Archive for the ‘Cleaning’ Category

Check out how we roll..ha, ha, hum. (cough).  Sourdough bread rolls and loaf are rising nicely in our clean oven, "dissected " for you in this post!

Check out how we roll..ha, ha, hum. (cough). Sourdough bread rolls and loaf are rising nicely in our clean oven, “dissected ” for you in this post!

Today’s Mama Mondays post is a series of quick tips to help keep your oven clean, avoid smoke-generating spills, and maintain an even temperature for baking at low-temperatures or for long periods.  This is especially useful if you are baking sourdough bread, drying chives, or roasting tomatoes.

TIP ONE: Clean your oven using all-natural cleaners so you don’t have to worry about toxic fumes getting into your food (or lungs/skin as you clean).  I use baking soda and vinegar.  First, I spray neat white vinegar all over the interior of the COLD oven, then using a spoon I “splash” baking soda over the vinegar droplets to make them fizz.  I allow baked-on residue to soak in vinegar for a while before applying any baking soda.  Excess baking soda makes a mild abrasive that is great at picking up grease and “splatter”.  I use a damp washcloth to help rub the baking soda across the oven’s interior surface.  I wet the washcloth to remove excess baking soda once the oven is clean.  For more tips on cleaning your oven, try Open Eye Health’s natural home cleaning eBook.

TIP TWO: Place a clean Pizza Stone or Baking Tile on the bottom of your oven (or on a rack closest to the heat source).  A Pizza Stone or Baking Tile provides “thermal mass”: it absorbs thermal energy and releases it at a steady rate, reducing oven temperature fluctuations and the negative impact of doing things like opening the oven door to check on your food (although try not to leave the door open any longer than you have to even with a stone/tile).  It also helps to normalize the temperature of the oven so there are fewer hot/cold spots: this promotes even baking especially in older or irregular ovens.

My oven is sparkling thanks to the vinegar and baking soda.  The pizza stone, as you will notice, is not so clean-looking.  I did clean it, but the oil wouldn't come off.  I have noticed that since putting it in the oven damp and using it for thermal mass, all the oil stains have disappeared.  Interesting!

My oven is sparkling thanks to the vinegar and baking soda. The pizza stone, as you will notice, is not so clean-looking. I did clean it, but the oil wouldn’t come off. I have noticed that since putting it in the oven (damp) and using it as a thermal mass, all the oil stains have disappeared. My pizza stone looks brand-new now.  Interesting!

TIP THREE: Create a catching tray.  The easiest way is to place aluminum foil on a rack at the lowest setting.  It is important to create “grooves” so that any liquid spilling over a dish is caught and doesn’t run off the plane of the aluminum foil to the oven’s floor.  Filling the grooves with cheap table salt is the best way to absorb liquid and prevent food from smoking (a great tip I learned from Open Eye Health’s eBook is to sprinkle salt on anything that spills in your oven: this allows you to continue baking without setting off smoke alarms!).  If you are concerned about your aluminum load and avoid using/buying aluminum foil, you can use a stainless steel baking tray with a lip instead.  Make sure the foil/tray doesn’t cover the entire rack (leave a gap around the sides) so that the heat can circulate in the oven properly (keep in mind that adding this catching tray may add to your baking time slightly by reducing the impact of the heat radiating from your oven’s element and therefore increasing your baked good’s reliance on convection-based heat).  A catching tray makes future oven cleaning a snap: just throw out the old salt and replace!

Get in the Groove!  A salted catching tray made of aluminum foil.

Get in the Groove! A salted catching tray made of aluminum foil.

TIP  FOUR: Hydrate!  Gas ovens can be drier than electric; using a catching tray with slightly longer cooking times/more reliance on convection can also make cooking a little drier.  The solution is easy: place a ceramic or glass pan filled with filtered water either directly on the catching tray or on a rack in the setting above the catching tray (depending on how many racks and height settings you have).  If you are baking bread and don’t want it to get soggy from the steam, put a small amount of filtered water in the pan so only as much steam as needed is released; after the water has evaporated, you can remove the pan (when it is empty, using oven gloves) to speed up the cooking time.  Why use filtered water?  When the water has evaporated, the mineral deposits will be left on your dish.  Most of the time this is easy to remove with plain tap water.  However, depending on what minerals are in your water, you may not want to bake them along with your souffles, etc.  🙂  Don’t use a hydrating pan if you are trying to dry or roast something.  To keep roast meat or vegetables moist, use oil or fat and consider using a cover to keep the steam in.

