Sunday, November 27, 2011

Going Green???

I've sat here for the past few nights and really thought about what "Going Green" really means. I mean, everyone is into saving the planet, use less packaging, blah blah blah, but if you really think about it, most of that is what our grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on had been doing for generations. Don't get me wrong, I like some of the new convenience things out there, like the Swiffer Sweeper and Clorox Ready Mop. But I'm wondering if we are getting the wrong picture when we say we are "going green".

In an earlier post, I made mention that I was starting a soap-making adventure. I've completely given up on bar soaps, mainly because I don't like using the bars. I really prefer liquid soap. I found a wonderful book, Making Liquid Soaps by Catherine Failor. Her instructions could have been more clear, but in a nutshell, it's well written. Using her recipes, I've made 100% Liquid Castile soap, and one of the shampoos. I will say this about the shampoo; it did not thicken on me, and the one time I did use it as a shampoo, it left a greasy, waxy lump on the back of my head. I'm not sure what I did wrong, if my hair went into shock from using pure soap, or it's the residue from the store bought shampoos, but won't try it again on my hair until I figure it out. But it does turn into a very nice body wash. Both of my kids love it.

And that doesn't stop there. The Liquid Castile is now being used in many recipes I found on the net from a degreaser spray to window cleaner and will be using it in my ready mop. If you start on the Edentia Farms youtube page, this gal will show you how to make liquid laundry soap and even has a link to the amounts she uses. A little deeper search will also find her recipe for dish soap. I have made the laundry soap, and will be trying it later on this weekend, but the dish soap is to die for!!!!! I was getting grease and other gunk off of pans that I didn't think would ever come off, so I will believe her claim that it will get Sharpie Marker off of almost anything.
* Just wanted to come back and say that I did try the laundry soap this weekend, and throughout the week and we love it as much as the dish soap. Had to wash blankets and pillows over the weekend, and my daughter is complaining now that her blankets and pillows are so bright she can't sleep w/o sunglasses. One of the pillows is one she made and it's brighter now than when she made it. Those two recipes are keepers in our household!!!!

But back to the "going green" thing. We are starting to view this as if it was good enough to do for our ancestors to keep clean, then why shouldn't we do the same thing?? If making soap was just using wood ash from the fire filtered with water, then combined with grease, no one would have to worry about running out of soap ever again. Though I try to take the easier road with this. Instead of trying to filter wood ash, I buy my KOH (Potassium Hydroxide) online. Some of the recipes (see the dish soap) call for organic oils, I just use what I can buy cheaply at WalMart or Winco. Borax is my choice for a neutralizer and thickener rather than anything else out there because it's cheaper and has a two-in-one punch. Our ancestors used what they had at hand to make their soaps, then why shouldn't I do the same thing?? I'm just going about it in a little bit of a lazy way. I just can't bring myself to rend the grease from what I'm cooking to make soap out of. EEEEWWWWW!!!!!

Give it a try, you might just like the results that come out of making your own soap. It sure surprised us with our savings, as well as how clean everything gets. Watch the videos that youtube has, so you can get an idea how it's suppose to look and act when making. Try doing the bars first, like I did, then expand onto the liquid soaps. It does help, and get a copy of Failor's book. I treat mine like a bible. Though I will say one thing, you don't need a double boiler system, the crock pot does even better. Plus, you don't have to worry about making sure there is enough water in a double boiler to keep it going.

And if you are wondering about those savings, for around $20 I was able to get the KOH, oils, borax, and distilled water. Out of it all, I've made approximately 2 gallons of Castile soap, 1 gallon each of the body wash (just can't call it shampoo), laundry soap, and dish soap. You tell me, can you get all that for around $20 and have it last for about 4 months?? 5 gallons of soap. I think our ancestors were on to something there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another "Green" Experiment

Lately, I've been playing with going green, or going natural with everything in the house. Finally got the guts up to try to make my own soap bars. The first 2 were a bust, so started looking into other soap ideas. Finally tried making my own liquid soap.

The first one I tried to make was for a liquid castile soap. I tried to make it the old fashioned way with 100% olive oil. It turned out great!!! I'm starting to use it for most of my cleaning, and I am pleased with the results. Still have to tweak the window cleaner recipe, but found several others on the net for this "liquid gold".

I've also tried my hand at homemade dishwasher powder. Figured out what I was doing wrong. (Yes, I will share the recipe after the story) When I first tried it, it was borax and baking soda. Left an awful powder residue on my dishes. Then found one recipe that said to use Kool-aide packets with the recipe. Same story. Then came Kosher Salt. Didn't help. Finally, after some more research, and a screw-up on my part for the chemical to make the liquid soap, I finally came up with the following recipe:

1/4 cup borax
1/4 cup Washing soda
2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
3 tablespoons Citric Acid
Small Amount of Rice *

I don't know what it is with this area, but using the washing soda instead of baking soda really helped. I tried the Citric Acid mixed with my regular dishwasher powder, and suddenly had glasses that were clear, not cloudy. These were the same glasses that I tried the other experiments on, they clouded up and I just couldn't get rid of them. This does make a small batch, in fact, I'm keeping it in a pint-sized mason jar. When I use it, I use about 1 tablespoon in each cup, and my dishes haven't looked better. I also use white vinegar in the rinse compartment.
* Side Note: After making this, it went into a rock-hard mass that I had to scrape out of the jar. I went back to look at other recipes that others have made, and they were having the same problems. One person added about a teaspoon of regular white rice and the clumping problem disappeared. I haven't tried this myself since my rice supply got bugs in it, but will try it again soon with the rice and see if that helps.

