Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A change in fabric softener, too!

This stuff is fun.  I'm talking about finding eco-friendly ways and means of getting the job done.  Any job.  All jobs.  Besides being good for the environment, it just appeals to the inner scientist in me.

This time it was fabric softener.  The homemade sheets that I have been using, you know, the washcloth sprayed with diluted fabric softener?  Well, they are leaving a softener coating on things, like rags, washclothes..everything...and it bugs me.  The stuff just isn't as absorbent as it should be. So I finally tried using vinegar as fabric softener replacement.

Bill absolutely can't tolerate vinegar smell, so I had been hesitant to even try it.  I figured the smell from the washer would be enough to have him holding his nose and giving me 'the look'.  You know 'the look'.  Strangely enough, neither one of us noticed anything.  I do have the dryer on right now, guess I was feeling too lazy to hang up clothes tonight.  My dryer is vented into the house, but I don't notice any vinegar smell at all.

The verdict?  It worked just like they said.  No static cling and clothes looked a bit brighter!  No nice perfumed smell, but no vinegar smell either.  I love this stuff.  My grocery list is getting shorter all the time!  And so is my grocery bill!

I have a Fisher Paykel washer that uses a lot less water than standard washing machines, so I used just half a cup of vinegar with a bit of water in the softener cup.  A lot of people use the Downy balls, and a full cup of white vinegar.  Another bonus is that it keeps your washer clean, too.  And for Pete's sake, don't buy that Tide HE cleaner they just came out with!  Use some vinegar instead.  I guess if you just want to mail a check to the Tide people, they'd appreciate it.

Edited on 9-7-11
Okay, I admit it.  I missed the nice, scented smell on the clothes.  I found myself doing a big sniff of our daughter's blouse, heck anyone's shoulder when I gave them a hug.  So I did buy a jug of liquid el cheapo fabric softener that I can use when I need a fragrance fix, plus I can use it for other things, too.  I was going to grab a jug of Downy until I saw the price!  So I got the $2+ store brand of concentrate instead and it's fine.  Anyway, I put a dribble of fabric softener into my big spray bottle, added some filtered water and use it to spray shirts that have been left in the dryer.  I just put them on hangers, give them a good mist on the front, back and sleeves and then let them dry.  I also use this mix for an anti static dust spray.  Spray lightly on a rag and then dust away!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting more from your oven

I love the forum at http://permies.com/ .  It's the greatest place to learn new stuff from some really hands on people.  The focus is on permaculture - alternative building and energy, critter care, wild crafting, that kind of thing.  Head on over there and plan on bookmarking that site as you'll want to check back.
Yesterday someone had posted that they kept their baking stone in the oven.  There was more even heat and the oven didn't kick on as much.  I have a large square baking stone that was re-gifted to me (hey, I'll take about anything).  I put it on the middle rack of my oven before I baked some vegetarian lasagna for supper.  I can't say that I watched or rather listened to know if the oven clicked on more or less, but what surprised me was how long that stone held the heat afterwards.

I always leave the oven door cracked after turning it off so the heat comes into the room.  I bet there was heat still coming from that baking stone half an hour later!  So that's the new storage place for that baby.  It won't help when you're baking something for a short period of time as it will take a while for that stone to heat up, so take it out if you're just browning a pie crust.  For long time baking, even half an hour, it makes sense that it would help.

Simple stuff, but it works!

Make your own Endust & Static Guard substitutes

My latest finds are substitutes for Endust and Static Guard.  I gave them both a try and they work great!  Saves me money, is earth friendly and I almost always have the ingredients!