Baking can be a bed of roses...when you use a hydrating pan to combat dryness :-)

Baking can be a bed of roses…when you use a hydrating pan to combat dryness 🙂

Helping of Hope: Right choice.  Cleaning your oven with all natural ingredients and catching spills in advance with a salted catching tray; using thermal mass and a hydration pan to control your baking environment.  Bright future: easy and guilt-free oven cleanup; better results in baking!

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You’ve won this wonderful all-natural cleaning and personal care package!

CONGRATULATIONS STAR SCOT! You’ve won the NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter Package Giveaway. Star had 30 entries, more than any other contestant. Star: make sure to send me your mailing address (I have already sent you a confirmation email that you can reply to) so I can pass that info on to NaturOli. Thanks to everyone who participated! I hope I can bring another giveaway soon.

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Give yourself a kick-start to a new all-natural cleaning regimen!
(Shampoo Bar not shown, but included)

As an affiliate of NaturOli, I’m thrilled to announce that my first giveaway is a personal care and cleaning product package sure to give you a HUGE helping of hope as you see how easy it is to switch from expensive and dangerous products to all-natural, frugal ones.

The Giveaway includes one (1) NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter Package, normally sold for $32.50.  You can click on the link for more information, but the package includes the following items that have reviews here on A Helping of Hope:

  • 1-oz Mini-Size of Extreme 18X Soap Nut Liquid Concentrate (Detergent and Cleaner) AND A Soap Nuts Laundry Soap Pre-Treat Stick, both reviewed here.
  • 2-oz Mini-Size of Extreme Hair Soap Nut Shampoo AND a Soap Nut Shampoo Bar, both reviewed here.
  • 4-oz NaturOli Select Soap Nuts, USDA certified organic, reviewed here.
  • A luxurious handmade Soap Nut Cleansing Bar.  This is an amazing and invigorating body cleanser.  It is not as drying as most soaps (even Dr. Bronner’s) and does an excellent job of cleaning dirty skin.  It is definitely **husband approved**; while it smells great, it is definitely not “girly”.

If you want to enter the giveaway (and who wouldn’t since it is free and only takes a couple minutes of your time?!), there are four ways to rack up the points (and your chance of success):

  1. (+10): like my A Helping of Hope page on Facebook
  2. (+5): like NaturOli’s page on Facebook
  3. (+5): follow @ahelpingofhope on Twitter
  4. (+5/day): tweet about the giveaway!

You can enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget/link below OR through my Facebook page under the Giveaways “tab” (picture menu)!  However, with FREE SHIPPING from NaturOli on orders $55+ ending tomorrow, don’t wait to win this amazing starter package.  Make sure to check out the NaturOli store and stock up on all-natural goodies today!  You’ll be glad you did!

Click here to enter the NaturOli Soap Nuts Intro Starter package Giveaway from A Helping of Hope

If you enjoyed this SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAY posts, please share it with all your friends using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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Read on to see how this can save your bathroom …in a pinch!

This Mama Mondays post is a short tip to help you to quickly clean your bathroom when an unexpected guest comes by…and your ‘loo hardly looks sanitary!  The answer may surprise you… use toilet paper!

Toilet paper is quite useless when wet and that is probably why it is overlooked as a handy cleaning aid.  It may also contribute to a lot of lint, depending what brand you use, so you may be surprised to find out that toilet paper is actually very good at picking lint up!

Regular cleaning cloths and paper towels become fairly useless once they have picked up hair and dust: unless you can keep folding them over as you clean, they end up spreading “bathroom debris” around.  Dry toilet paper is surprisingly good at picking up the dust that accumulates on the toilet lid, the back of the toilet, the top rim of the shower enclosure, and on the bath ledge.  It catches hairs very well, even those that cling to the corners of your floor.  Instead of clogging cleaning pads, cloths, and paper towels with dust and hair, use toilet paper!  It only takes a few seconds and a few squares; the toilet paper can be disposed of in the toilet or trash can.  Then you can perform your regular cleaning regimen for a speedy shine without streaks or left behind “bits”.

Dry Toilet paper can even shine your brass or chrome if you use plenty of “elbow grease”; I’ve even used it to rub spots off mirrors!  As long as the sink is dry, toilet paper can even help you to cut through any scum that may have accumulated at the bottom and to give your basin a clean shine.

