Like Removing a Band-aid

Generally, it’s better to remove a Band-aid with one big, swift tug and be done with it. Sure it stings, but it only gets better from there (unless you accidentally pulled the scab off). But there’s often that urge to pull it off slowly as if it will hurt less that way. Inevitably, though, it hurts with the first millimeter and every little one after. That’s kind of how getting out of bed feels. To some extent it has always been like that, but now it is especially so since it is darn near pitch black in our home 24/7.

After my daughter was born more than 11 years ago, unless I was sick with plague, I’ve been waking at the crack of dawn or earlier. I’ve had almost no need for an alarm clock — I’d just get a ping from my internal clock and, BAM, be awake.

Now as repairs continue on our home and windows are completely covered, it’s dark inside when I get home from work and dark when I awake to a gently blaring alarm clock in the morning. My body feels like it should be hibernating. So not only do I often need an alarm right now, I’m having a painful time getting up once it rings. The “snooze” button has become an evil and seductive friend. It’s not any easier to get up to after hitting snooze four times than it would be if I got up in one swift movement. And it only prolongs the pain. But there’s that little voice saying, “it won’t hurt so much if you do it slowly.” I hit the button. I know it’s a lie. Then I get the challenge of waking my daughter.


BAR FIGHT: Fels Naptha vs Zote Laundry Bar Soap

20140525-193814.jpg White Zote, Pink Zote, and Fels Naptha

Battle of the bars!

In a battle of laundry bar soaps, which one is champ? Didn’t know there was a battle of laundry bar soaps? Or didn’t know there even where laundry bar soaps? I didn’t exactly know until recently either. And they don’t fight each other, but they do fight tough stains and dirt!

Both Fels Naptha and Zote are bar soaps made specifically for laundry, though you may find other uses. From washing dishes or treating poison ivy to catfish bait. I kid you not.

** Note that the English version of the Zote website seems to be either down or gone for good. All links that went to the English version of the Zote website no longer work. Sorry about that. I’ll update all the links, below, as time allows (if posssible). In the meantime, here’s an English translation of their current website.**

The Winner

Because of its simple ingredients, amazing size, and low price, the winner in my court is Zote. Both Fels Naptha and Zote put up a good fight and cleaned extremely well. Using these for laundry has me questioning why other types of detergent were ever made in the first place. Expensive liquids and powders left behind several spots and stains that both bars have busted. I’m really impressed!

Zote is a HUGE bar — more than twice the size of Fels Naptha for the same price.

Zote is all natural with very few ingredients and no fillers. Check out the ingredient list, below. I find the fragrance to be fresh and pleasant. It’s citronella, but not like a patio candle. Fels Naptha doesn’t specify its fragrance.

Zote was easier for me to find in local stores, and I found the softer consistency was easier to work with. My arm muscles got a nice mini workout from grating Zote, but it doesn’t feel like they’re about to fall off. Fels Naptha is much harder like really hard parmesan cheese.

Both soaps can be used to spot-treat laundry stains, as a laundry detergent booster, or as a component of homemade laundry detergent itself. Find my recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent here. Both bars do the job surprisingly well! Individual results may vary. You may find one bar works better for your needs or preferences. Details below.

You may have trouble finding one or more of these bars in a grocery store near you. If you don’t find them in the laundry section, check near the other bar soaps used for washing your body. You might also check hardware stores. Can’t find either, try regular ol’ Ivory soap. It actually works too. Or if you don’t want to use an animal-based** soap look for castile soap like Kirk’s Castile.

What do you use?

The Details

Fels Naptha:

SIZE: 5.5 oz, 165 g
COST: from $0.97 (at a Walmart, only price I found so far)
COLOR: yellowish, semi-transparent
CONSISTENCY/TEXTURE: hard, grates like a hard Parmesan cheese (mmm, cheese)
RESIDUE: none noticed when grated, pulverized, or powdered pieces are used. Larger slices may not dissolve all the way, but they’ll be transparentish. May depend on water temperature used and water conditions in your area.
FRAGRANCE: soapy, clean, similar to Dial soap
INGREDIENTS: “Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, coconut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)
*contains one or more of these ingredients”
VEGAN: probably not**
HOW IT WORKED: Useful for spot treating. You’ll need to either moisten the end of the bar or the area of the stain before you can rub much soap onto the stain. Rub firmly and thoroughly to cover the stain with a film of soap and let sit a bit before laundering. Since this bar is yellowish it will likewise leave a yellowish spot where you rubbed it. The stain will probably look worse, eeks, but at least you can easily see where you put the soap. Wash. Spot comes clean. Works especially well for oil-based stains like the greasy chicken I dropped down the front of my shirt.

