Friday, December 28, 2007

Twist Euro Cloths

I was really excited when my nearest Whole Foods (I'm in Chicago, so when I say nearest, I mean it) responded to my request to stock Twist products. I'd been reading a lot of great reviews in eco-blogs, and while I have plenty of microfiber cloths and the Trader Joe's kitchen cloths, I couldn't resist the allure of a new product. So, I bought a pack. (You probably guessed that when I mentioned building birdhouses out of the packages per the directions written there.)

I was a bit confused to pull a few little hard squares out of the box. Trying to clean anything on my counters with these by using sprays was like trying to use a cracker.[1] These thin, stiff "cloths" are really only useful for one thing- wiping up wet messes. Even then, it had better be really wet to turn the cloth from crispy to soggy. Sprays, as I mentioned, aren't enough. It's hard to clean with something that just isn't flexible.

I actually have run a couple of these through the wash, just for kicks. I skipped the dryer, and they came out in the same state they went in. Arghh. Somehow I was hoping they'd soften.

To conclude, I don't really know what to do with these now. They're too stiff to make paper airplanes out of. Maybe bookmarks. I feel like I'm missing some important aspect of how to use this product. I think I'm supposed to be using them like a sponge (the whole stiff/soggy factor), and just cleaning with water, but I'm not positive. I'll try that.

[1] My first metaphor choice was a shoe. I revised it after spending a few minutes trying to think of a more appropriate, actually helpful comparison to make.

p.s. I have a new approach to cleaning my hardwood floors.
Step 1:
Vacuum when I vacuum my carpets (I have a 650 square foot apartment; it's not a big chore.)
Step 2: Mop infrequently using a damp mop (not wet!) and a weak white vinegar/water solution. Anything else, and I mean anything I've tried so far, makes the floors dull. My parents almost never, ever mop their hardwood floors. I need to ask what their secret is. I have two dogs and one is sporadic with her toilet habits.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Seventh Generation Natural Citrus Shower Cleaner

Before getting into the shower cleaner I have to post how disappointed I am in Burts Bees for selling to Clorox. It seems eco-friendly, natural cosmetics companies drop like flies as soon as they get profitable enough. I have been a Burts customer forever. I filled out their survey when they asked whether existing customers thought a proposal to sell in drugstores was problematic. (I said no, so long as nothing changed in their quality and ethics.) Alas, just like Tom's of Maine, they were tempted by money and sold out to a company whose products do great damage to the environment. I won't be reviewing their hand soap as planned for this reason. Treehugger wrote about the whole issue here.

On another hand, Seventh Generation's Natural Citrus Scent Shower Cleaner is the best planet lovin' shower cleaner I've used in a really long time. I use it for daily maintenance, not for thorough scrubbings (I usually keep two different products for the two different needs.) My shower doors have been so much cleaner than usual, almost as clean as if I'd just done a tough scrub. The orange smell is a little bit barfy (seriously, though this might be me), but the actual spray bottle is the best I've used in a while too. It produces these mighty, lush sprays that cover a lot of ground. I'm glad Seventh Gen is updating its scents, and I hope their new products work as well regardless. As I've mentioned before in this blog, I've only ever used one Seventh Gen product that wasn't great, and that was the toilet paper.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Method's Christmas Products

While I am still using up my Method all-purpose spray in last year's discontinued "Spiced Pear" scent, Method has launched an updated holiday line. Instead of spiced pear there is "Cinnamon bark", which sounds pretty appealing if it avoids being reminiscent of holiday potpourri. Peppermint vanilla is back, and hollyberry is an update on the "frosted cranberry" of last year (although if you still want this scent, oddly still has some). Each product is available in a hand soap, all-purpose spray, aroma ring (which I blogged this summer) disc, candle, aroma sticks, and a new aroma beads pot.

The aroma beads kind of intrigue me. Not because of the beads themselves, actually (I can get soy wax melts in a greater variety of scents), but because the burner is lovely and I'd like to use it to simmer essential oils. I have one that looks somewhat similarly minimal, but my days of paraffin wax tealight use turned it sooty all over. I admit that if I do buy one it is decidedly an inessential purchase, but one I'd probably enjoy.

The party prep kit isn't a bad price. Plus you get two reusable shopping bags for free with your order!

You know, I still haven't tried their toiletries (the body wash, soap, shaving cream etc.) I haven't been to a Target in ages, and would prefer to smell them before committing. Also still haven't tried the aroma sticks, because my wee apartment doesn't really have a surface to put them on. (That may be, but I can't say for sure, because I have 3 tart burners and one oil burner in a 650 sq. foot space.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Twist Clean Boxes = birdfeeders

A while back I bought a couple of Twist sponges/euro cloths. The boxes had directions printed on them for how to turn the box into a birdfeeder. I made two little birdfeeders. I do wish the pattern had used up more of the box, and the resultant birdfeeder was a little bit bigger, but it's definitely a unique idea on Twist's part.

The two birdfeeders in action (note the annoying construction behind my building):

Twist lets you upload photos of birdfeeders to their gallery so I just submitted mine :) There' only one up there right now so hopefully they'll post mine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

When it's not as Green as it seems

I'm a Consumer Reports website subscriber, so when I saw this article investigating the "green claims" of household cleaning product manufacturers, I was intrigued.

I'm a bit surprised at Seventh Generation's having a questionable ingredient in its dishwasher gel. I've used that stuff happily in the past. I'm not sure what to make of the Biokleen laundry powder finding, considering the company's statement that a questionable ingredient was accidentally listed in their disclosure statement and is therefore presumably not used.

It's a pretty short article without a lot of information in it. I'm glad Earth Friendly Products got a nod, and I'm wondering now about Ecover. Consumer Reports is sending people to its green cleaning website (which has been on my links list for a while) for more information.

Seventh Generation has some new scents

So, Seventh Generation has revamped the scents of some of its products! They all sound wonderful. I was a little tired of the citrus, so this is good news.

The new scents are:

-White Flower & Bergamot Citrus (in their laundry products)
-Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender (in laundry): We just bought this one and I'm sure I'll be reviewing it soon.
-Lemongrass & Clementine Zest (dish soap) : I'd try this one for sure.
-Lavender Floral & Mint (dish soap): I'd also try this. Lavender and mint together is always a good combination.
-Emerald Cypress & Fir (Tub&Tile / Toilet) : Yum!
-Green Mandarin & Leaf (Shower/ All Purpose) : By "leaf", they mean petitgrain and spearmint leaves. I tried to find this one at Whole Foods the other day but it wasn't in yet.
-Ruby Grapefruit & Herb (Glass & Surface) : Also delicious sounding

They kind of had to change their scents. Seventh Generation products have always worked very well for me (except the toilet paper! Ow.), but with other companies (Caldrea always comes to mind, and Earth Friendly Products' Spa line) releasing decadent scent combinations, SG was going to lose customers who are scent junkies. *cough, me* The new products are starting to appear in stores, and I believe has a couple in stock.

You can get coupons for their products here. I think I printed those out eons ago and forgot about them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Earth Friendly Products Natural Spa Dish Soap (and Junk Mail)

Ugh, the holiday catalog influx has begun! I have been getting 3-4 new catalogs each day, many from companies I've never shopped with. Victoria's Secret is the worst in terms of frequency, but Pottery Barn's is the thickest. Treehuger has a great post on removing yourself from junk mailing lists, but I also sat down and wrote to each company individually. (I was procrastinating other work.)

