Sunday, January 25, 2009

Easiest Challenge Ever follow-up

Well, between a couple side projects, a real job I'd like to keep, and children almost constantly tugging at my clothes, I've become a slacker blogger. Or at least an intermittently slacking blogger.

A while ago I issued the Easiest Challenge Ever, and then never said another word about it. Well, all you intrepid participants... wait, did anybody actually do this?

Here's my report:

- Shampoo: Very dependent on whether I kept the water softener salt topped off. Our naturally hard water requires more soap, shampoo, etc. If you've never dealt with hard & soft water differences, this may sound strange. But it's a huge difference. Anyway, when the water was good and soft, I could get by with very little. I haven't been keeping up with my colloidal silver "shampoo" experiment, because, well, my mad-scientist rig to make the stuff is solar powered and we don't get many days in winter. Wow, I sounded a bit like a lunatic just then.

- Soap: I've been trying to use only bar soap for hand washing and the like, and I've come to find I prefer it. That glistening goo out of the dispenser is just unappealing at this point. And way too lathery.

- Dishwasher detergent: I'm cheating on this one, because we experimented with this last summer. I filled a coffee can with washing soda, calcium citrate, and um... some other stuff. I can't find the exact recipe now. Anyway, it worked pretty well, but then the humidity or something got to it and it hardened into a brick. I literally had to use a drill to break it into chunks. I'd like to try this again at some point, but for now it's back to the store-bought stuff.

- Shaving cream: Well...

I guess I need to digress on the whole shaving topic for a sec. I used to use an electric razor. Then I lost it after a business trip. At least I thought I did. It's one of the supposedly rechargeable ones (aren't they all now?) and as often happens, the non-replaceable rechargeable battery is shot. It still works when plugged in, more or less.

But since I thought I had lost it, I dug out the old razor. How old? This thing only has two blades! Think of it! Anyway, I found I liked shaving with a blade better and it didn't take any less time. No electricity needed. Of course there are the disposable heads, still. So I got a fairly cheap Zeepk straight razor off eBay. I haven't mastered it yet. It's harder than it looks, at least for me. So most of the time I shave with one of those disposable-head razors. But I make 'em last.

End digression. Shaving cream. A squirt from an aerosol can is hard to control, but I found that about a quarter-sized dollop, or slightly larger, is plenty. Less than that gets a little skimpy. HOWEVER.... A shaving brush, a porcelain cup, and a little disk of bar soap is even better. I don't know why, but I really like this method. The amount of soap used is negligible. In fact, now I know what to do with all those scraps of bar soap that are too small to wash up with. Just throw them in the bottom of the shaving mug!

I do want to mention, for anybody thinking of going this route, that if you get a "genuine boar's hair" brush, which most of them are - even the cheap one I got at Walmart when my non-Walmart one inexplicably fell apart - soak the bristles in water for a day before use. Otherwise you'll start every day smelling like the south end of a northbound boar.

Aftershave - Well, I've never really used it in the first place. But when shaving with a blade - especially the straight razor - cold water does wonders.

Toothpaste - It's confirmed - A little dab'll do ya.

Laundry detergent - That's Lori's department, so I can't say. I mean, laundry's women's wor-OW!OW!OW!OW! Kidding! .... We did get one of those high-efficiency washers a while back, so I'm sure we're using less. But I don't know if that really counts.

Deodorant - I used one of those crystal deodorant dealies for a while. But then I dropped it. And it broke into jagged shards. Not the best for rubbing on yer pits. I used up the gel stuff and I'm using the old-fashioned stick kind. I've found there's a definite limit to skimping on this one though.

I can't think of any other cleaning & hygiene areas I've experimented with.

Does any of this make a big difference in the world? I doubt it. But it doesn't hurt. And as I mentioned before, I'm thinking of it as a gateway drug to mindfulness.

Anybody else?


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At 1/26/2009 8:05 AM, Blogger Madcap said...

