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Non-Toxic DIY Laundry Detergent that WORKS!

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a hot minute because I wanted to make sure that it really, really worked (in all-case scenarios), before I shared it with you here.

A little background: I am not what you’d call “brand loyal”. When it comes to laundry detergent, I grew up using powdered soap in 5 gallon buckets from Costco and knew nothing different. It always got the job done and I’ve always been open to using whatever!

Geno, however, grew up using Tide laundry detergent and is incredibly brand loyal. To him, nothing cleans or smells better than Tide, and so after a few failed attempts to get him to switch (early-on in our relationship), I’ve learned to pick my battles and have largely left that one alone.

But my outlook on chemicals in our home is changing.

In the wake of a chemical burn that I got on my hands from using Clorox wipes in Dec. 2019, I’ve set out to eliminate as many toxic elements in our home as possible. For us, our children, and our pets.

I was reading recently and came across a quote of Lisa Bonet’s. She’d told an interviewer that in regards to cleaning and beauty products, if she couldn’t swallow it – it didn’t belong on her skin. And that really hit home for me.

If we’re using a product on our skin, it’s being absorbed – if we’re using it on our surfaces, it’s leaving a residue. If that residue is toxic, we’re transferring those chemicals to our skin every time we touch them.

Kitchen counters.
Toilet seats.
Laundry.
Body soaps and lotions.

Long after we’ve wiped a surface clean, the residues stay with us – and this is entirely true for the clothes that we wash and wear. In fact, laundry detergents and drier sheets are some of the most toxic chemicals that we bring into our homes, and these chemicals touch our skin every single day.

Not long after my Clorox chemical burn, I was in the laundry room spraying our clothes with stain-remover, throwing a few Tide pods into the mix, and my hands were on FIRE. I wondered then if non-toxic homemade laundry products would be rather easy to create AND do a good job?

A quick google search delivered a thousand DIY recipes to me all at once. Staring at the screen like – where do I even start?, I just started looking for common ingredients and started whipping things up to see if they’d work.

So that’s what I’ve been doing these last few weeks – testing out different laundry detergent recipes! And boy oh boy, do I have something good for you!

I’m so proud of what’s been created here: a clean and fresh-smelling semi-solid, semi-liquid, non-toxic, DIY laundry detergent that earns the highest rating of A on the EWG Healthy Living scale (see below) AND cleans our clothes.

Paired with my non-toxic, DIY pre-stain treatment (which I’ll post next and link here) – it’s unstoppable.

•••

Before we dive in, let me preface by saying that one of the ingredients that I’ve used in this recipe (Thieves Household Cleaner), can only be purchased through a company called Young Living. It contains a blend of many different essential oils and is the only non-toxic household cleaner that we use in the house since my chemical burn.

If you don’t have Thieves Household Cleaner in your cupboards, don’t give up on me yet! I’ve made this recipe with and without it, and both batches have cleaned our clothes equally.

If you want to purchase some, you can do that here.

Othewise, just add 10-20 additional drops of lemon essential oil for an added cleaning boost, fresh citrus-y smell, and call it a day.

•••

Okay – HERE WE GO!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil
  2. Pour washing soda into a large bowl and slowly stir in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir or whisk until washing soda is completely dissolved (usually takes 2-3 minutes or so)
  1. Add 1 Tbsp baking soda at a time (3 Tbsp total) and stir well to combine. The mixture will start to thicken into a pudding-like texture as more baking soda is added. If your mixture is slow to thicken, keep mixing!
  1. Stir in 1/2 cup Castile soap and whisk until combined (you might start to feel like you’re “whipping” the mixture up at this point as it thickens)
  2. Stir in 10-20 drops of lemon essential oil and whisk until combined
  3. Stir in 1 capful of Thieves Household Cleaner (optional), and whisk until combined
  4. Slowly stir in the remaining 3 cups of boiling water and carefully whisk until mixture is fully combined. The consistency will thin out as more water is added, but don’t let that worry you – it’ll thicken back up a bit as it cools down to room temp!
  1. Cool the mixture to room temperature or let rest overnight. It will separate while cooling, (see picture below)
  2. When mixture is completely cooled, you’ll need to (permanently) re-combine by blending or whisking until smooth.
  3. Store laundry detergent in a glass bottle or container to prevent plastic leaching, and use 1/3 cup per load of laundry.