I just finished a bottle of Earth Friendly Products' Black Currant dish soap. I have never before used a dish soap that smelled this strongly. Every time I used it a wonderful tart berry scented wafted from the sink. I suppose the strong aroma could bother some people, but I loved it. Nice change from most shyly scented products.

Of course, scent is nothing without performance, and the soap worked very well. It didn't make my hands feel as dry as most soaps, but it cut through grease effectively. In the interest of full disclosure, I throw anything that can possibly fit into my dishwasher, so I may not have put this to as tough a challenge as it deserves. It did help me make work of some serious baked pasta dish pans, and it made me hate doing the dishes slightly less... it's definitely still one of my least favorite chores.

Black Currant is one of several scents. Click through to check them out. I want to try rosemary, lemongrass, and cucumber mint the most. Maybe they'll read this and send me a Christmas present ;)

I am currently using EFP's almond scented dish soap from their general product line. Review forthcoming.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Caldrea Daily Shower Cleanser

Huh, I am looking on Caldrea's website right now, and I don't see any shower sprays listed. Perhaps they have been discontinued! That's a shame, the one I tried worked quite well. I nabbed the "Basil Blue Sage" scent from, and it did cut down on the amount of shower cleaning I had to do while using it. My major qualm about it was that the package was too small and we went through it super fast. I am already done the bottle and I feel like we just got started! I felt guilty trying to cover my full shower each time I used it. Considering the price, I'd have preferred the bottle last longer.

Caldrea is Mrs. Meyer's more upscale brand, and they tend to have pretty good, largely essential-oil based scents. I've never been disappointed by anything of theirs I've tried (but that's admittedly limited to hand soap and shower sprays.)

Hey, maybe they're re-doing the package and it'll be back! In the meantime, has the Citrus Mint scent left.

I want to try Caldrea's dishwashing powder (I love powders), hand balm, and laundry detergent. I'm also wondering if their linen spray would be nice before clothes go in the dryer (or to freshen up bed sheets mid-week.)

p.s. Now that I am between store-bought products, I am using a homemade daily shower spray: 50/50 mixture of white vinegar, water, and maybe 6 drops each of tea tree and lemon essential oils. I haven't been using it long enough to gauge its success yet.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bio Pac Toilet Tabs

I've tried a few things to keep my toilets from getting a brown ring in the bottom. I've tried homemade soaks, pouring Ecover bleach into them and letting it sit, and of course, lots of scrubbing. Even when I did make a dent, they'd be back two days later. (Is the water in Chicago really that hard?)

When I spotted some eco-friendly septic-system safe, biodegradable, chlorine free tabs at Whole Foods the other day, I had two in my cart before I'd even blinked. The downside is that they're the blue kind of toilet tabs, and while I do enjoy making the water turn green every time I go to the bathroom *cough*, I prefer the "Oh, I have no idea why my toilets are so shiny and clean. Elbow grease, I guess!" deniability of the white kind. According to the packaging, the blue is to let you know when to replace the thing. No blue water = new tab. Believe me, with my toilets, I'd know.

Anyway, they work! I don't know how deodorizing they are, but they do make a dent in my stains. I slacked and didn't clean the toilets before dropping them in either. You're supposed to start fresh, as it were.

Bio Pac definitely needs a website redesign, but I am so grateful someone makes an eco-friendly toilet tablet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nature's Miracle- because my dogs still have accidents

Those of you with pets have probably heard of Nature's Miracle (made by "Eight in One Pet") before. If not, it's a fantastic product to have around the house. I first encountered the "original formula" when I had four house rabbits, and found myself needing to clean up their crates and the room I let them hop around without adding toxins to their environment. Who wants to see a bunny suffer? They've got sensitive (cute, wiggly) noses![1]

Fast forward to Weeble, my beloved handicapped dog. He had so many accidents on the carpet, this stuff was a lifesaver. It really does work well to take the stink out of pet messes, as long as you are able to attack the problem promptly (if your pet messes on your floor while you're out, God help you ;).

The original scent is fairly inoffensive, but the company's come out with an "Orange Oxy" version as well. Functionally, I don't notice a difference. In terms of scent, well, I'm usually so annoyed when I happen to be breaking out the Nature's Miracle, that scent isn't the first thing on my mind. We actually use the orange version on our hardwood floors (spray, wipe) and it works nicely.

The company makes the product available in 1 gallon jugs, so you can refill your spray bottles with a little less waste. If you're a "dribbler" not a "sprayer" (heehee), you can buy the 32oz bottle version as well.

My current dogs are fairly housebroken these days (well, one is completely, the other is a stubborn little girl), but when we first got them we used the Nature's Miracle training pads a lot. Not very eco-friendly of us, and I've found some reusable solutions since then. Thankfully, we don't need them anymore.

1. By the way, if you ever need a home for your bunnies, I cannot recommend these "bunny condos" highly enough. Wire floors are too hard on bunny feet- give them a break! ( is an excellent resource in general).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bi-O-Kleen Automatic Dish Gel

I reviewed the Biokleen automatic dish powder back in August, and when I finished the package just a few days ago I was eager to try the dish gel.

Unfortunately, my experience with the gel hasn't been good so far. Since I began using it, many things are coming out of the dishwasher crusty. I do rinse my dishes before putting them in, but if they have the slightest bit of grime on them it seems to solidify when washed with this product. My dishes seem to have a film on them. I love the convenience of a liquid, but this is definitely one of the worst performing dishwasher soaps I've tried in a long time. I actually feel badly writing this, too, because I love all of my other biokleen products. This one doesn't seem to have any reviews on, so I'll have to nose around and see if other people were as disappointed. In the meantime, I feel obligated to use up this big jug, but yikes!
I'll update this review if things improve at any point.

Meanwhile, I am relegated to re-washing some dishes and utensils by hand.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Carpet shampooing doesn't have to be toxic!

I'm still here! :) School got busy and then I got sick. I'm too picky to let my apartment go much, but I definitely wasn't up to trying and reviewing anything new.

So I finally saved a bit and got myself a carpet shampooer. To be precise, I got a
"Hoover F5914-900 SteamVac with Clean Surge".
My desire for one was so great because the carpeting in our apartment's bedroom has looked filthy since we moved in, and the rental shampooer I got from the grocery store actually made it worse (I think the thing was broken). I did a lot of research before choosing this model, and I have to say, I'm pretty happy with it.

Many years ago I shared an apartment with a mentally handicapped dog. Before we discovered "doggie diapers", our carpets suffered mightily. This was an apartment with carpeting throughout the unit as well. The poor little dog couldn't reason out even to use a puppy training pad, and after the stink got a certain amount lethal, we bought a Bissell. It worked... okay. Nothing like a professional job or the unit we once rented from a hardware shop.

The Hoover seems somewhere between professional and the Bissell so far, but it's very hard to tell because the carpet is a very mottled multi-colored job. I'm amazed at the filth in the water it pulls out though.

But let me get to the eco part!

So of course the thing came with a bottle of Hoover brand cleaning solution. This little bottle had no marked ingredients, which always irks me.
For the sake of science (you hear that, readers? I sacrificed my sense of smell for you! ;) ) I used it on part of my bedroom carpet. It worked quite well, but it smelled absolutely horrid and caustic. I wanted to crick a window, but it was a bit late and cool out.

