Thursday, November 29, 2012

Make Your Own Fabric Softener

Who actually knows what is in fabric softener or those dryer sheets?  Sure they make our clothes smell nice and reduce the dreaded static cling, but that pesky "fragrance" or "perfume" can contain a slew of chemicals that the industry may or may not even know if they are safe for our health.  And then those chemicals are in our clothes, and against our skin (!!!), for hours...being absorbed into our bodies.  So, here is a recipe that I have been using for over a year now.  And you can even make it smell pretty depending on the essential oils you choose to use :-).  And the ingredients are edible (maybe not the essential oils so much) - can you eat your fabric softener???

1 cup baking soda
6 cups white vinegar
8 cups water
10-15 drops essential (I use tea tree, but lavender or whatever you like best works just as well!)

Basically, mix all ingredients in a large bowl or bucket.  I like to mix the baking soda and water first and stir until most of the baking soda dissolves.

Once you add the vinegar, it gets very bubbly as it reacts with the baking soda.  So don't make the mistake I did the first time and mix in a leftover vinegar bottle and attempt to shake instead of me, it gets messy!

bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!

Once it is all mixed up, then it is safe to use a funnel and store it in old vinegar bottles.  Use it just as you would fabric softener you buy at the store.  And no need for dryer sheets!!  With the exception of fleece, I do not have issues with static causing my clothes to stick together.

Now if this recipes is a little bit too much work for your busy schedule, you can also use straight-up white vinegar.  Don't worry, your clothes won't smell like vinegar - once it's dried, vinegar loses its smell...but, you won't get the pretty scent like you would with the essential oils.  Oh yeah, and it's super cheap! Bonus feature!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Quick & Easy Foaming Hand Soap

"Antibacterial" and "Antimicrobial" products are all the rage these days.  You can buy hand sanitizer, antibacterial soaps and lotions, and antimicrobial towels, toys, and more.  But in reality, they really aren't the best products for you or for the environment.  The most common ingredients which make something "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial" are Triclosan and Triclocarbon.  Here are a few good reasons to avoid these ingredients:

  • They promote drug-resistant bacteria or "superbugs" - can we spell MRSA??
  • They can disrupt normal hormone function associated with brain and reproductive development, including thyroid hormone, estrogen, and testosterone levels.  This can affect learning, behavior, fertility, and the growth of cancerous cells.
  • Because these chemicals get washed down the drain, they get into our waterways.  They can disrupt normal ecosystems (the natural flora of bacteria) that is needed to support the lives and reproduction of animals - i.e. fish, frogs, etc.  Not to mention the quality and safety of our water.
Here is an article where I got some of this information, and there are some references to other articles and links at the bottom.  Here is another article from the Environmental Working Group specific to the effects of Triclosan.  It even mentions that the American Medical Association and the FDA do not recommend household use of products containing Triclosan due to the dangers of promoting superbugs and because this ingredient is no more effective in cleaning and killing germs than good old soap and hot water.

So what are the alternatives?  I am a big fan of cleansing products using essential oils.  For example, tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.  It's also safe to use in battling acne.  Lavender is another common essential oil effective against bacteria (it's also safe for all ages).  There is also thyme, which is a nice herbal scent for the kitchen, and orange oil, which is also good against grease.  Lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemongrass are other good choices.  Here is a chart that outlines some others and outlines their properties.

Dr. Bronners makes some excellent bar and liquid castile soaps.  I found the price to be better at my local grocery store for the bar soaps, but I buy the liquid versions at Vitacost.  They have a baby mild version which is unscented, and then several others which are already infused with essential oils (tea tree, citrus, peppermint to name a few).  I like to use the tea tree liquid soap as the base for my foaming hand soap.  Here is the recipe:


  • Foaming soap pump - Pampered Chef has one, or you can re-purpose one that you already have
  • Liquid Castile Soap of your choice - about 2 tbsp (it is VERY concentrated!)
  • ~12 drops total of your favorite essential oil or blend a few (optional - especially if using the soap which already is infused with tea tree oil).  You can also buy these at Vitacost or at your local grocery store or natural food store.
  • Water

1.  Put approximately 2 tbsp of soap into the soap pump.  This really does not have to be exact, just fill up the pump a little bit at the bottom.  The Pampered Chef pump has a little line for measuring the soap, but I don't even fill it up quite that high since the soap is quite concentrated.

2.  Add your drops of essential oils.  For the bathroom, I like to use just lavender and maybe some orange oil.  In the kitchen I like to also add rosemary, thyme, and peppermint.

3.  Fill up the soap pump with water, most of the way.  

4.  Keep those hands clean, with your custom luxurious foaming hand wash!  Wa-la!