Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going greener series: Homemade laundry detergent

In our quest for greener products, we've learned that this much is true: sometimes you have to shell out more cash for guilt-free cleaning.
*long, dramatic sigh*
BUT, don't you fret.  Sometimes, with a little research and DIY, you don't.  And laundry soap just happens to be one of those products that falls into this category.  So, gather up a few supplies, have a little courage in good old-fashioned know-how, and you too can stick it to the man.
Whoever he is.

This is the idea that started all of our "going green" movement.  While wasting time on Pinterest, I happened upon a link for homemade laundry detergent which claimed to be "the best laundry detergent ever".  Intrigued, I did some research, and ended up with the following "recipe" (with a slightly different amount of Oxyclean, I think...) from being creative to keep my sanity.
Huh.  Someone else has sanity issues.
Here we go!
1 box (4 lbs) Borax
1 box (4 lbs) Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 box (4 lbs) Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 large tub (3.5 lbs) Oxyclean or similar cleaner*
3 bars Fels Naptha
*I found a tub of off-brand oxygen cleaner at Fry's (Kroger) for less than $4.  Score!

Grate the Fels Naptha (or stick it in your food processor).  The trick here is to get the Fels Naptha into as small of pieces as possible.  
Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
And, lastly, put your mixture into the container of your choice.

Here's the real magic:  you use a tablespoon for a small-medium load of laundry, two for an large-extra large load (I re-purposed the scoop from the oxygen cleaner, which happened to be a perfect  two tablespoons--serendipitous!).  Seriously.  And.  It.  Works.  We used to use Arm & Hammer liquid detergent, which, let's face it, is one of the cheaper brands--and not only are still we saving money--but it works better than what we were using before (and this isn't just "new soap" excitement speaking, we've been using it for a while now).
As a side note, you can substitute 3 bars of Ivory bar soap or Zote for the Fels Naptha if you prefer.  I may try the Zote next time to see if I prefer one over the other.
Another note, if you pick up an extra bar of soap, you can rub it on stains to pre-treat them.

Pros: Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap!  Holy moly, if you do near as much laundry as I do on a weekly basis, you are going to be happy.  Also, my kids have sensitive skin and Eczema, and since we have switched to this detergent, we have seen nary a rash or dry spot.  Plus, the good feeling you get when you don't put a ton of nasty stuff back into the Ecosystem.

Cons: Um.  The grating?  Maybe?  Also, it seems the bar soaps use some perfume and dye (though, I can pretty much guarantee it isn't nearly as much as the commercial stuff we used to buy!).

Going greener series: Henna

Early this year, I decided to do something I've always wanted: dye my hair red.  I loved the results, but my hair didn't.  Chemical dyes make my head itch during the process, smell awful, and then I end up with dry, damaged hair.  To add insult to injury, my hair just didn't hold on to the red color long enough to justify such crazy processing.
Cue the search for a healthier option.  Fortunately, there is a very cost-effective option for those wishing to color their hair in a more natural process: henna.
I will not go into the specifics of henna dyeing here, just my personal experience.  If you are interested in learning more about henna, I suggest you check out henna for hair, a wonderful website with a comprehensive guide to all things henna.
After browsing the above-mentioned site for several days, I decided that, at least for my first henna, I didn't want to mess with mixing my own color.  Instead, I went with a "ready-mix" from LUSH (found here).  LUSH also has a henna picture gallery with fantastic reviews and tips for their product, delightfully called "pictures of happy caca heads".
My henna arrived via UPS a few days later, looking like:

Sort of like a big brick of chocolate
I cut off two of the squares, and following some of the reviewers suggestions, I grated them.  Some reviewers complained about the smell, but I found it pleasant, like a spicy, grassy tea.  At the last minute (perhaps inspired by the scent?), I decided to brew a strong cup of Earl Grey and use that to mix with my henna, rather than plain hot water.  After obtaining what I thought was the proper consistency, I donned the gloves that came with my henna, and pasted the mess all over my head.  Instructions say to leave the henna on for 1-2 hours, and many reviewers leave it on even longer.  I planned on leaving my henna on for 6 hours, but got too impatient to see what was going on after 2.  I rinsed it out (which, yes, is more difficult than chemical dye, but wasn't a nightmare), and beheld my new, shiny mane.

Dark blonde, dry

Styled, before.

Red! And conditioned.
Styled, after.
Wowza.  I am pleased with the results, it has mellowed to a light red auburn with gorgeous copper highlights (henna is a tone-on-tone color, which means it will pick up on your natural high- and low-lights).  I have received many, many compliments on the color.  Also, my hair is nicely conditioned and feels wonderful.  I still have 4 squares of henna left for later, and plan on leaving it in longer now that I know good things are happening under that mud.  *wink*

Pros:  Healthy!  LUSH's henna is mixed with a healthy dose of cocoa butter, making it super-conditioning.  My usually dry hair is happy.  No allergic "itchy" reaction to the henna.

Cons:  Depending on how much, and what type of henna--it can cost more than chemical dye, unless you are used to having your hair dyed at the Salon, then it will definitely be cheaper.  It takes a lot longer than chemical dye.  Also, you need to be cautious about dying with henna if you have previously chemically processed your hair, a strand test is highly recommended.