Thankfully, I have an alternative- Earth Friendly Products' Carpet Shampoo! It smells like bergamot and sage (yum!), and it works just as well as the Hoover brand. I saved half of my bedroom carpet to do a comparison on, and the two products are functionally interchangeable. The Hoover machine comes with a bunch of caveats about only using Hoover liquid (they all do that), because other products may foam too much or somehow ruin the machine. I love the carpet shampooer, but I definitely am not buying the cross-branding hype. Just for "assault on my nose" reasons alone, I'd rather use the EFP. My dogs, my husband and I have to walk on this carpet too!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dust from on high

On Saturday I tackled one of my least favorite chores- dusting places that rarely get dusted. This mostly meant the ceiling fan in our bedroom, which I suspected of being covered in dust and thereby triggering my allergies every time I am in there. I was right. I got out my handy Swiffer Duster with the extendable handle and went to town. It took three duster cloths to get all the dust off that fan, and a fourth to get up above our closets half-heartedly. The dust raining down on me and our bed despite my best efforts was so grim that I had to vacuum afterwards. What a fun chore indeed.

So I was thinking about the waste of all of those cloths, and about Swiffer's being owned by Proctor and Gamble, who test on animals. Properly humbled, I decided to look for a solution to my distance dusting needs. Sure I could use my vacuum extentions, but I actually haven't found that to be a very good solution. Despite the sucking power, I feel like I'm blowing around more than I'm removing.

I already replaced my Swiffer cloths with microfiber ones so hmmmm... one of my favorite cleaning product companies, Casabella, makes a special ceiling fan duster, and although I secretly want one, it is a bit of a monotasker. (Still, look at it! I may actually dust my fans more often with that thing). Their extendable wool duster looks good, but is only hand-washable. (And still, it does look good).

Essentially, Casabella makes a large variety of dusting tools.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Hodgepodge Saturday

I have a few cleaning things on my mind, so here's a potpourri of a post.

1. My current favorite company for wax tart melts is Gramma Frans Fixins. Beware the jumbo tarts! They really are huge, the size of a big muffin perhaps. My favorite are the soy tart cups. Soy wax is much better for the environment than petroleum-based paraffin wax, burns cleaner, and cleans up easier when spilled (with soap and water most of the time!) They have some great autumny scents.

2. I noticed today when I was in Whole Foods that Real Simple has come out with an entire book on cleaning techniques. I must admit, I am curious although I suspect that most of my cleaning techniques are just fine. It has no reviews yet, so who knows!

3. As per my last post about wanting a giant moo-shoo dog on the front of babyganics' packaging, they mentioned that they also have a line called "petganics". It's basically the same products, but with wee little hundchens on the front. So there you have it ;)

Monday, October 1, 2007


I just finished up a bottle of toxic Windex-like stuff (generic version) that was purchased years ago. I couldn't pour it out, and as it was decanted into a small spray bottle of mine I didn't want to bring it to the household chemical people. Basically, I forced myself to carefully use it up. Much to my glee, BabyGanics' Glass and Surface Cleaner arrived at my house just as I was ready for something new. I just automatically feel better about glass cleaners that aren't dyed blue, and while I was on the verge of just using white vinegar and water, this product was a nice treat (I do wish I had the lavender-scented one though. As regular readers know, I am nothing if not a scent junkie.) I wonder if I could drop some lavender EO into it.

Anyway, this spray worked much better than the generic-Windex. I didn't even know that was possible, but my glass table shined. I stood back from it, looking at it curiously. Huh, I thought. I'd used white vinegar on it and that hadn't created this level of gleam either.

I'm new to Babyganics. Having no kids of my own, there was something about the picture of a baby on the front of the packaging that made me instinctively think "not for me". What they need to do, I think, is Photoshop in a small dog. If the woman were smooching a small dog I'd probably have found them sooner ;) (And if the products came in a bacon-scent perhaps my dogs would help me clean.)

So, you know that I'm a former design professor, right? With that out of the way, prepare for slightly tangential critique. I'm not sure about the photos of people used on packaging at all. I haven't seen studies about whether consumers respond to that- certainly if I did have a child it might catch my eye as I look for cleaning products. On the other hand, I have a sense of products featuring photographs as part of their design as being somewhat less sophisticated. I'm not entirely sold on babyganics' design, and I think I'd add a couple more scents to capture the new aromatherapy cleaning market. Can I pick the scents? Someone needs a "spicy kitchen" cleaning product scent.. something that smells like clove and cinnamon and ginger. Or maybe a "log cabin" scent that's somehow woodsy and smokey and crisp.

So, what do YOU think of the package design?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Trader Joe's cloths part II

Ok, so I have to revise my opinion on the TJs cloths. I do like their texture more for wiping around my kitchen than I did my furry microfiber cloths, but after using one to wipe my trashcan lid I figured I'd better toss it into the washing machine. I washed it on cold and dried it on low heat. The thing shrunk to half its size! I think I may have to supplement these with a couple of Twist Euro Cloths. I've been wanting to try Twist's products anyway. The boxes their sponges come in can be made into birdfeeders. My neighborhood has feral parakeets who survive on birdseed in the winter, so I definitely want to have a birdfeeder out soon. Somehow the "killing two birds with one stone" metaphor seems wrong here.

In other news, I got a box of babyganics' products today in the mail. I can't wait to try them! They look and sound quite good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pet Hair Magnet

Seen in Apartment Therapy: Green, the "Pet Hair Magnet".

I want to try that! I use the tape-roller all the time and this looks like a better solution. I wonder if it works on people hair/ lint as well.

Method's omop

When Method's omop first came out, it caused a stir on a forum I was (then) active on. People were gleefully saying that it was a more eco-friendly version of products like the Swiffer wet-jet. At the time I was mopping my floors a lot. I had a wood veneer floored kitchen in an apartment, and my dogs were having a lot of accidents. The way the light from the porch doors reflected onto the floor, you could see every smudge. Filling a bucket with water and going to town just wasn't happening, not with my insanely busy teaching

The omop promised speed. It explained that I could merely dribble the mop liquid on the floor, then run the mop over it with a microfiber cloth. There are two kinds of omop liquid: "all floor" (lemon ginger) and "wood for good" (almond). I bought the all floor starter kit in the beginning. The lemon ginger liquid smelled wonderful, and actually reminded me of Thai food. The liquid and the mop worked well in my bathroom. On my veneer kitchen floor I noticed the floor becoming sticky and the mop not gliding well at all. Actually, it kinda skipped around, and no matter how much or little liquid I used, that didn't change. It drove me crazy.

Well, the folks at Method told me to try the wood mop liquid because, as they put it, "veneer is tricky". I loved the almond smell of that version of the liquid as well, but my floor remained a bit sticky. I wound up doing a plain-water with a touch of white vinegar wash, and everything was stick-free and even shiny (why didn't I just stick to white vinegar? I'm a sucker for a gadget.)

In my new place, I'm on the fence about whether the wood for good liquid helps my wood floors or whether it adds a dull sheen to them. I honestly can't decide, which I know is odd. I don't use the omop on my wood floors though, just its liquid with my handy Magnet Mop. The omop does't glide at all smoothly on the floors unless you dampen the microfiber cloth, so I just stopped bothering.

Here's what I do like about the omop:

-use on bathroom floors (I use the microfiber cloth plus the all-surface cleaner, and my bathroom smells nicely of ginger)
-the dry cloths.

Compostable and corn-derived or not, the latter isn't as eco-friendly as I could be. However, when I dry mop with my magnet mop, I want to chuck the head in the laundry machine when I'm done, and even assuming an otherwise full load, that may be a greater waste of resources.

