Soap suds fun in Lynne’s Lab

wpid-2014-08-30-12.58.55.jpg.jpeg“What is elegance? Soap and water!” – Cecil Beaton

Well here I am, back in Lynne’s Lab, playing mad scientist again. My drive for finding natural solutions to chemically-laced products has made me more aware of how simple things can be. Like soap suds.

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Book Giveaway!

Vinegar Fridays
Vinegar Fridays

If you take a peek around my blog, you will find “Lynne’s Lab,” where I blog about doing my best to “go green.” I have been making my own household cleaners and toiletries for almost two years. My “green epiphany” began when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I started researching alternative and holistic methods of slowing down the progression of his disease.

My research opened a whole new way of looking at health – mainly, the prevention of disease. Our family now eats more organic and locally grown foods, less processed foods and we have done our best to rid the house of harmful chemicals.

I met author Hana Haatainen Caye, who is known as the “Green Grandma,” at a training conference in Chicago. The two of us connected, as when we both hit mid-life, we could see the benefits of being more aware of our environment, and the health risks that come with many commercial products. As we were talking, we shared information, and started following each through social media.

And, when I had the opportunity to review my fellow blogger’s book, I was excited to do so.

As consumers, we succumb to advertising, and many times we find ourselves purchasing foods, household cleaners and toiletries that have adverse side effects. Harsh chemicals that leach into the water system, vapors and fumes that can overwhelm users – there is a whole lot of bad stuff in our foods, cleaners, shampoos and make-up!

The Green Grandma offered a weekly feature on her blog entitled, “Vinegar Fridays.” Each week, she discussed a new use or tip for vinegar, and her readers loved it. After a year, she stopped the feature, thinking her readers were growing weary. But they didn’t. Green Grandma’s readers missed Vinegar Fridays. So, with the encouragement and support of her family and her blog followers, she edited her posts, did additional research, added recipes, more tips, and her book was born.

From using vinegar in the kitchen – in cooking and cleaning – to using it in the laundry room, to cleaning indoors and out; for skin and health care, pet care and critter control and more, Green Grandma covers numerous topics. Though she admits these are her opinions and she isn’t claiming scientific evidence to support her opinions, quite simply, the proof is in the pudding. Distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are multi-purpose items that have stood the test of time and have been used for generations.

For years I have been using distilled white vinegar and water for cleaning windows, and I’d never use anything else again. I also use it for disinfecting the kitchen and bathroom and mopping the floors. Not only does it kill germs, there is no lingering perfume-chemical smell. And the house smells fresh! The vinegar smell dissipates quickly. (Quick side note – I had our furnace checked out for the winter, and our heating and cooling serviceman recommended cleaning the humidifier’s water intake/out-take pump with vinegar, and flushing with water, explaining that bleach was too harsh on the vinyl out-take hose!)

From this book, not only did I learn more about vinegar and its uses, but I enjoyed Hana’s writing. And, Vinegar Fridays is a great resource – I keep my copy handy in the kitchen with my favorite cook books. It is great to have all these tips handy and in one place.

If you are a resident in the U.S., and would like to be in a drawing for a copy of Vinegar Fridays, please fill out the RaffleCopter form for a chance to win. Deadline for entry is midnight on Sunday, December 8, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more green living info and tips, or to order a book, follow and/or click on any of these links: Green Grandma on Facebook and Twitter and the Facebook page for Vinegar Fridays!

Let me know your favorite use for vinegar in the comment section.

 

Junk? Trash? No! Hands off my stash!

“To invent, you need you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Thomas Edison

rose in bud vase

The organizational bug hit me the other day, so I began fall cleaning a little early. Starting a little at a time, I tackled my dresser drawers, the night stand and my food pantry. Amazing how much junk one can collect. Some of it is so easy to pitch! Other items, not so much.