The anti-static dusting spray is nothing more than one part of liquid fabric softener to maybe 5 parts water.  As usual, I tend not to measure, I just eyeball it.  Put it in a little spray bottle, give it a few shakes to mix, spray it on a cloth and dust away. I used this yesterday and by cracky, there is NO dust, and I mean NO dust on the furniture that I used this on.  Wahoo!  I wiped down one little table with a barely damp cloth so I'd have something to compare it to, and it shows some dust today.  I did some light sprays on the recliners and no static pops last night, too!  I do get a little nervous spraying fabric softener directly on upholstered furniture, so I'll probably get another spray bottle and water it down a bit more...maybe.  I'll see how long the anti static part of this trial lasts.  Label the bottle!

I also tried the homemade dust mop treatment this morning and I give that two thumbs up.  All that involves is 4 drops of olive oil (or any cooking oil, or lemon oil, etc) in one cup of warm water.  Again, into a little spray bottle, shake it up and spray on your dustmop, or in my case, a rag covered Swiffer.  It doesn't take much, just a couple of light mists, then dust those floors.  Worked like a charm!  Grabbed up cat hair and dust just like the purchased stuff.  I then took the rags outside, gave them a couple shakes and into the laundry basket. Label the bottle!

What's cool is that I'm not bring more plastic or aerosol cans into the house, thus keeping them out of the waste stream.  I'm almost out of spray bottles, so I'm going to ask friends and relatives to save them for me.  Some folks just don't want to get on board, but hey, they're willing to help out the eco-fanatic person they know and love.  Well, know, anyway.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Creative Re-Using instead of Recycling - Yeah!

Our daughter is returning some wicker furniture today.  I originally bought the set for our living room over 15 years ago.  It was on a summer clearance sale at K Mart and I was desperate for furniture at the time.  Years later, the set went to her when she bought her first house and was desperate for furniture.  The wicker is still in good shape.  It's needed a little glue a couple of times, but that's not bad for something that old.

When I look at my furniture, the best pieces are the oldest ones.  I have a wooden rocking chair that I bought new in 1976.  It doesn't even have a loose joint.  I have a two year old recliner that Bill has repaired twice and now it's sitting crooked again.  I hate that chair.  I'm not convinced that I should donate it, either.  I would hate to pass the aggravation on to anyone else.

A couple years ago we ripped up an old sofa that also wasn't worth donating.  That sofa had been the dog sofa for some time, so it wasn't worth trying to do anything with it.  It took some time, but we ended up with a pile of wood to use in the woodburner, metal to recycle, a pile of very dirty upholstery fabric and the dirty foam cushions.  I tried to wash them with the garden hose and soapy water, left them outside in the rain and sun...and got 'the look' from Bill more than once.  Okay, they had to leave.  It's all about compromise in a marriage, right?  At least it was less bulk in the landfill.  And these days, I'm all about not putting stuff into the landfill.  But I still didn't feel too good about it. 

Some things can be recycled only so many times, like plastic, before you end up with a glop of something toxic or unusable.  Perhaps the better course of action is to not put it in the cycle to begin with (especially plastic).  So save those plastic salad dressing bottles to use when you make a batch of homemade chocolate syrup.  The bottle will be perfect for that.  Then look at recipes for salad dressings, too.  You'll save money, have fresher ingredients without the preservatives and wa-lah!  No more plastic coming and going.

There are tons of possibilities online for fixing up and re-using old furniture, even for the handyman impaired.  Get to Googling and you'll see what I mean.  I have an old dresser that is slated to be a coffee table eventually.  I never liked the thing because of the legs, but cutting the legs really short, or completely off will give it new use. 

It might even look pretty cool with my 'new' wicker furniture that's being delivered today.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dishwasher vs Hand Washing

Oh Bullshit.

That was my reaction when I first heard and then read on Treehugger.com that to conserve water, the winner was the automatic dishwasher.  I don't use mine too much anymore.