I like the dry cloths. They help me catch all the dust balls and dirt on my floor. I also vacuum, but occasionally I need, well, a quick solution. I'm not any less busy, after all.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Trader Joe's Super Amazing Kitchen Cloths

In my endless quest to waste less I sought out Trader Joe's Super Amazing Kitchen Cloths as paper-towel replacers. (Well, I at least wanted to use fewer of them. I still prefer paper towels to clean up doggie accidents.)

I use my sponges plenty, but mostly to scrub tough goo off the stove or for a preliminary counter swipe. When I'm using spray cleaner, as eco-friendly as it may be, I don't want it on my sponge. My dish towels are meant for drying dishes and hands, so ditto there. My solution had been to use microfiber cleaning cloths with my countertrop spray, but they were a bit heavy and seemed like overkill.

The TJs cloths (which come 2 to a pack for $3.99) are made of vicose, a super-absorbent synthetic material that's somewhat related to rayon. They're around the size of a standard 8.5x11" piece of paper, and feel a bit like felt to me. I hear vicose can absorb 10 times its weight in water? This reminds me of those special swimming towels a friend of mine had in the '80s. (They were tiny and came in a tube. I wanted one.)

The SAKCs apparently come in many colors- ours are a chocolate brown (j. picked them out). I haven't actually washed mine yet, as ringing it out after use has sufficed. It dries really quickly. I am starting to feel badly for its unused buddy.

I wasn't relying very much on paper towels, as I said, but this is an improvement over my microfiber cloths (and I was thinking of going to disposable wipes from those, so the Trader Joe's cloths prevented that transition.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Caldrea's Holiday Scents part II

I got my Caldrea holiday sample kit today! (The one I mentioned in this post.
The envelope said "let the season begin", which kinda made me snark because, y'know, it's September. Thankfully we have Halloween as a buffer between us and the Christmas madness.

Inside were three little soap samples, whose names and descriptions sound amazing (if not a bit pretentious), and whose smell I'd love to report to you. Alas, I am allergic to everything today and cannot smell a thing without a fit of sneezing. Reviews of the scents soon to come, then!

So we have:

Seville Orange Amber
Italian Cypress Pear
Cognac Vanilla Limon

Now, Caldrea seems to target a fairly bourgeois, earth conscious but high income consumer. They also have some of the best scented products on the market, but I _still_ can't speak to their effectiveness because I haven't tried them. What a reporter I am, eh? Seriously though, it may seem like I have a lot of cleaning products in my home, but I still haven't tried Caldrea! *hangs head*

Ok, ok... so, my urge to have a bit of fun at the expense of the scent names aside, the orange/amber one sounds goooood: "succulent orange mixed with spicy notes of clove, cardamom, and vanilla". Yum.... well, they do seem to sell it as a candle and hand lotion too, so perhaps if I love it, I won't be limited to standing around waiting for my hands to get dirty. The pear has cypress and cedarwood in it, and the vanilla one contains butterscotch, cognac, and lime. I swear, these sounds more like perfumes than cleaning products.

I really need to get my sense of smell back here.

In other news, the toilet concoction failed to remove the stains from inside my toilet bowl, even when left to soak overnight. Stronger measures must be taken! I'll be back. (Did it work for anyone?) Maybe I'll try the pine essential oil over the lavender.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Method vs. Caldrea

I just got an email about the new Caldrea holiday scent "Italian Cypress Pear". I wonder how that compares to the Method spiced pear (which I am currently still using.) Hey, who knew by buying too many cleaning products I could do the whole "stopped clock right twice a day idea" but with Christmas items. Hey, they're in season again eventually ;)

I'm kind of annoyed though- I wanted to do an ingredients quality comparison between the Method all-purpose spray and the Caldrea, and Caldrea's site doesn't list ingredients. Method's claims that the ingredients on the all-purpose spray "include":

"corn and coconut derived surfactants
soda ash
potassium hydrate
biodegradable surfactant
fragrance oil blend
purified water"

When I get a bottle of the Caldrea I'll make note of the ingredients.

Am currently waiting on my replacement Kenmore allergen vacuum filter bags. While permanent filters are more eco-friendly, I do love my Kenmore Intelli-clean vacuum (Consumer Reports rated it above the Dysons in their vacuum roundup, and I haven't been disappointed.) People keep telling me if I want my hardwood floors to truly be clean I ought to vacuum them. I'm going to try that as soon as my bags are here (I was vacuuming the other day and then I heard a BAM. Suddenly my vacuum bag light, the "check engine" of the vacuum came on.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cleaning the ol' laptop

As I sit typing this I cannot help but be distracted by the smears all across my poor Macbook's screen. It's time the poor gal got a cleaning. So, how best to do it?

I solicited opinions on eco-friendly laptop cleaning from a natural living community *waves to members* and received the following tips:

1. Clean the screen with a damp microfiber cloth. (This is good advice, and it's worked well in the past.)

2. "For the keyboard, take a toothpick and wrap the cloth around it to get the sides of the keys. To get gunk out of the keyboard (crumbs and things), vacuum it." --sierra81 (who runs a green cleaning company)

3. Use iKlear. (Actually, I have a kit of theirs that I ought to break out and try.)

Apparently, their packaging states: "environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-flammable, chemically and physically inert, and cannot be absorbed by skin." It's also ammonia and alcohol-free.
ladyceleste added:

"You need to turn it off and let the screen cool or you'll end up with streakyness."'

Oops. Well, therein lies my problem.

4. Of course, if you just want to clean off the keyboard without shutting down your machine (i.e. if shutting down your machine falls under "annoyance" for you as it does for me), there's a cute little donation-ware app for the Mac that temporarily disables your laptop while you clean.

5. Use a touch of diluted white vinegar (from multiple sources). I haven't confirmed this one through testing, but white vinegar is one of my buddies.

I'm sure it'll be a lot nicer to use my laptop in natural lighting after I give it a bath.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Toilet Stains

I am so sick of my toilets having rings inside of them (hard water type-stains, not for lack of cleaning.)

I think I'm going to try this recipe overnight tonight and see if it works. It promises no scrubbing is necessary, so that's tough to argue with considering I still don't feel overly great.

1 cup borax
1 cup white vinegar
10 drops pine or lavender essential oil
5 drops lemon or lime essential oil

(Combine first in a plastic bowl, then add to toilet and leave overnight.)

I tend to trust Aura Cacia for my essential oils, as I've been using them forever and they work well. Anyone have a different preferred brand? There's so much crap out there.

If anyone else decides to try this toilet soak, let me know if/how it works!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bathroom scrubbies and laundry whites

There's a new-to-me product I really want to try: Bon Ami's 1886 Formula Cleaning Powder. I want to use it in my bathroom, on the tub and tiles and grout. As an avid bath-taker, my tub needs to be clean. I kind of admire the Japanese custom of rinsing and cleaning before climbing into the bath. I don't like the idea of sitting in dirty water, in other words. A product that's been around this long may just have something going for it. Anyone tried it?

Today was a day for doing a load of laundry whites. I wasn't feeling particularly well, and was looking for mindless chores to do instead of getting academic work done. Among the culprits was my husband's bathrobe, which looked pretty scary before I tossed it in.

I have a habit that I picked up from ... somewhere? of using borax in loads of white. I'll combine something like 1/4 cup of borax and white vinegar plus 10 drops of lemon essential oil with loads of whites, and it brightens them up nicely. I wish the lemon scent really stuck around, but citrus oils are great for brightening so it's worth keeping them in the mix.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Casabella Magnet Mop 2

Ok, I really really love my mop, so it's about time I gave it it's own post. Every time I use it I think what a smart purchase it was. It's not like one of those products where each use merits reflection on whether it's really working well and whether you should continue using it. I've gone through so many mops that were just meh, it was high time for a shining star.