I came across a pile of greeting cards, which gave me a well-deserved cleaning break. Sorting through the anniversary, birthday, thank-you and Mother’s Day cards, I found some real gems, especially the handmade cards from my brood.

card

One of the best things I found was a construction paper card filled with coupons. It was made by my now 18-year-old son. Lucky for me, he was unaware of expiration dates at the ripe old age of ten, so I promptly presented him with the, “1 Free Room Clean Up (without groans)” coupon. I held onto the original, so I can present it again later this week when he needs to borrow the car…

Moving into the kitchen, I pitched boxes of cereal that had less than one serving remaining, stale crackers and cookies, and a bottle of dry creamer that I forgot was even there. I don’t even know why it was in the cupboard. Dumping all the contents into the trash, and crushing boxes for the recycle bin, I held onto the empty plastic creamer bottle.

“Surely there will be a good use for this,” I thought, as I washed the container.

A chill ran down my spine. I was turning into my grandmother!

My maternal grandmother, a product of the Great Depression, kept everything. I mean, everything! Newspapers, cat food cans, scraps of foil, boxes of all shapes and sizes, plastic bags – the list is endless.

She was a firm believer in reuse, reduce, recycle long before it was a popular catch phrase. And as much as I used to roll my eyes when she insisted I pull something out of the trash, I now get it.

Believe me when I say I have my own collection. Sparkling water bottles make great containers for my chocolate and lemon cellos. I wash and re-use spice containers for the herbs I am growing in my garden, which are now drying in bunches in my kitchen. Since I make my own deodorant and tooth paste, I use containers from all kinds of leftovers, looking for that perfect package. My homemade laundry detergent is in an old sherbet container. Gallon-size plastic tea jugs are lined up, waiting for me when I start making the liquid detergent again. Old Ball and Mason jars are shoved in a cabinet for when I figure out how to can tomatoes, which better be soon as I have at least 100 Romas ready to turn red. I have used pasta jars for displaying wildflowers and dandelion bunches. And oh, to prove I am not completely crazy, the photo at the top of this post shows that small sparkling water bottles make great bud vases!

containers

Good heavens – I am addicted to glass jars and plastic containers!

But I have it under control – believe me, I do! Once a year a take an inventory, and what I can’t use, I throw into the recycle bin. Or I figure a way to use the container in order to justify keeping it on hand.

chives

Yes, there is a method to my madness! That little, itty-bitty pimento container? My dried chives will be a perfect match! The dried mint will look beautiful in my antique spice jars. The sage, (which tasted awesome and smelled divine while roasting in last Thanksgiving’s turkey) will fit perfectly in the gelato container. The cellos – I can now double the recipe for these delicious drinks.

But darn it, I have yet to find something to fill that creamer container.

Oh, Grandma, I miss you! You would be so proud of me, recycling and learning to garden. I wish I had watched you, as you lined up jar after jar of fresh, delicious veggies from your garden and delectable fruit from your trees, carefully canning and preserving each item. I am really sorry that I rolled my eyes; you were ahead of your time in so many ways!

Plus, dang it, I know darn well you’d figure out something I could do with that Cremora bottle…

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

Do you have a hard time parting with items that could one day be useful? Share in the comments below.

 

 

A sticky lesson from Lynne’s Lab

“The secret of my success is my hairspray.” – Richard Gere

Most of my readers are aware that I’ve been switching to greener and less toxic items for my family, especially with cleaning and personal care products. My heightened awareness came about when I was researching Alzheimer’s disease after my dad’s diagnosis. Using less chemicals seemed to make more sense to me, whether experts link disease with these items or not.

It has been a period of lab testing since the last edition of “Lynne’s Lab.” For the most part, I have been pleased with the results of my “make-your-own” products.

I made three gallons of liquid laundry detergent on May 30, and I gave a gallon to my oldest daughter to try. I still have about a half-gallon left and we’re all still happy with the results – both in the cleaning and the budget departments!

My hubby and I are still enjoying the results of the toothpaste, and trust me when I tell you that the deodorant has been given a workout in this record-breaking heat and its performance is fantastic. (I added the links below.)