Researching the topic, I found that the Bonn study that reported the results was funded by manufacturers of dishwashers:
Arcelik
Bosch-Siemens Hausgeräte
Electrolux
Indesit

According to posts, they used the handwashing group from Europeans that tend to leave the water running constantly while rinsing. 103 liters of water?  That sounds kind of excessive. I use less than one sink full of water to wash and rinse most days (just a bit of soapy water in one sink, then rinse above that so the water accumulates in the same sink - turning the water on and off).  Then the clean dishes go into the dishwasher to air dry.  I don't have a drying rack, so that part works out pretty good.  In the summer, I use tepid water to wash, mostly cold water to rinse.  Most of the time, I'll leave the water in the sink to wash off my hands if they just need a rinse, to wash as I go if I'm cooking, or to soak pots.

Dishwasher or hand washing - Consider the energy consumption of your water heater while it's replacing the hot water used.  Consider the amount of energy used during manufacturing the dishwasher, and the freight from moving said dishwasher to a warehouse, then to the store, then to your house. 

In 15 years, we had three different dishwashers.  We just couldn't keep them going for longer than a few years.  Looking back, I see what a waste of money and energy to keep buying them.  During that time frame, I did dishes for two of those years.  I liked not having to bend over practically to the floor to unload the dishwasher, so it wasn't bad.  One cool thing is that you can really pile dishes into that top rack.  I have even laid the silverware in the top rack when I didn't have many dishes to do.   

So get in gear, save some money, electricity and water by washing those dishes by hand.  Just make sure you use enough water to rinse 'em, nothing worse than having your drinks taste vaguely of dish soap.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Save $$ by NOT Spending

A bargain isn't a bargain if you don't need it.  

I cringed when I recently read a blog about saving money.  The gal suggested that first you get organized to see what you actually had and then listed a few places where you could buy cheap plastic storage bins and containers to sort out and store all your stuff.  Wait a minute, wasn't the point to save money?  Ever hear of using a cardboard box?  You can get them free at the local grocery store or liquor store, or etc, etc.  They aren't as pretty, but hey, they work pretty well and cost nothing.  And if you feel like stocking up on the plastic bins because they're on sale, maybe you have too much stuff?  Just a suggestion...

Some people are compulsive buyers, especially if they spot a bargain.  My all time favorite experience with the compulsive buyer was an employer.  I had a job at a greenhouse a few years ago.  Great job, doing what I loved to do for minimum wage.  Time after time, the owner would tell me that she couldn't afford to pay me until next week.  Okay...she had always made good on what she owed me...and I loved the job, right?  Okay, so one time I took some of my pay in plants, but I loved the plants and it was still a great job...maybe just not the best boss.  A few weeks later, same tune.  She couldn't afford to pay me that week.  She was going to run to the bank, back in 20 minutes.  Two hours later, she comes in the door, all breathless and excited.  She had hit a couple garage sales along the way and stopped at the Dollar Store (damn that store and all their bargains!).  Bags and bags of Halloween decorations, including two statues that were 'only' $15 each, etc.  I guess she had forgotten about the 20 boxes of Halloween decorations that she already had stacked next to the cash register. You get the drift.  Suddenly the job wasn't so great any more.  I stuck it out a while longer, hoping to get actual cash for my labors, and finally told her that I'd take that nice wrought iron arbor for my pay.  That was the end of the great job and lousy boss who didn't know that a bargain isn't a bargain if you don't need it...and that you should pay your employee.

There is a blog that makes me smile, http://manvsdebt.com/ .  He's a real in your face kind of guy that's right up front about 'Sell your crap.  Pay off your debt.  Do what you love.'  That's it in a nutshell for him.  While his lifestyle isn't what I want, nor is it for everyone, he's got some pretty decent advice for the common joe.

For myself, I happen to like my crap.  I promise not to bring any more crap into my life since I'm trying to lower my consumerism.  Oh, that gold elephant plant stand over there?  It was a bargain, only $6.99 at the DAV.  I saw it when I was taking some of my old crap that I didn't need any more to donate.  At least I donated a lot more than what I brought back home, right?  Yes?  Hmmm......okay, a bargain isn't a bargain if you don't need it.