Monday, October 26, 2020

Is DIY Shower Cleaner That Actually Works Just a Hopeless Fantasy?

blue bottle spraying a clear fluid
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

have an addiction to shower spray. 

This is not the same as being addicted to shower cleaner, however, and I think it's important to separate the two.

Shower spray is simple. You finish bathing, then you grab a bottle and spray the heck out of the walls, tub, and fixtures. You do this in the hope of not having to actually grab a sponge and scrub.

Unfortunately, this is a very expensive, wasteful, and futile addiction, and just like any other addiction, the end results don't match up to the dream. No matter how diligently you spray, eventually the tub and shower walls need a full cleaning again.

To make matters worse, finding a good shower spray is just about impossible during this pandemic. When I go to the store - any store - I have a choice of a) a store brand, or b) another store brand. 

While I swear by many of those for my staple supplies, shower spray is not one of them. I'm extraordinarily picky, because I don't want to waste any effort on cleaning any more than necessary. That goes double for actual shower cleaner!

I HATE cleaning!

bisque wall with white streaks with white tub walls below
Look at those gross, white, vertical
streaks on the wall!
Back when I had a tiled shower, it wasn't so bad. Tile is actually pretty simple to clean, and that includes the grout. But these apartment showers with spray-on resurfacing work?

They never come clean, regardless of what I use. My shower cleaning job has become an incredible hassle, ands the results of this torturous labor are subpar.

I know I'm not alone in this. 

Having worked apartment maintenance, I've seen what these showers look like when people move out after only 2-3 years, and it's not pretty. I also want to point out to you, if you're having issues with your own shower cleaning efforts, that it's most likely not entirely your fault. 

The resurfacing job done on most apartment showers in between moves is very nice to look at, but hard to keep clean. Companies give out a long list of what not to do when you clean them, but little  advice on how to clean them properly.

If you slack off, you're toast. It's that simple. Naturally, I couldn't effectively clean the shower for a few weeks, due to pregnancy and post-birth healing, so I ended up with a disaster zone. The right cleaner, however, could change everything.

That means I'm on the hunt, again. I want a shower cleaner that:

  1. Has earth friendly ingredients
  2. Is easy to make
  3. Uses few ingredients
  4. Doesn't cost a fortune
  5. Works well enough to make me stop whining.
I'm not sure this exists. Especially that last part. I refuse to believe a working shower cleaner is just a fantasy, however, so let's take a look at the requirements.

1. It's earth friendly.

Keep in mind, earth friendly and natural are not the same thing. Just because something is man-made, doesn't make it a terrible choice. I may be green, but I'm not crazy! 

2. It's easy to make.

This means that I'm not going to hunt down something that requires 3 different cooking methods and 5 hours to create. It needs to be done in under an hour, and not need a chemistry degree to accomplish.

two rows or vintage glass bottles with chemical names
Image by  Gerhard G.  from Pixabay
3. There are few ingredients in the recipe.

By few, I mean that it contains no more than 7 ingredients. Anything more is pushing things too far, and feels like a waste. 3-5 ingredients is ideal.

4. It needs to be cheap.

This needs to cost as much as, or less than, a large amount of shower spray.

5. It needs to produce a relatively pain-free cleaning experience.

This is done to kick a shower spray habit, so it needs to be something that I won't balk at doing. It must take a short amount of time to complete, and it needs to use only a little elbow grease.

Can this be accomplished?

I'm hopeful, but unsure. I succeeded when I went on my search for a DIY dishwasher detergent, and this success occurred after only one failure. This means that a shower cleaner that fits these specifications may exist. 

Have you discovered a great recipe for one? Leave us some suggestions in the comments, and I'll be sure to try them! 

Monday, October 19, 2020

How to Protect Your Baby from Microplastics

 It's scary, isn't it?

The idea that babies, in general, are consuming around 1.6m microplastic particles per day is enough to panic most parents, myself included. This number was reported in a story published in the Guardian this morning.

baby being bottle fed by a woman with a ring on her right hand
Image by Dirk (Beeki®) Schumacher from

This number is significantly higher than the World Health Organization's estimate for microplastics in drinking water, a report published last year.

As it happens, the procedures used to ensure sterile bottles and formula blending actually contribute to this microplastic fiasco:

"The team followed international sterilisation guidelines to make baby formula in 10 different feeding bottles. This involves sterilising with 95C (203F) water, then shaking the formula powder with 70C water in the bottle. Both the hot water and shaking steps produced a lot of microplastics, which are far smaller than the width of a human hair." (Damian Carrington, The Guardian)


Fortunately, the scientists involved in the study theorized that adding one simple step to the end of the sterilization procedure brings this amount of microplastics down to a lower level. What's that step, you ask?

Boil some water, let it cool, and then use that water to rinse out the bottle a few more times.

copper tea kettle
Image by Ken Boyd on Pixabay

See? This really is a simple step. The water can easily be boiled and cooled while you're doing other things, which adds almost no time to your bottle sterilization process.

If this isn't enough for you, and you feel that even more steps need to be taken, there is always the idea of switching to glass bottles. They're definitely more environmentally friendly, and you don't need to worry about petrochemicals at all.

I'd like to point out, though, that glass is much heavier than plastic, which is really annoying at a 3:00 a.m. feeding. Also, babies like to throw things and bat them around. This means you'd have to be extra careful during feedings to ensure you don't end up cleaning shattered glass from the area.

Everyone wants to protect their baby from microplastics, but before you get a bit too worried about this new study, I want you to understand that this study was not evaluating whether this amount is dangerous for human consumption or not. And they also point out that many of the particles are automatically eliminated into their diapers.

The study does recommend more studies be done on the subject, but the authors want to be sure that nobody panics over this info.

And they're right. Panic does no good...especially when the authors don't know if this amount has any significant effect on human health. 

Instead, as parents, we need to focus on what we can do in this moment. Take that one extra step and you protect your baby by reducing the amount of microplastics consumed. 

And once you have that done, start pushing for new, eco-friendly options!

*You can read the study abstract for free in Nature Food.

Monday, October 12, 2020

How to Compost Like a Boss Without Spending a Fortune

 Long, long ago

In a garden far, far away,

There was a master composter


rectangular wooden compost bin, filled to overflowing

Image by Francis Ray from Pixabay

Ok, no. There was only me. But I was composting, so that counts...right?

Roughly 10 years ago, I created my own DIY composter. It worked pretty well, and I produced some killer compost. 

It smelled like gardening heaven...or at least high-quality potting soil. And it saved money on the next season's garden since I had no worries about buying soil or even fertilizer.

We're at the end of another growing season, so I'm beginning again. This time, though, I'm not building my own composter. The reason for the change is that my original composter was too small. I needed something much larger.

Unfortunately, good composters can cost some serious money. At least, that's how it feels if you're out of work due to a pandemic. In this case, you have 2 options: find an incredibly cheap one, or make your own.

Building Your Own Composter

If you choose to build your own, find a design that's easy to turn. A barrel, a paint bucket, or some other rounded container can be rolled, whereas different shapes require you to expend more energy and use additional tools. 

A rounded structure not only makes mixing the compost easy but also fun! I used to roll my compost bucket around the yard. It didn't need that much turning, of course. It was just an amusing way to enjoy the time spent.

line drawing of a bucket with holes drilled
Also, make sure you incorporate holes for air. Oxidation is a must in any compost bin, which means you need good airflow.

If you don't care much about the aesthetics of your composter, a simple 5-gallon paint bucket and lid do the job in a pinch. That's how I created my first composter. 

Drill some holes in the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 positions, about 3-4 inches from the bottom, and then drill additional holes vertically every 3 inches. Your mini-composter is now ready to be filled.

Buying a Compost Bin

Otherwise known as the lazy--and expensive--way. 

Also known as the way I'm doing it this time. 

I don't usually recommend or use this method, but a) I live in an apartment, so the composter can't take up much space, and b) I need something larger than a 5-gallon container. 

black hexagonal composter with a green sliding door
Buying one is pricey, especially during a pandemic. I was fortunate, though; I got my new 18.5-gallon composter, priced at under $100, as a gift. It allows me to turn the compost easily, thanks to its hexagonal design. 

Further, it's not ugly (which keeps the property management happy), it's sturdy, and it's one of the least expensive bins out there.

If you choose to purchase your composter and live in an apartment like I do, please be sure to use a blanket or tray to catch any water or dirt that leaks through the holes. This will save you from damaging anything...or dropping unwanted mess onto your downstairs neighbor's head!

Once you've chosen your compost bin, there are a few basics that you need to know to produce good compost.

You need to begin with a good blend of materials.

There are 3 material types to use:

Brown: These are items like your dried leaves, paper, and biodegradable egg cartons. The key here is that even though these items are organic, like the green matter, they are dry. They help ensure you don't have a wet mess stinking up your area.

Green: This is the somewhat fresh-ish plant waste, like fruits, vegetables, and wilted garden plants. Do not add meat to this mixture. It doesn't work well. Throw that in the trash or into the city compost bin if you have one. 

Dirt: Just plain old dirt. It can be last season's garden soil, sand, or silt. It doesn't matter, as long as it's dirt. Don't worry about the presence or lack of nutrients; you're producing your own in the bin.

Pay attention to your ratios!

The optimal ratio of these 3 components is 1-2-1. Basically, you want 25% of the blend to be brown matter, 50% to be green matter, and the last 25% to be dirt. The closer you get to these specific amounts, the better off your results will be.

Water is your best friend...or your worst enemy.

Pay close attention to your moisture levels. Too little water causes your materials to compost more slowly. Too much moisture, however, will contribute to rot, which is disgusting. 

large group of rotting potatoes
Image by Steve Theaker from Pixabay
    And stinky.

        And stressful.

If you ever feel that you need extra water in your mix, err on the side of caution and use a hand mister, but spray only once into the mixture. Wait a few days, and spray again if you're still not satisfied. Trust me on this. Going overboard is the worst thing you could possibly do.

This, in a nutshell, is all you need to know to compost like a boss. 

If you really want to get things moving, then you can use a few additional tricks. Simply head over to my compost party post for some tips, along with more in-depth explanations about the process.

Monday, October 5, 2020

8 Terrific Reasons that Reusable Period Products Are Better than Disposables


They either make you feel like you're wearing a diaper or cause you to constantly check for leaks. 

At times they dry you out. 

Discomfort is a constant companion. 

Disposable period products are, as a whole, a complete tragedy, and yet we still use them. Fortunately, there are better options if you're willing to try them. Menstrual cups, cloth pads, and period panties are a few excellent examples.

a gift box with menstrual cup, cloth pad, and cervical cup inside
Photo by Vanessa Ramirez from Pexels

Back in 2012 I talked about my introduction to cloth pads. I loved them at first, because they were comfy, super-absorbent, and cute. Over time, though, they faded, becoming much less cute, and became less comfortable, as well.

But that was over 8 years ago.

Thankfully, today's reusable period products have come a long way. But what exactly makes them so much better?

1. They produce significantly less waste than their disposable counterparts.

To quote an article called Planet-Friendly Periods from Stanford Magazine, 

"In the United States alone, approximately 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are discarded each year." 

 That's a significant load of trash clogging our landfills, but reusable period products are a great way to decrease it. 

Menstrual cups, for example, last up to 10 years. This means that since a woman generally has 38 years