Saying goodbye to suds

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As I’ve been sorting through some of my recipes, I’ve been compelled to write about one characteristic that is missing from some of them, compared to their store-bought counterparts: SUDS! Bubbles, lather, foaming action, whatever you want to call it, some of my recipes do lack this frothy bubbly stuff that many of us attribute to the effectiveness of a product.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use traditional soap in some recipes, which can produce a fair amount of bubbles and lather. It is this lathering action that can be really helpful for physically getting dirt and grime off your hands and other surfaces. But in some cases, the excessive amount of suds that you get with commercial products are just simply not necessary. And if you are looking for truly natural, non-toxic solutions, I hate to be the bearer of difficult news, but you may have to let go of the suds a bit.

The reason behind this is because chemical surfactants (the things that give your products their sudsy action, above and beyond what a typical soap might do) are one of the most toxic ingredients in many cleaning and bath products. And to my knowledge, other than mixing egg whites in with a recipe (ummm, which would not be advisable if you are looking to disinfect), I have not found any super bubbly non toxic alternatives that I am comfortable with.

(See this article for more information on toxic surfactants and other chemicals in your home.)

One of the products I’ve had to give up on the suds with is my dish soap. My dish soap recipe became a solid if I wanted it to have more suds, and then eventually would lose its sudsiness fairly quickly. I was not into using the solid version (too difficult to mix in with the water), so I liquified the recipe and there is not much suds at all now. It still has soap in it, but it doesn’t lather much when diluting it with the sink water. And you know what? It still cleans my dishes really, really well. And in conjunction with the vinegar rinse, actually probably sanitizes them superiorly to regular dish soap. And it doubles as a kitchen de-greasing spray.

I also gave up suds on my hair. I could not find a shampoo alternative that would not be drying, that involved natural suds (ie. soap). It took a bit of getting used to, but I am now completely comfortable with my “no poo.” The only time I find I need suds in my hair is after a haircut – and then I just use my body wash (which is essentially castille soap, glycerin and water).

You know what else I gave up? Bubble baths for my kid. There was nothing available that was satisfyingly benign to me (short of adding egg whites to my recipe, again, which I am not comfortable with and doesn’t seem very practical to me) and I figured, why the heck does he need bubble baths anyway? He has tons of fun just splashing in the water with his bath toys. So we don’t do bubble baths anymore.

And you know what? We are all clean and happy. It took a bit of adjusting for my hubs with the dish soap and no-poo thing, but now he is completely content with them. Especially because it is so much cheaper ;). The sans bubble bath is probably more an adjustment for the grandparents, really, am I right?

You really don’t always need suds to get clean, and when they so often come with a toxic load, I am very happy to say ‘goodbye to suds’ in certain arenas. Do we still wash our bodies with soap? Yuuuppp. I am a firm believer in plain, vegetable oil based soap. Dr. Bronner’s is amazing stuff. But you don’t need bubbles for everything! I say it’s time to let go of the need for so much lather. What about you?

PS: Stay tuned for “sanitizing your home without bleach or alcohol.”.

Also, check out THIS great read by Crunchy Betty on ditching bubble bath.

Dish soap / De-greasing spray cleaner NEW RECIPE

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So I’ve been fiddling around with things again, and had used my de-greasing spray cleaner as a dish soap from time to time. Then I got to thinking….uhhh…why am I making two different recipes for dish soap and spray cleaner, when they have very similar ingredients and seem to work just a well? Also, I would like to have a liquid dish soap. It’s just a tad easier. So I had kind of of a “duh” moment. Let’s just use one recipe for both!

So here we go. In case you missed the previous recipes, let me get you hyped up for this one. For messes my vinegar spray cleaner can’t handle, I started using this recipe to handle greasy kitchen messes (being pH alkaline, these ingredients handle fats and oils better than vinegar, which is an acid). And I then chase it with the vinegar cleaner to remove any residue. It works BRILLIANTLY. Ditch those toxic spray cleaners for this one, you will be glad you did. And it is cheap to make, too.

Using this as a dish soap, you will notice it doesn’t suds much. That’s because it doesn’t include any surfactants, which are mostly carcinogenic materials that give your cleaners their bubbles. But you know what? You don’t need much sudsing action to clean. This dish soap cleans marvelously without it, and if you rinse your dishes in water that has a bit of vinegar added (ie. fill up your second sink if you have one), they will come out absolutely squeaky clean with no residue.

