Friday, 30 November 2012

Smelly cat

Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?!

A couple of quick tips if your cat uses a litter tray and leaves less than pleasant odours:

Firstly, make sure you remove the offending objects as soon as possible!

Second though, which combats the ammonia smell from urine, is to sprinkle a little bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into the tray.  The soda absorbs the nasty niffs and keeps the tray a lot fresher smelling :)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Chemical-free fabric softener

Continuing on from yesterday's post on homemade laundry powder, I thought I'd offer up my attempt at homemade fabric softener.

One of the most popular versions on the web seems to be one which uses hair conditioner (for the scent), mixed with varying amounts of water and vinegar.  As the whole point of this exercise, for me anyway, is to become as chemical-free as possible, this one certainly isn't for me. Especially when you consider some of the ghastly chemicals that are stuffed into conditioners!

Not only that, from a frugal perspective, it makes no sense to me to buy a bottle of 'cheap' conditioner at around £1, plus the cost of the vinegar, when a bottle of chemical fabric conditioner can cost as little as £1 by itself.  Until recently, these are the ones I've been buying and as they're concentrated, have been decanting a one litre bottle into a larger three litre container, and topping up with water.

My homemade solution? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Actually, this formula contains no lemon at all - although a good dollop of lemon juice in the softener dispenser works wonders with a white load, especially if you're able to line dry in nice bright sunshine. The lemon juice combined with sunlight acts as a natural bleaching agent for sparkly whites :)

No, my fabric conditioner consists of nothing more exotic than a vinegar and water mix.  I used a 568ml bottle of white vinegar (around 49p at ASDA), topped off with around 2 litres of water, to which I added 15 drops of essential oil.  My preference is for the woodsy aromas and I might actually up the number of drops a little next time around.  I'll leave it up to you which essential oil you add, or you could create your own blend of two or more oils for your own unique aroma.

Just remember (having of course first made sure you've screwed the lid on tightly!!) to give the bottle a good shake before each use to disperse the oils evenly throughout the mixture.

Don't worry that your clothes will come out stinking of vinegar; they don't.  And as an added bonus, using vinegar in the final rinse gets rid of any soap residue on both your clothes and the innards of the washing machine as well.  A definite win-win solution :)

As well as being a great natural softener, vinegar is also a good machine descaler, an absolute must if you're in a hard water area like I am.  

Unlike me, you did remember to tighten that lid before you shook the bottle, didn't you?!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Chemical-free washing powder

Walk down any supermarket laundry aisle, and you're instantly overwhelmed by the various artificial chemical aromas of "fragranced" washing powder, liquids and softeners.  Sometimes simply standing next to someone whose clothes have been washed in one of these toxic concoctions is enough to send me off into a coughing fit and wheezing breathlessness.

Not only do many of these products contain chemicals that are extremely harmful to the environment, they also contain chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic in humans.

There are some supposedly green alternatives out there, and indeed many of them do contain biodegradable ingredients, but a great many of them aren't as green as they claim to be.  What the manufacturers don't tell us on the label is that even the "green" detergents often contain hidden nasties, such as 1,4 dioxane.

This seemingly prettily named chemical is a byproduct and a 'contaminant' of the manufacturing process and is therefore not required to be included on any labelling.  A known carginogen, and linked to breast cancer, I certainly don't want 1,4 dioxane anywhere near me or my son.

The answer? Make my own laundry detergent!

Not only do I know exactly what's gone into my washing powder, it also works out considerably cheaper per load than buying the commercially produced powder, costing roughly £3 for around 40 washes.

Ingredients

1 x 500g box borax substitute
500g washing soda
300g Granny's soap flakes

Mix ingredients together in a box, tub or jar and add one tablespoon to your wash.  For particularly troublesome items, add a further tablespoon to the pre-wash cycle.

Both washing soda and Granny's soap flakes are available at Home Bargains in the UK, and I believe the borax substitute is available at branches of John Lewis.  I haven't found anywhere local to me yet that sells it so I bought mine online.  For info, borax itself is no longer available for purchase in the EU, but is still available in the USA and elsewhere.

You could of course make your own soap flakes by grating up a bar of unfragranced castille soap; in the USA I think it's called ivory soap.

And there you go! A green and natural product that does just as good a job as any commercially produced washing powder :)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A new blog, a new way of living

Welcome to this new blog, where I hope to chart my progress and my endeavours to live a more self-sufficient, healthy and especially chemical-free life.

I have a 3-year old son, and there's something about having children that makes you take a different perspective on life. I only wish I'd started doing some of the things I'm now trying to do a lot sooner, but I guess it's never too late to start!

These days, I often find myself doing things my parents have always done, (and vocalising the fact that I've turned into my mother!) and I suppose I've now completed my journey down the path of living in a completely different way to them and instead have come full circle back to the ways I grew up with.

I also hope to take my efforts further than my parents, and as well as living frugally and making as much of my own stuff as I can, I aim to become as chemical-free as I possibly can, to the extent that I plan to make my own household cleaners and personal care products wherever I can.  Better for me, better for Small.

I don't suppose I'll be a very frequent blogger, but friends have been trying to get me to start one for years and so I hope to post recipes, household hints, along with ideas for making stuff as often as I can.  I hope you enjoy reading my posts and perhaps becoming a little bit frugal too! :)