I got the magnet mop when I moved into a place with hardwood floors. It's essentially a wringable sponge with a microfiber top. It dry-mops nicely, trapping most of the stray carpet fluff and hair that accumulates on our floor (we have a natural wool area rug that sheds like crazy.) The thing works well with just water, though of late I have been using it with just Method's "Wood For Good" omop liquid (which works so much better with the Casabella than the actual omop.) How I feel about the W4G I'll leave for another time.
If you've tried the omop, it really handles the same "dry/just with Method liquid" mopping, but it doesn't "skip" as much on the floor.

However I choose to mop, the sponge head comes off and is easily tossed in my washing machine to clean it thoroughly (no more germ-infested mop head, yay!)

I did have to pay more for it than the last mop I got at Target, but considering how much I love the thing (and that I can get replacement heads when this one expires), it was worth it. I lugged Mr. Mop from halfway across Chicago on the El/Bus, and it earned its keep on the first use.

Oh Magnet Mop, I heart thee.

(Ed. note- though the picture is blue and yellow, my mop is red and silver.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Burts Bees Citrus and Ginger Root Hand Soap

We've finally reached the end of the Method hand soap in our house (except for the recently reviewed Almond Flower.) This past weekend, therefore I was able to nab some of the Burts Bees hand soap that I've been wanting to try. I mean, it's been out for a while now. I was disappointed to sniff the Green Tea Lemongrass, as it ended up having a bit of a generic soapy-detergent aroma. I asked my scent-picky husband to try sniffing both that one and the Citrus and Ginger, and he picked the latter. I wasn't entirely surprised, as he has a slew of Orangey-Ginger products.

The Burts in our master bathroom soap dispenser now, and I really like sniffing my hands after using it. I have also noticed that it's the only hand soap we have in our house that doesn't dry out my hands. I don't rush to moisturize right after using it. Between the smell, and the the better skin reaction, I am happy.

Burts was really the first natural company I got into. Like most people, I was introduced to them when I tried their lip balm. Later on, I nabbed one of their head-to-toe starter kits for a ski trip. I have a great memory of using the lettuce complexion soap in the motel. I loved the way that bar smelled. A while back when I was about to buy the Burts Lavender toothpaste at my Whole Foods, one of the clerks commented that Burts was great, but their quality had gone downhill since Burt and his wife got a divorce and the wife took over the company. Honestly, I haven't noticed much of a difference. I'm glad they have hand soaps, and a new hand sanitizer out. (Of course, now that I'm not teaching, I'm not as paranoid. Well, except for when I ride public transit.)

p.s. if you support the idea of setting a standard for the use of "natural" on personal care products, sign their "bill" here. Their values, as summarized here, are laudable.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Household staples

As a bit of a detour, here are some great things you can do with items that may already be in your house. Not all are about cleaning your home, but they're about cleaning something!

Olive Oil

-Shine stainless steel
-Cleanse your skin- combine 50/50 with caster oil to use the "oil cleansing method". (Read more) (It's also great for removing eye makeup.)
-Prevent wax from sticking to a candle holder (rub a thin coat on your holder before lighting a candle.)
-Unstick a zipper
-Moisturize your cuticles
-Dust wooden furniture (apply to a microfiber cloth and rub gently.)
-Reduce door squeaking (apply a little to a cloth and wipe the top of the hinges so that oil runs down the sides.)

Baking soda

-Erase crayon, pencil, ink, and scuffs from painted surfaces (sprinkle a bit on a damp sponge, rub the stain, then rinse.)
-Unclog a drain (1/2-1 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2-1 cup white vinegar after it. Let sit for 5 minutes, covered if possible, and then follow with a gallon of boiling water.)
-Exfoliate skin and "wash" hair (try mixing with water beforehand for a kind-of-shampoo, follow with a rinse of appple cider vinegar. Otherwise known as the "no 'poo method." Google it, seriously.)
-Scrub pans
-Remove stains from enameled cast iron and "stainless" steel (For the cast iron, create a thick paste of baking soda and water, then scrub with a soft nylon brush. For stainless steel clean with a soft cloth and 4 tbsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of water. Dry with clean cloth.)

White Vinegar
-Remove coffee and tea stains from cups (Soak for lengthy periods of time if the stain is bad, otherwise switch 2 tbsp vinegar in the cup and then wash as usual.)
-Clean your dishwasher (once/month run white vinegar through an empty dishwasher. You can do this less often if you're worried about the water waste, or you can think of it as a way to keep your dishwasher in good shape, which is eco-friendly.)
-Clean a teakettle or coffee maker (warning, tell your significant other or roommate first. My poor husband made himself tea while I was soaking the teakettle once. Mmmm vinegar green tea. Anyway, boil a mixture of water and vinegar in a teakettle, then wipe away any grime. Some folks advise you to then let the w.v. mixture sit overnight. To clean a coffeemaker, create a mixture of water and vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Follow with as many plain water cycles as you need to remove the vinegar taste. It only took one water cycle the last time I did this.)
-Remove price tags or stickers (let the sticker soak in the vinegar for at least 5 minutes.)
-Deodorize a garbage disposal (make vinegar ice cubes and feed them to your disposal. Run plain water down the drain after this. I also throw lemon and lime pieces down there whenever I can.)
-Replace Jet Dry in your dishwasher (*nod* to the reader who pointed this out.)
-Mix 50/50 with water and use to clean glass and mirrors
-Apply via spray bottle to bathroom faucets and scrub with a toothbrush (not your own or the brush of anyone you like.)

Hey, I baked amazing lemon-zest frosted coffee spice muffins last night. For the recipe (which is vegan if you use the proper margarine), check here (my personal blog.)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Autumn Potpourri

So I am making a homemade autumnal potpourri this weekend. Poor potpourri, it has such a bad reputation. All of those awful bags of prepackaged potpourri left out in grandma's house with their weird perfume that gets up your nose. I actually love the word potpourri. I like to sprinkle it about in conversation- i.e. "that was a strange potpourri of sounds." I also seem to recall from French class that it means "rotten pot."

Anyway, I am using a recipe from Naturally Clean Home again:

2 cups dried apple slices (I simply bought these)
1 cup bay leaves
1 cup sage
1/2 cup chopped (not peeled) gingerroot
1/2 cup whole cloves
8 1-inch cinnamon sticks

and am combining them in a glass jar. Basically, you shake the jar daily for about a month until it smells right to you, and then either display it nicely or simmer it in water. It also is lovely added to pillows or sachets.
I found an apple wood bowl on etsy to display it in. I'll have extra so I can think up other crazy things to do with it. I may work on a holiday mix to give to friends come this winter, but I suspect most of my friends and family aren't as scent-driven as I am.

(I don't have the glass jar yet. Sadly, I was just at Home Depot and Target today and I forgot.)

Friday, September 7, 2007

EFP's Natural Spa Dish Soap

Earth Friendly Products has a line of "Personal Care Products." These are deluxe essential-oil scented hand and dish soaps, hand lotion, and linen "water" (aka product you spray on fabrics before ironing them.) I recently scooped up the dish soap in "Black Currant". I've used a lot of scented dish soaps recently, but this is the one that smells the strongest and is the most pleasant. I haven't gotten to scrub any really tough items (no over-microwaved tamales this week), but I did notice that my hands were less dry after using this.