So if company comes over and you all of a sudden realize your bathroom isn’t close to rated “G” (U.S.: “General Audiences”), excuse yourself for a minute or two and scour your bathroom with some toilet paper!  Wipe the floors, back of the toilet, the mirror and sink: in just two minutes your bathroom will be greatly improved and no one will be the wiser!  They’ll just think you had to “go”…

I recommend using a PCF (processed chlorine free) toilet paper like Seventh Generation. You can read my review here.

Of course, to AVOID your bathroom getting into a state (I know I’m the only one that happens to 😉 ) I recommend Open Eye Health’s ebook Clean Start: Your Guide for Natural Home Cleaning (click on the image below.  I am an affiliate of Open Eye Health: I love her work on all-natural cleaning) I have used this guide to make my own non-toxic, frugal, and effective cleaners.  It is such a great resource!  I have saved a lot of money by following these recipes and recommendations 🙂  She also has free cleaning planning resources on her site.  Make sure to check out her blog!

Click here to check out this amazing natural cleaning resource!

Helping of Hope.  Right choice: use toilet paper to pick up bathroom debris before cleaning or when you are “in a pinch”.  Use PCF or TCF paper products.  Use natural cleaners instead of commercial cleaners that use harmful ingredients.  Bright future: more efficient cleaning using fewer cloths or paper towels, reduced toxic load and indoor pollution, better overall health, and a better method of keeping your bathroom tidy between cleanings.

If you enjoyed today’s Mama Mondays post, please share with a friend using one of the many features below.  Thanks!

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This week’s shopping tip is based on the 18X Extreme Soap Nuts Liquid and the Soap Nuts Laundry Pre-Treat Stick from NaturOli (which I found a pretty unconventional use for)!

This amazingly concentrated cleaner is all natural and effective!

A few of you may already know that I love to use Soap Nut “berries” to replace laundry detergent and softener and I also make a liquid from them that I use in my dishwasher, but perhaps you didn’t know that NaturOli makes its own super-concentrated liquid that can compete with those toxic “tough-guys” out there?

I tried the liquid for three applications: dishes, dishwasher, and laundry. The best thing about the 18X liquid is how little you need: I think I used 1/2 tsp (just over 2 ml) of liquid for each use (mixed with a little baking soda for the dishwasher dispenser, mixed with water for the washing machine dispenser) and it did the trick. Dirt and food came off the dishes, dirt, and laundry. It is a very effective cleaner. (I have one caveat below, so keep reading).

The laundry pre-treating stick did an OK job of removing tomato juice stains on a cotton shirt: it didn’t remove

This little stick is killer on carpet stains!

them completely, but when I hung the shirt up to dry in the laundry room, the sunlight did the rest! I think the stick works better than not pre-treating…also, if I remember back to my “Shout days”, I don’t think the unnaturally-blue gel would have worked any better.  I have used this stick for a while now and it is better at removing some stains than others: the biggest factor is how soon you can get to the stain (before it sets in) and how long the saponin in the stick is allowed to act on the stain.

The biggest benefit of the pre-treating stick might surprise you, however…it works amazingly on CARPET. A little goes a really long way, too! I used it to remove stains that had accumulated under our couch (I had no idea: I only expected dust bunnies) from of all things, milk, RUST, and urine. Gross. I went over the bright yellow and orange stains with my spot steam-cleaner, which didn’t seem to remove anything but it did get the area wet. I rubbed the SoapNuts pre-treating stick on it (be careful or the coarse carpet will remove too much…wipe over stain lightly) and went back and forth over the stains several times with the steam cleaner (plain water). Completely clean with no residue. Amazing! No surprise we took our couches outside and hosed them down…

BEFORE.  This is what the original rust stain looked like: the photo turned out pale, so I “saturated” it to bring out the colors. This is obviously not indigenous to the carpet…

AFTER: same area of carpet (please excuse the green tint in the middle: my camera phone does that sometimes…I’m not sure why…) Notice that the yicky rust stain is completely gone. Amazing!

Both items–the liquid and pre-treating stick–work wonderfully at getting rid of dirt. There is one caveat, however: neither item can dissolve grease or oil (see pictures below). This is actually a good thing, I think, because it means these cleaners won’t dry out your skin, remove wax from furniture or your car, or ruin the natural oils in leather or cloth diapers; this would also explain why softener and conditioner aren’t needed when using SoapNuts laundry or shampoo products, respectively. I don’t know of any other cleaner that can boast that without ADDING (harmful) chemicals to compensate for harsh drying effects.