END NOTE: I ran all ingredients through the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Cleaning Database, which gave this recipe an overall score of A.

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning provides practical solutions to protecting yourself and your family from everyday exposures to potentially harmful chemicals.

I encourage you to read about their rating system to understand what it means, and to use it often!

Non-Toxic DIY Wool Dryer Balls

WOOL DRYER BALLS?

Wool dryer balls are not a new concept, but I didn’t know much about them until recently! In our attempt to elminate some of the harshest chemicals from our home and spend less money on single-use items, we’ve learned that wool dryer balls are a really great eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets!

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

•• To start, commercial dryer sheets are filled with harmful chemicals and scents that cover your clothes and rest directly on your skin day in and day out. In contrast – there are no chemicals in wool dryer balls.

•• Commercial dryer sheets are expensive and you have to throw them away after each use. In contrast – wool dryer balls can be re-used for years, saving you lots-o-money.

•• Wool dryer balls increase fluffiness and reduce static as your dryer loads tumble.

•• Wool dryer balls help to soften clothes naturally – eliminating the need for chemical fabric softeners.

•• Wool dryer balls are made from an organic, renewable resource!

HOW DO THEY WORK?

Simple! They bounce around in your dryer – separating clothes, allowing heat to circulate through your laundry, and cutting down on your drying time. The wool balls pull moisture from your clothes, so the more you have in your load, the shorter your drying time will be.

BUY ‘EM OR MAKE ‘EM?

You can definitely buy online, but in searching Amazon what I found was that no matter where the wool had been sourced (New Zealand, Ireland, Europe, USA), most of the balls themselves were manufactured in China. With very little information about the manufacturing process (and even some manufacturers failing to disclose all materials used), I felt most confident in buying the wool myself and making my own.

Here’s how I did it:

CHOOSING YOUR YARN:

Finding the right yarn is the most important part of making the wool balls. Look for 100% wool yarn, free of synthetics and acrylics. Most hobby stores sell it, or you can purchase the brand I used on Amazon here!

Note: stay away from wool labeled “machine washable” or “super wash”. These types will NOT felt.

SUPPLIES FOR MAKING THE BALLS:

• a couple skins of 100% wool yarn (not labeled “machine washable” or “super wash.” I used 2 skiens – you can find the brand I used here!
• pantyhose
• scissors
• crochet hook
• string or cotton/acrylic yarn (to tie off the pantyhose and keep the wool balls in place)
• loose, single socks (optional!)

STEPS FOR MAKING THE BALLS:

To stretch my yarn as far as possible, I went to the bin in my laundry room full of socks that haven’t had a match in years. Some have even moved across the world with us as singles – and a match has yet to be found…

If you want to give your balls a little boost in size and stretch your wool as far as possible, go ahead and roll a few socks together to get the party started. If you want to roll them as 100% wool, you can do that too. Just skip the sock step 🙂

Wrap your wool yarn around your socks a few times as tight as possible. Continue wrapping tightly until your ball is the desired size. I made mine the size of softballs to help cut drying time more, but a baseball or tennis ball size will do (and will use less yarn).

Leave ends loose as you continue making each ball – we’ll tie them off in just a bit.

Use a crochet hook to tuck the end of the yarn under several layers of yarn. Pull it through and cut the end.

Cut the leg off a pair of pantyhose. Put the first ball into the toe of the pantyhose. Tie in-between each ball with acrylic yarn or string.

Make sure not to use your wool yarn to tie off each ball, or it will felt right into the nylons. And simply tie off the end!

HOW TO FELT THE BALLS:

Throw your entire felt caterpillar into the washing machine. Wash in a hot wash cycle with a cold water rinse and dry on your hottest dryer setting.

After the first wash + dry cycle, check the wool for felting. You might notice (like me) that your yarn didn’t felt completely on the first try. No worries! Simply throw them back in with your next load of laundry and wash and dry a second time. You’ll know your yarn has completely felted when you can scrape your fingernail over the ball and the strands don’t separate.

USING THE BALLS:

Throw these bad boys into the dryer with your freshly washed clothes and let them go to work! For smaller loads, use 3-4 dryer balls. For larger loads (towels included!), use 4-6 balls or more. The more balls you use, the faster your clothes will dry.

