Help your washer last

Maintaining what you have, keeps you from needing to buy something new. This fall I’ll celebrate ten years with my washer. Here are a few things I do to keep my washer humming along.

1. Keep your washer clean  Once a year I use hot water and a cup of white distilled vinegar in the wash cycle. Vinegar helps remove soap scum and mineral deposits in the washer and hoses. Plain ol’ vinegar is amazing stuff. Check out Heather Levin’s excellent post on the many uses of vinegar.

2. Keep the washer door or lid open  Your washer likes the chance to dry out. 

3. Use 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended amount of laundry detergent  When it comes to laundry detergent, more is not better. Figure out how low you can go. Try using 1/4 of the recommended amount and check your results. Are your clothes still clean?

4. Don’t overload your washer  No one likes a heavy load.

How about you? Share your laundry secrets in a comment.

My secrets… I’ve had a great experience using eco-friendly Dropps laundry detergent, and I love my expandable, collapsible clothes drying rack.


The miracle of baking soda

I had just nestled into my bed with my Kindle on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I started reading an article from the Chicago Tribune: A baking soda miracle by Supriya Doshi

Supriya wrote about her experience cleaning a stove top. I read – “you know, the brown stuff that develops after pasta boils over?” And I thought yeah, I know that brown stuff. Supriya described how she’d used miraculous baking soda to remove the brown stuff. Brilliant!

I instantly left my reading lair and went downstairs to work on my stove. I’m a little embarrassed to show you the before picture, but it makes for a dramatic comparison. Anything for the blog, right? Wink.


Yes, I know that brown stuff. I put on This American Life, grabbed my baking soda, added water and scrubbed. And scrubbed. I spent 15-20 minutes on this project, and found it oddly rewarding and meditative. My mind was captivated by the stories of This American Life, while I mindlessly scrubbed. I didn’t worry about the stove top getting scratched. I didn’t worry about what chemicals were in the cleaner. And it was all at no cost, since I already had the baking soda. My results:


Much better! My alliance to commercial cleaners is fading fast. I don’t need a special cleaner to clean my stove top. Baking soda works brilliantly. 

Why did I buy commercial cleaners in the past? Marketing. Packaging. Advertising. Convenience. I fell for all these traps. Now, I’d like to try a few homebrew recipes from the web. Why do such a silly thing? My motivations are non-toxic ingredients and less packaging.

What’s your favorite natural or homemade cleaner? Please leave a Comment.

Sixty uses of baking soda
*To clean more of the dirt, chemical residues, and waxes from fruits and vegetables, use baking soda.

Wash your dishes sans phosphates


Enough with the phosphates! I’m switching dishwasher detergents. Why the shift? I think the final nudge came when I heard that Spokane (Washington) residents were traveling to Idaho to buy phosphate-laden dishwasher detergents. I thought, that’s silly. Why would someone drive to another state to buy dishwasher detergent?

Sparkling clean dishes – that’s why. Some Spokane residents found that the eco-detergents left chunks of food and grease on their dishes. Really? We have wireless Internet access at our fingertips, but we can’t engineer a great eco-friendly dishwasher detergent?

For Spokane residents, the culprit is their hard water. Phosphates in dishwasher detergents soften the effects of hard water, while removing spots and film from your dishes. The solution? Install a water softener, rinse your dishes a bit more, or go back in time and wash your dishes by hand. Sorry, driving to Idaho is not a solution. At least not for long.

In 2010, Washington and several other states will ban dishwasher detergents with more than 0.5% phosphorus. It’s likely that more states will follow until there’s a nationwide ban – similar to what we have today for laundry detergents.

So why are phosphate detergents being banned? Phosphates from our detergents end up in our lakes and streams, where they promote algae growth, which consumes oxygen and ultimately kills fish and plants.

OK, I’m ready to switch! I bought Palmolive’s Eco+ dishwasher gel and put it to the test. Expecting to see dirty greasy dishes, I was pleasantly surprised to find my dishes were still clean. There was dried food bits on some silverware, but that could happen even with the phosphates; my dishwasher is 10 years old and I’m a pre-wash minimalist.

Palmolive’s Eco+ dishwasher gel wasn’t expensive; it was $3.70 for the 75 ounce jug. It isn’t perfect though – I’d rather not buy products in plastic jugs and after closer examination I discovered that Eco+ contains chlorine bleach. Next time I plan to try Ecover dishwashing powder in a box. I’ve heard great things about Ecover.

What phosphate-free detergents are out there? Trader Joes, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Diamond Brite, or you can try making your own. There are a few recipes out there on the ‘Net.

A phosphate ban is on the horizon. So why not make the change today? Go phosphate-free!

Have you already made the switch? What products have you tried and what works for you? Please post a Comment.

Dropps: Convenient and earth friendly laundry detergent

My new super cool clothes dryer arrived and with it came a sample for a new product called Dropps. Dropps are tiny lightweight pacs of concentrated laundry detergent. Drips, spills, and lugging heavy containers are distant memories. 

Convenient yes, but what makes Dropps unique IMHO is that they’re also earth friendly – they conserve water, energy, and plastic. What a winning combination! Convenient and earth friendly.

Inside the plastic pouch (OK, the product is not perfect) are little toss-and-go pacs that are about the size of a rather large gummy bear. Just pop a pac in your washer and it magically dissolves.

  • Phosphate-free, chlorine-free and NPE-free
  • Scented and unscented, dye-free versions
  • The lightweight pacs require much less energy to ship and transport
  • Although, the pacs come in a plastic bag, the bag uses much less plastic than a jug (300x less plastic).

Do they clean well? Yep! They sure do. I found Dropps to work just as well as the product I was lugging home before.

The Cost?

Amazon is selling a 84 load pouch for $30. So the cost per load is about 36 cents (assuming you have Amazon Prime). Check here to see is Dropps are available locally. If Dropps seem a little spendy to you, you can save some money by washing your clothes in cold water, wearing them more than once, and using a nifty clothes dryer.

Other earth friendly detergents

Other eco-friendly laundry detergents on the market include: Ecos, Ecover, Seventh Generation and Sun and Earth. Consider using a phosphate-free dishwasher detergent as well.