Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eco Friendly Laundry part 2: Bleaching and Boosters

This is the second in my series on Eco Friendly Laundry. You can find my first post here:

Eco Friendly Laundry part 1: Washing

As I mentioned last time, I've been making my own non toxic cleaners or buying earth friendly versions for years, but I've never managed to convert many others even though I've touted the benefits of how much better my products work than those old toxic standbys. So last time I started using  scare tactics.
Not my usual style, but, hey, I'm not making this stuff up! This week we continue on that frightening journey by talking about bleaches and laundry boosters.

So let's start with a few basic facts (which aren't necessarily all related, but you'll get the idea):

According to a 15 year study given at the Toronto Indoor Air Conference in 1990, women who work in the home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than those who work outside the home.

Indoor air quality is usually 25-100% worse than outdoor air quality. 

Many of the chemicals in your indoor air can build up in your body over time.

Nearly a quarter of all calls to poison control centers are about chlorine bleach.

Chlorine bleach has been linked to reproductive and immune disorders.

Chlorine bleach fumes make respiratory conditions such as asthma worse (no surprise there to anyone who's ever smelled bleach).

Chlorine bleach is corrosive. That's no surprise either, but it's not much good for your washer, your plumbing or the elastic in your undies. And it's definitely not a good idea for skin. I used to clean the educational building at our church which housed a day care center. The counters where they changed the babies' diapers by law had to be sprayed with bleach solution after every use. They were Formica and the surface was pitted and worn from the bleach and very hard to clean. Constant bleach use will make many surfaces more porous (so why do they put it in surface cleaners?).

Chlorine bleach is not a chemical that is normally found in nature. It is an unstable substance that mixes readily with other substances to form some pretty nasty chemical by products. 

We all know that chlorine bleach mixed with ammonia produces a highly toxic gas, but not many of us know that chlorine bleach mixed with anything acidic (vinegar, wine, etc) also produces toxic gas. If you've been bleaching the puddle the dog left on the tile to disinfect, it's really not a good thing.

Chlorine bleach mixed with some substances can form highly toxic dioxin, a carcinogenic chemical, which takes years to break down in the environment. From my research, it is unclear if this can happen in a household environment, but it can happen in the paper bleaching industry--a good reason to buy unbleached paper products.

Chlorine bleach mixed with certain organic materials can produce chloroform. Also, seems like this one can happen in the manufacturing of bleached paper and yet there are conflicting reports as to whether it can happen in the home.

Chlorine is used to make mustard gas. Some reports say that mixing it with dish detergent in the home can make a form of mustard gas.

and finally, the one that the bleach industry really doesn't want you to know about . . . .

Chlorine bleach causes many fabrics to turn yellow

Yeah, I'm not making that up.  Google it.


So how are we supposed to keep our whites white and our colors bright? Well, die-hard environmentalists will tell you to hang your whites on a clothes line and let the sun bleach it while keeping your brights in the shade, but I know not everyone will do that, let's explore some alternatives.

Let's ignore the whole bleach issue at first and talk about just plain getting your clothes really clean. And therein lies the problem. Why not just use a really good laundry soap that gets your clothes clean and fresh instead of having to first treat for stains, then wash and bleach and soften and "perfume"? Good point, right? Well, in a perfect world that would work. In a perfect world your water will be nice and soft, you'd have the best washer on the market, your kids wouldn't play in the grass on their knees and no one in your family would spill or sweat, and all of your clothes would have the same fiber content and dyes would be stable, and . . . .  you get the picture. Laundry product makers just can't make any one product that works for all those variables. They really try, which is why the big commercial brands have crazy things like optical brighteners in them which fool the eye into thinking that your t-shirt is brighter and whiter than it really is. I'd personally rather have a t-shirt that is actually clean than one that just looks like it is. I'd rather have a t-shirt that smells nice simply because it lacks bad odors rather than one that smells nice because it has synthetic fragrance on it.

To get something really clean you first must consider the type of water you have. Is it soft or hard water? Most people have hard water. If you have hard water (and really even if you don't) you want to use a laundry booster. Laundry boosters condition your water so that your laundry soap just works so much better. Even if you have soft water laundry boosters are helpful in lifting stains and getting out smells.

Baking soda aka bicarbonate of soda can be found naturally although most of the stuff we buy is man made. Find it in the baking aisle of the grocery store. We all know it's great at removing odors and safe since you can even use it to brush your teeth. This is the mildest of the laundry boosters you can buy. It's alkaline, but mild enough to handle without gloves.