To use in your laundry as actual laundry detergent you’ll need to grate it with a cheese grater or pulverize it in a blender or food processor (cut into medium small chunks first). You can also put smaller slices into the microwave and zap a couple minutes until the soap foams up. It will look a lot like shaving cream is growing out of the piece of soap. It’s way awesome fun to watch! (Maybe a little too much fun for some of us.) Let the foamy mound cool completely, then just crumble it to a powder with your fingers. Add to laundry per directions or use in an online recipe for homemade laundry detergent.


SIZE: 14.1 oz , 400 g
COST: $1.99, $1.27, $0.97 (prices from Home Depot, H Mart international grocery, and a Walmart respectively )
COLOR: comes in white and pink, both semi-translucent (The two colors have identical formulas with the exception of non-staining color added to pink. The white is natural and free of added color.)
CONSISTENCY/TEXTURE: firm but pliable, like slightly warmed candle wax
RESIDUE: None noticed when used grated, pulverized, or powdered. Larger slices may not dissolve all the way. May depend on water temperature used and water conditions in your area.
FRAGRANCE: clean, soapy, citronella***
INGREDIENTS: for white: “sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, fragrance, optical brightener.” (And that’s it. Which is pretty cool if you ask me.)
For Pink, all the above plus “violet 10.” And that’s it.
OTHER INFO: 66% fatty acid. Alkalinity of 0.04% (bath soap is 0.02%) Website claims some folks use it to bathe. Everything but the optical brightener is just soap, right? Maybe it will impart a bright, glowing complexion. Who can say?
VEGAN: no **
HOW IT WORKED: Useful for spot treating. Fresh out of the wrapper you can squish it with your hands like firm clay. It was soft enough to rub directly onto the spot or stain with no water. It leaves a wax-like film. But the bar seems to get a little firmer once opened for a while so you may find it helpful to either moisten the end of the bar or the area of the stain. Rub firmly and thoroughly to cover the stain with a film of soap and let sit a bit before laundering. White Zote leaves a cloudy colorless film, while pink Zote leaves a pinkish film where you rubbed it. Let sit a bit. Wash. Spot comes clean. Like Fels Naptha, it works especially well for oil-based stains.

I was able to remove some exceptionally tough stains by adding a little hydrogen peroxide to the stain along with the Zote treatment. There were some really hideous stains at the underarm area of a cream-color, short sleeve sweater I rather like. How did I sweat that much? Maybe it was some icky brand of deodorant that left the stain? Anyway, I tried several commercial spot removers as well as pre-treating with conventional laundry detergent and adding a small amount of bleach to the laundry. But those stains did not budge until I rubbed liberally with Zote and added a little peroxide. Then I let it sit a bit and laundered with a homemade laundry soap (made with Zote, washing soda, and borax). The stain was darn near 100% gone except a small streak right at the seam which probably didn’t get as much Zote.

To use in your laundry as actual laundry detergent you’ll need to grate Zote with a cheese grater. A blender or food processor might work, but because it’s softer it may also clump unless you let the bar cure and firm up first. You can also put slices into the microwave. Cutting into manageable slices is especially important with Zote since the bars are HUGE. So, really, cut maybe 1/16 off and then zap that. It would take forever to heat the entire bar all the way and even if you managed without destroying your microwave, the resulting foam would take up more cubic inches than can fit in a microwave. Maybe more than a whole kitchen! This might be amusing for some, but it would be bad. Just bad. So smallish pieces, okay? Zap a few minutes and it will also look like shaving cream is growing out of the piece of soap. It’s also way awesome fun to watch! Who needs a TV? And it leaves a fresh scent in the microwave for a little while. Let the foamy mounds cool completely — they’ll deflate some. Then crumble. Add to laundry per directions or use in an online recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Zote’s website also offers a recipe for making liquid Zote by cooking it with water on your stove until it dissolves. You can let it cool to a gel for future use. Check out the list of other uses for Zote! Wacky. Use per directions.

***OF NOTE: Neither Fels Naptha nor Zote is fragrance free. I thought they were before I purchased them. Lots of recipes for homemade laundry detergent for sensitive skin call for one of these bars. Perhaps the bars are already more skin-friendly as they’re really just classic soap and not not a blend of strong detergents. I find that the scent in these bars is not overwhelming and doesn’t stay with my laundry for long. Neither bar irritates my skin or causes itching. If you have very sensitive skin you may find that one works better than the other for you. On their website Zote specifies citronella oil as the ingredient used to fragrance their bars. It’s natural and diluted citronella oil is skin friendly for most people. Plus it can keep mosquitoes away! Though I don’t find that the fragrance stays on the clothing for very long. Fels Naptha does not specify anything other than “fragrance” as far as I can tell, but it smells more like a blend of somethings to me. I’ll update if I find out.

Can be good at removing the oil of plants like poison ivy. Use before rash shows up for best results.

**Neither bar is vegan — both do or probably* do contain tallow / tallowate which is usually derived from cow fat. Presumably the tallow is a secondary product of the meat industry and cows aren’t actually slaughtered for the exclusive purpose of making laundry soap. Because yeah. The same could be said about most commercial body bar soaps on the market. Which is pretty creepy if you ask me. I’m glad they use as much of the animal as they can if they’re going to slaughter at all. But it kind of gives new meaning to body bar soap, no? Ack. I’ll probably get over it for laundry purposes for now …

Looking for a vegan suitable bar? Kirk’s Castile Soap is made of mostly coconut oil. Castile soaps are, by definition, vegetable-oil based soaps. Other tallow-free soaps include Dr. Bronner’s, Kiss My Face, Burt’s Bees, and Zum Bar. Amazingly you should be able to use any of these on laundry, but A.) They usually cost way more, though I found Kirk’s Castille soap for only $1.29/4oz bar at MOM’s Organic Market — not too bad, really. B.) Be careful to use a lighter-color bar as darker ones may have clay, charcoal, or other ingredients mixed in. Those could potentially stain your laundry.

Copyright 2014 Debora Kapke

Updated 8/10/2014 to add a link to my recipe for homemade laundry detergent (above).

Updated 09/23/16 to add a link to a temporary English translation of the Zote website and some notes.


And Then There Were None

No windows at all now. I knew, when I saw the scaffolding go up outside my daughter’s window, there was a chance the workers would put up a temporary “security” wall in her room too. But I was really hoping we could avoid that. We had not had the same obvious and extreme long-term problems with leaks in her room as we had on other parts of the condo. But we knew that what we saw was probably only a small piece of the whole. So it happened. There are enough problems in her room too to warrant the walls. All of our windows have now been replaced with temporary pink walls of gloom. Made of 2x4s, pink household insulation, and clear plastic on the inside with plywood on the outside, they block out nearly all daylight and a good chunk of our living space. We feel like the walls are closing in on us. And they are. We wake up in near total darkness. My biological clock is not running smoothly. It’s like living in a cave or maybe a submarine. Perhaps I should try to make it fun and think of it as a bat cave and get some high-tech crime-fighting equipment. We really do feel kind of batty. It’s as if we’re encased in a strange and surreal cocoon. I’m hoping for some stunning wings when all this is done.

What kind of freak uses laundry BAR soap?

That would be me. I’m exactly the kind of freak who uses laundry bar soap.

Seriously, isn’t laundry bar soap like from the olden days when women slaved over washboards or river rocks to clean their family’s clothing? That is what I thought for a long time. I’d see Fels Naptha once in a while at stores and wonder, “who uses those things?” Is there a population of folks around here who hand launder? With rocks or washboards? Maybe for delicates? Because hard bars seem like they’d be so much more gentle than silky liquids or powers, right? Or do you put the whole bar in the washing machine and it devolves just enough but not too much? Remove it before the rinse cycle starts?

Then one day not long ago, I got a freakish rash over more than 30% of my body. Conveniently it only showed up in places that were covered by clothing so I didn’t look nearly as freakish as I felt. After self-diagnosing every skin disease under the sun via the ever-so-helpful Internet, a doctor diagnosed my rash as allergy-induced dermatitis. At least this made me feel better about being around other humans. I wasn’t entirely sure that I hadn’t been spreading the plague to my family. But the diagnosis was only vaguely helpful since it didn’t give me any info on what was causing the allergic reaction. 

I started eliminating anything that might cause a reaction. My mom has eczema and my aunt, psoriasis, so I took some laundry advice. No scented laundry products including dryer sheets. We’d already been using mostly unscented laundry detergent since my daughter has some sensitivity issues, but I’d still pop half a dryer sheet in the dryer to combat static cling.

I turned again to the Internet for more information on skin allergies. A number of recipes for homemade laundry detergent turned up. These called for, you guessed it, laundry bar soap – usually Fels Naptha but also a bar soap called Zote. These recipes claimed not only relief for sensitive skin and skin allergies, but also clean, fresh laundry for pennies a load. Sold!

Now, until I actually started looking for it, I swear I saw Fels Naptha readily available several places, several times. Really! Remember earlier when I wondered who used that stuff? But I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere once I actually wanted to purchase a bar. It’s like it was wielding revenge for my previous thoughts on its usefulness – “no soap for you!”

I finally found Zote at the local Korean supermarket. Instead of in the laundry goods section, it was with the regular body-washing bar soaps. Okay then. At least laundry and bath products were the same isle at that particular market. They even had both pink and white Zote. Yummy! At $1.27 per bar I picked up both.

A week or two later I found Fels Naptha at a Walmart which also carried Zote as did the Home Depot. So I actually get to compare.

Walmart had the lowest price. Both Fels Naptha and Zote were under a dollar at 97 cents per bar. It turned out Home Depot had Zote for $1.99, but only the white version. A bar of Fels Naptha is less than half the size of Zote, so depending on how you use these, Zote is probably the better value.

Both bars really excel at spot-treating. Moisten an end of the bar and rub it on a spot. They’re also easy to use instead of laundry detergent to clean a whole load. No, you don ‘t pop the entire bar in the washer. You can shave off some with a cheese grater; put a chunk in a blender or food processor & pulverize; or zap a small piece in the microwave* and let it foam up, cool, and crumble with your hands.

Making your own homemade laundry detergent and looking for a recipe? There are many versions out there, you need only Google it. I’ll post my recipe soon and include comparisons on which bar I like the best.

Here’s a link to my favorite recipe, homemade laundry soap recipe.

And here’s my complete comparison of Fels Naptha versus Zote laundry bar soaps.

(Oh, and the rash is gone now, so yay. I later came to the conclusion that it was a reaction to a krill oil supplement I’d started taking. But once there my skin was extra sensitive to everything else too. Watching scented laundry stuff helps!)

*Caution when microwaving soap. Use only small chunks at a time and allow to completely cool before handling. It is awesome to watch it foam up – like a mini science experiment! Fun for kids and those who are kids at heart. Makes your microwave smell fresh & clean too.

Over It

Is it just me or do other folks want to pull their hair out when an author repeats the same phrase over and over and over?

I read a Star Wars book many moons ago in which the author wrote out the full title “Chief of State Leia Organa Solo” over and over, again and again and again. Like, would any of us not know the “Chief of State Leia Organa Solo” by her shortest name possible? If the author was trying to make some point, it became lost in the pure monotony of seeing the full name so many times. I began to wonder if the author was simply trying a meet a minimum word count because so many instances of “Chief of Stare Princess Leia Organa Solo” surely added a good 10 to 20% to the total word count.

And it’s not just authors of Star Wars novels. JK Rowling was guilty of writing too many toad-like grins for Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I got it. Toad-like grin. Her grin was toad like. Like a toad. Really. And it wasn’t as if OotP was her debut novel, so I would have thought she’d know better. I generally really like the Harry Potter books. So I have to say, in Rowling’s case, I did kind if wonder if it was a purposeful literary technique to make Umbridge seem that much more annoying. It really began to feel like finger nails on a chalkboard every time her toad-like grin appeared. (And, OMG, our pink fluffy walls remind me of her pink fluffy jacket. Please. Make it stop.)

Now, I’m reading the Divergent series. Every time a character is nervous or pensive she or he pulls at the fabric of his or her hem and sometimes purses or chews his or her lips. But that’s pretty much all the do when they’re not kissing, eating, or fighting. Pulls at hem. Purses lips. Hem. Hem. Hem. Lips. Hem. Hem. Lips. And once a character shifted weight from one leg to the other. I keep wondering if it’s a statement on the fabric of society – what with “the fringe” and all. The characters are hemmed in by a belief structure. But really, I feel like I will explode if I read the word “hem” one more frick’n time. It isn’t a book on sewing. Surely the author or editors could have written some other words there, right? Couldn’t they tug at some loose threads? Puff out their cheeks? Pull their hair out? Get a stitch in their side? Use a tissue to wipe off a screen? Roll up sleeves? Stretch their arms? Shirts? Something?

