Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

After what I’m now calling “The Great Shave Butter Mishap of 2016”, I got back to making some of the stuff that I love to make and have mastered. (Because I needed a win after all that razor burn.)

First, I was out of lip balm so I melted to fill up about 4 tubes of a lemon-lime scented stick. Made with Shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax. Plus the E.O. of course.

Next, I tried my hand at another body butter. I wanted one of those really whippy type ones that basically melt on your skin when applied.

The good news on that one, I think I got a perfect recipe for winter in Phoenix. The bad news is that our summers require me to use cocoa butter. That isn’t bad because it will help the mix to hold the shape better. I just know it will kill a bit of the key lime smell and replace it with chocolate.

I guess I’ll smell like key lime white chocolate all summer. There could be worse things.

Finally, we were out of laundry detergent. I’d developed one a while back that seemed to work pretty good. I like using liquid because our water in Phoenix is some of the hardest in the country. Melting soap products in cold water is almost impossible. Liquid works so much better for our clothes if I need to use cold.

The last time I made it, I stored it in a 1 gal jug left over from white vinegar, washed a few times. The bottle is translucent so I could see what was going on in there. The detergent looked like grey water except the top layer. That was thick and like the gel I expected.

Only problem – once that layer was gone the soap wasn’t all that soapy anymore. No matter how much I shook it or stirred, that laundry martini just didn’t blend right. It surprised me I hadn’t noticed it before when pouring into the measuring cup.

Instead of using liquid castile soap this time I decided to try the “even more effort” method and grated bar soap. I read a lot of reviews, forums, bloggers and decided to try my hand at grating and melting Fels-Naptha instead of the Dr. Bronner’s I tried last time.

This was for two reasons:

1. Fels-Naptha was available where I was shopping.
2. Dr. Bronner’s bar soap was not.

The Green community is divided on some of the ingredients in Fels-Naptha. I can understand that because a few things aren’t necessarily super, like talc, tallow (for Vegans), titanium dioxide. So the ones I wasn’t sure about I researched on

After reading all kinds of sciency speak, I feel okay about using it in my detergent. Here’s why.

1. I’m not Vegan so the tallow issue isn’t one for me.
2. Talc is something I’m on the fence about. I wouldn’t want to use it on sensitive skin as an absorbent, on my underarms for example, but as something that will wash fully out of fabrics? I have no problem with that.
3. For all of the ingredients I worried about I researched them on and none of them went above a 3. Yes, on their scale, a 3 falls in moderate range but it’s at the lowest of that mid-range category. I’m okay with that too.

So I did some research and liked the basis of this recipe on Mrs. Happy Homemaker. I use washing soda and Castile soap normally and, yes, I also support the use of Borax. Someday I’ll do my big write up on why I say yes to Borax in limited quantity but let’s get back to the recipe.

I divided her recipe (measuring on the scale and dividing by 5 then converting to ounces for easier matching with how the soap was measured). I usually only make a gallon at a time. It’s easier to store it in our very small laundry space that way.

So far, I’m loving it! The consistency was a little thicker than my old stuff. It seemed to dilute perfectly in a load of laundry and everything came out smelling like clothes, not nasty Phoenix-in-the-summer pits.


This gallon should last me for 32 loads of laundry because I tend to do mid-sized loads and use about a half cup per load. I’m not doing the math on cost per load (because I know I’m saving money there) but I’ll give the overview of the total cost.

I used to buy the big spigot style blue stuff at a big box store. It would last through about 64 loads and cost about $20 with tax.

(I do an average of 4 loads of laundry a week including sheets, towels, blankets, guest linens, cleaning cloths/pads, and clothes. Blue stuff would last, on average, 4 months. Annual cost $60.)

In contrast, with my homemade stuff, I do have to invest some time to make it (only about 15 total minutes, far less than driving to the store) and the shopping part is far less frequent. And I don’t dispose of a container every time I purchase. I just mix and store in a lidded glass jar.

I bought the box of washing soda about a year ago when I first started making my own detergent. That was about $5. The Borax 6 months ago for $5. Which should last a year, the box is only half empty now. The Fels-Naptha will make 5 gallons worth of detergent, and with each gallon lasting about 2 months, the bar will make it about 10 months. This bar was just under $1. So with the extra 2 month share the soap registers at $1.20.

Total for a year’s worth of my detergent?


A year.

Sure, it takes time to grate and melt soap. (About 2 minutes to grate, 10 to melt)

Sure, it takes time to mix then wait for the stuff to set. (About 3 minutes, then, 24 hours)

Sure, it seems easier to just buy the stuff with the spigot. But another $48.80 in my pocket doesn’t sound too bad. And frankly, if I can avoid having to go shopping I’m a happy girl.


My New Liquid Laundry Detergent

CONVERSION: 5 Gal --> 1 Gal recipe reduction

I converted cups into ounces for measuring using the Tare feature on my scale.

1 cup Borax = 8 oz.
1 cup washing soda = 8 oz.
1 bar Fels-Naptha labeled at 5 oz.

