The New Normal: save money on laundry detergent

A while back I re-posted a money saving laundry tip from the blog HomeEc101. It mentions the many ways white vinegar can help you save money when you do your laundry at home. See the original money saving laundry tips there and over here too.  Then the super-awesome Sarah Cooper of CoopCrafts dropped by and mentioned that she makes her own laundry soap.


I was baffled, and intrigued. I googled around her site and found the CoopCrafts recipe for homemade laundry soap. I got more intrigued. I went shopping. I decided to give it a whirl.

[caption id="attachment_8858" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner"]retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8857" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer "washing soda" laundry additive"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8859" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap"]Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8860" align="alignleft" width="79" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda"]retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda[/caption]

First you grate the bar castile soap very finely (this is especially important for cold water washing).

I used the smaller of the 2 lemon zester options on my kitchen box grater.

[caption id="attachment_8861" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="box grater for kitchen use"]box grater for kitchen use[/caption]

Then I mixed the soap crumbles with 1 cup each of the Borax, Washing Soda,  and baking soda.

Et voila! Laundry detergent.

Estimated total cost for about 5 cups of detergent = maybe $2.00.  Use 1 tablespoon per laundry load, 2 for big loads or very hard water.

GoogleCalculator tells me that's 80 loads of laundry worth of detergent... for about $4! I stored it in my laundry room, in an old heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid.

retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap
retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap

Dr. Bronner's isn't the only castile soap out there. It does come in many scents, but it's a bit pricey at a little over $4 per bar. I found a cheaper version at my local supermarket where Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap is about $1.39 per bar.  I found all the ingredients I needed locally, at my regular supermarkets.

I also have begun adding about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water and gave up my regular fabric softener. Holy laundry revelation, Batman! I can hardly even begin to describe the positive difference: Soft, fluffy towels. Super clean and clean-smelling laundry. No static cling. No more chemicals going down my drain into the public water supply. No more rendered animal fat on my clothes.**

Making my own laundry detergent and using white vinegar in the rinse water has been a revelation to me. I can't believe I spent a fortune for all those years on commercial laundry soaps.  Never again will I buy All, Cheer or any of the others.

You should try this at home. It's a ridiculously easy way to start if you're baffled by how to live a little greener and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Plus your laundry will come out cleaner with no static cling.

**you do know that fabric softener is largely made of rendered animal fat, don't you? that's a bunch of dead, boiled animals all over your clothes

disclaimer - I do not own sticky-stain-makers, otherwise known as children. Your mileage may vary. Parents, you might want to try this on your own laundry first and work your way up to the truly nasty piles of laundry-like filth kids can create.

Clean your dryer lint trap


Did you know that the stuff they put in dryer sheets to make your clothes soft comes from…

...well forget about it. Trust me, you don’t want to know what it comes from. Suffice it to say that I found out what it comes from one day when I stumbled on a vegan lifestyle website.

But, did you know that your laundry fabric softener builds up on the dryer lint catcher? That decreases air flow and makes your clothes dryer work harder. You won't see the waxy film but it's there.

Pinch a few pennies and keep the planet a teensy bit greener by cleaning your dryer’s lint catcher every once in a while. Old Republic Home Warranty company recommends you do this every 6 months. Even says "clean your dryer lint trap."

Remove the lint catcher and wash it in hot, soapy water. Scrub it with an old toothbrush to remove the built-up fabric softener. Air dry and replace. (save this up for that random, dateless Friday night when you re-organize your sock drawer)

disclaimer: this blog does not  accept sponsored/paid product or service reviews. Blog authors received nothing of value in exchange for writing this post. But if anybody wants to offer to clean our clothes dryer lint catchers, we’re totally open for that. totally.

Related Posts - save money on your laundry/random uses for vinegar , ketchup the magic stain lifter , 2 cheap cleaners you MUST have in your kitchen

Will my house ever sell?!?

Sometimes selling your home in Metro Phoenix in 2010 can feel like a lot of hurry up and wait.  There are some things you can do to make the process quicker and less stressful.  This is reprinted from December 6, 2008. Gives you a little idea how long sellers have been struggling to sell their homes.

A Few Ideas for Handling Seller’s Stress

  1. Paint everything: every wall, baseboard, door frame and window frame. Inside and out. Year after year, national studies reveal that a fresh coat of paint provides something like a 400% return on investment.

  2. Invest $20 or $30 in a brand new, thick and cushy welcome mat for the front door. First impressions count.

  3. Weed out your closets and bookcases. Pack up 1/3 of what’s in there. Donate it or store it for your upcoming move.

  4. Take everything off the kitchen fridge. Buyers aren’t considering buying your 5-year old’s macaroni craft project so they don’t need to see it. They also don’t need to know what time Johnny has soccer practice or which Doctor Susie sees.

