For the past (almost) four years I've been using a homemade powdered laundry detergent. I started using it because we went with cloth diapers for my little bird and then with our second stinkerbelle, too. Since I was using it for the diapers, I just started using it for everything. It was a blend of Superwashing Soda, Oxiclean and Borax. It worked well for us in Minnesota.
Lately I've been feeling like things aren't quite so clean. Whites aren't quite so white. Maybe it's the water here in Colorado. Perhaps I should blame the machine that came with the house. But, because of it, I've started looking into alternatives to wash our clothes. No one is in cloth diapers anymore, but we still need to wash our stuff, and I don't want to be buying commercial detergents when I don't have to.
Why? Many, because of their chemical ingredients, function as endocrine disruptors, which means that they act as synthetic estrogens, which can increase the amount of estrogen-like activity in the human body. I tend to think my hormones don't need any help at the moment! Many also have warning labels to indicate you should avoid direct skin contact. That's because they contain surfactants. Surfactants are the main agents that strip away oils, which is great if your child got some ketchup on their shirt, but they can seriously irritate the skin and aggravate skin issues. And, like so many other allergies, laundry detergent allergies are on the rise. Use too much and it doesn't rinse completely out of your clothes, which means you're just putting the chemicals directly in contact with your skin!
Another good reason to avoid commercial detergents is environmental. After our washing is done, the water goes down the drain. So, the detergents run into the water supply and have been shown to interfere with aquatic life. This stuff is not natural and many plants and animals cannot process the chemicals they contain, such as sodium triphosphate and trisodium phosphate. (source)
Many also contain "fragrance" which, according the Environmental Working Group, "The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system."
And, of course, the pods. If you have kids, please rethink pods or at least make sure they are completely out of reach. According to a recent study, children ingest pods at a higher rate than powdered detergents, and some of the health complaints (digestive distress, breathing difficulties, and lesions) result in ER visits. (source)
I'd like to avoid that at all costs please!
So, what's the deal with borax? Well, it's not only in cleaning products, but it can also be found in slimy toys and some nutritional supplements, which is CRAZY to me! It's got some potentially serious side-effects that are easy to avoid, such as:
And, since there are other alternatives, I thought I had best ditch the borax and go on the search for something safer. Enter HolFit. I stumbled onto Ange Peters' blog after being invited to check out her Periscopes. If you're not following her and you're into holistic living, go check her out! She had a recipe for a liquid DIY detergent that did not contain borax, so I gave it a try. The verdict? Six thumbs up! Well, maybe more like four thumbs and 2 fingers.
Her recipe calls for 1 cup liquid castille soap, 1 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup coarse salt, 7 liters of hot water and 20 drops of essential oil. Yes, liters. She's from Canada ;)
So, here's my adapted recipe, for a US, cup/gallon-centric population! I didn't want to make a ton of it at once, since I tend to vary the essential oils I use. So my adaptation is as follows:
1/4 cup liquid castille soap
1/4 baking soda
1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 tsp coarse salt
8 cups hot water
8-10 drops essential oil
Combine all ingredients into a glass container. I bought mine from Ikea. Whisk to dissolve. That's it! When you wash, you will need about 1/4 cup for a small load, 1/3 for a medium and 1/2 for a large load. I keep measuring cups in the laundry room to make life easier.
Now, don't be scared, but if the first time you make this detergent, it will look like this.
Then, when you're ready to do laundry again, it will look like this.
Yes, it separates. But, that's an easy problem to solve. Just give it a good shake! Not only is it a good detergent, it's also much more cost effective. It's about $1.54 for 15 loads, or $.10 per load. In comparison, Tide Free and Clear is about $.62 per scoop. (source). So really, why wouldn't you use it?
I like to use a Protective Blend of essential oils in my detergent, especially when sickness is running rampant. Other oils I like are citrus-based, like the Cleansing Blend or Melaleuca and a citrus. If you are interested in the oils I use, please contact me here!
So, what are you washing your clothes with? Try this out and let us know what you think!
Back in November I had posted about DIY dryer balls and dryer sheets. I also shared why they were a great replacements for toxic commercial dryer sheets. I've been loving my dryer balls and the sheets. I tend to use them together because the vinegar is supposed to be a natural static killer.