A NOTE ABOUT STATIC: A common cause of static in the laundry is over-drying. When your items are completely dry but continue to tumble in the dryer, static electricity is invited into the mix. This is true across the board (not just for wool dryer balls – but with dryer sheets as well). Only allow clothes to dry until they’re not wet anymore, and you’ll find much less static cling when you pull them out!

TIP: If static persists, try using vinegar as a fabric softener during the rinse cycle of your wash. Vinegar serves double duty as a fabric softener and a static-reducer. When clothes are completely dry, the vinegar smell will disappear completely.

Happy Felting!

Pancake Snacks

This may seem a tad simple – and it is! Which is why I’m posting it here. I know you’ll love it.

My kids are snackers. The gene runs deep because I could snack for a living. I’m always on the move and often grab whatever’s easiest from the kitchen as I’m blazing through.

Recently while vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii, I grabbed a bag of small mini-pancakes from the local grocery store for the kids for breakfast. They weren’t the boxed ones – they were made, frozen, and sold locally and the kids loved them. They even preferred to eat them frozen??

Anyway, I got to thinking, how hard can it be to make a ton of silver dollar pancakes, freeze them, and let the kids pull for breakfast or for a quick snack on the go? I get to control the ingredients and it’s huge bang for my buck since flour is so inexpensive.

Last week I made 2 dozen and the kids blew through them in a week. I kept the recipe simple and clean, using only flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs and butter. We don’t put syrup on them in this capacity – just let them eat them plain.

Easy peasy.

Today I doubled the recipe and made another 4 dozen – splitting them into 4 separate bags so they can pace themselves. With 4 kids who are always hungry, I’m totally okay with serving these as drive-by snacks a few times a week, breakfast here and there, and even putting them into their Bento Boxes frozen, so they’re thawed by lunchtime.

Very easy to make and super inexpensive, with a a 5lb bag of flour costing around $4 and yielding about 6 dozen mini cakes.

The recipe I use is from AllRecipes.com (a trusted favorite in our house for years!)

Bento Box Lunchboxes


New lunchboxes for Jack and Addison arrived today! We’re veering from the traditional insulated zip lunchbox/bag that we’ve used for a few years now and trying something new for a few reasons: 

The kids have been coming home for a while now complaining about the same old stuff going into their lunches each day. I’m a creature of habit and guilty as charged. But making lunches isn’t my favorite thing to do… so normally they get the go-to sandwich, pretzels, fruit and sweet treat and we call it a day. 

More exciting options have been requested. So rather than a few big staples each day, which they’re no longer eating because they’re “boring”, we’re trying out smaller quantities of varied options. Plus, less waste because these little BPA free compartments will eliminate the need for small ziploc/plastic bags. 

There were a ton of choices online for these types of lunch boxes. I liked this one in particular because it’s a small, family-owned business and they’re half the cost of the traditional “Bentgo” brand. They also each come with two sporks, an ice pack, and an insulated, zippered carrying case for each box, AND they had great reviews. You can find them on Amazon.

Needlepoint Leo

I check my social media accounts once a day or once every few days… which is VASTLY different from where I was 6 months ago. 

6 months ago I’d post a picture or an opinion, and then I’d hang around for the reactions. The input. The engagement. So I could process that + respond.

In my Social Media Cleansing program –– where we step back from social media for 40 days and 40 nights, we talk about this a LOT. Social media is one reaction after another… and while that’s not necessarily a BAD thing, it is VERY easy to get swept into. 

Around the 2-week mark in my program, I ask participants to estimate how many notifications they think their social media accounts have gotten since they’ve been offline. Their estimations vs. the reality absolutely BLOWS THEM AWAY – every single time. 

“I thought I was missing so much! But I haven’t really missed anything!” 

Fear of missing out – FOMO. We feel like we’re missing so much when we’re not online, but the reality is – once we’re no longer throwing up new content we’re no longer giving anyone a reason to engage with us. 

Social media isn’t controlling us. We’re tying ourselves TO it by the amount of content that we’re sharing. We’re not addicted to the platform, we’re addicted to the comments, feedback, and reactions of others. 

I was asked today if I could give one tip to other moms + women looking to spend less time on social media, what would it be? 