  5. Enlist the entire family in keeping the house clean for showings.

  6. To present the appearance of a clean house in under 5 minutes: wipe down counters, kitchen appliances and mirrors with diluted Windex or plain diluted ammonia. (Windex costs more but smells better)

  7. Hide your personal papers, bills, and so forth from the office/desk area (it’s nobody else’s business).

  8. Take down family photos from every wall and dresser top.

  9. Remove the prescriptions from the medicine cabinet (yes, people WILL look. Potential buyers do not need to know that you’re mixing a custom cocktail of Prozac and Viagra.

  10. If possible, find temporary foster homes for your pets. Try family, friends and/or neighbors. This is challenging but important. I love my cat. But if my house smells like cat, it WILL NOT sell.

  11. Take up yoga, tai-chi or meditation.

  12. Ignore your neighbors’ asking prices; concentrate on nearby sold prices.

  13. While you’re at it, (mostly) ignore your friends’ and family’s advice. They are not Realtors. You hired a Realtor for a reason. Ask questions, request documentation of market trends, but trust him/her.

  14. If your Realtor isn’t giving you a weekly or every-other-week update, ask for one.

  15. Write a counteroffer for every offer you receive, even the ones that make you want to scream profanities at the buyer (and see below about Handling Low Ball Offers)

Related Posts:

Quickie Around the House

Quickie Around the House an occasional series of helpful homeowner tips. The series name has changed over time but it’s always focused on making your life easier.

This Quickie is courtesy of Moxie Girl, a personal concierge-type service that you really should check out.
Frustrated when cleaning scorched food from your stainless steel cookware? Add a squirt of ketchup or tomato sauce to the still warm pan when you are done cooking and watch the burned food magically disappear!

Moxie Girl offers an alternative approach to home services by combining the duties of a house cleaner with the touches of a personal assistant. Moxie Girl provides you with more than just a clean house; We provide sanity in your home.

Moxie Girl offers these services and more:

  • home organizing

  • home cleaning

  • personal assistance, errand running and concierge services

  • home/pet sitting and vacation checkups

  • event hosting

  • new baby services

  • home maintenance

Friend Moxie Girl on Facebook, or visit the Moxie Girl website. You’ll be glad you found them!
Disclaimer: Moxie Girl did not provide any services, products or discounts to or its owners, Chris Butterworth and Heather Barr. This review is provided only because we know the folks who run Moxie Girl and we think their services are pretty darn cool.

You can see other entries in the Quickie Around the House series, here.

Are CFL bulbs dangerous?

CFL bulb from ipaa dot org slash Blog slash question mark p=301

(image courtesy of

There’s a lot of kerfluffle around the Interwebs lately about the supposedly dangerous levels of mercury released if you break a CFL light bulb.

I believe the most widely spread story crazy Internet rumor is about a woman in Maine who broke a CFL bulb in a bedroom, was quoted $2,000 for cleanup, and a month later that bedroom is still closed off with tape and plastic.

I did a little research, being the sort of library-law nerd that I am. Before I spring my findings on you, a question: how many times in your life have you broken a light bulb?** Me? Never. Not one broken light bulb in 22 years of living on my own. How about you?

On with the myth busting: The story above about the woman in Maine is only sort of true and blown way out of proportion.

The Maine resident did break a CFL bulb in her bedroom. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection says they told the woman that one option was to hire a HazMat team (at great expense, no doubt). How about that room being taped off for a month after the breakage? The homeowner did that herself.

Read the full report on <here>, which also includes links to the federal Department of Environmental Protection’s guidelines on handling broken CFL bulbs. In addition . . .

**If you’re old like me, you might remember when most thermometers contained mercury too. My Mom broke one once. We scooped up the mercury blobs on a piece of cardboard paper, put them inside a plastic bag, wrapped the bag in paper towels and tossed it in the trash. It was kind of fun to see the little blobs rolling around the linoleum. I actually touched one. And I’m not <very> crazy. Yet.

True, you shouldn’t lie down and roll around in the stuff, but you don’t need to panic and succumb to crazy internet rumors either.

Changes to lead paint rules

Updated April 23  - Fantastic website launched by the EPA, HUD, the Ad Council and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. Get the facts about lead paint, prevention tips, and guidelines for Do It Yourself home renovations involving the potential to disturb lead paint. (

As of April 22, 2010 federal laws regarding safe handling of lead based paint are changing. They’re becoming much more restrictive.

Though aimed mostly at contractors, who must now be EPA certified in safe lead based paint handling law, homeowners should take note. If you’ve ever done a renovation project you know that paint & plaster dust is everywhere! Even a simple project like hanging a new bookshelf can disturb quite a lot of plaster & paint dust.

Dust? I thought the problem was paint chips. . .

Federal law is changing because we’ve become increasingly aware that it’s not just  a matter of “don’t let your kids eat paint chips”. Rather, it’s the dust that renovations cause that is truly dangerous. "Even though lead-based paint was banned for use in the home in 1978, HUD estimates that approximately 24 million homes still have significant lead-based paint hazards today."  (quote source). Further, some statistics taken in Maine showed that 60% of lead paint poisoning incidents were caused by renovation activities (Nat'l Assn of Realtors, via video link below).

