Saturday, March 15, 2014

Homemade Liquid Hand Soap

It is unrealistic to think we can swap out all our house cleaning products, personal products and cosmetic product cold turkey. Plus it is wasteful to throw out unused soaps (even if I know they aren't what I should be using, we bought them and will finish them).  So Simon and I agreed that I could find replacements for our current items as we run out of the old ones.  First on the list was.. 
Da da da daaa... 
Liquid hand soap. 

So, after seeing the prices, online and in stores, for liquid hand soaps free of synthetic fragrance and harmful chemicals, I decided I would try my hand at making my own. 

The recipe I decided to use calls for bar soap, distilled water, vegetable glycerin, and any essential oils you decide to add in for scent or other reasons. 

The distilled water is to avoid adding chlorine and other chemicals present in most tap water and the glycerine aids in the creamy, soft consistency (and is optional). 

I bought this unscented three pack of soap at Whole Foods for $6.00. It is made of olive oil, water and salt, and has no added fragrance.  I bought vegetable glycerine on Amazon for $6.00.  I had a hard time finding it in stores, and when I did, it was very expensive. I only need a little for this recipe, so it will last me awhile. 

I bought Tea Tree and Lemon essential oils at the Herbal Medicine store in our building.  I could have purchased them online but they weren't much more expensive in-store, and I like supporting our local shoppes. I chose tea tree to make the soap a disinfectant/anti-bacterial, and the lemon because it combines well with tea tree for a renewing, fresh scent. 

Here is a step by step tutorial for this liquid hand soap:

Step 1: Grate three 6 oz bars of soap with a cheese greater. 

Step 2: Bring 1 gallon of distilled water to a boil and add in soap slivers, 2 tablespoons veg. glycerine, and any essential oils you would like.  Stir occasionally for 10-15 minutes on medium-high heat until all of the soap has dissolved. It will be very watery. Like a broth. It won't burn, so don't worry about not stopping in time. 

Step 3: Turn off heat and let the soap sit, uncovered, OVERNIGHT (10-12 hours).  

For me, after a night of thickening, the soap still looked the same as the picture above: brothy.  I realized my soap was smaller than the soap in the tutorial.  So I added some salt (I'd read it helps thicken liquid soap) and boiled it again until it had noticeably lessened in volume.  Then I let it sit one more night. The next morning it was nice and thick, just like soap should be!  Woohoo!

Here is the best picture I could get of the thick soap. 

YES, I know it looks super gross!  I didn't think about the fact that a nice green bar of soap isn't quite as nice in creamy liquid form. Oops : /

Step 4: I funneled it into this empty hand soap bottle for refilling ease, and into this soap dispenser.  About 70-80 ounces total. It would, obviously, have made more if the soap to water ratio had been correct from the beginning (woops). 

Changes I'll make next time:
- double check soap ounces. duh!

- find a soap that is naturally scented. While, in theory, the unscented soap was a good idea, I underestimated the potent scent that the non-scented ingredients would have.  They overpowered the essential oils.  It doesn't smell bad, it smells pretty boring and earthy; not how you envision your freshly washed hands smelling. So, splurge (a couple dollars) on NATURALLY scented soaps and plan to add essential oils for wellness rather than scent. 

Overall, texture and function success! Color and scent... Meh. But nothing terrible.  An acceptable first attempt from where I am sitting. :) 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Over the last five or so years I have been tiptoeing towards the popular idea arising: "going green". The idea is appealing to me on a lot of levels.  I like the idea of minimizing waste, keeping the environment free of non biodegradable trash as well as limiting the chemicals we put into our garbage, and water system.  I especially like the idea of being very aware of what we put on and in our bodies.  My real hesitations have been surrounding the validity of the claims from many "green" products as well as embracing the cost of having such a clean lifestyle.  I also felt that only changing one or two habits was not, in the grand scheme of things, doing a whole lot.  So I bought my "friendly to lakes and streams" dishwasher detergent, used biodegradable sponges and switched to cloth napkins, little thinks like that, and felt moderately good about myself- something is better than nothing- knowing in the back of my mind that the majority of my lifestyle habits were not all that green. They were more.. brownish. 

I also had a big fear of getting bamboozled. I tend to be idealistic or maybe... unrealistic...or maybe those are often interchangeable. It was hard to miss the breakout of organic, natural, earth/Eco friendly products that started covering the shelves over the last few years, all by well known brands:  Clorox, Windex, Palmolive, etc. Everyone suddenly had the token, economical alternative in their line, for a few extra dollars. Then, as the fad dissolved, so did the number of those products on the shelves.  

On the other hand, you see all these specialty stores, ones that only sell all organic products and earth safe, chemical free cosmetics, and you just about go broke from walking in the door. 