Good morning e-4,

I wish I could get my 12 y.o. daughter to take this challenge! We're going through a pretty frightening amount of shampoo and conditioner these days.

Why wouldn't using less in a high-efficiency washer count? Uses less electricity and water too, right?

At 1/26/2009 8:11 AM, Blogger e4 said...

Hey Madcap!

I guess to me the washer doesn't count because the challenge was about little, easy changes. We're only able to use less soap in the washer because we bought an expensive new appliance.

But yeah, it does use a LOT less water and a good bit less electricity.

At 1/26/2009 9:05 AM, Blogger d.a. said...

I hear you about the hard water struggle - we've gotta stay on top of our softner's salt supply as well.

I've been using Liggett's bar shampoo for awhile now, and love it. Comes in a paper wrapper, and I can get it locally for less than what I've seen it on line.

I've been trying out using less of the dishwasher detergent, and so far, so good.

Have been using less of the laundry detergent for awhile now. Our front-loader was getting soap overloaded, despite using the recommended amount of soap for our washer.

At 1/26/2009 10:02 AM, Blogger anna banana said...

I've found that I usually do drop my deodorant crystal at least once, and it predictably breaks into at least two pieces. The good news on my end, though, is that then it's easier to hold onto. I just use the remaining smooth side against my pits and leave the jagged edge for my fingers to hold.

We've been using bar soap for Everything In The Shower. We tried the shampoo bar from Burt's Bees, but it left more residue on my hair than regular soap, so I'll stick with soap for now.

We've also been using Dr. Bronner's soap for both dish washing and hand washing. We dilute it down, and it gets things clean enough for my taste, though it does leave a waxy residue in the bathroom sink... not sure what that's about.

At 1/26/2009 4:15 PM, Blogger homebrewlibrarian said...

Having heard all sorts of wondrous things about baking soda, I embarked on seeing what worked for me.

- toothpaste: It took about a week before the salty taste of baking soda wasn't really bad. Just wet the toothbrush, shake most of the water out and dab the bristles in baking soda. Works really well and swishing with a couple mouthfuls of water gets the saltiness out. Never did care for sweet toothpaste before and now that stuff would make me gag.

- deoderant: During the week, I take "spit baths" with a washcloth and then apply baking soda to my pits. It took a while to figure out how much to use (not very much at all - too much and my skin got very irritated). I never did have much body odor but, holy cow, I don't seem to have any now. I don't sweat much and seeing as how it's winter in Alaska, sweating just isn't happening, so there's no problem with that.

- shampoo: I haven't used up the organic shampoo I have left but when I do, I'll try out baking soda. I am, however, spritzing a 10:1 water to cider vinegar mixture in my hair after I rinse the shampoo out. My scalp has gotten less dry and my hair much softer. I only shampoo once a week so from what I've read over at Crunchy Chicken latest attempt at going no 'poo, it shouldn't take me too long to switch over to baking soda when I get there. Which, at the current rate and amount of shampoo used, could take until 2010.

- foot odor: I wear the same pair of light hiking shoes pretty much all the time during the winter. Since they are Gortex lined, the shoes and my feet would get pretty stinky. I started sprinkling about a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into each shoe and shaking it around and, bingo, no stink. In fact, it takes a week or more before any sort of odor comes back. Baking soda does not do anything to combat moisture but it must change the pH enough to prevent bacterial growth. Good enough for me!

- laundry: Somewhere I found a recipe for laundry soap that is 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda and 1 grated bar of soap. The last batch I made worked pretty well if I used warm water to dissolve a couple tablespoons per load and then soaked for a couple of hours. The current stuff isn't working as well because the bar of soap was still rather soft (homemade stuff I picked up in late August) and the shreds of soap don't dissolve very quickly. Which causes there to be streaks of soap residue on my laundry. I'm thinking that I should try dissolving the laundry powder in a couple of cups of boiling water and then adding it to the washer during the filling cycle. More research is necessary.