Lead Based Paint chart shows older homes at more risk

The simple fact of the matter is that the older your home, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint.

Check out the EPA’s homeowner’s guide to lead-based paint. Also, check the EPA’s online document designed to educate contractors on how to comply with the new rule. Frankly between you and me, it’s not a great document. However, the National Association of Realtors produced a series of nifty videos about the rule change. It’s aimed at Realtors but still way easier to digest than the EPA’s government-produced document aimed at contractors. Go figure.

Your rethinking my devotion to historic homes Realtor,

Heather Barr

Two must-have kitchen cleaners

Disposal Care This stuff is fabulous! If you have problems with a smelly garbage disposal, this might be just the ticket.


You can generally find this at grocery stores, although I’m not sure I remember seeing it at my local Target (which has the new grocery section). It’s a little counter-intuitive to use, because of two things:

1) you put the whole yellow paper-covered package into the disposal, there’s no need to open the packet

2) you put the product in the disposal while running only a slight trickle of water into the sink, not a full-force stream of water

Frugalista Tip: You can also clean a garbage disposal with a combination of a tray of ice cubes and some cut-up lemon or limes.


There are a lot of expensive stainless steel sink cleaners out there. This is dead cheap; I found it online at Sur Le Table for $2.95 for this 12 oz canister. Most of the more expensive stainless cleansers are liquid spray-on formulations. This is a gritty powder like Ajax. Works miracles!

Disclaimer: I use both of these products and recommend them both. But this is a recommendation, not a guarantee. Read the labels, use common sense, etc.

Pet Safe Pesticides

photo credit to eravariel at Stock Exchange

I have been suffering for a few days with a mob of home-invading ants. I blame myself, actually. Unknowingly, I'd brought them into the house in a recyclable shopping bag.  After hanging on a door handle for about a week, I took  the bag down and set it on the floor, getting ready to take it back to the car and shop.

The bag tipped over and instantly, I had a gazillion little black ants swarming over the floor!!

Luckily they were swarming on blond hardwood so I could see all the little beasties pretty easily. It turns out that flip-flops are a very effective weapon of mass destruction when applied with strategic precision. "Strategic precision" means wildly slapping the floor with said flip-flops while shrieking at the top of one's lungs.

However, the collateral damage for this particular WMD is the wind shear that sends a few dozen beasties flying for every shoe swing.

And here's where I (finally!) get to the post point. I have cats. Cats tend to eat off the floor. It's like having perpetual toddlers in the house - anything the cats find even mildly interesting is instantly eaten or licked. So..... traditional pesticides are out of the question.

After much internet research I discovered that there are several non-toxic ways to eradicate ants.  Boiling water poured on the anthill is supposed to be effective. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is also said to be effective because it gets into the ants' little joints and dehydrates them from the inside out. I did find some online articles that seemed to prefer DE from plant stores over the pool-grade DE that's often used in the desert southwest for filtering pools. Pyrethrin is supposed to be a plant-based pesticide safe for use with pets. Except that  I found an online chat room where one member claimed the pyrethrin poisoned her cat and it took over $200 at the vet's office to restore the cat.

My problem with all the advice I found online is that I didn't feel I could trust the sources. The information I found came from websites with names like,,,, and   I've never heard of these! I'm just not sure that I'm going to trust my feline babies' health to those sources. If I'd found something from Cat Fancy magazine or even a single vet's office, I'd have felt more reassured.

So in the end I decided to try the two easiest and least harmful sounding options - white vinegar and powdered cinnamon. I knew the ants were drawn to the cat food crumbs on the floor, so first I baited the little buggers.

  • I put the cats into a locked bedroom away from the action. Then I laid out a trail of cat food across the floor of the ant infested room and waited about a half-hour. Sure enough, an ant swarm. I followed it to the source at the patio sliding door in the master bedroom and poured a little powdered traditional pesticide on the entry point.

  • I walked back the line of ants to the food crumbs, killing them with the flip-flop WMD method noted above with a speed adjustment to minimize the wind shear factor.

  • Next up, a vinegar water wash down for every floor and baseboard surface in the two rooms affected. Websites recommended a mixture of half-and-half white vinegar and water. Whew, what a smell!

  • Finally, a border of powdered cinnamon (from the spice rack) on all window ledges, sliding door tracks and around the baseboards. I vacuumed up the poison powder from earlier and covered over the ant's entry spot with a generous mound of cinnamon.

The whole process took two hours and it was midnight before I was done. Exhausted, I added a ring of cinnamon around my bed because the entry point was in my bedroom. Thoughts of little ants crawling onto my bed in the night was enough to send me screaming out the door to a hotel that accepts cats! (By the way, Motel 6 is pet friendly, should you ever travel with your beloved furry family members.)

The result? Success. Apparently ants really don't like cinnamon. Nary an ant in sight since I broke open the spice rack. Hope you find my ant saga helpful if you ever get infested yourselves!