That being said, do not combine vinegar with this recipe until you want it stripped off. If you end up mixing it in accidentally (or on purpose) while you are still trying to clean with it, you will instead neutralize the recipe and get some pretty lame results. Just FYI!

Ready for the recipe? In a metal / pyrex / glass bowl:

Mix together until dissolved:
1 part (1 tbsp) washing soda
20 parts (or 1 & 1/4 cups) boiling water

Add:
4 parts (1/4 cup) liquid castille soap
16 parts (or 1 cup) boiling water

Mix it all together, and allow to cool enough so that it will not melt any container you are putting it in. Then pour some in a spray bottle for kitchen cleaning, and some in a squirt bottle for dish soap. And use your vinegar cleaner to strip it off for a squeaky clean finish! And there you have it! How easy was that, right? I am putting myself out of a job, here! Seriously 😉

NOTE: If you find your mixture congeals at all (not all washing sodas and castille soaps are created equal) simply pour back into your bowl, and add a tiny bit more boiling water, re-mix and add back to your container. Note this in your recipe for the next time!

Cleaning with Toddlers & Small Children

After finding a nifty list of suggested chores for kids, I figured I could blog some thoughts I have about cleaning with kids. I have a two year old who loves to copy Mommy, which sometimes works as an advantage OR a disadvantage when cleaning your house – depending on how much time you have to be patient while they explore the task, or whether you just need to get it done in a hurry!

If you involve your child with cleaning behaviour from a very early age, they will be more likely to internalize the values associated with having your living space clean, and chances are they will be more likely to independently engage in the same behaviour when they are older. The earlier they can be come involved with taking care of their living environment, the better – IMHO!

If you clean your house with toxic and poisonous chemicals, you likely will be keeping toddlers and small children out of your cleaning routine. Nobody wants their kids breathing in / mouthing these kinds of cleaners. BUT if you start making your own safe cleaning products, you will feel more comfortable involving your kids in these activities. Got a kid who likes to use a spray bottle? Your all purpose vinegar spray cleaner is perfectly safe for them to use, and fairly gentle on the skin. Have them spray the mirror or floors for you and help you wipe it!

One thing my two year old loves to copy is sweeping the floors – so much so that we bought him his own mini broom to help sweep. He is now at the age that he even targets pieces of dirt – usually just flings them around to another part of the kitchen, but it’s pretty cute to watch 🙂

Kids usually love doing the laundry, too – you can have them add the laundry soap, turn the dials, press the buttons, and transfer the clothes from one machine to another. Folding laundry can be fun – start them with washcloths and hand towels! Finding the matches for socks can be a thrilling exploit for a two year old ;). My LO also loves taking the clothes to the proper bedrooms and putting them in the drawers. Especially the underwear, for some reason!

If you have a LO who loves to copy, but you can’t have them involved in the task either for efficiency’s sake or safety – try and have them either pretend with some imaginary / distracting objects, or give them an empty bottle to “spray” or “pour” with. If you are using a bucket, give them their own empty bucket to carry around. Be creative – it will work to your advantage later if you have tried to have them involved in the task in their own capacity rather than dissuading their participation!

If your munchkin has not taken an interest in cleaning and tidying, sometimes singing a song or making the activity into a game can be helpful. My LO loves counting, or singing the ABC’s – this has been a great strategy when completing a task involving steps. “Score a goal” with dirty socks or when putting toys in bins. Sticker charts can be a great initial motivator, too.

I thought I would make up my own list of the hierarchy of easier to more difficult “cleaning” tasks, and out them in categories, rather than lump them into age ranges – every little cutie develops at their own rate and has varying levels of interest in household activities. This way you can pick and choose from the list by category of interest! Check it out:

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CAUTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS:. I wouldn’t have a toddler shaking around the powdered scouring cleaner, as breathing in the dust from it is not super great for you – but it is certainly FAR safer than any other scouring cleaners you would purchase commercially! Your school aged kids should certainly be able to use this cleaner with supervision. If you involve your small children in mixing some of your cleaners, watch out for recipes with a lot of powdered dust floating around – have them wear a scarf over their face if they are joining in.

