Friday, September 28, 2012

Pintesting - Chemical-free cleaning - Dishwashing detergent (Part II)

Unhappy with the way my last attempt at home-made dish-washing detergent was going I decided to try another recipe.

Today's pin-test come from the info here via the this pin.

The biggest change between my last dish-washing detergent and the one I tried today is the addition of lemi-shine and kosher salt. Feeling a bit hopeless at this whole home-made cleaning supplies thing I made only as much as this recipe called for rather than a large batch like I previously had. I'm glad I did.

Today's results were again disheartening. Upon opening my dishwasher and hoping to be removing my sparkling clean dishes I was met with that same chalky residue. At this point this particular load of dishes had gone through at least three times. I ran it once more, on heavy duty, with just water.

Residue. Frak.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pintesting - Chemical-free cleaning - Dishwashing detergent

I saw quite a few pins saying that a mixture of half borax and half washing soda would give you a good powdered dish washing detergent.

The first pass through the dishwasher left me really happy with the results but for whatever reason all subsequent uses of it left me with powdered residue on the dishes. Frak.

The use of white vinegar as mock Jet Dry in combination with the mixture didn't remedy the issue. Back to the drawing board I suppose.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Happens I Leave My Husband Alone With Our Daughter

I came home to see his laptop open on the bed playing Elmo's potty time movie and a large, glass bowl I use for blocking knitwear in the floor, and full of the last of the Cheerios.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dealing With Fleas The Chemical-Free Way

One of many unfortunate facts of life is that dogs. get. fleas. And this year my dog got them while we were at my in-laws farm. My daughters "house kitten" (a kitten that is hers but only lives at grandma's house) had fleas and the very moment my husband noticed them I knew our dog was doomed.

We became suspicious that she had fleas but had seen no immediate evidence so I tried two quick tests to find out if we did in fact have fleas.

1) A plate of syrup.
          Place a plate of syrup out in the floor over night. When you wake up - check it for fleas.
                          I think I may have even done this twice and not found any fleas.
2) Warm soapy water.
         The fleas are supposed to be attracted to the heat, jump into the soapy water, and die.
                          The article I read suggested that I place the dish of water under a lamp to keep it warm and enticing for the fleas. I used the lights for my light box. In the morning there were no fleas.

Eventually the fleas made their obvious appearance. The dog, thankfully, wasn't covered with them but seemed to have three or four that we could easily spot on her behind.

We tried the standard attack of using medication, but it didn't work (we tried three different applications). Months later we still had them. One night I sat eating carrots and hummus when I looked down to see a flea had jumped into my cold hummus and died. I was fed up.

Care 2 Make A Difference mentioned something I could try to fight the fleas.

Again, I turn to borax in my time of need. I put a very small amount into a measuring cup and sprinkled a bit on the areas my dog spends the majority of her time in the hope that the release of boric acid would kill any remaining fleas.

The Care 2 Make A Difference post doesn't say how long you should leave the borax on the carpet so after a super quick Google search I had my answer.

I could barely get the dog out of my way to put down the borax in the first place so it was no surprise that after it was down she went back to the area I was most worried about so I didn't bother using a broom to push the borax down into the carpet.

Because we have a toddler that likes to drop food on the carpet only to pick it back up and put it back in her mouth if you're not looking, I was nervous about letting the borax sit too long. We vacuumed it up after 17.5 hours.

We were left to play the wait-and-see game.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pintesting - Coconut Shampoo

After digging through our house for toxic chemicals I found myself without a chemical free, ecologically friendly shampoo.

Today's pin-test comes from the information found here that I obtained via this pin. I recommend you read the entire post before you begin mixing anything.

My biggest dilemma about following through on this pin with the ingredients I had was that Thai Kitchen's canned coconut milk is known to have BPA in the lining of the can.

How much good am I doing myself or the environment by making and using this shampoo? I decided that I would go ahead (this time) and try it out using what felt was a pretty questionable ingredient.

1 can of Thai Kitchen's coconut milk contains 5 serving sizes of 1/3 cup. This recipe calls for 1/4 cups of coconut milk. This all means that 1 can of Thai Kitchen's coconut milk contains 6.5 "servings" available for use in this recipe.