But Colorado is really, really, really dry
I mean really! My brother came to visit over the holidays and went through enormous amount of water in the humidifier because he felt like he couldn't breathe. Crazy. It's nice in that my hair stays pretty darn straight majority of the time. It sucks because my skin is super dry
and I get shocks every time I go to turn on a light
and my clothes stick together when I take them out of the dryer
So here is my random quick tip. Himalayan rock salt.
Salt you say? Yes, salt. I looked into static cling and found that “Static cling is when light objects, such as clothing, have opposite static charges. Our clothes have static cling because they were touching in a dry environment (the dryer) and they exchanged electrons. The object that lost electrons became positively charged while the object that gained electrons became negatively charged. And opposites, as we all know, attract.” (source)
So, if we can eliminate that "opposites attracting" phenomenon, we shouldn't have static. Perhaps the combination of the Himalayan Salt with the moisture of the damp clothes does just that.
The best way to add salt to your dryer? A small, 100% cotton, drawstring bag. Place a few tablespoons inside, then draw the stings and knot. You'll probably have to play around a bit with the amount of salt you need.
Is it only Himalayan rock salt that has this effect? I'm not totally sure. It's worth experimenting to find out. I only know that it works :) But, I think any rock salt may have this same effect, even epsom salts, which are much less expensive.
I love me a soft, warm towel. Smells good, feels good. I just want to wrap up in them and do a little happy dance. I feel that way with any warm, soft fabric thing I pull out of the dryer really. I'm not biased towards towels.
I am biased against chemicals.
On my green cleaning journey I'm learning...a lot. And today I learned all about dryer sheets and fabric softeners. They make our towels, sheets, and other clothing feel so nice and smell so yummy, but really, they aren't very good for us. And, there are better options!
According to branchbasics.com, "of the 3-10 gallons of toxic household cleaning products in a home, the chemicals in dryer sheets and fabric softeners are considered to be among the most toxic. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are made up of harmful chemicals combined with a hefty dose of fragrance". As you might have read in my previous post about using the Skin Deep app, fragrance is a big concern in cosmetic products. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are no exception.
Those fragrance chemicals are difficult to remove because they cling to fabric so the signature scent stays in the clothing. "Those lingering chemical residues in the clothes enter the body through the skin, which is tantamount to eating them! Many of these are solvents that directly affect the nervous system and endocrine system and can contribute to the development of chronic illness. Since the term “fragrance” on a label is so very vague, the body is provided a cocktail of poison 24 hours a day, 7 days a week". Unfortunately, most people are unaware of this issue and don't realize the impact it makes on their health. So many scents, not just in dryer sheets and fabric softeners, but cosmetics, too, have dulled our sense of smell as a warning mechanism. Sometimes, even our ability to perceive a specific fragrance can be lost. Sometimes we actually get a high and crave the smell of the clothing. Weird, huh?
So what can make clothes or towels soft without chemicals? Friction. If you've ever hung things out on the line to dry, especially cloth diapers, then you know sometimes they can become stiff. I found that taking two cloth diapers and rubbing them together completely solved that problem. Why? It disturbs the fibers in the fabric and loosens them up, making them feel soft. You can do that two ways without dryer sheets, fabric softeners, or feeling up all your clothes!
For those of you like-minded individuals who like to DIY a whole big bunch, let me introduce you to two marvelous ideas.
First up, felted dryer balls.
These are super easy to make, and to scent with something that is NOT harmful to you in anyway. Since they bounce around your dryer, they beat up your fabrics gently, loosening the fibers and helping them feel soft.
What you need:
100% wool yarn
Your favorite essential oils or blends
What you do:
1. Take your yarn and wrap it around your middle and indezxfinger a few times. Then take it off and wrap around the middle a few times. Keep wrapping, making a ball, until you've got close to a tennis ball size. Then cut your yarn and tuck the end inside. You should probably be able to make a few balls from one skein of yarn.
2. Cut the leg off of your panty hose and tuck the first ball into the bottom, then tie a knot above it. Repeat this with the other balls so they are all secured. Then throw them in your washer with a load on the hottest setting. This will felt your wool yarn and keep your new dryer balls intact.
3. Add 2-3 drops of essential oils to your dryer balls and toss them in. The scent should last a few loads before you need to recharge.
Option number 2, homemade dryer sheets.
Also super easy to make, and again to scent with something that is NOT harmful to you in anyway. Since these contain vinegar, the small amount of acetic acid helps to get that soft feeling in your fabrics, and vinegar is a natural static reducer to boot!
What you need:
Sealable glass container
Fabric scraps (receiving blankets (look familiar Nealey ladies?), old t-shirts, any cotton fabric)
Your favorite essential oils or blends
What you do:
1. Cut some small squares of fabric. Use pinking shears to prevent fraying if you don't want to sew. If you do want to sew, zig zag the edges to prevent fraying. If you're not bothered because hey, they are just dryer sheets, then just cut them with any old scissors!
2. Mix up your fabric softening solution: white vinegar and essential oils. I would use 8-10 drops per 1/2 cup to mask the pickle smell, but you can add more or less to your liking. I am loving a cleansing blend in my laundry at the moment!
3. Place your squares in your container and pour the vinegar/essential mix on top. Seal and then shake to ensure the squares are nicely soaked.
4. When you're ready to dry a load of laundry, grab 4-5 squares for a large load, ring out the excess liquid and toss them in. Best part? When your clothes are dry, just place the dryer sheets back into your container to reuse! Refill with vinegar/essential oil solution as needed.
Interested in some of the science behind why NOT to use dryer sheets and fabric softeners? Check out:
The Brain Wash by Michelle Schoffro Cook. This looks to be an amazing book about preventing all kinds of diseases. Here's an excerpt
Also check out Branchbasics.com for the their full article and more great links!
Tried out one of these options? Let us know how it worked and what oils you liked best!
Boy, I feel like I'm at a Vikings game again. Or am underage.
Today is Monday and for me that means bathroom cleaning day. I've taken to following a cleaning schedule since we moved into the new house. It's worked out really well thus far. Each daily task only takes about 30 minutes or so. When I've got a little extra time, I try to check off one of the monthly or quarterly to-dos. I'll post about that at some point, but for now, Skol!
I've been slowly but surely getting rid of all purchase, chemical cleaners in our house and switching over to DIY organic cleaners. With the girls I just didn't want things around that they could accidently swallow or were just really not good for our bodies. With news about kids eating laundry pods because they looked like candy, I wanted to take a totally different approach and feel like I'd made our home a little more kiddo friendly. Also, when cleaners are classified by OSHA as "hazardous" causing skin corrosion or irritation and serious eye damage/eye irritation, well I want to think that there are better, non-corrosive, non-irritation options.
Now, a quick note. Do cleaners come with instructions for safe use? Of course they do. Do any major companies expect you to go squirting a bathroom cleaner in your eye? Nope. Do we keep our cleaners up high and away from the kids? You bet. Yet, according to the CDC,
"every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. It’s not just chemicals in your home marked with clear warning labels that can be dangerous to children. Chemicals in and around the home can poison people or pets and can cause long-term health effects. Every 13 seconds, a poison control center in the United States answers a call about a possible poisoning. More than 90% of these exposures occur in the home".
So, that's a little scary to think about, huh? The Environmental Working Group is a fantastic resource for finding out more about your current cleaning products and safer alternatives. They rate and review most over-the-counter brands and products. Their website states that "products with artificial fragrances can trigger allergies, and products can contain low levels of formaldehyde (a carcinogen) without disclosure, among others, which can lead to birth defects in pregnant women using the cleaners". Who needs that?!?!
Okay, enough soap box. The point is, I decided to do my best to go green and organic and get rid of the chemicals as much as possible in the house. So, here we are, back at bathroom cleaning day and in need of cheap vodka.
See, vodka is not just great for lemonade. The alcohol in vodka helps kill mildew, mold, germs and avert rusting.It also has antiseptic properties due to the alcohol. So basically, it disinfects, which is what we want to do in a bathroom when we clean, right? Apparently, it also aids in reducing stress and has anesthetic properties, but really, I think we all intuitively knew that...or learned it early on! For more interesting, fun vodka facts click here.
Today I present my favorite bathroom DIY cleaner recipes using vodka. I buy the cheap stuff (like Skol) because why waste good vodka on your shower?
When you clean with essential oils, and just use them in general, you'll want to purchase glass or stainless steel spray bottles. Some essential oils, especially citrus, can leach petrochemicals from plastic. Some great options are available on Amazon.
My big aha moment with cleaning? You gotta let it sit. This is important people! Even brand name cleaners need time to disinfect. You can't just spray it on and wipe it right off. I tend to spray down each bathroom, then go back to where I started to wipe everything down. I like using microfiber cloths (wash and reuse!), but paper towel works just as well.