Find something that keeps your fingers busy! Our social media + technology addictions aren’t just mental – they’re largely physical. If you can keep your hands busy by means of writing, reading a book (physically holding one in your hands and turning the pages), knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, etc. you’re re-wiring the neuro-connectors in your brain to fill the void in other ways. 

It’s hard to sit still – especially during idle times (sitting on the couch, laying in bed, car rides, sitting in waiting rooms, etc). Knowing this, I keep small projects and books everywhere. Needlepoint Leonardo DiCaprio on my nightstand, hard copy books in my purse, crochet needle + yarn on my couch. And these are the things that I reach for FIRST when I feel the pull to fill idle time! 

The In-Between

Our house is packed up and we’re surrounded by furniture that isn’t ours.

I’m so thankful that the military here in Hawaii provides us with “aloha” furniture – temporary seating, tables, beds, dressers, lamps and kitchen appliances that allow us to stay in our home until closer to our move date. Can you imagine a hotel room (or, two hotel rooms!) with 2 adults, 4 kids, and 4 animals? I’d officially lose whatever marbles I have left.

So thank you, aloha furniture. The kids are still in their rooms at night, we’re cooking meals as normal, eating dinner together around a table. Our beds might be wrapped in 10 layers of plastic, but it’s home.

I consider us to be one of those “lucky” military families that have really gotten an awesome deal when it comes to where we’ve been stationed. Out of 20 years active-duty, 12 of those have been here at Pearl Harbor. Geno and I met here when I was in college and he was fresh outta bootcamp. We’ve come back and forth several times, but we’ve lived in Hawaii more than anywhere else in our adult lives. It’s been so good to us.

We had a wedding here. Three of our 4 kids were born here and the baby was born in Virginia on Dec. 7 – (Pearl Harbor day). We have such a deep connection to these islands and they’ve called us “home” more than once. So maybe that’s why there’s no big rush to check-off a “bucket list” before we go. We’re not anxious to do it all/ see it all because 1. we already have 😆, and 2. something tells me –– as it always has –– that we’ll be back. If not to live, then to spend time. And there’s a sense of calmness that comes with that.

We’ll fly to Washington mid-June and until then, we’re just here. Enjoying our time and knowing that life will pick up pace soon enough. So we can just sit tight for now, look around, take it all in, and be present.

The kids are finishing the school year and loving their last few weeks with teachers + friends. We’re spending time outside, walking our neighborhood like always, eating at our favorite spots, visiting our favorite places, holding gratitude for everything that we’ve experienced here, and just feeling the love that we have for this place.

Enjoying the moment, I guess you could say. Trying not to wish the time away because the time will be here soon enough and I know we’ll miss it when we’re gone. Of course we will – we always do. This is home.

CO-OP! (A homeschool enrichment opportunity)

The more I’ve shared about our plans to home educate in the fall, the more I’ve heard, “YOU’VE GOTTA FIND A GOOD CO-OP!”

I’ve heard of farming co-ops and housing co-ops, but homeschooling co-ops were new to me. So I took to the internet to read up on them a bit and see if there were any offered in our new town.

A homeschool co-op is a group of families who meet together once a week (sometimes less, sometimes more), and work cooperatively to achieve common goals. They can be organized around academics, social time, the arts, service work, projects – or a combination of these, and they may meet in homes, churches, libraries, or community centers. The children in these co-ops typically do most of their learning outside of the co-op, but it’s one more experience that builds their knowledge and provides them with a chance to be with friends and do something interesting.

With us moving to a new state and not knowing any other homeschooling families yet, I’ve been working really hard to find enrichment opportunities for the kids (and myself as a new homeschooling parent). After some narrowing down, we applied to a co-op last month and were put on their wait list. I was so excited last week when we got word that our application had been accepted and we were all set to register.

Since the co-op will be an enrichment and social experience and not the bulk of their academic learning (although they do offer these types of classes), I wanted them to choose their own classes based on what sparked their interests. Baby B is also enrolled in preschool-age classes (fun!) and I was required to sign up for a few jobs within the co-op for my contribution, so we’ll all be involved and have the opportunity to participate for 3 hours, one day a week.

Some examples of the age-level classes that the kids chose are: Brain Busters (math games), Book Club, sensory play, Middle-Ages history, PE (outdoor games), art and poetry. They’ll also be eating lunch and attending chapel with their friends.