For 1 gallon I divide each by 5.

Here’s my recipe and instructions:

1.6 oz Borax
1.6 oz. Washing Soda
1 oz. Fels-Naptha (grated)
Lavender essential oil (EO, optional)
Metal pan (for melting soap)
Glass jar/jug (with a lid)
Pot holders

1. Grate the soap and melt in about 1 cup of water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat set at just past medium on the stovetop. (About 9-10 minutes)

2. Put the washing soda and Borax in the glass jar/jug, fill about halfway with very warm water, stir or cap and shake until the powders are dissolved. The water shouldn’t be clear. The glass will get hot, pot holders with silicone will help keep a grip on the glass as you shake, shake, shake.

3. Add your EO to the melted soap and stir in before adding to the water. I used about 25 or 30 drops of lavender but the Fels-Naptha has a smell too, an interesting combination.

4. Pour the soap and oil mixture into the jar/jug and stir lightly to combine. (Mine started to congeal a bit at this stage) Fill the jug the rest of the way with warm water, stir one last time and cap.

5. Let it sit, covered, for a full day to set and cool completely.

Very important: If you make this in an old plastic bottle or other flexible vessel don’t cap tight, leave a little air gap for heat to escape as it cools. If its closed all the way the sides can pull in as the steam gets trapped and it could explode open. That’s why I use glass, no expand or contract issues!

6. I have an immersion hand blender, which I used to get everything blended up smooth. We’ll see if that lasts in the heat of my garage. Things could separate, I’ll keep you posted.

7. Label it so everyone in the house knows this is soap. This should be fine for all top loading machines, that’s what we have and haven’t had any problems. Not sure how it would do in an HE since I don’t have one.


And that’s it. Easy breezy George and Weezy!

What do you like to use to clean your clothes? Does your water make a difference? Your appliances?

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Highs and Lows of Creating DIY Beauty Products

Recently back from a week in a humid location, my husband and I noticed something about our old friend humidity. We loved it!

As soon as the door opened to the jetway back at Sky Harbor we both started losing moisture from our skin. And let me tell you, for the week we were traveling our skin felt and looked better than it had since we moved to AZ.

For 5 years now we’ve forced ourselves to suffer. Well, suffer no more I say!

In recent years I’ve been on a mission to naturalize our home and beauty products.

It started with toothpaste, which we still use and love. Then I moved on to laundry detergent (also, love), eliminated even more chemicals with wool dryer balls, then went all-in and started buying a bunch of stuff in bulk.

Shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, arrowroot powder (because I had/have dreams of creating makeup), vinegar, baking soda, liquid castile soap, essential oils, coconut oil by the truckload…

And then it was time to start experimenting. So experiment I did, with mixed results.

I blame it on my inability to sit still during science classes 30 years ago. That and the fact we never learned about this kind of stuff in school to begin with– why do some oils need to be heated, what does it do to the properties of the molecule, why does that make it more likely to mix with another element, how come some things don’t mix, why do I need a carrier oil when using essential oils…

If they taught that shit in high school I’d be a master mixer by this point and probably would have gotten better than a C in science. But here I am, still learning today!

The good news? I’m a grownup now and get to do my research without the silly grading system or pressure to perform during the school year. So, with the time to properly learn and give things a try, I’ve managed to test out quite a few home products.

Here’s how things are going so far:

  • Lip balm – epic win!
  • Body butter – semi-win (turned out a little too solid, less cocoa butter next time).
  • Toothpaste – epic win!
  • Face lotion – win.
  • Lip gloss – meh (beet root powder didn’t blend well with coconut oil).
  • Face powder – meh (I don’t love loose powder but the color was okay).
  • Shampoo – EPIC fail (can we say greasy oil slick?)!
  • Deodorant – fail (either too loose or too solid).

The 2 things I was skittish on trying my hand at making? Body wash and shave cream/lotion. Which might sound strange but I didn’t want anything that would cause my klutzy self to take a dive in that wet location.

So I put it off until last week. Why last week? Last week a new, shiny product arrived in the house and rekindled my inspiration for creating shower products!

Allow me a minute to explain how that particular product came to be in our house.

One of the other things I’ve been doing in recent years is really looking at all the items we purchase and “consume” in addition to food. For example, my shaving razors.

I might go hippie chick to a point but I love being a modern American hippie girl. That smooth leg, pit, and bikini line feeling is something I love on my body so I don’t plan to give it up anytime soon. Of course, that means limited choices and I have to pick one.