1 part vodka
1 part white vinegar
1 1/2 parts distilled or boiled and cooled water
Essential oil if you like to scent it (10-20 drps)
** part can be 1/2 cup or cup depending on your container **
Daily shower spray
This I like because it makes me feel like the shower is clean all the time, and it smells great. Plus, it can keep soap scum from forming. Bonus! If you are a morning person, try using peppermint, grapefruit, or any citrus oil. It's a great wake up. Prefer a night time shower? Try something more grounding like Balance, cedar, or lavender.
1 part vodka
2 parts distilled or boiled and cooled water
Essential oil for scent (5-10 drops)
**There are lots of cheap vodkas out there, I just happened to choose Skol because it was the cheapest at my local liquor store and I buy the biggest bottle available :) **
Baking soda is one of your green cleaning best friends. It is such a versatile cleaner, can be paired with so much, takes on essential oils brilliantly, and is a mild abrasive, great for getting at the stubborn spots and stains. A great way to make it easy to use around your house is to make your own Everything Scrub. This is super simple folks!
First, find yourself a glass jar you've already got in the house, or get one like this with a easy shake top. You can also purchase the top inserts separately if you've already got the jar. I found mine at Target. Yes, it's meant to be a cutesy drink option, but it works so well for shaking out your baking soda!
Next, fill your jar to just below the lip so you know how much baking soda you need. Now it's time to power it up with essential oils!
There are great oils for cleaning based on their properties. A few are listed below. You can mix and match to find the scent you like. You can also purchase any of them here.
Lemon - antibacterial, antiviral
Melaleuca - antibacterial, antiviral
Rosemary - antibacterial, antiseptic
Lavender - antibacterial
Eucalyptus - germicide
Peppermint - antibacterial
Cinnamon - antibacterial, antiseptic
On Guard - antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral
I'm a citrus girls myself, so I tend to go for Lemon and Peppermint, but I like a few drops of Melaleuca for added cleaning power.
It's easiest, and less mess, to transfer the baking soda to a larger bowl to add your essential oils. This is because you're going to need to mix them in really well to break up the little bundles they form when you drop them in. I use a meat tenderizer, but any kitchen implement would work. Depending on the size of your jar, you may want to add between 10-20 drops of oils.
Break up the oils and mix them in as best you can. Then, transfer back to your jar. A funnel is really handy for this. If you're like me and you like pretty labels, go ahead and pretty up your jar! Washi tape works great, too!
Now, ready for the amazing power of baking soda powered by essential oils? Here's how you can use it.
1. Toilet cleaner: Sprinkle a bit in the toilet, squirt in some vinegar, let it fizz, then scrub away
2. Nightly sink scrub: Instead of vinegar, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid or castile soap. Scrub and rinse
3. Oven cleaner: Make a spreadable paste by mixing about 1/2 a cup baking soda to a few tablespoons of water. Coat your oven, after taking out the racks, and let it sit over night. Next day, wipe down with a damp cloth to get most of the paste off, spritz with vinegar, then do a final wipe
4. Glass cook top stove scrub: Prep some hot, soapy water, then wet a few rags, wring them out and lay them on top of the baking soda. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes, the wipe off what you can with the cloths. With a fresh damp cloth wipe every again, picking up any remaining baking soda or debris. For extra shine, give it a buff with a microfiber cloth.
5. Plugged toilet: Don't get out your plunger just yet. You know that baking soda and essential oil blend you made? Try that first. Sprinkle a generous amount in (about a cup) then add the same amount of vinegar. Let the fizzing do it's work and sit for a bit, then flush.
6. Carpet stain remover: Not a problem! Grab your baking and sprinkle to cover the stain. Add the vinegar and let the fizz lift to the stain. Wipe with a cloth, let it dry a bit, then vacuum.
7. Carpet refresher: Sprinkle on your carpets before vacuuming. Let it sit a few minutes to soak up odors, then vacuum away.
8. Mattress refresher: Sprinkle on the mattress before you put on your sheets. The next time you change sheets, brush off and vacuum up, or vacuum the mattress.
9. Garbage refresher: Sprinkle in the bottom of your can before you put in the bag to help with odors and bacteria
10. General deodorizer: just having this jar open under your sink, in your pantry, or in a cleaning caddy will help to deodorize and freshen the air!