I’m really looking forward to this experience (for them – and for me!), and grateful to all of the homeschooling families who shared what a co-op was and why we should join one!

GETTING STARTED

Hi! I’m Karissa. If we haven’t met yet, it’s nice to meet you 🙂 And thanks for stopping by.

I’m new to blogging and it feels a bit overwhelming, but I’m telling myself that none of this has to be perfect and whatever is shared here will be GOOD ENOUGH. Especially since it will be shared with a good heart and the best of intentions.

My husband Geno and I have four kids, ages preschool through elementary (3, 6, 8 and 10), and this upcoming school year (2021-2022) will be our first year homeschooling. I don’t really count our distance-learning experience as “homeschooling”… that was just bananas. What we’re committing to here is involved, home education run by me (their mom). And dad when he’s not at sea. It may seem a bit of a departure, seeing as though 3 of our 4 kids have attended public school up until this point. But we have a handful of reasons why we’ve chosen this new path and I’ll share a few with you here today.

First, we simply want to spend more time with our kids. As it stands, they wake up before 7am, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and are out the door by 7:45. They spend all day at school and we (their parents) have very little say in their day-to-day education. The exception being homework, which is just stressful for everyone. By the time they walk through the door at 3pm they’re exhausted and hungry. We simply want to spend the best parts of their day with them.

This summer we’re moving from Hawaii to Washington (state) and we want to explore, learn, and create memories with our kids without being tied to the confines of a traditional school day. Math, history, science – these subjects are usually attached to a textbook. We want to get outside and LIVE them with our kids. If we want to study birds and recite multiplication tables while hiking Mt. Olympus, we can do it.

Honestly, we want more control over the subject areas covered in our kids’ education. There were so many hidden figures that I never met in school; men and women who built our nation, those who were already here when it was “discovered”, men and women who weren’t afraid to stand up against injustice all over the world and those who are currently making a difference. Maybe their names were grazed over somewhere in a textbook at some point, but I never got a chance to KNOW them. I want my kids to.

We want our kids to be excited about learning for learning’s sake. Not learning to pass a test, not cramming to make a grade. Oh, how I wish that subjects like algebra would’ve COME ALIVE for me in my time. That biology or chemistry might have jumped off the page and led me into a world of wonder instead of leaving me grappled with frustration. It actually took me becoming a school teacher myself to understand these subjects well enough to teach them to others. We want to lay the foundation for a lifelong love of learning in our kids early. Something that neither of us received in the public school system.

A few years ago I was introduced to Miss Charlotte Mason, British educator and reformer in England at the turn of the twentieth century. Miss Mason held a firm belief that each child is a born person, and we must educate the entire person, not just his mind. She proposed an education inspired by the writings of the Bible, rich literature and “living books”, rather than traditional textbooks or “watered down twaddle”. Charlotte emphasized respecting each child as a born person and giving him a broad education. She presents a generous curriculum including nature study, art & music appreciation, musical instruments and handicrafts, as well as the usual academic subjects of math, reading, writing, science and history.

I’ve been busy preparing Term 1 (of 3) for the fall semester following Ambleside Online’s curriculum recommendations and boy, what a job! There’s been so much for me to learn in planning what they’ll be learning, but I feel like my feet are finally on solid ground and we have a great foundation to start with.

Our house gets packed up next week and we’ll move mid-June, so I really wanted to nail down as much as I could before everything goes into boxes. I bought most of our books and materials second-hand on eBay and have spent about $120 per child for the entire school year – which is SO MUCH LESS than I was anticipating. If I had bought everything new we’d probably be in for at least double or triple that amount, so thumbs-up for savings! I was also excited to learn that some of the recommended living texts were books we already have on our shelves. Further encouragement that we’re on the right track and that we’ve already been supporting a living education here at-home.

I feel prepared – at least to start. And I know we’ll figure out what’s working and what’s not as we go. This year we’ll have a preschooler (Baby B), a 1st grader (Big B), a 4th grader (Miss A), and a 5th grader (J). Each child will be following their own grade-level studies in math, reading, and writing, but we will be studying history, science, poetry, nature, art, music and handicrafts as a family – which I really like and think will be fun for us all.

That’s about it for now! A quick intro to what we’re planning to do and my first blog post here at Lights of Wonder. Not so bad! Thanks for reading 🙂

-Karissa