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

Embracing my inner “geek”

Last summer, I remember there was a really, super-hot day towards the end of June. At the time, my dad was in the hospital. I couldn’t focus on much, so I hopped on Facebook and posted something silly like, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk”.

And the conversations began.

“I always wanted to try that,” replied someone. “Does it work?” asked another.

Admittedly, I have always liked science experiments. Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, Mentos in diet soda, watching celery sticks and Queen Anne Lace drink up food coloring, microwaving almost-stale Peeps…the list goes on and on. So when my cousin almost double-dog-dared me to fry an egg on the sidewalk, what was I to do?

Out the door I went, egg in hand. And a camera, too. Then, like a giddy school girl, I’d run back in the house to update my followers on my experiment. And for the record, the egg started cooking. Kind of a soft-scramble due to the way the egg hit the ground. I was laughing and taking pictures. I’m glad the kids weren’t home, because they’d have been mortified to know that people walking their dogs were staring at me. But I digress.

Of course, I shrugged off the incident as therapy for a rough time period in my life. But the other day, while I was cleaning, that summer-time experiment memory came back and hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then it struck me – I might be a geek.

Serious – I think I am! Maybe because I did some techincal writing recently and learned about things like cloud-based applications and gigs of data and cool stuff like that, but I think there really is a geek hiding within!

Here’s why. We live in what designers like to call “mid-century modern” house. Basically, it’s a small ranch a little older than me, that has a old bathtub that refuses to come clean. Each week I’m scrubbing the blasted thing to no avail. Stinky cleaning products in hand, I run in to the bathroom, hold my breath, spray and scrub until I need to breathe, run out of the bathroom, gasp for air, plug my nose and repeat.

Until I decided enough was enough. This week would be different. And, like a semi-mad scientist, I started to experiment with less-stinky, homemade cleaning products.

A sinister smirk appeared when I started to sprinkle baking soda everywhere. Then, with my trusty spray bottle in hand, I doused the baking soda with the vinegar. Bubbles erupted and fizzing hisses greeted me! This was both entertaining and educational – and it worked! Boy, did I have a blast! Who knew cleaning could be so much fun! Plus, I could breathe while scrubbing, which made my job so much easier!

Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? It’s not like I haven’t played (safely) as a scientist before. I’ve made my own laundry detergent, mixed my own Easter egg dye and made window cleaner. I’ve helped my kids with science fair projects. Where was my head?

Gosh, I wish I hadn’t ignored my inner geek, because when I did embrace it, cleaning the bathroom was, well, it was kind of fun.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb