How To Clean Your Crockpot

I use my crockpot a lot. Sometimes I make things in there that are loaded with onions, garlic, or other pungent delights. Sometimes my husband will scrub out the crockpot and it still has what I call, ring-around-the crockpot. I can tell it is cleaned, because I witnessed the elbow grease scrubbing that goes into it, but it still doesn’t seem clean-clean.


Good old baking soda. Drop a quarter cup or so of that in a dry pot and scrub, scrub, scrub.

I went all crazy rebellious and used my scouring pad that simply is NOT SAFE TO USE ON NON STICK COOKWARE or delicate items because I’m just dangerous like that.

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Defrosting The Freezer

My freezer was out of control, iced up, in dire need of a defrost. For months. Both Frank and I mentioned this to one another, but neither took action. When the days started to get warmer, the freezer began to take on a life of its own, swallowing the entire contents of the top shelf. It happened slowly. We had time. But we waited. Waited, and then the food was gone.

Once the top shelf was impervious, I knew the rest was soon to follow. My hint-dropping was not working. Planning meals became an even bigger challenge as your freezer was taking over part of the food supply. We couldn’t stock up and we couldn’t eat the stock. Yet, the inaction continued.

One day Frank was working an overtime, I was home. The kids were at school. I could no longer take it. I (took pictures) scooted the freezer to the drain hole in the center of our garage. I knew taking it out into the driveway might have been the quickest way, but I didn’t need the neighbors to witness the monstrosity that was our freezer.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent Challenge

I realize I have an obsession with laundry and laundry detergent. I’ve swung through so many phases of brand name, generic, homemade, eco-friendly… it is shameful. I don’t even want to dig up the archives that reference it. At this time I have a jug of Tide, Gain, Charlie’s Soap, Downy dryer sheets, Gain liquid softener, Ecos… So we will move forward (after one quick digression). The only recipe I could dig up from my archives was this:

Marthat’s Homemade Detergent
Here’s another laundry detergent recipe, sent in by Martha. I haven’t made it yet, but she tells me it’s easier than mine:
1 quart water (4 cups)
1/6 bar fels naptha or other soap grated as fine as possible (now I soak the cube for a week or two in a cup of water).
¼ washing soda
¼ borax
½ quart hot water
cold water
Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved. (now I nuke it for 5-6 minutes in the microwave). Stir in Washing Soda and Borax (pop back in the microwave for a minute or two– but watch it as it does bubble up. I really don’t think this part is necessary if it is stirred real well.). Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 1 Gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water, and mix well. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

I don’t know if it was “Marthat” or “Martha” but the recipe is what it is. At that time, I remember using a liquid version of homemade detergent. Since I’m not still using it, I’d have to say that I wasn’t head over heels in love with it. I still have the bucket that I kept that homemade glop in, though.

At any rate, I wanted to do a powder this time. Less hassle, easier to make and store. The internet has a gazillion recipes, and most of them are the same (Fels Naptha, Borax, Washing Soda). Same ingrediants, different ratios. I went with this one:

Homemade Laundry Powder
4c Fels Naptha (almost an entire bar of it, grated, you can use Kirk’s or Zote’s, too)
2c Borax
2c Washing Soda

Mix, store, use.

Simple to remember. I have a hunk of the bar leftover, though, so it isn’t the best ratio for complete usage. But I can store it and grate it for next time. I also didn’t use any scent in mine because, from my experience, the scent doesn’t stay anyway. So what’s the point in wasting it?

I had help in the grating. No, he’s not naked. He’s still in his shower towel, though. He insisted on helping to grate the soap, and stuck with it until the bitter end, something I am entirely grateful (get it – grateful?) for. When it came time to mix the two powders I had two “helpers” who wanted to get their hands in there. Lootie’s always one who likes to feel, and learns by touching. I am still amazed that he hasn’t had his hand completely burned off from Don’t touch the burners (touch). He’s just one of those kids.

grating away mixed and ready to use

I kept it in one of those plastic shoe boxes. You can see my scooper. You may also notice my empty wine glass in the background of these pictures…

The hard part of the whole laundry thing is figuring out how much to put in each load. With this ratio, I’ve read anywhere from 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup. I’m still experimenting and will let you know how it works out for me. There’s a great post here from Frugal Upstate that breaks down the costs per load on homemade (using same formulation above) vs. Tide.