4 Ingredient Dishwasher Detergent

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As promised, here is my homemade dishwasher detergent recipe! It works wonders on my dishes, especially since I discovered citric acid – this seems to be a key component. Yes, it does contain borax. See my FAQ for my opinion on its safety! Yes, the occasional crusty pan comes through – especially if I’ve fried some eggs, but i have never found a detergent that seems to kick fried eggy butt, franky. Especially on spatulas. What is it with that?! See my post on CREAM OF TARTAR for a solution for stubborn stuck on messes!

Anyway, here we go. You’ll need

1 part citric acid*
1 part sea salt / kosher salt (do not replace with table salt)
2 parts borax
3 parts washing soda – NOT the same as baking soda!

Mix well in a large bowl, and transfer to your container of choice!
Use about 1 tablespoon per load.

AND in your rinse compartment: full strength white vinegar – I find this to be crucial. If you find you are getting residues, check your compartment to make sure it is topped up.

I have been told that folks with softer water need less citric acid, and those with harder water need more. I have neither soft nor particularly hard water, so this mix works for me. If you have really hard water, though, and you are getting residues, add 1/2 part more citric acid and see how that goes.

This detergent MAY harden / clump over time due to the citric acid content. I recommend making SMALL batches, using it regularly and quickly, giving a shake every now and again, and adding a terra cotta brown sugar protector (soaked) to your jar. If you have any other tips or tricks to avoid this, please post a comment!

I hope this works for you – let me know how it goes!

*If you need citric acid, check your local soap making shop like The Soap Dispensary, or you can buy it online at New Directions Aromatics.

Homemade dish soap!

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So it’s time for me to share another coveted recipe with you – this one is a tiny bit trickier, but not by much! One of the last products I replaced in my kitchen was my dish soap. This one is as sudsy as you are going to get! It is really tricky to come by a recipe that has long lasting suds like commercial soaps – and do you know why that is? Because some of the most harmful and toxic ingredients in commercial dish soap are SURFACTANTS, or those ingredients which act as foaming agents to give that sudsy effect to your dish soap. So when we eliminate these from our natural home made products, we just aren’t going to get the same amount of suds. And you know what? It doesn’t matter! Your dishes will get just as clean (if not more so, in my opinion) with this easy recipe, and you won’t have to worry about any carcinogens on your skin (despite many claims of soaps being “gentle”).

In a large mason jar, mix:

1 part soap flakes
1 part liquid castille soap
1/4 part washing soda

UPDATED 01/25/14 Add 5 parts boiling water and mix until ingredients dissolve into a clear liquid*. If you mix things with cool water, you will just get something kind of clumpy; the ingredients will not be as well distributed. Allow to cool – finished product will be whitish and may be somewhat thick.

This was one of the toughest to arrive at, but most rewarding recipes I hade made. This dish soap works wonders. Your dishes will be even squeakier clean (and I highly recommend this step) if you finish with a rinse in a sink full of water with a small amount of vinegar added to neutralize and strip the soap. Especially useful if washing plastics, as I find grease sticks to them more than other things! Do NOT add the vinegar to your washing sink, or your soap will flip flop into something non-soapy.

This mixture tends to congeal over time, so every now and again you may want to add a touch of hot water and re-mix. However, doing this too often will cut down on the effectiveness. Because of this, I just I scoop a bit out with my finger and swish vigorously into the sink under running water, rather than using a traditional squeeze bottle. A little goes a long way!

*This is what your dishsoap will look like before it cools:

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Cream of tartar for cleaning?!

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So a friend recently made me aware of the cleaning powers of cream of tartar, so when I came across a very stubborn eggy (stainless steel) pan that the dishwasher didn’t clean, I decided to try it out!

All I did was dust the surface of the pan lightly with cream of tartar, added a bit of water, let it soak for a about 15 minutes, came back and scrubbed with a scrubby sponge. The pan looked as clean as it had looked EVER. Like even better than brand new. Have any pots or pans with ‘stains’ on them, or a stubborn stuck on mess to clean? Try EDIBLE cream of tartar to clean those pots and pans better than any commercial cleaner could do. I wish I had taken a before picture of the pan……but I must admit I wasn’t counting on it working as well as it did!

Hooray for cream of tartar!