If you are planning to use the entire can the recipe would be:
2 C. Castile soap
11 Tsp. Castile soap
1 Can Coconut milk
3 1/3 C. Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil

I was interested in how I might like this shampoo if I used coconut oil in addition to the coconut milk but I still wanted to try the original. If you, like me, want to split this into two mixtures your recipe would be:
1 C. Castile soap
4 Tbsp. Castile soap
1/2 Can (or 3 1/4 C.) Coconut milk
1 C. Coconut Oil
10 Tbsp. Coconut Oil

You have my husband to thank for all of this math.

What I ended up doing:
1 Can coconut Milk
2 C Olive oil
3 C Castile soap

The result smelled like enough coconut that I didn't feel like I missed out by not using the coconut oil. The mixture was a bit more sloshy than I anticipated, so maybe I should have used that coconut oil anyway?
I finally used the shampoo a few days later. In the shower the shampoo no longer smelled as coconutty as it previously had and smelled much more like olive oil. I worried that the shampoo may have had a tad too much oil but in the end I think it all worked out just fine.

The mix was still a bit watery but nothing problematic and it bubbled up just fine.

Is this one worth a try? It sure is!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pintested - Chem-Free Cleaning - Bathroom Sink

My bathroom sink frequently looks . . .disgusting. With my parents coming I couldn't possibly let my mother see the sink like this.

Today's pin-test comes from the info from here via this pin.

My husband usually shaves his head over our sink and then leaves his hair there to clog it for a pretty indefinite amount of time.

DRAIN CLEANER: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into drain followed by 1 cup vinegar. Let it sit and fizz for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot or boiling water. May need to repeat or leave baking soda and vinegar in overnight.

I was hoping the foaming action from the drain cleaning would leave me with nothing left to scrub - but this was not the case. On to round 2.

SCOURING POWDER: Combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, and 1 cup kosher salt in a jar. Sprinkle on area to be cleaned, wipe with a sponge, and rinse.

With all of the cleaning I've been doing I've pretty much run out of baking soda so i used 1/4 cup of each ingredient instead of a full cup.

In fact, I figured while I was at it I may as well scrub the entire sink area.
The back of the sink had also gotten a bit grody.

I was pretty happy with the results.

Was it worth a try? It sure was and I definitely recommend it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Washing In My Own Laundry Soap

There's a chance my mother was even more excited about my first use of my home-made laundry soap than I was. In fact, right before she'd called I was already getting ready to wash some clothes.

When I first drained the detergent into the little cup that comes with the container it was that same watery consistency from when I first poured it in. I put a bit more in and started the washer. Still pretty nervous about the soap I stopped the washer about half-way through and poured some in from the other end (after a good shake.) Still a bit watery but nowhere near as clear or thin as it seemed before.

After I washed it you better bet this girl gave the laundry a sniff test before I went forward. I didn't smell a thing, no chemicals, no foul odor, not even wet clothes. Into the dryer they went while I started another load of laundry. For the second load of laundry I used vinegar as my fabric softener.

The consensus: I'm happy with yet another positive change being made in our household and say this one is worth a try for all of those who are interested.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pintesting - Chemical-free cleaning - The Toilet (Take II)

As I mentioned in my previous post, the bathroom closest to my bedroom is used with enough frequency that leaving it with borax in it all night isn't much of an option.

Today's pin-test comes from the info here via this pin.

The before

15 minutes later

After scrubbing

The consensus: I was better off letting borax sit all night in the toilet

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chemical-Free Cleaning - The Toilet

Our back toilet was in need of a cleaning and here I was without anymore of those toxic house-hold cleaners I grew up with and came to depend on. With my old pal bleach out of the picture I remembered seeing something on Pintrest about cleaning your toilet using borax. It was already nearly midnight and I didn't feel like digging through the 300+ pins on my green board so I just did a quick Google search.

Today's chemical-free cleaning test comes from the info here on Care 2 Make A Difference.

All you need to do is pour 1 cup of borax into your toilet before bed, wake up, and scrub away the yuck. Seems simple enough.

Knowing that my husband or I could not go all night without using the toilet closest to our bedroom it seemed the back toilet with all its yuck was a good candidate to go first.

Here is the toilet before I added the borax.

Once I added it (I even flicked the cup up towards the walls of the toilet where the water didn't reach) the water, not to my surprise, turned cloudy. Cloudy felt good. Cloudy, to me, meant that the borax was already dissolving and dispersing.

In the morning before scrubbing the toilet looked like this - a very slight change.

After scrubbing.

I say for those of you who are interested in cleaning your toilets this way - it's worth it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pinners Beware!