- toilet cleaning: I'm using graywater to flush my toilet so I can completely empty the water out of the bowl to clean it. While still damp, sprinkle about a tablespoon of baking soda thoroughly then spray a 1:1 water to cider vinegar solution over it (which will foam up rather excitedly) and let it sit for a while. Using a toilet brush afterward, it cleans very nicely and helps things smell clean. One caveat: I don't have iron or a lot of calcium in the water so don't have to worry about removing stains or deposits. When I lived in Wisconsin with calcium rich water, I'd pour about a cup of white vinegar into the toilet bowl (full of water) and let it soak for quite a while before using a gell cleaner and scrub brush. That worked okay. I think if I had more patience, I think it would have worked better. But that's not a problem here.

My results show that baking soda truly is a wonder substance: Cheap, environmentally friendly and a little goes a long way.

Kerri in AK

At 1/26/2009 11:01 PM, Blogger homebrewlibrarian said...

Oops, wrong ingredients in the laundry soap.

It's 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda and a grated bar of soap.

My bad.

Kerri in AK

At 1/27/2009 1:36 PM, Blogger Wendy said...

I kept meaning to get a picture of my "personal hygiene" products and post it on my blog for this challenge.

A pea-sized dab of toothpaste works great - better, in fact, because my mouth isn't full of toothpaste, and I can brush longer ... which is kind of the real point ;). I won't use baking soda as a substitute, though. My dad used it exclusively for most of my life, and now, he's in his 60's and his dentist says that the baking soda is too abrasive and is scrubbing the enamel off his teeth. So, I guess I'll stick with toothpaste, or just go with water only. It's the brushing that does the job - not the stuff on the brush ;).

Baking soda deodorant (baking soda, lavender oil and tea tree oil, shaken and daubed in pits) has worked out really well. I actually prefer it to the commercial stuff. My husband has never used deodorant since I've known him, and it's never been an issue. He doesn't use cologne or aftershave, either.

I gave up "regular" shampoo and soap a while back in favor of Dr. Bonner's Castile soap. It comes in a gallon-sized plastic jug, and I put it into one of those plastic foaming handsoap dispensers diluted with water by about a quarter. I buy about two gallons a year, and we also use it as handsoap. My husband still uses regular soap, regular shampoo AND conditioner. Sheesh!

I mixed baking soda and Borax for our dishwasher, and it seems to be working okay.

I still use commercial laundry soap, but only about half the recommended amount. I guess the clothes are clean - at least as clean as they've always been :).

None of the changes have been really hard, and I've been happy with them all. I'm "planning" to make my own laundry soap, but just haven't gotten around to it, yet, although I do have all of the ingredients :). It's just a taking the time issue at this point.

At 1/28/2009 2:56 PM, Blogger Owlfarmer said...

One of the good things about getting older is that your hair gets drier and you don't need to shampoo as often.

The deodorant crystal that comes in a cylinder lasts forever. And you really don't have to use it every day unless it's really hot and you're really odiferous.

I like the brush and soap solution for shaving, but I prefer my men hairy-faced, so my husband just uses his Dr. Bronners to help shave his neck once in a while. Nice and bracing, too, that peppermint soap.

The Dr. B's can be used, as others have mentioned, for almost everything you need soap for. And it's cheaper by the gallon. I made a sink-cleaning paste out of the lavender variety mixed with olive oil and baking soda. Lasts forever and works really well.

I use 7th generation dishwashing liquid (don't have a dishwasher), and pour a capful in the washing tub. What that doesn't get in terms of food residue, a little Bon Ami or baking soda will take care of. So far I haven't poisoned anyone. Baking soda goes on the cutting board, too, and once in a while a half a lemon dunked in baking soda.

I've made lotion out of olive oil, witch hazel, and aloe gel, but you have to keep it in the fridge.

Slowly but surely we're weaning ourselves from all manner of commercially-made products and unnecessaries of all varieties.

At 2/11/2009 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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