the softener dispenser on my machine (more on why in another post) and it works wonderfully! There is no vinegar smell at all afterward, I promise! Static is a non-issue too, so long as I don't overdry the clothes.

I also purchased some wool dryer balls. These help a bit with static (again, I only have issues with it when I overdry clothes). And they definitely help things to dry faster. But they're noisy and our laundry area is next to A's room so I don't use them too often. You can also buy dryer balls which are scented with natural oils if you really wanted clothes and linens that smell yummy.

I am thrilled with this little accidental discovery as it is one less thing we have to buy or store. And I am excited to have eliminated a few more chemicals from our home. We have been softener-free for about 18 months and I really don't miss it. I just kick myself for buying it for so long! You should try leaving it out for several loads of laundry as well and see what you think.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DIY Laundry Soap

In my quest to save money, I recently tried making my own laundry soap. There are many different "recipes" out there for powders and liquids, but many require that a large batch is made and stored. Storing a large bucket of detergent is less-than-appealing to me, even though we go through some serious detergent in our house (the poor washer is always running!). I have read lots of divided opinions on the liquid detergents, too, so I thought I'd start with the basic powder.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this simple recipe and tried it:

1/2 a bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated
1 C washing soda
1 C Borax

All of these "ingredients" can be picked up at your local hardware store but they are also available at many grocery and discount stores. These items are all pretty old-school. I also picked up a cheap cheese grater from the dollar store and grated half the bar of Fels Naptha. To be fair, this took a little time and elbow grease. I grated it into a clean cottage cheese container and added the washing soda and Borax. Then I stirred it up. Easy-peasy! I keep a tablespoon in it and use one tablespoon for each regular load of laundry; I use an extra half tablespoon for really big loads. For kid clothes, I also add a quarter scoop of Oxyclean as my kid's clothes seem to always be covered in food and grime.

So far, I've been pretty pleased. It seems to do really well on Rick's greasy work clothes and most stains come out of A's toddler attire. I haven't been brave enough to try it on diapers and probably won't (I have something that works well for them and that's worth every penny to me). Still, this little concoction has worked better than I ever expected. I think it even works better than our old standby, All Free & Clear.

All of the ingredients are cheap and have various other household uses, so you really have nothing to lose by trying to make the detergent. Fels Naptha bars cost around $4. They work well for removing stains (just rub the bar on the stain - much cheaper than Shout :-) ). Borax costs around $4-5 for a small box. It works well as a laundry booster as it softens water and boosts your other detergents' cleaning power. It also works as a natural insecticide. Please note that it is toxic if directly ingested by humans or pets, though. It works well in crawlspaces, sprinkled around your foundation or anywhere inside your home where kids or pets won't eat it. I recently mixed a little in with sugar water to combat an ant problem we were having. Voila - no more ants! I have long been a fan of Borax, if you couldn't tell. Finally, washing soda costs around $5 for a small box. It is the base for many laundry detergents but can also be used around the house for general cleaning. It works well for degreasing your range or oven or it's pieces. If you want to be extra frugal, you can make your own washing soda from baking soda per the Penniless Parenting blog's instructions here. I haven't ever made my own washing soda beacusse it isn't that much of a staple in my house but baking soda is cheap, so this is handy knowledge if you love the stuff. Many people also make their own dishwasher detergent and use washing soda as a base but I have not tried this,

Based on my use, the homemade detergent costs approximately $0.08 per load. Each batch of the recipe above washes around 45 regular loads of clothes. I have always bought All Free & Clear? It is not an expensive detergent but the cheapest I can usually find it is for $11.99 for the 110-load bottle and that is on sale. Occasionally, I am also able to find coupons for $1.00 off but I can't always find them. At $11, the 110-load bottle costs $0.10 per load. Two cents per load isn't much but it's all savings. Considering we wash about 5 loads of laundry a week (excluding diapers), that adds up to more than 250 loads a year. That much laundry means $5 a year. And really, it's even more when you consider that you can't always find coupons or buy detergent on sale. Each little bit counts. Give this a try today - you have nothing to lose!