BEFORE. I think this was coconut oil from our “Pina Colada” oatmeal…

AFTER: Two washes later (I even tried rubbing in some Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap after the first pre-treat attempt failed), the oil is still there, although much less visible. I think the Pre-treat stick helped, as did the castile soap, but nothing I have tried so far seems to be able to completely remove oil stains like these.

BEFORE: This is the dirty dish water after adding 1/2 tsp to a sink of hot water to hand wash a small load of dishes. The dirtiness is a good thing: that shows you how much came OFF the dishes (the 18X liquid is a very good cleaner). However, you may notice the oily film on the top of the water. This is not so good, because it coats the clean dishes as they come out of the water (the dishwasher does NOT have this problem). If you are going to hand wash dishes using 18X liquid, try to avoid adding anything oily or greasy until the very end; if possible, use a degreasing soap on oily dishes instead of relying on the Soap Nuts Liquid alone.

AFTER: this is what happened to the surface of the water within a second or two of adding some of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. The Castile soap cuts through oil and grease almost instantly: however, Castile soap is more drying than Soap Nuts Liquid and it is not any better at removing dirt (in my experience). Now the surface is clear, you can really see how dirty the dish water is! The 18X liquid is an effective cleaner, but not a degreaser. I recommend using Soap Nuts Liquid in the dish water and keeping a foaming pump-bottle of diluted Dr. Bronner’s handy to dispense small amounts of degreasing soap for stubborn dishes, when needed.

With all this in mind, I highly recommend these products for cleaning: I still use my homemade Soap Nuts Liquid (I just have to use a lot more of it since it is weaker; if you don’t make your own, you should give the 18X a try!) and the Pre-Treat S.  I’m still on the lookout for an all-natural solution for removing coconut oil and stock fat from clothing, but for all other stains (including the carpet) I trust the stick.

If you want to check out the 18X Soap Nuts Liquid Laundry Soap, it is $19.95 for 8oz (over 90 loads of HE laundry).  The Soap Nuts Laundry Pre-Treat Stick is only $5.00 for 0.5 oz (tiny, but it packs a punch!).  Both of these items would make for great gifts for health- and earth-conscious family members and friends.  Make sure you treat yourself to them also!

Helping of Hope. Right Choice: choose non-toxic, effective cleaners like NaturOli Soap Nuts liquid and laundry pre-treat stick and supplement, when necessary, with all-natural degreasers; avoid harsh cleaners that strip natural protectors, damage materials through over-drying, and add toxic chemicals to compensate.  Bright future: softer skin and hair, reduced toxic load, material possessions last longer and look cleaner!

If you enjoyed this Saturday’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAY post, please share with a friend using the options below.  Thanks!

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As I wrote earlier this week, regular hair care products can be extremely hazardous to your health.  I provided an all-natural shampoo and conditioning alternative that works great and is probably cheaper than anything you can buy in the store.  However, it takes Mama guts to transition from store-bought care products to homemade.  There is an easy solution that is no compromise: a liquid shampoo or shampoo bar from NaturOli!  (I am an affiliate of their store and was given some samples to try: I am so glad I had the opportunity to do so and I’ll tell you why…)

NaturOli Soap Nut Shampoo EXTREME Hair

This stuff works great! No conditioner needed 🙂

I love my baking soda cleanser…but I had forgotten how good shampoo feels and how fast it is to use!  This trial-size bottle has lasted me for over two weeks.  My stepdaughter tried it and loved it.  One of the first things we noticed was how well it lathers; a little goes a long way!

The second thing we noticed is that it does a great job of cleaning and softening hair, so that we didn’t need to use conditioner.  I noticed a little static, but that was remedied quickly with my ACV conditioning spray.  My hair was very soft and easy to brush.

This shampoo is one of the safest ones to buy, rated at a risk factor of “1” by the Environmental Work Group (the chief concerns being the use of Guar Gum, Citric Acid, and Aloe Vera Gel…pretty tame, wouldn’t you agree?).

This trial size (2 oz.) is perfect for camping and travel: it costs $5.60.  Or, you can buy the regular size shampoo bottle (16oz) for $19.95.  That sounds expensive, but it does last a long time AND you really don’t need to buy any conditioner ($AVING$).