Oh gosh, I just remembered Professor Umbridge says, “hem, hem, hem,” as she clears her throat when she wants to speak. Why? Why do they torture me so? Maybe, it’s just me.

This is part of why I like John Green as an author. I can’t think of any toad-like-grinning, Princess Leia Organa Solo, hem-pulling, lip-pursing repetitions in his books. The main problem with them is the laughter and sobbing I experience while reading in public. I can live with that. Mostly. (And, yes, lots of laughter and especially sobbing from tFiOS.)

Less Here

With condo repairs still ongoing, I’m both getting used to our windowless, pink fluffy walls and feeling more depressed and oppressed. They keep us in the dark — literally and figuratively. The construction organizers almost never tell us the schedule, if there even is one, and when they do it’s generally 72 hours notice.

Some mornings I hear the workers on the other side of the pink fluffiness — probably two feet away from me — as they cut, saw, destroy or build, and they sing and yell in Spanish. All the while I may be half naked and stumbling in the dark to get ready for work. I kind of like the singing, but it’s all very surreal and I wonder if I’m not stuck in a pink cotton candy sequel to Killer Clowns from Outer Space only with less action.

When we originally signed the contract to purchase this place, I choice a floorplan with lots of windows and a sunny exposure —South and East. I liked the overall floorplan for a slightly larger unit better — especially the bathrooms and kitchen. But I once lived in a basement apartment with a northern exposure and I said no more to that. I need my sunlight! My internal clock keeps trying to reset itself so I feel kind of like I’m free-floating, ungrounded.

We’ve had the pink walls for over five weeks. And now scaffolding is going up outside my daughter’s window. These are the only windows currently allowing daylight into our home. Since the workers have not communicated anything to us, we have no idea if or when we’ll lose those windows too. (And no, it’s not really just a matter of asking.)

The nice part of it all is that work is getting done. And we have some lovely restaurants within walking distance. So we are getting outside. Aimless walks are a welcome thing. More outside. Less here.

While we have way less light we’re also going through all our stuff and there is less of that now too. Less space has motivated us. I just wish this place felt less like a basement.

Inconvenient Laughter

So I was going to blog about laundry bar soap and allergies for my next blog entry. We all know how exciting those topics can be. But those will have to happen tomorrow or another day soon.

Today I shall blog about what’s wrong with John Green books. More specifically that John Green books tend to make me laugh out loud in inappropriate places. Not inappropriate places of the book, I mean, I’m reading in places where laughing out loud might be inconvenient or even impolite. For example I was reading Paper Towns at the Inova Breast Imaging Center. I was waiting for a follow up of a follow up with no shirt on — only one of those loosely tying gown thingies. The waiting room is pretty and almost annoyingly peaceful. As you might imagine, it is also very quiet. There were lots of other women there, who were also not wearing shirts or bras, and they probably didn’t welcome the random bursts of laughter. Plus, I felt just a little guilty for laughing at a fictional guy’s kidney infection.

I have finally gotten around to reading The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve heard it’s very sad. So while I purchased it a while ago, I’d put off reading it. I’m still not sure if I’m up for it, but given the lack of daylight entering my home right now gloom has already set in, so I figured I might as well dive in. That, and I really want to read it before the movie comes out.

But I should have known that it would also make me laugh. So I was reading it earlier tonight while sitting in the audience for the dress rehearsal for my daughter’s ballet. And, bam! Laughter. I tried to stifle it with my hand. But I also shake a lot when I laugh hard. I’m pretty sure I looked awkward. Perhaps like I was choking or coughing.

Then when I got home I was already sucked in to the book, so I laughed while sitting on the couch. This would have been fine, but my DH was also sitting on the couch and playing a video game. He complained that the shaking interfered with his ability to play well. Sheesh. Then he jiggled my iPad to emphasize his point.

Maybe the problem isn’t the John Green books in and of themselves, but where I’ve been reading them. I don’t get a lot of time to just flop on the couch by myself and read unless I’m doing it at like 3:30 AM. So I have to squeeze reading into the nooks and crannies of my daily hours
wedging sentences between things that don’t allow for reading — like driving. Thus inconvenient laughter.

And I’m still pretty sure The Fault in Our Stars is not going to end well, so that’s probably going to lead to inconvenient sobbing. Sigh.