At the rate I'm going, I'll be able to clean out all of those old chemical cleaners the ads say we just can't live without. Between what I'm finding to make with regular cleaners, and my steamer, we should be free of those store cleaners in next to no time!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cloth Menstral Pads

Ok, ok, ok, don't yell, way too much has happened for me to keep up with this blog. But I'm going to try harder.

One thing that this post will be about is saving money. Sort of. I lost my job last year just after Christmas ( and i won't go into that story) and started having a hard time getting some of the "necessities of life" for my family. My daughter has been menstrating for over a year by this time, and with buying pads becoming harder and harder to do, we finally researched cloth pads. After making a bunch, both of us give it an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. I will supply the pattern I've been using, but we found that there are no leaking, less odors, and less waste than we had with the commercial pads.

In the research we did, I came upon a pattern similar to this, but we changed it some for our use. If you own the orginal pattern, let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

Now, on to the pattern---( I'm sorry I don't have pics to post with this, my internet connection has problems with loading pics)

You will need:
Package of washcloths (usually the 18 count washcloths from WalMart work well)
Flannel--I used a couple of yards worth for myself and my daughter, and thinking of needing some more
Sewing thread
Serger works the best, but you can also use a sewing machine with a zigzag setting for most of the work.
Snaps (press-on would be the best-- will explain more later)

First thing, open those washcloths you just bought and toss them in the washer with the flannel and wash on the hottest water setting you can. You need to pre-shrink them before anything is done, or they will shrink on you afterwards, and that is something you don't want to have happen. It might not hurt to iron them afterwards, that was a step I didn't worry about since no one will see them when they are used, unless they are doing laundry for you.

After that- you will want to lay out a washcloth on top of the flannel and either just cut, or draw around the cloth to get a square of flannel the same size as the washcloth. Or you can do the cheaters way, which is what I did. I layed out the washcloth on top of the flannel, and then serged around the washcloth, letting the serger cut away the extra flannel as I went. You should be able to do the same thing with a sewing maching, just cut the flannel after zigzagging around the washcloth.

Once done, you will have your pad completely made, just fold it into thirds and stick it where it belongs. It's best if you have somewhat of snug-fitting undies to wear them with. If you prefer the tabs, then here we go with that:

Take some extra flannel, cut two strips about 2" to 3" wide by 3" long. Fold each in half longways and sew up one end and the side. Turn right side out and finger press flat. Grab your snaps and follow the directions on the package for the press-together snaps and place a female snap on one tab and a male snap on the other. Now grab a pad, and fold it into thirds. Use a straight pin to mark where those folds are, or a marker that will wash out to mark those fold lines. Open the pad back up and place the tabs about halfway down, lining up the fold line with the open end of the tabs (it helps to keep the tabs snapped together at this point so you can make sure they line up at the same point). Give yourself about 1/8th to 1/4" room to catch the tabs in the sewing and then sew a straight line down that fold.
You can do this with regular buttons and buttonholes (that is something I never learned how to do right, plus I think it would feel uncomfortable between the legs), sew on snaps, hook and loop tape or other types of fasteners, but just remember when you choose the fastener, think about how much you are going to be snapping them on and off. This is why we chose to stop when the squares were sewn together.

That's all there is to making these. We don't use the tabs, and I haven't even made the fold lines. Since I started using these, my cycles have been lighter, so I don't need as heavy a pad like I did using the commercial ones. At first, my daughter was going to balk at using them, saying she didn't like the feel of flannel on her skin. She has since started using them and fell in love, since they don't itch like using a regular washcloth did against the tender skin ( and we both have done that in a pinch). They open flat when washing, so they take no time at all in drying.

And speaking of washing, this is how we care for them. Use, throw in hamper afterwards, wash with regular clothes. Every once in a while, I will throw them in the washer and just let them soak in cold water for an hour or two, but never had a problem with staining with them. There are some out there that keep a bucket of water by the toilet just to drop them into, change the water every day during use, then wash at the end. With two big labs, that wouldn't last long around here, but they do leave the hamper alone. After drying, I just fold them up into the pad shape and store in a bag by the toilet, so they are ready for the next time or person. Just remember to keep the fabric softener use to a minimum so they will keep absorbing like they should. I rarely use it myself, so don't have much to worry about it around here.

And figure this: We were spending about $8 a month on commercial pads ( and that is going with store name brand). Haven't used them in over 8 months now-- so we have saved over $50 so far. Now if you think my math is off, some of that money went to water and electricity use to keep them washed. My daughter is very enviromentally concious about what waste we throw away. She is happy about the less plastic we are throwing in the trash now.