I kind of like their caddy, actually. You know how water collects around your soap dispensers by the sink and you get dirt under there and bottle-marks? Er... I use "you" generously here. I could perhaps be assuming too much. Ahem. Anyway, if I could take for granted that most hand and soap bottles would fit nicely next to each other in that thing, I'd get it. I kinda wonder if Earth Friendly Products' standard dish soap bottles will fit.

I like the essential oil descriptions featured on the left column of the site. I'm a big enough aromatherapy nerd that I knew all of these (heck, I have half of the EO bottles mentioned in my house), but it's fun to think about lemongrass dish soap helping to revive me on a daily basis.

(They sure need to redesign their website however. Were I in the design business any longer I'd offer. It doesn't do them justice.)

Anyone tried the hand lotion? I'm using Desert Essence's Spicy Orange hand lotion right now, but as it smells nothing like oranges (or spice, for that matter), it won't be a repeat buy. (On a total tangent, their pistachio foot cream is lovely, however.)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Caldrea Holiday Samples

Reader Twynk wrote in (I just had to say that. It makes me feel like I have more than two readers ;) ) to tell me that Caldrea has an offer right now whereby if you sign up for their holiday email list they'll send you three free scent-samples.

I love that eco-friendly products have been on top of the aromatherapeutic cleaning concept. I'm sure I've mentioned that before. I am definitely motivated by scent, so this is a good thing. If you walk down the isles of your drugstore or standard supermarket, most mainstream products are barely even there yet. Indeed, I'm sure my parents (for example) would find the idea of cleaning with something that smelled of pomegranate unnecessarily decadent. What's more, I'm sure they'd suspect it of being ineffective. The trininty in their house has always been "Soft Scrub-Comet-Windex", with every kitchen surface cleaned by sponge and water (my mind recoils at the germs... but I'm odd.)

The whole "holiday scent kit" is something I've covered before. Both Method and Mrs. Meyers have been on top of that. It looks like Caldrea has rolled up its sleeves and is getting in on the action (considering Mrs. Meyers gingerbread cleaning kits were sold out everywhere last winter, it's a safe experiment.)

Anyway, some of my favorite scent concoctions come from Caldrea (at least in name, I haven't tried many) so we'll see what they come up with.

Earth Friendly Products Wave Jet

Hello green cleaners! Every time I log in I see a notice asking me if I'd like to place targeted google ads in my blog. I have to admit, I'm curious (for my sake) what they'd turn up. So, if you are at some point subjected to ads upon visiting me, my curiosity got the better of me.

Onward, Earth Friendly Products makes a dishwasher product called Wave Jet that's essentially just like Jet Dry. The idea is to eliminate spots and residue and make your glasses sparkle (it goes with your sparkly TV commercial teeth. What, you don't have those? Me neither.) All dishwashers I've been blessed with since my second apartment (prior to 2002 I lived only in apartments with dishwashers that led me to hand wash my dishes) have had a reservoir for this product, labeled conveniently with the Jet Dry™ brand name. Are there no other rinse aid brands?

I used Jet Dry in one apartment where the water was particularly hard and liked the results. When I switched to natural cleaning products I was going to indifferently do without, when I spied this product. I've used it for a couple of years and it's always lived up to its claims. One thing I'm never quite sure about is when to stop pouring the Wave Jet into the reservoir (I go with- when it starts to overflow) and how to know when to refill it (I go with- when I remember.)

I've never had London-hard water, but I'd still advise those looking for sparklier dishes with little effort to give this a shot. Sometimes I toss some borax in with my dishwasher detergent (in one of the additional cups) for fun too. Yes, for fun. ;)

If you've tried this, I'd love to know how it's worked for you. I've used it in two dishwashers, in two states, but these things can be subjective.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Method hand soaps

Ok, I'm going to cover a bunch of Method hand soaps in one post because I've tried several on my own, and at friends' houses. I haven't tried the foaming hand washes at all, actually, but I've got the others covered.

My most recent Method hand soap purchase was the creamy hand wash in "almond flower". I've mentioned my scent junkie status before, so I'll just say that I was hoping this would be kind of a pale marzipan scent. Alas, it smells rather of dryer sheets and/or nondescript flowers. I have really dry skin, so much so that when I wash my hands I almost immediately have to run for the lotion. I was hoping something touted as creamy and moisturizing would end my unlucky streak. Alas, it seems even more drying on my skin than even the regular method hand soaps. I'm confused. I'm also annoyed that I didn't order the "olive leaf" version instead.

The texture of this soap is admittedly really nice. It's almost like a lotion. The little square bottle almost makes me forget my plans to get a soap dispenser for the guest bathroom (the plastic label cover comes off and is recyclable.)

The regular hand washes have been a staple in my home since I bought that holiday three-pack reviewed earlier. I've tried green tea, pink grapefruit, cucumber, and the holiday trilogy. They're just okay... essentially not much better in my experience from a more pleasantly scented SoftSoap (what my family used when I was growing up.) I am curious to try the "Sea Minerals" scent, as it's gotten many good reviews, but most of Method's scents are pale and overly synthetic to this nitpicky nose. "Green Tea" scented products never smell like green tea to me- and if they did most people would probably wrinkle their nose and complain that they'd accidentally bought a "lawn clippings" scented product. Sounds good to me. Anyway, it's nice when companies actually manage to work tea into their products for functional or scent reasons, but the method green tea is just synthetic, and a weird interpretation at that.

(I must try the Burts Bees "Green Tea and Lemongrass" hand soap to see how it compares. That actually contains green tea "oil".)

I might be persuaded to buy one of the foaming hand soaps, or even to give the olive leaf creamy one a try, but for the most part I'm pretty soured on method's hand soaps. Actually, I'm falling out of like with the company in general. I'm just not impressed with the formulas compared to other brands/my own homemade goods.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Heather's Concentrated Oxygen Bleach Cleanser

Before leaving our last apartment, I really wanted to try to tackle some of the stains we'd created that I hadn't been able to remove with my arsenal of products. Nothing took them out, and I didn't want to resort to buying Clorox or Soft Scrub. After buying and returning a couple of products, I saw a slim canister tucked among the offerings at my local Whole Foods. "Heather's Concentrated Oxygen Bleach Cleanser" it said on the label, and promised to be chlorine-free, natural (oh that vague term), and "safer around kids, pets, and the environment." I nabbed the can and rushed home to try it.

First was the kitchen counter- my husband's iron teapot had left stains on it that wouldn't budge. I dampened the spots and sprinkled the powder onto them ("Comet" style), and then ran upstairs to do the same for the bath tub stains (too many fancy bath bombs, not enough prompt cleaning.) By the time I came back down to the kitchen to wipe away the cleaner, it had worked! Goodbye stains! Perhaps I used a bit too much in both cases, but I didn't care. The bath tub was a little more difficult, but the stains at least faded.

In my new apartment I have used this stuff on the stall shower floor. I wait until post-shower so the floor is damp, and then go to town. I have noticed the floor is whiter after I apply this stuff, but I think nothing can help that shower floor (god I hate it. My bathrooms need to be pristine or I get severely grossed out.)

Um, my nuttiness aside, this is a great product. It doesn't remove everything, but it tackles plenty of stains that other eco-friendly products don't even make a dent in.
I want to try the Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner, and they offer a "trial size" pack so you can sample their product offerings without a big commitment.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bike-Blended Soap

I recently saw something pretty cool on Gaiam (where I often find fun household goods. I've been known to read their catalog for fun.) This time, it was "Bike-Blended Soap." Curious (and, *cough*, a soap junkie) I clicked on it to find out more.