Next time I get soap nuts for my laundry, I’ll think I’ll get some shampoo, especially if we travel to see family at Christmastime (I have yet to try lugging around my baking soda cleanser bottle…I think this shampoo will work a lot better for us, don’t you agree? 😉 )  This would make a VERY thoughtful and unique gift if you’re trying to impress a health- or earth-conscious loved one in the upcoming festive Season!

NaturOli Soap Nuts Shampoo Bar – Saponin Secret

This little bar will work wonders for your entire family…including your dog!

This is the most surprising product of all, I think.  Not only is it very economical (you produce as much lather as is needed to wash your hair from the bar) and compact (no bottles; this should pose no problem through security check points!), but it works just as well as liquid shampoo.  The crazy thing?  It worked wonders not only on our hair, but on our dog’s coat too!

Our dog Zeus gets a terrible allergic reaction to Ragweed in Michigan each September.  It is especially bad after a heavy rain.  All his skin turns bright red, gets swollen, and he has usually licked himself raw by October.  Gross.  However, we used the shampoo bar on him and he instantly felt, looked and smelled MUCH better.  He was obviously relieved.  Whether you use this on yourself, your kids (they can have fun making the lather too!) or your DOG, you will be doing your skin, budget, and environment a huge favor!

The Shampoo Bar costs $5.75, and there is a citrus version I haven’t tried but has a low-risk rating by the EWG (there is no rating available for the regular shampoo bar, but I imagine it is fairly close).  This would make a great stocking stuffer and conversation starter!  Make sure you pick some up for your loved ones (bipedal and quadrupedal) today!

Helping of Hope: you don’t have to put cancer-causing materials on your precious skin just to look and smell good!  Buying all-natural personal care products like these can help save your immune system without breaking your piggy bank!

If you enjoyed today’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP SATURDAYS post, why not share it with a friend using one of the may options below?  Thanks!

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Check out the system we have been using (and loving) for almost a year!

This week’s Mama Mondays post is going to take guts.  Mama guts.

Many women have a preferred hair-care regimen.  Few of us would continue with it, however, if we realized exactly what it is we are putting into our scalps.  To find out what your shampoo, conditioner, and hair-styling products are putting into your system, type it in the search field at the Environmental Work Group Cosmetic Database here (make sure you type in the brand first, followed by the name of the product). It has over 95,000 products and complete listings of ingredients and what those ingredients may be doing to you right now.

Here are some common  chemical components in conventional hair care products:

  • One of the worst chemical components of regular hair care products is the one thing we like most about them: the scent.  Artificial fragrances are dangerous neurotoxins that can impair your neurological (brain) functioning.
  • Another incredibly dangerous aspect of shampoos are the conditioning agents.  Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A Acetate) causes developmental and reproductive toxicity: this means it can cause cellular changes in you and your developing baby, increasing your risk of cancer and your baby’s risk of birth defects.
  • Those ingredients you can’t pronounce (or have no idea what they are)?  Most of them are immunotoxins, meaning they impair your body’s ability to fight off disease and cancer.

A lot of people are wondering why cancer is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.  Part of it may be living longer, better screening and diagnosis, etc., but I think the largest reason is because we are not only eating carcinogens in our diet, we are rubbing them all over the largest organ of our body: our skin.  We are literally bathing our bodies with cancer-causing products that weigh down our immune systems.  (I am not suggesting that all cancers are caused by our choices; cancer is endemic to an imperfect and fallen world that I believe God will heal and make new again.  However, since cancer is a reality of our present human experience, especially for wealthier nations, we need to be careful not to ignore our contribution to the problem).

Helping of Hope!  Right choice: find personal care products that use 100% from-nature (not “all-natural”, as the term can be misleading) ingredients that are non-toxic (some are listed on the EWG page in the link above).  Bright future: healthier immune system to fight off allergens, diseases, and cancers; reduced risk of allergic reactions, diseases, and cancers; healthier babies and longer lifespan.

For an option you can easily switch to TODAY, see my Baking Soda Hair Cleanser & ACV Conditioning Spray page.  Not quite ready to take the plunge to make your own care products?  This Saturday’s SHOP-TIL-YOU-DROP post will offer a couple all-natural hair solutions that you’ll be glad to try; make sure you stop by on Saturday to check it out!

If you found this Mama Monday’s post informative and helpful, please share a “helping of hope” with your friends using the options below.  Thanks!



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