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral compound which has been mined and used by people for thousands of years. My family recently toured the ruins of borax mines in Death Valley California where they would haul the borax out with wagons hitched to a team of 20 mules--thus the brand name of "20 Mule Team Borax." Borax is more alkaline than baking soda and care should be taken to keep it off your skin and away from children. Because it's stronger it is also really good at killing germs, softening your water and removing stains. I use it in some of my stronger homemade cleaning solutions. Use according to package directions. Borax makes a great toilet bowl cleaner by the way.

Washing soda aka soda ash (not to be confused with washing powder) is also a naturally occurring mineral compound or it can be man made. It is a very alkaline compound which is so strong that it can also be used to strip wax off of floors and is great at getting out petroleum based stains. If you have a grease monkey in your family this might be the perfect booster for you. Once again, avoid getting it on your skin and keep it away from children. It can be found in the laundry aisle at most grocery stores and used according to package directions.

Before you rush out to buy a laundry booster, keep reading.

~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~  ~:~

But what about bleach? Well, we already know that chlorine bleach is not the answer so let's talk about oxygen bleach. I know, it sounds just plain silly to think that oxygen could clean anything. But some oxygen bleach is really using hydrogen peroxide to whiten. You know-it's the stuff they use to lighten hair and whiten teeth. OK, now it's making sense right? That's really very much a simplification of the explanation. You wouldn't want to pour liquid hydrogen peroxide on your colored clothing for instance. I'm no chemist (though I am married to one), so let's avoid the chemistry lesson and suffice it to say that most oxygen bleaches have been formulated to be color safe (check the label).

There are different types and brands of oxygen bleaches in both liquid and powder form. I like to keep things simple so I use a product that mixes a laundry booster like those mentioned above with hydrogen peroxide to make a great combination product. The one I use is Oxiclean. It's readily available and I can buy a 15 lb box of it at Costco which lasts me a good long time. You can also go to their website and print off coupons. Once again, it's a alkaline product and should be kept away from children.

How well does it work? Well, some of you know that I take TaeKwonDo. Our uniforms are white and made of a fabric that is very hard to get stains out of once it gets dirty. TaeKwonDo is not exactly a clean sport. We do wrestling and grappling moves on a not too clean floor, we do outdoor demonstrations and we sweat a lot. When the TaeKwonDo Master hands out uniforms he lets everyone know to not use chlorine bleach on them because bleach will cause them to disintegrate rapidly. The result of that is that most of the students run around in dingy grey uniforms. I use Oxiclean on mine and on my son's and ours stay nice and white. The difference is very noticeable.

So, now you have options. You can use a booster and a oxygen bleach or a combination product depending on your needs.

Please note that certain delicate fabrics such as some silks and wools should be washed with only the mildest of laundry soaps and these stronger additives should not be used on them.

Next time we'll delve into the wild and wacky work of stain removal.


Sunday, September 26, 2010


SPIRAL post gemstone earrings regularly $10-14 each.  NOW $4 off of two pairs ($2 each pair). Refund given on your Paypal after purchase.

moss agate


black onyx

new jade


blue howlite
Find these on My Website or in my Etsy Shop.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's there ?
Dewey who ?
Dewey have to go to school today ?

This is a time machine by my son Caleb 9/10. He is determined that he will make one some day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eco Friendly Laundry part 1: Washing

For years I have been giving away my recipes and tips for eco friendly and money saving cleaning products to anyone who wants them. In fact, I offer my best ones on my website for all to share. But in all this time I haven't had many converts that I know of. I can personally vouch for how inexpensive and easy they are to make and how wonderful they are to use and how they surprisingly work better than all those nasty smelling, harsh expensive, commercial products I bought for years. But I've always just touted the benefits.

What I have failed to do all these years is the fire and brimstone preaching equivalent of gaining converts. I've never bothered to use the scare tactics of harsh reality. And truthfully, that's not my style and I don't really want to start now. But there are a few facts that you ought to know about the products that you are bringing into your home and using in your own personal environment, on your garments, on your bedding and towels and dinner napkins and everything else in your home that you and your family are in nearly constant contact with day in and day out.

This is the first in a five part series on Eco Friendly Laundry.

I must admit that I don't make my own laundry detergent. It's not quite as easy to do as making some other products if you like liquid detergents though it is possible. Dry laundry soap is easier to make, but me and my machine prefer liquid so I buy it. Read on for my recommendation.

