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.