"A unique invention that pairs a bicycle power train with a soap-mixing vat lets our soap makers literally pedal their way through every batch without electricity..."

Now, high quality organic cold-process essential-oil made soaps are a dime a dozen around the internet (as specific as that is, heh), which makes me supremely happy. However, how many are made by bike power?! The scent list for this pack is pretty yummy as well: "Lavender Rosemary, Lemongrass Ginger, Cinnamon Clove, Oatmeal Honey and Lavender Avocado". Oatmeal Honey is pretty common, but the others just sound too good to pass up. I may need to try a pack of these, although the last time I took the plunge and bought a bunch of soaps from a manufacturer without trying a single one first I was burned. It was The Body Shop, and I wound up giving those glycerin bars away as I became a Lush junkie.

Method Aroma Ring

I was tempted to title this post "Method Stink Ring", because I'm feeling a bit lazy, and I couldn't remember what it was called. Turns out, I was pretty close. Anyway, my need to stick one of everything scented in my apartment (sorry jhimm), prompted me to bring one of these home as soon as I saw them. I also nabbed one for my sister's birthday, as she likes the Method "Cut Grass" scent. (She claims it reminds her of the old Gap "Grass" perfume.)

So, two grass aroma rings later, I was home and placing the white plastic ring on my bathroom shelf. I was impressed to actually be catching whiffs of the thing when I walked into our tiny bathroom as well.

Basically, you get two foil-wrapped scent disks per pack, and then you can buy refill 2-packs in any scent as often as you want. (They claim a single disc lasts at least 2 weeks.) You peel off the foil, revealing a thin membrane. It's tempting to poke at the thing, but will probably lead to alien mutations (so I've refrained thus far.) The white ring takes two aroma disks for maximum scent, but I've never used two (seems too wasteful, even to get more scent.)

In our new apartment the thing sits on the back of my toilet, and I swear I've never caught even the faintest whiff of it. I tried the second grass disk and then moved onto a "Eucalyptus Mint" one. (It was the only kind that passed the husband-sniff test at Target.) For some reason, the EM scent isn't on Method's site. Mine is blue like their "Sweet Water" version, but perhaps it's been replaced.

I am honestly about ready to give up on the aroma ring. It reminds me of the "diffuser sticks" I bought at Whole Foods a couple of years ago. Never smelled those either.
I'm willing to concede that my small nose (seriously) might be keeping me from properly whiffing the aroma ring. I just put the last EM disk in today... the ring is on its last chance before it gets replaced with some home made potpourri or a cute nicknack. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't chuck it (I may have a change of heart and want to refill it), but it's becoming a waste of space.

I'll have to track down my sister and ask her what she thinks.

Anyone tried this? Do their aroma sticks work better? I like the look of the little white vase.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder

Biokleen's "Automatic Dish Powder with Grapefruilt Seed & Orange Peel Extract" is my current favorite dishwasher soap, and it's on sale from right now (I sure wish I got kickbacks for these referrals ;) ) I love it because, as mentioned yesterday, I can get 64 dishwasher loads from it for generally around $5.50. (It's on sale often.) It also smells amazing, but if the citrus scent bothers you, it does come in a "free and clear" version.

My only annoyance with this product is that it does not include a scoop. I was lucky that I had a spare plastic scoop from another product that I could devote to the canister. It's not as though I'd want to leave my baking tablespoon sitting in the dishwasher powder all the time. The biokleen laundry powder includes a scoop, so I wish they'd port that feature to all of the other powdered products (I do understand it's more eco friendly not to include one, however.)

As mentioned yesterday, I don't do a particularly thorough job rinsing my dishes before putting them haphazardly into the dishwasher. I hate dishes, and I suppose I ask a lot from my dish washing soap. Biokleen delivers- I don't end up with streaks or spots, just clean and happy dishes. It works better than some toxic brands I've used in the past, and it definitely smells the best thanks to that grapefruit seed and orange peel extract. (The scent does not transfer to your dishes, fear not.)

I've run the gamut of powdered dishwasher soaps, so this is the first to impress me. (The Ecover cubes did too, but they're, um, cubes, not powder.) The canister is also a lot smaller than most boxes, so you'll have more room under your sink to store extra Casabella cute fish shaped biodegradable sponges.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ecover Dishwasher Tablets

When I first saw these in the store, I thought "how inefficient." Individually wrapped dishwasher tablets? Silly. Somehow I decided to try them anyway, and I was really glad that I did. Like all of Ecover's products I've tried thus far, they do a fantastic job. My dishes come out of our crappy dishwasher sparkling clean. The individually wrapped plastic sleeves are recylable too (here in Chicago anyway. In Providence we could only recycle plastic 1-3 and these are a #4). I'm not the most thorough rinser of dishes, and often stuff the dishes into the washer rather haphazardly.

My only beef with these is that a box does only 25 dishwasher loads (25 tablets) for $5.79. The Biokleen dishwasher powder does 64 loads for $8.19 but it is usually on sale for less than the Ecover. Still, these are very convenient and effective

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A trashcan that takes a beating

I need a new office trash can. My last one had a big hole in it, so when we moved halfway across the country, it didn't make the packing cut.

The Thrashcan may be expensive, but it'll last forever. Anything made out of recycled tires is guaranteed to be pretty durable (we have a recycled tire doormat from gaiam.)

Pretty nifty. I'm turning over whether I want one. They're made by a Chicago design group as well.

Stainless Steel Cleaner

Stainless steel kind of pisses me off. It seems that no matter what I do, it looks a bit streaky and fingerprints easily. My first purchase to try to keep my Simplehuman trash cans looking shiny was a Casabella stainless steel microfiber cloth. I was super excited by the claim that all I need is a touch of water and my steel will shine! (This was my first microfiber cloth purchase.)

Well, it never really worked. For a few weeks I attempted this on my microwave and the trash cans, and then harumphed and gave up on the cloth. When I saw Method's Stainless Steel spray I thought "Hallelujah! Maybe this will help."

The Method spray smells deliciously fruity, and that's nice when cleaning. Using the dual power of my microfiber cloth and the spray, I feel like my trash cans get pretty shiny, but as I mentioned, they end up streaky a lot of the time as well. (I often try to pretend the sides of the can don't exist and just do the top.)

I am thinking that when the Casabella cloth reaches the end of its life, I'll try the Simplehuman microfiber mit. I'm really intrigued. Anyone tried this product? Someone on Amazon gave it 5 stars.

As a parting note, I don't think I'll replace the Method spray when it runs out. It doesn't make enough of a difference to warrant the extra clutter, and I am the queen of simplifying whenever possible.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Don't eat the sink cleaner

So, there's a story floating around about how if germ-sensing aliens came to our world and based their sense of where to go potty purely on germ presence, they would eliminate in our kitchen sinks and wash in our toilets. I don't know if that's true or whether it's a story meant to trigger frantic rounds of sink-scrubbing around the world, but I haven't looked at my kitchen sink the same way since. I mean... it seems plausible.

Anyway, I actually have a preferred way to scrub the ol' sink, from The Naturally Clean Home:

-1 cup baking soda
-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-3 drops cedar or sweet orange essential oil

Combine the ingredients in an air-tight container and shake well to combine.
Sprinkle a small amount of the powder into your sink and wipe up with a damp sponge.
Rinse well.