I felt like my choices were 1. Go with the big brands that follow the fads and bust out a maybe-green product, or 2. Get a guaranteed product from a specialty store and sell your first born in the process. 

So, over the last couple of months I have decided I really want to figure this whole thing out.  I don't just want to have to take the product label at face value because I don't know what being earth friendly means.  If I can't pronounce any of the ingredients, how do I know which ones to stay away from? 
And if there are only three ingredients, why do I have to pay for someone else to make it, put it in a cute, natural looking package, and then feel like I can't buy groceries for a week?

So, here I go: Figuring out what ingredients make a product harmful to my body and the environment, which ones are safe to use, which products can I make cheaper (and fairly easily) without sacrificing quality? 

Lately I've been doing a lot of reading, like... A lot of reading... on chemical break down: what to avoid, what is okay, what is debatable, what is untested, what to look out for, etc etc etc.  And I know I still have a long way to go before I feel satisfied with my research.  Honestly, this is probably something  I will keep up with from now on, on a small level.  But over the next couple of months I will be posting what I find; Not because I assume everyone is equally as interested in this as I am, or because I think everyone should do it, but just because I can; and who knows, maybe someone else does and is. 

So, as I find alternatives to harsh chemical products, I'll share what I find. 
A lot will probably be opinions based on what information I have found, and what satisfies ME (us) as alternatives, not necessarily what everyone should start doing.  I'm going to make some things myself (might be trial and error), and I plan to give feedback/a review on products I try. 

So here I go, taking on a hobby ( because I have so much free time...). Maybe you will enjoy learning with me. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Braving the Zipline

It seems we have been feeling adventurous lately: getting outside our box or trying new things. Our latest adventure took place on Sunday, when we, along with 7 other friends, took a trip to Charlotte for a morning of zip lining. 

Our tour reservation was at 10:00. So we all met up at 8:15 Sunday morning to sort out car-pooling and for some, make introductions, before our departure.  The motley crew consisted of the usuals: Simon and I, our friends Patrick and Patricia, and Ilka and Francisca. We recently joined forces with the three new interns at a mutual friend's company: Sebastian, Johannes, and Lenny.  They recently replaced the old interns and we have enjoyed getting to know them over the last few weeks. We were also joined by a friend of Patrick's we hadn't met before: Harry 
After are hello how are yous, we split into two cars and made our way to Rock Hill, South Carolina. 

Here we are, about to gear up. 

Two guides would be joining and leading us on our tour: Matt and Trey. They were both very friendly and understanding of any lingering fears despite the informative introduction and our practices on the affectionately named "bunny zip". 

So, here is the short version: 9 ziplines. Each of carrying lengths.  The longest was 900 ft. I'm not sure about all the others. 5 of them ended on mid, air platforms, 2 were ground landings: one in the middle of the tour and then the final one. 
The first "jump" was the scariest. I thought I'd, more or less, overcome my fear of heights in college between climbing and repelling, but my throat definitely dropped into my stomache as I neared the edge of the first, very tall, platform. 

                                               Close up "before" picture.

 They made sure to tell us twice that these were used for search and rescue... We didn't find that as funny as the guides did. 

                                                View from the top
Guide Trey. He was the one who sent us off from each point. 

Guide Matt. Me went first on each line and caught/ instructed is when we came onto each platform. 

This is the first platform (the one with  all the stair we stood in front of). Here we all are, waiting nervously to do the first zip. 

After that first one, though, they weren't scary any more. It really was a lot of fun! There were 9 zips in total, and the whole tour took about 3 hours. 

Some of the platforms, most of the platforms, between zips were really tiny and it was quite the... bonding experience... to get all 11 of us on there (plus trey at the end of each one, so 12). Not to mention how terrifying it felt when the tiny wooden platform, extending high into the air, shook violently as someone came on. Never quite got used to that. 

Here is a good example of how squeezed we were! It lent itself to goofiness! 

Here I am doing one of the wild-card ones. There were two that were not just ziplines. This tight rope one and then a plank bridge. Simon is crossing that in the photo below. 

I don't have a picture of either of us crossing the zipline, but here is Johannes coming in off one of the first one. It was one of the shorter ones as you can see. 

After we finished the course, took off all our gear, and thanked our guides, we were starving! :) 
Nothing says post-zipline-tour-meal like a good ole burger and milkshake. We found a Cookouts on our way into Charlotte and chowed down. 

Since we were over that way, we all agreed we should check out the big Charlotte outlet mall. 
                                           Car shot of the Charlotte skyline.

It was the perfect day to plan something like this. It was a lot of fun and a great groupon find!! We had a good time on out little adventure- I would recommend giving ziplining a try!