The dishwasher powder and shampoo formulas need to be tweaked for better results before I post them…

But wait! There’s more! I made…drum-roll please…hair spray! Yes, indeed, a hairspray that not only works, but one that doesn’t reek of chemicals and fumigate my house.  Three simple ingredients and I admit that I totally doubted this would work. It would cost me very little to try this – other than time to re-wash my hair – so, game on:

I heated one cup of water to almost boiling, and removed it from the heat. Then I added four teaspoons of sugar, and stirred until it was completely dissolved. Once it cooled, I added a few drops of my favorite essential oil – lavender – and then funnelled the liquid into a spray bottle. I shook it gently before using, and allowed it to dry (it takes a “hair” bit longer to set than commercial spray.) Viola! It worked: a great spray, cheap, not stinky and it really made my hair shine. The true test came this past week with in 100 degree heat, and this stuff really held up.

Let me know if any of my experiments have worked for you! Stay tuned – more formulas to come!

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Mixing it up again in Lynne’s Lab

Yes, making my own household cleaning and personal care items continues in my kitchen. So far, the results of the deodorant, laundry detergent and liquid hand soap have been favorable. They have also inspired others to give it a try… like my mother, who thought I had either too much time on my hands or went all-out hippie. (Okay, so I do make my own granola and have made yogurt. Does that make me a hippie?) I digress.

A few Sundays ago, I made my monthly stock of deodorant, and figured that now was as good as time as any to try making toothpaste. My granddaughters were fascinated. I assume most kids watch their Mema make cookies. They helped me count and seemed to enjoy watching their favorite mad-scientist in action.

The toothpaste was super simple to make. I found it on Crunchy Betty’s blog, and modified it – of course! My concoction: 3 Tbsp of baking soda, 3 Tbsp of coconut oil and 25 drops of peppermint essential oil (I used more peppermint, but omitted the stevia and glycerin, as I don’t care for sweetened toothpaste.) Soften the coconut oil a bit, and mix everything together.  I found little travel containers at Wal-Mart to put the paste in (one for me, one for hubby) and stored the rest of it in a small container to use as a refill. The batch cost about 38 cents to make, and  it looks like it will last two weeks for two people.

After hearing our rave reviews, my mom made her own toothpaste as well, and she is also enjoying the results. If you are not used to the baking soda taste, it is kind of salty/grainy at first, but it took me only two brushings to get used to the taste and texture. My mouth and teeth feel so much cleaner, and I think they look whiter, too.

Have you been inspired to try any of my “lab-tested” stuff? Let me know in the comment section below.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Soap sud success from Lynne’s Lab

“Anyone’s life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit.”

Last week I had a blast in my kitchen. I blogged about making my own deodorant, and how that led me to try making more household items. (Here’s the link in case you missed the first Lynne’s Lab.)

My first experiment was to make liquid soap to refill my dispensers. I stumbled upon instructions on About.com’s Frugal Living. I had all the ingredients, so, why not try it! Using that basic recipe, I grated a four-ounce bar of my favorite bath soap, Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey. I brought four cups of water to a boil and took the pan off the burner, then slowly added the soap shavings, and stirred until the soap was dissolved. Once it dissolved, I let the soap rest 15 minutes and stirred it again.

The mix sat for a couple of hours and cooled (almost completely). It was a thick, gloppy mess, and I thought I had ruined it and wasted my time. But, not to be defeated, and taking a tip from the instructions, I modified things a bit. I took the soap, dumped into my blender and added a 1/4 cup of hot water. Then I blended it – it looked like a super-yummy milkshake! With the help of a funnel, I poured the warm mixture into the dispensers and it worked beautifully. It has a light fragrance and rinses well. No globs, either.

I made about 1.5 quarts of liquid soap for about a dollar. To store it, I placed the leftovers in a canning jar. The next batch I make, I plan to add a little essential oil of lavender. Not only do I love the fragrance, lavender has a calming effect and has antiseptic properties. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

After I made the liquid soap, my next project was to make liquid laundry detergent. The formula I followed made three gallons, and my cost estimate is probably about $2. The are three ingredients: one bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated; 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup of Borax. Oh, and water 🙂

Put the soap shavings into a four-quart pan, add water about half-way up and cook on medium-low, stirring until shavings melt. Bring to a slight boil then add the dry ingredients, and stir until dissolved. It can boil over easily, so be careful!