I almost want to scrub the sink just to sniff this stuff. Almost.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mrs Meyer's Gingerbread Holiday Clean-Up Kit

So I won't even pretend that I am capable of resisting the allure of gingerbread-scented cleaning products. When I saw this clean-up kit reviewed in one magazine or another I raced to Mrs Meyers' website to order one. Alas, they were sold out! When I saw them two weeks later in Whole Foods, I nabbed two of them (one for my mother-in-law's Christmas gift.)

So, the dish soap. My MIL uses your standard chemical products, and even she was impressed with the ability of this stuff to tackle grease (must be the soap bark extract.)

The funny thing about Mrs Meyers is that they sell their products to Williams Sonoma for the latter's own home line of cleaning goods... which are then marked up. Oh Williams Sonoma, how I'd like to like you.

Anyway, so my MIL likes this stuff, and so do I. The gingerbread scent is really pleasant, though I'd like it a bit more bitingly gingery. Who knows what they'll come up with this winter. Did you see the Honeysuckle "Spring Cleaning" kit in the spring? (I refrained, file under "still using the freaking Winter kit!" It's 25% off now if you missed it.)

I'm still using the gingerbread hand soap too. (I wish the winter kit had come with glass cleaner like the spring kit did.)

I love that eco cleaning companies have gotten so creative with the scents. Aromatherapy makes cleaning more tolerable.

100% Corn Plastic Travel Mug

Ok, so this isn't quite cleaning related, but it is home-geek. I was looking around online this week for eco-travel mugs. My dear j. takes tea to work sometimes, and our trusty free Tim Horton's travel mug has been his buddy for a while. Well, with all of the talk of such containers leaching chemicals into our drinks, my paranoia kicked in and I thought I'd scope around for a solution. I already use a stainless steel mug, but, I thought, surely there's something more fun!

Voila- The Eco Travel Mugs from I'm Organic. You can order them with your company's logo on them, in addition to the cute designs they offer (we ordered the ladybug.)

"Made entirely out of corn, with a bit of oatmeal thrown in for strength, they will disappear in your compost pile in two months." Thankfully, they'll carry your green tea (or my decaf coffee) for years, first.

P.S. I really want their "Healthy Crops, Healthy Craps" t-shirt for my dog Mei.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Method Cranberry All Purpose Spray

Last Winter, Method introduced a line of products in three limited edition scents- Frosted Cranberry, Spiced Pear, and my favorite, Peppermint Vanilla. Completely giddy at the idea of these non-traditional cleaning scents, I stocked up. I bought dish soap in the Spiced Pear, candles in the Peppermint Vaniller, and a three pack of both the hand soaps and the all-purpose spray. (On a tangent, I also discovered Mrs Meyers Gingerbread LE Holiday cleaning kit, and had to get one of those as well.)

Well, it's the end of August and I just finished the Cranberry all purpose spray and the Cranberry hand soap is still in my bathroom. I'll talk about the hand soap some other time. For now, the All Purpose spray.

It's essentially the same formula as Method's other a-p sprays, which typically come in Lavender, Cucumber, Pink Grapefruit, and Unscented (raise your hand if you think it's sad I knew that from memory yet can't remember when in Sept. my mother's birthday is.)These sprays work fine. Really. Maybe even well. With the help of a good microfiber cleaning cloth they've taken off some of the goopiest grime from my stove top. They've battled crusty things on my counters. I used these to clean my last apartment before moving out. I use the wipe form (in Pink Grapefruit), in my bathrooms after growing tired of Eucalyptus Mint.

The real interest here is the scent, and well, it's synthetic cranberry. This smells quite a bit like synthetic raspberry, pomegranate, and any other red fruit you can think of. By the time I finished this mini-size bottle (12 oz), I was pretty well sick of it. I like Method's holiday line both in design (you know someone used stamps in Illustrator) and novelty of aroma, but I think I'll shy away from multi-packs this winter. I didn't want the cranberry on its own. We'll leave alone whether I would have had to "just try it" if I hadn't fallen prey to the three-pack.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eco-friendly bleach

Does anyone know of an eco-friendly bleach that actually makes whites whiter? I am currently using Ecover's Non-Chlorine Liquid Bleach, but I don't think it actually does anything much when added to my white laundry. Maybe the powder is better?

I'll have to try this stuff as a bathroom cleaner. Apparently 1/2 cup added to a gallon of water cleans bathroom surfaces. I'm thinking shower tiles and my good old Casabella shower brush.

Earth Friendly Products Shower Kleener

Ok, I'm going to confess something to you here. I shied away from Earth Friendly Products for a while because their packaging isn't as nicely designed (exception- their spa line) as some of the others out there.

I was curious after reading this though:
"The only non petroleum based, naturally derived shower cleaner on the market. This unique and revolutionary product uses tea tree oil, lavender oil, purified water, a plant derived surfactant, and ethanol derived from corn to clean your shower and bath areas."

I always love the "plant derived surfactant" in descriptions. Anyway, EFP is an Illinois company, so as soon as I moved here I found that I could buy their products almost anywhere. It was my inability to get to a hippie store for a while that led me to snatch this up. And may I say, I am properly shamed.

It's actually really lovely.
In the past, I've tried Method and Mrs. Meyers shower cleaners, but the scent bothered my husband (particularly the Method, but it kinda smells like bum, if bum smelled like bad ylang ylang.) The EFP version hardly smells at all, and better yet, when I spray it in our stall shower I can see it chasing away the soap drips from the glass. It's kept me from having to do a thorough scrubbing in the nearly two months that we've lived here.

I've actually... repurchased, which for me is something. I'm a fickle gal. What's your favorite shower cleaner? I don't mind the Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbana either.

Biokleen Citrus Laundry Powder

I used to be really skeptical of laundry powders. They seemed old fashioned somehow. This was before I began using borax/white vinegar/lemon essential oil to improve the results I got on my white towels. I've been more friendly with laundry powder lately. For one, the package doesn't get sticky when I inevitably dribble soap down its side. For another, it seems to really work. I love Biokleen's products in general. They all smell faintly grapefruity and fresh. The citrus laundry powder is no different. I feel like it really gets my laundry clean, and the wonderful scent doesn't carry over into the final product (which is a positive, because my husband doesn't like scented things as much as I do.)

The box comes with a handy little scoop. For my tiny apartment-sized top-loading washer it takes 3/4 of a scoop per large load. (It's fine for HE washers too.) It seems so far as though the box'll last a good long time too.

If you notice a lot of biokleen reviews here in the near future, it's because I'm on a biokleen kick. Not only can I get them at Whole Foods, my local natural foods store (Bonne Sante), and, but they rock.

Method Tub + Tile Spray

The Tub + Tile spray is in Method's Eucalyptus Mint scent, which I typically like. However, I honestly don't think this stuff gives off much of an odor beyond "soap". I used this to tackle the green stains left behind by my Enviro-Magic Grout Cleaner. I appreciate that you don't need to rinse after using this stuff, but I almost found myself doing it anyway in hopes that it'd help. I'd say this particular product does an okay job of dealing with cleaning tile, and general bathroom surfaces. Grout, not so much. It's never really been great at removing the soap-scum my Lush baths can leave behind in the tub.

I know many eco-nerds are wary of method. It's sold in Target, and many drugstores. Most complaints are about the vagueness of the ingredients list, and honestly, I've found this to be the case on many eco-cleaning products. The "corn/coconut-derived and biodegradable surfactant blend" is probably SLS/SLES (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate), which should be ok if you don't let it sit on your skin forever. Method leans towards fragrance, rather than essential oils as well, which doesn't particularly bother me, but makes me feel less romantic about the products.