FACT:  Did you know that makers of laundry soap, softeners, bleaching agents, household cleaners, etc are NOT required by law to disclose what their products contain? Nope, they aren't. They may list some of the ingredients on the bottle, but they don't have to fully disclose what's in there. Sometimes they are protecting their secret recipes. Sometimes they just don't want you to know. Most eco-friendly brands voluntarily list ALL of the ingredients.

Most commercial laundry cleaning products are DETERGENTS.  Detergents by definition are petroleum based. Petroleum based products are slow to biodegrade. SOAPS on the other hand are plant based. They biodegrade much more quickly. Eco friendly laundry cleaning products are generally soap.

The used water that drains from your washer doesn't just go to the treatment plant to be treated and then returned to the system. Waste water treatment is not a closed system. Some water is released back into the environment and the treatments used cannot break down many of the chemicals used in making laundry detergents. They are released into an eco system that is not designed to deal with them. The water that is not released back into the environment does go right back to you and all your neighbors.

Eco-friendly brands contain highly effective plant based enzymes or ethanol instead solvents for removing stains. Solvents are harsh on the eco-system (your family is part of the eco-system). Traditional detergents also usually contain synthetic fragrances many of which have been proven harmful to marine life or have been found to be carcinogenic. The big commercial brands are heavy on surfactants some of which can mimic hormones in the bloodstream or can damage the immune system.

SIDE NOTE: Thankfully, the use of phosphates in laundry detergents has been banned for some time, but they are still used in some of your other cleaning products such as dishwasher detergent. Phosphates are basically fertilizer which end up in waterways causing excess growth of algae and water plants which deplete the oxygen and kill fish and wildlife. Phosphates are so bad that several states are now adopting a voluntary ban on them in dishwasher detergents as well.

I know you aren't ingesting your laundry detergent, but putting anything on or against your skin can cause it to enter your bloodstream if the particles are small enough. That's why applying a muscle rub like Aspercreme topically can ease the pain of the underlying muscles by sending the asprin it contains right to the effected muscles. That's why taking a nice hot bath with Epsom salts can almost magically sooth sore muscles. The magnesium in the salts enters your bloodstream. Sure, you can also take a magnesium supplement, but soaking in a bath of magnesium salts gives your skin direct contact all over your body and works much faster than ingesting the magnesium. Any residue left from your laundry products is on your clothes, your towels, your bedding, the air you breathe and some of it can certainly can enter your body.

Got your attention now?

BUT . . .

You've been using the same detergent for years and you know how it works, you like how it smells, you can pick it up while you shop for groceries . . . .

OR . . .

You buy whatever is on sale or you have a coupon for and those swishy eco-friendly products are more expensive and there are never any sales or coupons.

OR . . .

How can these things even clean well if they are so "gentle" to the environment?

To the first and last argument, I say just give it a try. When I tried it I was very pleasantly surprised because even though I was using less of the concentrated formula and it was unscented my clothes looked and even smelled cleaner. The brand I buy is available in almost every grocery store chain.

To those worried about your budget, take a look at the number of loads that the expensive little bottle of eco friendly detergent will wash. Compare price per load rather than price per container. And go on-line and you'll very likely find a coupon to print off. My favorite brand has an on-line coupon club. If your sale brand still comes out ahead in the price department consider if those few cents per load are worth it.

And what is my favorite brand? For years I have been using Seventh Generation. It's one of the most available brands out there so you're sure to be able to find it. I liked it so well from the start that I admit I haven't tried many other brands. It works equally as well on delicates as it does on dirty gardening clothes and my sweaty TaeKwonDo uniform so it's the only thing I buy. It comes in liquid and powder and does go on sale sometimes.

I did also try the Costco brand of eco-friendly detergent. The price was nice but I was highly disappointed to discover it contained a lot of synthetic fragrance.

P.S. I also use Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid. They also have a wonderful Blog and if you become their friend on their Facebook Page you'll receive an update every time there is a new post.

Check in next time for the second post in the five part series which will be on bleaches.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Featured Artist: Joy of JoyfulHandKnits

Joy and her husband Pat last spring on their 33rd wedding anniversary
I'd like to introduce you to Joy who is a team mate of mine on the Christian Artist Street Team on Etsy. Joy has a great Etsy shop called JoyfulHandKnits and I love to browse her latest handcrafted creations. Joy specializes in handknit cable beanies, ruffled scarves, socks (I can personally vouch for the socks ☺ ), little girl's ponchos and more.

