Sunday, September 18, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a confession. Try as I might, I am not the woman described in Proverbs 31. You lose me at "She gets up while it is still dark..." (Proverbs 31:15a) and my shortcomings continue through the rest of the passage. Still, when taken in their entirety what this passage seems to say to me is not that I need keep hours with the owls - but that I should be doing everything I can to provide the best possible life for my family, given the resources I have - OR can glean from those around me.

This is where a new fascination of mine comes in. If you haven't heard of PINTEREST, I highly recommend checking it out. I love clipping inspiring ideas & photos from magazines and the internet. This website allows you to organize your ideas on "boards" with links back to the original source! I've cleaned up my computer's files, erasing nearly a Gigabyte of stored ideas by "pinning" them in nice visual order! You can check it out without subscribing, but you'll need an invite to join. Let me know, and I'll email one to anyone interested. My poor mother may have been corrupted by me as I fear she's a complete addict already so please, don't say I didn't warn you about it's addictive qualities!

So... back to the soap. I was searching existing boards on PINTEREST to see what others had pinned, when I ran across a homemade laundry detergent recipe. Years ago I tried a liquid detergent, but it was gooey and left our clothes looking dingy. A dry soap seemed promising however, and I called my mom to see if she'd heard of any of the ingredients. Her response? "That's what MY mommy used on our laundry when *I* was a little girl!" (always a clue that something works - tricks gleaned from those who endured The Great Depression seem to be "keepers" in my experience!)

To the store I went, to hunt down these "antique" ingredients. And to my complete shock, I found ALL THREE at my local grocers!

For this soap, I used:
* 1 cup: 20 Mule Team Borax (my cost: $4.26 for a box)
* 1 cup: Washing Soda (my cost: $2.99 for a box)
* 1 bar: Fels Naptha Soap (my cost: $.99 per bar)
* and a pretty 1.5-2 quart size container to hold the soap. (I chose one from the thrift shop for $.99)

First, I grated the Fels Naptha bar. I used a microplane grater for smaller pieces, so things would blend better. This part takes awhile... it took me a full 20 minutes (Hellooooo Netflix!) to grate a single bar. The house however picked up a very pleasing soap-and-citrus fragrance, that hung in the air for about an hour. To the grated bar, I added the borax & washing soda, and stirred everything together in my pretty container. That's it! It was time to test this little concoction for myself.

I checked about two dozen blogs of others' successes with this and read EVERY SINGLE comment on each blog before deciding to make it myself. Each site said all I would need is ONE TABLESPOON (some claiming they had used as little as a teaspoon!) per load of laundry. Feeling rather dubious, I dropped a single tablespoon into my washer and watched it dissolve away in a few short seconds, tempting me to dump in a full laundry-scoop. It seemed positively ridiculous that such a tiny amount of soap would truly clean anything - especially since I wash 95% of our laundry with cold water! Resisting that temptation, I filled the machine. On a whim, I tossed in my husbands' knock-you-over stinky socks and one of his work-shirts with collar-staining that resists traditional stain sticks & sprays. Forty-five minutes later I pulled things out, and gave them a critical look. The shirt collar is MUCH better - not perfectly white, but better than I've gotten it with anything short of an overnight bleach-soak. And his socks? I sniffed those socks, and all my nose could detect was... CLEAN!

Feeling optimistically impatient & not wanting to wait overnight for things to air-dry, I popped everything into the dryer. Just a few minutes ago, I ran back to check on things. EVERYTHING looks clean. And even those nasty-awful socks smell... CLEAN! There's no fragrance, so I'm sorely tempted to add 1/2 teaspoon of mandarin essential oil since I like my laundry to smell pretty, but it all came out clean. Not just clean... but better than my traditional detergent! After making this batch, I've got enough washing soda left over for at LEAST 3 more batches, and enough borax for at least another 7. At those estimates, this would cost approximately 4.3 cents per load. Compare that to the 14.9 cents per load I paid a month ago for my favorite traditional detergent and there's just no comparison.

Add me to the list of converts, I'm a believer. This stuff WORKS!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mama's "Four Thieves" Antibacterial Spray

I thought it might be fun to share a few of my cleaning recipes over the next few weeks, and with flu-season nearly upon us I wanted to start with my favorite all-purpose cleaning recipe. This was created in honor of an odd fascination with the Black Plague.

Legend says that during the 16th century, four brothers snuck through the streets of Paris at night, raiding the homes of those infested with Plague. Yet they somehow never came down with it themselves! Upon their capture, they were given two options: share their secret for avoiding the plague & go free, or hang for their crimes. Supposedly their mother had been an herbalist, and taught them to mix herbs into a strong tea to drink, which kept the illness at bay. I have found dozens of different "Four Thieves" recipes online. Each one is just a bit different, but they all share three main ingredients: vinegar, rosemary, and sage.

My recipe is a combination of several recipes I've found online, with a few ingredients omitted to take into account personal allergies, and several additions gleaned from my own understanding of herbal healing properties. Each ingredient was chosen to target a specific bacteria, and it seems to be working well. This can be used as an antibacterial all-purpose spray in any room of the house, and also works well to deter fruit flies & ants! I like to keep it handy during flu season for wiping down doorknobs & telephones, but use it all year long in the kitchen & bathrooms. It has a strong, but pleasant herbal fragrance, and is free of all those scary toxic chemicals found in modern cleaners. While I haven't had a laboratory do any high-cost tests, I CAN attest to having reduced sick-days since starting to use this three years ago. Does it work? I believe so!

To make this, take a 24oz spray bottle & fill it halfway (12oz) with vinegar. To that, add:
30 drops lavender essential oil
30 drops sage essential oil
30 drops peppermint essential oil
30 drops rosemary essential oil
30 drops thyme essential oil
30 drops eucalyptus essential oil
30 drops lemon essential oil
15 drops bergamot essential oil
15 drops citronella essential oil
15 drops tea tree essential oil
and 15 drops hyssop essential oil.
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water, and give it a good shake. To use, shake the bottle EVERY time, and spray wherever a disinfectant is needed. Wipe up with a soft, lint-free cloth for a sparkling germ-free clean house.

It's amazing what can be done with essential oils, once you've picked them up. Each oil has specific and POWERFUL capabilities to repel, and kill germs. A little goes a LONG way too, so buy small! 1/2 to 1-oz bottles will be plenty to last you at least a year.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Birthday Goals

A friend of mine has been writing & completing lists of goals for quite some time now. I have watched his goals, envied his ambition, and told myself that I should do the same for quite some time now. With my three-dozenth birthday looming closer & closer I told myself that I should indeed create my own list. Today, as my deadline ended, I completed my first 101 in 1001 to-do list.

What an accomplishment, to look at my life and decide what I want to complete & change over the next three years. To look, not at what I cannot do, but what I WILL do - and put an expiration date on those expectations. To dig deep to find not only a dozen goals, but 101 goals to dig-deep & stretch my limits.

For anyone interested, my list is LINKED HERE.

Making the list seemed monumental. I can only imagine the "rush" when I actually complete my entire list. So here, now, on my three-dozenth birthday, I begin a new challenge. 101 goals to complete in the next 1001 days.

To borrow a popular phrase, "Go me!"