July 24th, 2008
Awhile back this blog featured a three-part series on Necessary Household Basics for keeping a clean house by concocting your own soaps, scouring powders, metal polishes, starches, fabric fresheners, bug repellants, etc. The list of ingredients were all common, inexpensive substances like salt, vinegar, borax, baking soda and corn starch. Saving serious money on soaps begins with saving the last of the bar soaps (and motel bar-lets) and turning them liquid by dissolving them in water.
Part 2 of that series offered some easy recipes for making the useful products. Like making an excellent metal polish by mixing vinegar and salt into a paste, or a fine scouring powder by mixing borax and soda. And of course, if you haven’t enough liquid soap to produce the laundry detergent or diswashing soap, you can always go ahead and purchase a jug of good ol’ Dr. Bronner’s organic liquid soap for making your mixtures. It’s not the cheapest of ingredients, but it’ll certainly go a long way! The money savings are significant all around.
I personally tested the recipes. I liquified my large collection of motel soaps that a friend who travels for a living gave me last Christmas (dozens of little bars) in a large Coleman cooler, because I didn’t feel like cleaning out one of the garden 5-gallon buckets at the time. Then mixed in the recommended amounts of borax and soda (purchased in the largest sizes available at the store, basic generic brands) and still haven’t put much of a dent in the resulting cooler full of laundry soap. Of which I use two kitchen soup-ladels per load, gets the clothes as clean or cleaner than any commercial laundry soap I’ve ever used, and produces clean clothes that smell almost as good coming out of the dryer as they’d smell coming in off an outdoor clothesline! I figure my batch will last 4 or 5 months at least.
Thus it was with some interest I read an article from ScienceDaily entitled Toxic Chemicals Found in Common Scented Laundry Products, Air Fresheners. Seems a University of Washington began a study due to reports from regular people that bathroom air fresheners and smells from laundry products that cling to their clothes were making them sick. The researcher found that all six top-selling products tested emitted at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal law. Not a single one of those toxic or hazardous chemicals was listed on the product labels. Whoa.
The chemicals identified included such nasties as acetone (if you can smell it, brain cells are dying), limonene, acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1,4-dioxane. In all, researcher Anne Steinemann identified nearly a hundred volatile organic compounds emitted from the six products tested, and NONE were on the label. Five of the six emitted one or more “hazardous air pollutants” known to cause cancer, all considered by the EPA to have NO safe exposure level.
Yet another good reason to do it yourself and save a lot of money in the process. Dr. Bronner’s soaps (I love the peppermint particularly) do have scents, there from organically grown plant substances like… peppermint. Or lavender or lilac or… well, you get the picture. Borax and soda don’t release volatile organic compounds, they just clean and freshen clothes while getting out some persistent stains. Your health will certainly thank you for it – asthmatics reported adverse reactions to scenting chemicals at a rate of 20% – and health care isn’t cheap these days either.
Isn’t it nice that people doing things for themselves and saving money can also be living happier, healthier lives in the process?