So here’s my challenge: I’m going to use my own homemade laundry detergent powder for two weeks (exclusively).

For what it is worth, I have an HE washer, top-loading (NEVER get a top-loader, I really don’t think it cleans that well), soft water.

I know it won’t be easy, at least not for me. I thoroughly enjoy my highly-scented detergents. I’m a scent driven person. If it weren’t laden with chemicals and didn’t skunk up my washer, dryer and clothes, I’d probably be one of those Tide/Downy people that you can smell across the room. In fact I have been, off and on. But the more I read about it, the less I like. And the more build-up I see on my washer and feel on my clothes, the more I steer away. But, I do fall off the wagon. My lust is severe. Hence the line-up of product I have sitting by my washer and dryer.

My routine for the next couple weeks will be my homemade detergent to wash the clothes, and vinegar to soften (I add this to the softener dispenser – this has been my main source of “softener” for quite some time when I’m not gucking it up with commercial softener, though sometimes I mix the two – don’t ask), bleach occasionally. We’ll see how it goes. Today was Day 1. I’ve got 13 more to go.

Day 1 observations: First observation is that it is really Day 2, since I threw a load in last night. But I need to stop. This isn’t all that technical. I’ve done a couple loads of darks, 1 white, 1 blankets/jacket. All have been fine as far as I’m concerned. Not much unlike Charlie’s Soap, really. I dug my nose in a few different items and they all smelled clean. I even plunged it in some pits. Take one for the team, I do. One bra still smelled faintly of Tide. None smelled like the bar of Fels-Naptha. None smelled like vinegar or the essential oils I put in my vinegar hoping they will smell of the oils. This is not new to me, but I’m letting you know about it. Why I keep wasting my EOs? Slow learner. My whites looks as dingy as they always have. I blame my washer for that. My 2nd load of darks that I removed from the dryer today were laden with static. Not sure why. Stay tuned.

Working My Day Off Wednesdays

Wednesdays are my official day off… for now. My hours were cut last year, leaving me with an open day in the middle of the week. At first I was nearly Chicken Little, fearing a falling sky and wondering what I would do with my shortened work week, and my lower pay. I guess I was a little reluctant to change. But, as the change settled in, I realized that the extra time allowed me a day to house-manage again. This is something that went a bit by the wayside during the past few years. We lived day by day. My going back to working outside the home played into that, unfortunately, and I felt things slipping.

Flash forward to 11 months later, and I’ve owned my Wednesdays. They have been a day to recoup, reorganize and manage our busy household.

And a day to clean the bathroom. Here I go again on one of my derailments, but can I just say that I absolutely LOVE a clean bathroom. Pissless floors, sparkly clean toilet, fresh air that is untinged by the smell of pee from little boys and their inability to aim (although a threatening of bathroom duty has much improved that). I just HATE to clean the bathroom. If I could suit up for HazMat, I seriously (seriously) would. The whole thing gives me the shivers. But, problem is, I trust no on but myself to clean it the way I want.

Anyway, more often than not I find myself now doing the deed on Wednesdays. I put in my contacts (because my glasses slip off my face when I look down or bend over, and there’s no way I’m fetching them if they fall during this sort of job), grab my yellow gloves and go to town. I also have to time my cleaning with my shower. I wear my pajamas all the way up until I clean, do work, then peel everything off and hop in the shower.

Today was a deep clean, meaning one of those hands-and-knees floor clean.  A bucket filled with some Charlie’s Soap, a splash of bleach and some essential oils. My rags (old towels, cut to washcloth-sized squares). Contemplating goggles and a mask, but don’t get that far. I scrubbed down the toilet, got a new bucket and washed the floor. It was horrific, but the end result feels so nice. If I could have someone to train and unleash them to clean daily, I’d be golden.

If I had to take a survey right now to tell you what I started talking about, I’d surely fail. Immediately.

Wednesdays. That’s right. Wednesday is the day off where I work harder than most other days. If I’ve got other work-at-home stuff (bath bombs for my cousin’s store), I do that. But I also will often make up my shopping list, like today, compiling my recipes and menu (really have been doing that for days), then I rewrote my shopping list in script that I could read, rather than the scribble from days of copying pages of recipes from the library book. Long, tiring day.

Clean, make chili, throw in crockpot, go to appointment, drop off car, take Sal to goalie training, stop at grocery store, stop at Costco, run back to grocery store, come home, unload groceries, get dinner on the table, whip up a batch of homemade laundry soap (more on that in another post). And now, time to sleep. Maybe. I might take a bit more time to throw in another load of laundry before I hit the hay. Or check out more recipes. Who knows.

As it is right now, my work is thinking of offering me back my regular hours again. It’s a bit tough, to be honest, after having a year to expand my ventures into other areas. My “work” of homemaking is probably worth more than a day’s pay, to be honest. We’ll see. But today I’m feeling quite satisfied at the oodles of items on my “To Do” list that are now Ta-Done. Tada!

A Clean Garage Made Him Cry

Our garage has been… in a state of disarray for years. Basically ever since I had my candle shop in the garage, we haven’t used it for a car. I claimed 1/3 of the area, the rest was available for bikes, seasonal decorations, camping gear, pantry, or whatever else we wanted to shove in the garage and forget about. Our van didn’t fit in there anyway, and our car was not worth pulling in a garage only to leak oil all over the floor.

In comes the new Toyota (the oil-leaker has since been retired), a little snow and the absence of a candle being made in the past couple years.

In comes a husband who listened to my pleas to knock off a couple items on the Honey-do list.

I definitely don’t give him enough credit; guilty as charged, because he surprised me one day.

Pulling in to the driveway, as I do most every day after work, entering the garage, I can see the floor. He had boxed up my shop stragglers, threw out the garbage that was taking up space, and neatly stacked the rest against the wall. Not quite enough to get the car in, but enough to motivate me to finish the job (just… whatever, you can’t have perfection all the time).

It took a bit more compacting, a bit more rearranging, a couple of choice words mixed with sweat and determination, and finally. Finally, we are able to put a car out of the snow, into the garage.

The sight of it made his father teary-eyed. Yeah, that was written correctly. Made. His. Father. Cry.

Frankie. The garage… it’s clean?! (choking up) Your grandpa would be SO proud, Frankie. So proud. He loved a neat, clean garage.

Ten years ago I probably would have rolled my eyes and upchucked a bit. Today, it warms my heart in a funny, gotta love ’em sort of way. Happy to have given that gift to him, as it was also a gift to me.

Gnats in the House

Does anyone else have gnats in the house? I don’t know what the deal is but suddenly we have an abundance of them and I don’t know what to do to get rid of them. At first I thought it was a fruitfly issue (found a way overripe orange in the fruit bowl), but after I threw that out, they remained. Is it seasonal?

I can’t drink a glass of wine without covering it up. Maybe I’ll use that as a trap.

I found this discussion in a quick google search, but am looking for something (hopefully) without using chemicals.

Any suggestions?

Cleaning the Bathroom

I hate to clean the bathroom. I don’t mean that in a cute, prissy, girlie way. I mean that in the most sincere, shudder-as-I-do-it way. Trying not to breath as I scrub down the toilet. Wearing gloves and washing my hands, changing my gloves more than once.

I’m a freak.

I love a clean bathroom. I could tell you all the businesses in Madison that have bathrooms you want to rest your bottom in, and all the places that you should hovercraft OR avoid, for fear of losing your cheeks. It might be considered an obsession or phobia. I don’t really care, honestly. It’s me and I can’t seem to change it. I’ve (literally) lived in fear of the possibility of peeing my pants after entering a bathroom, finding the facilities not up to par. Wetness on the seat, crud around the base, dampness in front of the toilet… I’m having a hard time typing it because the visuals come to mind. Not to mention the sink – if it looks like my hands will get dirtier by using the sink – oh no. No thank you.

My obsession knows no boundaries — public or private bathrooms, must be clean.

Yes, give me a cool, shiny bathroom (warmth and humidity exacerbates any unsightly, uncleanliness in a bathroom, in my opinion) with sparkling throne, clean scent, wash basin and towels… ah. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfectly clean and sanitized is a bonus, but absence of P & P (figure it out), clean smell, clean throne and floor, sink… I can do it. I had a friend who would scour her bathroom before I came over, concerned it would not be “good enough” for me. I didn’t know I was that transparent.

At home, for the longest time, Frank would clean the bathroom, bless his heart. I was either pregnant or nursing, or cleaning other things. But, honestly he didn’t do a job up to par with what I like. Some days I wouldn’t want to use my own bathroom. Yeah. It was like that. So I started doing it myself again. I’ll tell you, do it often, and it isn’t so bad, but let it go and pay the price. We ended up getting yellowish scum under the rim of the toilet and around the prongs on the seat, which gave me heebie jeebies. I think it smelled, too. “Frank, do you smell that? The toilet? No? I can smell it. It’s disgusting.”

I clean the bathroom about once every other day, wiping down the base, giving the inside a good once-over, and Swiffer-ing the floor. Even though I’d clean the bathroom, though, there was this nagging sense (and scent), saying something wasn’t right.

It was the stuck on yellow scum on the inside of the toilet, I was sure of it. Five man boys using a toilet over an extended period of time, and you’ve got ring-around-the-toilet. No matter how hard I scrubbed, how much I cursed, or how many drop-in toilet bombs I lit off, it remained. Until this – taking a pumice stone to the toilet.

One day while cleaning the bathroom, close to blacking out from the realization of it all, it dawned on my brain to try a pumice stone. I had either heard, read or seen it referenced somewhere as THE best way to clean toilet scum, filed it in the messy cabinets of my brain, and without knowing it, sent a page to retrieve it that day. Good boy.

Pumice stone, pumice stone? Where can I find a pumice stone? Like a headless chicken I circled and clucked, asking my brain page to help me out once again… All I had was the old stone I’d used on my feet a few times, but it would do. I gloved up, grabbed some baking soda (figured a paste of soda would help?) and got to scrubbing. By golly. The sight of flaky, crusted peediddle, and the stench of it’s wonder being released into the air was enough to let me know it was working. I scrubbed and scrubbed that stone down to a little nub, cleanliness as motivation. I likened it to a diaper explosion where you KNOW you have to clean it, vile as it is, but once you’re done you’ll be very pleased.

And I was. It was as if I had received a brand new toilet. The smell is gone, the unsightly piss ring is gone, and now when I clean my toilet you see sparkling porcelain and smell clean air.

Pumice Stones for Cleaning the Toilet

Pumice Stone If you’ve got some hard, stuck-on grossness inside your toilet that you simply can not scrub off, grab a pumice stone. I’ve had some disgusting crud under the rim of my toilet that couldn’t be Kaboomed/scrubbed/bleached, sweet-talked away.

I took my pumice stone (that I use for my feet), and with some elbow grease, got rid of it. It ate up over half the stone, but that’s just fine. Wet it a little bit (you’ve got water right there in the bowl) and scrub away. No chemicals, no fumes. Good stuff.

I have another post in queue regarding my thoughts on bathroom cleanliness, but I’ll save that for another day (here it is).

20 Ideas For Re-using Dryer Sheets

You may or may not have seen this already, as it circulates the inboxes. But maybe you’ll find another way to re-use your dryer sheets.

1. Use it to dust your television screen. The anti-static chemicals in a dryer sheet will help to repel dust and lint.

2. Use old dryer sheets to easily wipe up talcum powder, flour, and other messes of this type.

3. Used sheets usually have enough fragrance in them to freshen up other areas in your home. Stuff them in tennis shoes, place them in closets, in laundry hampers and in pieces of luggage – anywhere your house needs a little “refreshment.”

4. Run a sheet over a piece of thread when you’re doing sewing tasks. The thread won’t tangle up as easy.

5. Have pet hair on your clothing? Simply wipe it off with a used dryer sheet! Also works great on cloth furniture too!

6. Keep dust and other contaminants off your glass computer screen by carefully wiping it with an old sheet.

7. Did you purchase some old, musty books at a garage sale or thrift shop? Make them smell good again! Simply place the books in a sealed plastic bag with a used dryer sheet. Allow the bag to sit undisturbed for a day or two, then remove the contents. The musty smell will be gone!

8. Got a problem with mice? Find where they are entering your house and stuff the hole shut with a used sheet. Mice won’t chew through the smelly material.

9. Place a used dryer sheet in the bag of your vacuum. Sweep your house, and, once you’re done, the air will smell as fresh as your clothes do.

10. These wonders of the 70’s are also said to repel mosquitoes as well as other annoying, flying insects. Don’t rub it on you. Instead, stick a used sheet in your belt loop.

11. You can use dryer sheets to clean and polish the chrome on your vehicles.

12. Is there a build-up of soap scum on your glass shower door? Simply use an old dryer sheet to eliminate the mess.

13. Is the interior of your car or truck smelling a little stale? Forget the pine tree on a string! Place a few used dryer sheets under the seats of your vehicle instead!

14. Use sheets to clean and polish the glass lens of your eye glasses. They’re not recommended for plastic lens, though!

15. Is your hair dry and full of static electricity? Gently wipe a used dryer sheet over your head to get rid of it.

16. Dryer sheets make great dusting cloths for your wooden furniture.

17. Help keep dust and other contaminants out of your house. Simply place a used sheet inside every furnace/AC register in your house. Make sure it covers the openings and replace once they are dirty.

18. Keep your window blinds clean longer by wiping them periodically with used dryer sheets. The anti-static properties of the product will actually help to repel dust and dirt.

19. Are your scissors not cutting as smooth as they should? Wipe the blades clean with a used dryer sheet to remedy this problem.

20. Used dryer sheets make great little cloths for quick shine ups in the bathroom and kitchen too. Just use one on each of your chrome faucets and see how brightly they shine!

Charlie’s Soap Review

Groovy Mom Review I have in my possession something I’ve been wanting to try for a very, very long time. Charlie’s Soap.

1 – Laundry Powder
1 – Laundry Liquid
1 – All-purpose cleaner

My main interest in Charlie’s Soap is the powder since HE “friendly” laundry powder is not the easiest to come by. Though I had the products in my hot chubby hands a couple months ago, it took me a bit to get around to thoroughly testing the powder. For one, I needed to get my soft water in order. I tried it with hard water and was not too keen on it. Though I’ve heard the Charlie’s Soap people are ready and willing to help troubleshoot for those with hard water, I decided to wait. I wanted to give it a fair shot in my “normal” laundering conditions, and that included soft water. I will note that, for me, Charlie’s Soap in hard water with the addition of Borax powder seemed to do an OK job. I have no idea if that is the protocol for hard water people. But, in my moment of compulsive laundering techniques, I thought I’d give it a try. However – on one load of laundry (gym clothing), there was still odor after washing. That was when I stopped testing with hard water.

Soft water status attained, I cleaned my washer, as instructed to do before using the soap. Again.

A double dose of either of our Laundry products, along with some old towels or shop rags, will be more than enough to loosen these deposits from your tub. After this first load, remove the towels and your machine should be properly prepped for use. – Charlie’s Soap FAQ

I did this before with the hard water situation, but decided it couldn’t hurt to do it again. For the past week, now, I’ve used Charlie’s Soap (1 T.) in my top-loading HE washer, in every load. No detergent has touched my washer during this time. At first I used the soap without any softener, but the static cling was insane. So I use about 1/2 cup of white vinegar (YES it works splendidly with any laundering soap/detergent and NO it does not smell in the finished product) per wash and that has helped tremendously.

As of my 1-week trial I am happy and satisfied. My clothes… smell clean. They look clean. I’m a bit surprised, as I am quite accustomed to heavily-scented, stark blue liquids and the implication that being stark blue and perfumed it will clean better. I’m also accustomed to liquid, but very much enjoy the powder. Less mess and flat out easier. The little 80-use bag takes up way less room than a jug of detergent. I was 1/3 way through it, though, before I realized it came with its own little green measuring scoop. It was tucked down inside.

I’ll admit I’ve used a dryer sheet a few times (when I’ve forgotten vinegar). Though I like scented things, I also like the smell of simply clean fabrics and knowing that I’m not wearing a chemical factory on my body. So really, I don’t mind that much that the laundry smells just less like a cuddly teddy bear and more like… clean laundry. It is somewhat reminiscent of line-dried clothing. “Just clean clothes,” as they say.

I will continue to use the soap until it is gone and report back if I have anything more to add. But so far, all is well. Even on my four boys dirty wrestling and soccer gear. Being that it is winter around here, I haven’t been able to put Charlie’s Soap to the test of muddy soccer, football and baseball gear. That might be another update. But from what I’ve seen it has handled all of the food stains that we have managed to put through the wash.

I’m not sure yet about the laundry powder “bringing out the stains of past” but it is dealing with the present ones just fine. I am very happy with it.

Also good to note – nobody in our family has developed a rash or skin irritation from the product.

Bottom line: Simple, safe, economical. Really liking it. So far my rating for the laundry detergent is:

So far my rating for the all-purpose cleaner is:

I will quickly say that the cleaner works well on counters, on my dirty fridge, bathroom… (again, will report back again when the bottle is empty). I give it two stars rather than three at the moment because I’m still evaluating and deciding.