It's really easy to just somewhat mindlessly click and add pins and I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of people who say "pin now and read later" may be more likely to pin now and forget later.

We're all at least occasionally guilty on mindless pinning; unless of course your my husbands grandmother. When I tried to teach her to use Pintrest she was reading each pin on the opening page with such care I think she only read four or five pins (this included visiting the source websites.)

I say all of that to say this - take at least one minute longer before pinning to your boards with titles like "natural living", "chemical free", or "green." Some pins will have the basic ingredients for a recipe listed right there without your needing to visit a website and even more have pictures of the ingredients you can expect to use. While looking for chemical-free recipes I found a disturbing amount that included Suave shampoo or conditioner, Herbal Essences shampoo or conditioner, Dawn dish soap, and even on occasion ammonia!

If you're not sure why all of these ingredients (sans the ammonia) don't count as chemical-free I've looked up the ingredients of these products so I can show you a few of the most commonly used toxic chemicals you will find in these products.


Fragrance (Parfum), propylene glycol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, dmdm hydantoin

     According to LIVESTRONG:
              "All shampoos in the Suave lines include ammoninum lauryl sulfate, a surfactant that reduces surface tension in water so that it can lift dirt from your hair, and sound-alike ammonium laureth sulfate, another surfactant and a skin conditioner."

Herbal Essences

Fragrance (Parfum), PEGs, 


Fragrance, sodium laureth sulfate

Although the overall health rating for these may not be off the charts terrible, the fact that these items contain these chemicals is enough for me to feel that using them in your "home-made" products isn't the greenest choice possible and not very chemical-free.

Learning at least a few of the more hazardous chemicals will make checking labels simpler than you may think. I can tell you from my own personal experience that there you will learn where in the list of ingredients to find some of these offenders while others jump off the label and you spot them almost immediately.

Just remember that DIY isn't interchangeable with "green" or "eco-friendly."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pintesting - Chem-Free Cleaning - Laundry Detergent

The Christmas before my daughter was born my mother gave me a bottle of Dreft telling me that it was gold. Dreft, as it was explained to me was the laundry detergent I should be using to wash my little ones clothing. I was left with the impression that it was gentler and perhaps contained less of the harsh chemicals I was using on my husband and my own's clothing. Since that time I have been dutifully using Dreft to wash my little girls clothes.

But wait a minute! Why didn't I ever stop to think that if it wasn't so great for my little lamb to snuggle up in sheets washed in the same detergent I was using on my own, maybe the detergent I was using simply wasn't so great.

If you're using a chemical free laundry detergent there's should be no reason to have to do your childs' laundry in separate loads with and entirely different detergent. You're already saving money by only using one type of detergent rather than two.

Today's pin-test comes from the information I got here via this pin.

Grating Fel Naptha proved simpler than I expected. The soap is really soft so it grates quickly and easily. I was able to do it despite having a sprained wrist (on the side that would be holding the grater).

I opted to use empty containers from my husbands juice. He wasn't happy about this. Because the juices are so sweet he usually saves an old container and splits the juice equally between the containers and then adds water. When he realized there was really no talking me out of using his containers for a short while to make the new laundry detergent he told me what I already knew: to clean them very, very, very well because if I didn't and he mixed juice in a contaminated container he could get very, very, very sick. His faith in what I do and don't know is just amazing.

While I was constantly stirring the soap and water mixture there were more suds than I expected. I was pretty worried I'd already done it wrong. I soldiered on . . you know . . . for science (and because I can be a bit hard-headed and had nothing else to do anyway.)

The resulting pudding-like mixture left me feeling pretty satisfied and amused. I used a measuring cup to put the soap into the bottles. One cup in one bottle, One cup in the following, one cup in the last, one cup in the last, one cup in the center, and one cup in the first - then repeat until you run out of soap.

The tops of the bottles ended up getting a little messy.

I did my best to eyeball where the half-way point for the bottles was when I added the hot water.

Shaking up the mix was again, something that left me feeling more satisfied than I expected. It was a little bit fun.

Come morning I was hoping to find a gelatinous blob that would slide when I moved the bottle. My blob did not slide when you moved the bottle. I stuck a wooden spoon in and began breaking up the blob. Then I filled the bottles the rest of the way with hot water. You will need to do a lot of shaking to get your detergent to mix well. I thought my husband would have done well enough but when I began transferring the mix to an empty detergent container it was downright watery. The reason for this was that there was still quite a huge blob left untouched by the shaking. So really go to town on the shaking.