Using a glass measuring cup as a scoop, pour equal amounts of the detergent base into the gallon containers. (I used rinsed-out milk containers.) Add hot water to the halfway mark and shake each container well. Lay containers on their side overnight. Solution will gel, like a big yellow glob! Using the handle of a long spoon, break up the gel and add hot water to the container – a little at a time – and shake until well blended. (Don’t fill completely to the top.) Because Jillee, the blogger who posted this detergent has excellent instructions, just click on this link for the complete process and follow her photo guide. Trust me when I tell you she did a great job in making this venture simple and easy to follow.

For ease of use, I poured some of the detergent into a well-rinsed liquid laundry detergent bottle. I use less than half of the measuring lid for a full laundry load. I gave a gallon of detergent to my daughter to try, and the consensus between our two households was that clothing seemed cleaner, brighter and softer. My daughter remarked that a grease stain that she thought was permanently set in a shirt actually came out using the homemade detergent.

Between the two soap making ventures, I spent less than two hours in the kitchen, and that includes hand-grating the bars of soap. Would I do it again? You betcha. Not only is this economical, but there is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction by saying “I made it myself.” And I’d like to believe that both soaps are better for my family’s skin and better for the environment, too.

Stay tuned for my next experiment…

Do you play mad scientist in your kitchen? If so, what do you make?

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Straight out of Lynne’s Lab

I’ve been creating stuff in my kitchen again…

There really is a method to my madness. When my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I did what many others do when a loved when gets handed a dreaded diagnosis – I researched. Lots of reading and weeding through pages and pages of info; endless discussions with doctors, social workers and friends about dementia.

Then, I started making changes in my own life, as I’m sure others have done, too, if there is even a remote chance that genetics play a role in your loved one’s disease. I was trying to reduce the amount of household chemicals we used, and also trying to eat organic foods.

In my hours of reading, a saw more than once that there may be a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s. Aluminum can be found in cookware, baking powder and antiperspirants/deodorants, too. Needless to say, I started reading labels and purchasing items that were aluminum-free… which didn’t work so well with deodorants. I tried several different brands, salts, etc. No luck.

About that time, my mom started forwarding information on the benefits of coconut oil with Alzheimer’s patients. The information is amazing, and can be found by doing a simple Google search. So, after doing a lot of reading, I started to incorporate coconut oil into my diet and also use it as part of my skin care routine.

Yet, I was still frustrated that I couldn’t find a decent deodorant. And with my dad’s disease progressing, I became too distracted to care.

A few months after Dad passed away, and I came back to the land of the living, I decided to look online for homemade deodorant, and was successful in my search. And, well, because I am me – a rather impatient person – I tried the one recipe that listed the ingredients I had on hand – baking soda, cornstarch and coconut oil as I wanted to try something…NOW!

It worked!

In the past few months I have had some teenage gals try this potion, and they are liking the results. The ultimate test came when my hubby tried it, did yard work in some seriously high heat, and he was really pleased with the effectiveness. (Note – you will perspire as your body was designed by God to do, but the deodorant will do as it is designed to do – deodorize.)

If you want to try it, here goes:

1/4 cup baking soda + 1/4 cup cornstarch + 5 tablespoons of melted coconut oil. (Your best bet is to use organic ingredients). Mix until ingredients are smooth. It is like a paste, and you just massage it in. Use about a dime size. (You can add essential oils if you like, see link below for details.) Sometimes the coconut oil can solidify, so should that happen, you will need to warm it in your hands so it is spreadable or run the container under warm water. I use small refillable containers for storage.

My success with this venture inspired me to try other items off the same website, www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com (also on my BlogRoll). Today I made three gallons of liquid laundry detergent and a half-gallon liquid hand soap. But here is where “Miss Impatient” (me) will be tested, as I have to wait overnight for the soaps to thicken before I can finish making them. So it will be sometime tomorrow before I can use them!

Please stay tuned, and I will post the results in a day or two.

Have you tried making any personal or household cleaning products? If so, share in the comments section 🙂

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb