In my journey to simplify and do things for myself, I try lots of different things like making your own laundry detergent, making vanilla extract, using bar shampoo, etc. And while I share my successes and how-to’s, I think it’s important to also note when things aren’t working like I think they should, to show that some things aren’t quite as cut-and-dried as being a benefit over commercial goods.
As I’ve written before, I have been using bar shampoo for the past several months (almost a year! wow!). It worked well for a while, and my hair was bouncy and healthy during that time but for the past few months my hair kept feeling like it was getting more and more weighed down and wasn’t getting clean. I brushed my damp hair with a dark hairbrush and realized there was solidified soap scum clinging my hair that actually coated the brush. I rinsed more vigorously, tried using less, hotter water, to no avail. This week I finally gave up and took out the bottled shampoo to get it clean. It actually took 3 latherings to strip the soap out of my hair. After that of course I had to use conditioner to de-strip it so it wasn’t a haystack.
As a child, I heard the words “soap scum” in advertising. I’ve certainly seen a few tub rings in my day, but honestly I never really knew what it meant until now. Once I switched from petroleum-based soaps to oil-and-lye based soaps, I started to understand the problem of soap scum. For me it’s showing up as a definite dark gray layer in my tub and in my washing machine, since I tried a Dr. Bronner’s based laundry detergent rather than using a petroleum based soap bar. As it stands, I’m probably going to be forced to use one of those washing machine cleaner powders to get the washer clean. To me this is very frustrating. I’d like the DIY version to work, but I don’t want to need a possibly toxic washing machine cleaner to use it.
I tried doing DIY dishwasher powder using borox and washing soda, a formula similar to the laundry soap but without the bar soap. I was out of regular dishwasher detergent, it seemed like a good time to give it a go since I already had the ingredients. It left all my dishes covered in a white residue that didn’t want to come off. I’ve heard similar complaints from other people who have tried it and other DIY recipes online. The problem possibly revolves around the minerals in water, and is apparently not easy for everyone to overcome. I went back to Seventh Generation dishwasher soap, which works great, but will probably try again with some other recipes.
What to Do
Now I’m certainly not saying that the above methods don’t work for some people. They probably do. They just don’t work for me. The question is of course what to do.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
using the scientific method, you could change one variable at a time to try and isolate the real issue. Repeat the experiment with the different variables and learn from the outcome. Patience and perseverance definitely help here.
- Do your research.
There are tons upon tons of recipes for DIY online. Try different ones and see what works best for your situation. Read others reviews/comments on each to understand up front what the issues might be and how to correct them.
- Understand that sometimes things just don’t work as well as the commercial brand.
Better living through chemistry became popular for a reason. While not all commercial products are superior to homemade ones, some definitely do have a distinct edge over the DIY competition. Commercial dishwasher soap, for example, seems to have the upper hand over the recipes I’ve seen. Not all commercial brands are evil and toxic, you just have to learn to read labels and be on the lookout for “greenwashing”.
Have you ever tried a DIY recipe for your household that didn’t do it?