I actually ended up rendering two of the jugs (in my opinion) useless. My husband was cleaning out one of our very messy rooms and throwing things away. Wanting to see what he was throwing away with reckless abandon I headed out to our trash can to look through the boxes. Aside from a $300+ pair of jeans I found some shirts that would make perfect baby rompers and some rose scented laundry water.

Without checking the label I added the laundry water to two of my jugs. When I checked the label I saw that it contained "fragrance", which I now know is a synthetic, toxic, ingredient. I was still able to completely fill our emptied laundry detergent container. I'll need to make more to replace the Dreft but next I plan to replace our fabric softener.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pintested - Chem-Free Cleaning - Pans

Even after my last two cleanings and a trip through the dish washer my husbands pan was still just not clean enough for me.

Today's pin-test comes from this pin, all the info you need is actually right there on the pin.

I filled the pan with 2 cups of cold water and then added 3 tablespoons of kosher salt. Knowing that if I just left the pan sitting in the sink I moved it into the laundry room to sit overnight (actually I filled the pan that afternoon instead of that evening but this pan needed help!) I also made sure to spread the salt over the problem areas.
Here's what the pan looked like the next morning.

Not a whole lot of change if any. Not feeling too confident this would actually work I put the pan on the stove and heated it on medium - or as close to that as I can assume it is since I have a gas stove.

The only thing this experiment accomplished was creating a hot, salty crust around the edge of my pan. The treatment did nothing for the pan. The pin says that this can take a few tries but I feel unconvinced that multiple tries would result in a nice, clean pan.

Would I say this is worth trying? No, save yourself the time and effort.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pintested - Chemical-Free Cleaning - Microwave

I'm thankful to be able to tell you that my microwave is not regularly a hang-my-head-in-shame mess. But I do periodically find myself with a larger share of splattered food than I'd like in there.

Somehow it seems there's a lot of people who aren't aware of the problem this mess poses in relation to how well your microwave cooks food. The short and sweet explanation of what I mean by this is: when you have a microwave coated with food splatters, each time you use it, your microwave will expend a portion of its energy to once again cook those food splatters. More splatters - less even or concentrated cooking.

Today's pin-test comes from the info I found here as a result of following this pin.

My microwave was already "acceptably" clean but it had once again been a while since it's last cleaning.

I assembled the things I would need to begin cleaning. Once they were I jumped right in.

I really want to be able to tell  you that I walked down the hallway and smelled the magnificent aroma of vanilla wafting towards me but no such thing happened.

Did the dirt/grime/grease/food residue just wipe right off as websites with similar solutions boast? Not really. However, this one did at least tell you how long to microwave the water. I've seen some that just tell you to microwave whatever the mixture is and not tell you mixture amounts of microwave times.

Here is what the microwave looked like after merely wiping it down after doing as instructed.

Although some things did seem to wipe away with ease, I didn't get the end result I was hoping for. What's a pinner to do? Dip your UnPaper towel into the warm vanilla water mixture and scrub the microwave with it.

Although I saw more positive results there's definitely still some residue left that will need to be removed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trade Tuesday - The Green Haven

Today's trade comes to me via Megan of The Green Haven and continues along with my UnPaper towel obsession.

20 year-old Megan is a student at Frostburg State University in Maryland, yet another state I have a soft spot for because I've spent a significant amount of time in my life in Maryland. This green Etsyian is majoring in early childhood education and minoring in marketing, which I think really shows through with the uncommon distance she goes in the name of customer service. With your order comes something I have yet to experience from any other seller. After placing my order Megan created a Facebook album with my basic order info, sent me the link to the album, and told me that I would be able to track the progress of my towels there. That's service!

Below is the same information you will find on any of Megans listings for her reusable UnPaper towels:

Reusable paper towels, also known as unpaper towels, are ideal for leaving traditional paper towels behind. Reusable Paper Towels are convenient and ready to use right out of the package like paper towels, but unlike paper towels you can use them again and again. Reusable paper towels fit on an old paper towel roll and can be placed on a paper towel holder.

~ This listing is for 1 set of reusable paper towels in
(insert proper name of fabric here) fabric. Each set contains 12 individual towels, that snap together to form a roll of towels. Each towel measures 10" wide by 11" tall, making them about the same size as a paper towel. Towels are backed with 100% cotton terry cloth. Terry cloth is super soft and very absorbent.