Be sure and visit Joy's shop.  She's now taking custom order requests for Christmas and she's even looking into making special Christmas ornaments that are knitted--be sure and check back (if you can get them before I do).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's There ?
Daisy Who ?
Daisy that you are in, but I don't believe them.

hummingbird drawn by my son, Caleb 09-12-10 to send to our Compassion International sponsor child in Thailand

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Organizing: do you have a kid kit?

Do you have young kids or grandkids who you take to the park, walk around the neighborhood with, walk to school or go anywhere outside with?

When I started taking my son to the park I realized that I needed a lightweight "kit" that would fit in a small pouch that I could "grab and go" and would contain all those little items that I inevitably needed and never had.

Years later and I'm still grabbing it as we head out the door. And it doesn't come in handy just for us.  I'm always handing out wipes, tissues, bandages and things to other moms who need them. Even when I need to take a tote bag with other items, this just gets thrown in.

Any "hands free" wristlet, small shoulder bag or belt pack will work. It's especially good if it's weather proof.

My kit contains:

a pack of tissues
lip balm
travel size sunscreen
a small memo pad
business cards
a few coins and a couple of dollar bills
individually packaged wet wipes
small pill box for pain reliever (in case of headache)

and it's big enough for my keys, cell phone, Ipod or sunglasses

I still use my kit when I walk my son to and from school twice a day and he's 9. It's much more convenient than taking my purse. My pouch converts from a small shoulder bag to fit around my waist by latching the strap on a different way.

Today I chaperoned my son's field trip and, sure enough, he had a nosebleed and I had the tissues and wet wipes right there. Then another girl scraped her knee and I was prepared for that too. I even had a pen handy for checking off the list of kids getting on the bus to make sure we had everyone and I had wet wipes to clean hands before the sack lunch at the park.

My son (in blue) and other kids enjoying their field trip to the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Items!

Beautiful new pieces in turquoise and copper.  Turquoise really pops with fall colors!

 Find these in my Shop.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock Knock !
Who's There ?
Repeat who ?
Who Who Who !
My son's recent drawing of a hummingbird he is sending to the little girl in Peru we sponsor through Compassion International who likes hummingbirds.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flower bed project update

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know we recently purchased a house that needs some TLC. I have already shown some photos of upcoming yard projects.  Here is an update on one that is nearly completed--the flower bed between the front porch steps and the house.

Before--just a slope of hard packed dirt

In progress--I dug out rocks from another part of the yard that were inexplicably just left in the grass to mow around for the last 17 years
In progress--my son enjoyed this project because I unearthed a lot of worms.  He's 9.

After--a retaining wall I made with the rocks to keep the whole thing from washing away. I added a lot of compost to improve the soil. I hauled the extra dirt away to fill washed out trenches in another part of the yard.

After--one little lonely dwarf Alberta spruce planted for now.  I have another to put on the other side of the steps when I get that dug up. I will plant some flowers next spring--or possibly put in some pansies soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day !

If you are in the U.S. celebrating Labor Day, I hope you are enjoying a nice relaxing day.

I'll probably be out digging in the garden and making salsa and peach/jalepeno jam and hopefully making a new design for a turquoise and copper necklace.  We took a relaxing day Sunday and went fishing at the a beautiful reservoir in the mountains nearby.  I made a pastel sketch while my son fished.

Pineview Reservoir, Utah 09/05/10 Sue Runyon

Enjoy your Monday.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Foolish Friday

Knock, knock !
Who's there ?
Woo, who ?
Don't get so excited, it's just a joke.

My son Caleb at Bantey Srei Temple in Cambodia 2007

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Super Easy Ice Cream Cake

My son, Caleb has a summer birthday in July.  Ice cream cake is a nice option for his cake. This year we were in the middle of moving during his birthday so an easy cake was all we could manage.  This cake is SUPER EASY and quite tasty as it is made with ice cream sandwiches which most people really like.

Build the base with rows of ice cream sandwiches
Spread cool whip over the top (chocolate cool whip gives a nicer look, but I couldn't find any)
three layers makes a nice size cake
Freeze until cool whip is frozen and decorate

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

NEW item

This crazy horse stone focal bead has a tracery of black that looks like trees in a landscape. It's all natural in the stone and the pattern goes all the way through to the other side. Definitely a one of a kind piece in a nice 18 inch length.