Laser hair removal. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand I’d be altering the natural rhythm of my body by literally killing the hair root so it simply stops growing forever. On the other hand, it stops growing forever! Eventually. After a certain number of treatments I could stop spending time/effort/money on any or all of the rest of this list. It’s tempting. But cost prohibitive. Next…

Waxing. Never done it. Very skittish of pain. Plus, it isn’t one and done, I’d have to keep paying someone else to hurt me on purpose and let the hair grow out in the meantime. If I wanted pain on purpose I’d go get another tattoo, thanks. Next…

Esthetician. Do they still use those swirling at light-speed, rip your hair out, tweezer in a container things? Not sure I want to find out. And speaking of Tweezers, um, no. That’s okay for my brows but not so much for legs. Next…

Removal cream. For a while this seemed like the ultimate idea – no nicks, no razor burn, slop it on and it’s 3 minutes to done! – but then I realized  what I’m really doing is giving my entire leg a chemical burn/peel. Absorbing all that crap into my body. Eek. Next…

Electric razor. So my MIL told me that’s what she uses. Sounded so smart! I tested it out on my legs using my husband’s (thanks Matt!) but quickly discovered that process isn’t for me. The thing felt awesome at first, gliding over my leg with ease. Until I saw the blood. Worst nicking/razor burn of my life and I tried both wet and dry. Next…

Disposable razors. Ah yes, the trusty old standby. The port in the storm. And probably the single most expensive piece of equipment in my bathroom. As a girl (because you know our products are always “better designed for women” AKA: more expensive for the same shiz the guys use) I can buy a 4 pack of the moisture strip razors for about $25. With legs to shave (even ones as short as mine) and various other bits and parts, I spent that $25 about once a month. Yes, that’s hovering at $300 every year just to feel sexy!

Now before you get all in my face about “feeling sexy starts on the inside” remember I told you I like my smooth legs for me. Because I feel sexy. So there it is. I buy into the line they feed me and I don’t really care because it makes me feel good.

But I digress…

Since the other options weren’t going to work for me for various reasons I settled on the fact that I’d be buying disposable razors for the rest of my I-still-want-to-feel-sexy life. So I started doing my research and even though it seemed like a gimmick at first, I’m the newest member of the Dollar Shave Club.

I used to use men’s razors all the time. My shin bones are prominent and women’s razors never seem to have the ability to bend. It’s probably because of the pounds worth of “moisturizer” they surround the blade with, trying to convince us that it might actually provide moisture.

It doesn’t.

Because it’s nothing more than a chemical compound that leaves a film of crap on my skin which supposedly allows the razor to glide across my skin.

Again, it doesn’t.

Most of the time I’d have worse razor burn with a first use of a women’s razor than a third use of the men’s. But men’s razors are pretty expensive too so I wanted something more pocket friendly. Enter DSC.

I’m only into my first month but I love the razors. They have some give in the blade head to get through problem areas but don’t have a ton of bells and whistles. They don’t try to convince you that a Dyson roller ball in the middle of your razor or a pound of moisturizer are essential to shaving.

When I ordered it was just the razor but of course they sent me a sample of their Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter. I tried it.

Ho-lee heaven!

Thing is, the site says it uses sea algae and oats and barley and prickly pear cactus but the full ingredients list isn’t available on my little sample. Because I wasn’t sure I tried to make my own.

Based on a few bloggers I love, I tested out a few different recipes to see what might work the best. I came up with one using Shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, liquid castile soap, and lavender E.O.

Now here’s where things get tricky.

I whipped it so it could go into one of these open end tubes I bought back when I started making toothpaste (the tubes are too huge for the paste, we use a glass container and butter knife to apply to our toothbrushes). It scooped okay but my formula may have been a bit off because it started to fall and slightly separate as I spooned it into the tube.

But I persevered and tried it yesterday.


It didn’t dry out my legs.
It smells awesome.
It glides on, sort of.
It is all natural.

But like Matt always says: Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

My razor clogged with every swipe. Which I didn’t realize until I pulled it up my shin 2-3 times, knowing right away I’d have razor burn (it was mild, I’ll say that much, but it was there). And the water wasted down the drain while I spent so much time cleaning out my razor hardly seems environmentally friendly.

The razor had only been used 1 other time so it wasn’t dull blades. In fact, I tried it after shaving my legs on my pits using the last of the DSC shave butter and it was a-ok.

Meaning I needed to track down an ingredients list for the shave butter.

According to Badger & Blade this is what you’ll find in the Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter:

Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Oat Kernel Extract, Willow Bark Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Algae Extract, Papaya Fruit Extract, Pineapple Fruit Extract, Camelia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginsing Root Extract, Propanediol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Dimethicone, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Hydrolyzed Barley Protein, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Stem Extract, Orange Peel Extract, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Lavender Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Dimethiconol, Potassium Sorbate, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexyglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.
No parabens, no animal testing. (Good, but not enough)

I got to the 4th ingredient, looked it up and sighed. It’s a silicone. And a potentially scary one at that.

Sorry DSC but when the EWG deems an ingredient to be “bioaccumulative” with the potential for endocrine disruption, cancer, and neurotoxicity, I throw it away and don’t look back.

Razors? Check! Butter? Back to the mixing bowl.

Have you ever made your own shave butter/lotion/gel? What ingredients do you use and what would be your deal breakers if they were involved? Have you found a readily available all-natural product you could recommend? Leave a comment and let us know!

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