~ Each towel is equipped with three sets of snaps, one more than is needed. This extra snap, the middle snap, is to provided extra support for the roll of towels. The middle snap prevents your roll of towels from sagging or drooping by helping support the extra weight of the towels.

~ Each set of towels is made with professional grade equipment, and is sewn with close attention to detail. The edges are surged with a professional surger, and the snaps are professional grade set using an industrial press. The snaps are made to hold up to much snapping and unsnapping as well as the washing machine, yet are gentle enough not to scratch when cleaning.

~ Reusable "paper" towels are machine washable, they may also be put in the dryer. I do not recommend using fabric softener on any of my products. Fabric softener can lessen the towels absorbency over time, making your "paper" towels less effective. Don't feel right not using a softener? Try using vinegar instead, its also a great way to eliminate odors, you can even place it in a downy ball!

Etsy Eco-Tip: Worldwide, 13 billion paper towels are used every day.The average person uses 3-4 paper towels each time you reach for the roll, using about a roll every day to day and a half. Switching your family to reusable "paper" towels can save countless paper towels, eliminating paper towels saves 4-6 rolls a week!

My UnPaper towels showed up much faster than I anticipated given Megans guestimation on how long it could take to get them out to me. Despite the fact that her paper towels are shown in a roll they are shipped flat 

and come with a quick explanation of how to attach your towels to an empty paper towel roll.

Because I drastically cut our use of paper towels I still have some on the roll on my kitchen.

Etsyians come in all shapes, sizes, races, and ages and it just tickles me green to see any of the younger generations making an effort to help reduce waste. In fact, I was so happy about it that I just felt I had to ask her about what influenced her to begin making changes in her own life and what some of them may be.

"Going green is a slow and steady process in our house. My fiance isn't quite hooked on it yet! I use almost all of the items I sell in my shop. I carry a coffee cozy in my purse, have a set of reusable paper towels in my craft room, I have a lunch bag for road trips and a few sandwich and snack bags, and I have a plastic bag holder in the kitchen. We try to recycle everything we can, currently I'm looking into getting a rain barrel!

Over the summer we can't drink the water in our "summer home", the house we have when we aren't at school. So we have to buy water, which means water bottles. I like to re-purpose them here at the house when I can, I have one for water for my paint brushes, the top of another is used as a funnel for the rice in my boo boo bags, and various others around the house. And what I can't re-purpose I recycle.

My newest "green effort" was making my own ribbon spools. I have TONS of ribbon and most of them aren't on spools, so I need to find a way to make them. I had my fiance's mom save paper towel rolls for me, and I had an old poster from a school project. So I used the towel roll for the middle and the poster board for the sides. while they aren't the prettiest they certainly work well!

I never really decided to go green per-say. Back before going green was popular, I thought I would try my hand at making reusable sandwich and snack bags. Most people had no idea what they were! So I started making other products, more recognizable ones, that people didn't even realize were small steps in going green. And I found out the best way to get people to recognize you and see your products was to use them yourself. And that's how it all started."

As she mentioned she doesn't only sell UnPaper towels; she also sells Boo Boo Bags

Drink Cozies

Plastic Bag Holders

Sandwich Bags

Snack Bags

Lunch Bag Sets

At this point I want to point out that her bags are not lined with PUL fabric. Many well-meaning sellers line their "green" products with PUL, and while reusable is good, PUL is not. PUL is not food safe - please check to make sure you know what your products are being made with before purchase. The same efforts we're applying at the grocery stores and farmers markets apply in other areas of our lives.

Paper towel info/links:
Buzzle - paper towel facts
Buzzle - facts about paper towels

Information about going paper towel-less:
Going paper towel-less

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chemical to Chemical-Free

My little girl has reached the point where I find her looking in all cabinets within reach so I really can't think of a better time to just jump in and replace all those dangerous chemicals.

First I collected 99% of our cleaners and toxic chemicals (I decided to go ahead and finish up the bottles of laundry detergent and children's laundry detergent. I may dispose of what's left of the cleaners or just finish using them. My end game plan is to reuse the containers.)

Then I went to the store and returned all of the unopened containers and exchanged them for greener options. It's not a perfect system putting those toxins right back out there but I don't really have too many pennies to spare.
Now to begin making at-home chemical-free cleaners.