Confessions of a Working Mom

Dear anybody who was unlucky enough to stand too close to me yesterday. Sorry! I skipped my shower. Ran out of time.

I keep trying to get up earlier and earlier, and somehow there seems to be less and less time. So I used my morning for something other than bathing, OK? And I may or may not have skipped my shower the day before too. Who can say? Dry shampoo — you are my new best friend.

I also need to vent a little. Sometimes I get a little annoyed with stay-at-home moms who say they are so busy and have no time. In the past I even had one comment that I never did much. Really? I mean, I’m not saying you don’t do a LOT. I’m not saying that you don’t work hard. You do! Buy let’s try a little comparison.

Stay-at-home moms do: mom stuff, maintain their household, and volunteer stuff.

Working moms, especially work-out-of-the-house moms, do: mom stuff, try really hard to maintain their household, sometimes still manage to do volunteer stuff, and work an entire workweek out of the house.

Let’s say stay-at-home moms have an 80+-hour work week. I know. I know. Some of you would say the job never ends. It is 24-7. And that is true.

But working moms have all that PLUS a 40ish-hour-per-week job on top of it. Sometimes it’s more than 40 hours. And don’t forget drive time. Or the fact that grocery stores will have longer lines when we can be there.

So stay-at-home moms just lop 40+ hours out of the middle of your week where you can’t do any housework and see how that goes. Trust me, you’ll find time for things that you never thought you could do. But there may not always be time for a shower.

And please do not tell me or treat me like I should hire help or quit my job. If i could hire help I would probably not bother with the 40ish-hour-a-week job (at least not as many hours of it).

Don’t get me wrong I really like my job. But it is also necessary.

My “help” comes in the form of a glass of wine at the end of the day. Yesterday, after working, shopping for groceries and Halloween costume supplies, and feeding my family, I was too tired for that glass of wine. Since I missed it last night, I thought about having it when I got up this morning at 4:50 AM — it’s still kind of nighttime, right? I needed to try to put away some groceries that, sadly, did not put themselves away as I slept. That glass of wine will have to wait. I’m pretty darn determined to get that shower in!

I might even wear jewelry to work today. I always try for earrings because I look more professional, and I can put them in my pocket as I leave the door and then pop them on at a stoplight. I have gotten really good at doing a lot of things at stoplights. But necklaces don’t always happen. Necklaces or bracelets with a clasp are even less likely to happen. So pasta necklace with a 30″ inch cord, you are good to go. Unless you get tangled with something else. In which case, sayonara.

Pretty, hand-beaded 16″ necklace and lovely amethyst bracelet with a safety clasp, I am sorry. I know I’ve been neglecting you. I swear I will wear you again. You are beautiful! Always believe that. But I am much more likely to wear necklaces that are long enough that I can just put them over my head. Presto, jewelry!

So yes, stay-at-home moms, you work. You do get busy. I’ll get over the fact that “busy” may include lunch with friends at the local artisan pizza place. I still love you. I appreciate you a lot. I know you volunteer for the kids more than I do. I really hope I didn’t stand too close to any of you yesterday and cause any olfactory discomfort. I could use one of you in our house.

But right now it’s 6:25. My daughter’s alarm is ringing. We need to get going. The time that I’ve used to write this blog entry has been stolen from laundry time and maybe from drinking that glass of wine, but hopefully NOT from the shower. I really NEED that shower.

Dirty Laundry Come Clean: A Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Several weeks ago I blogged a comparison of Fels Naptha and Zote laundry bar soaps. That’s here:

BAR FIGHT: Fels Naptha vs Zote Laundry Bar Soap.

Since then I’ve experimented with small batches of homemade laundry detergent. I’m really impressed with how well it cleans! And it doesn’t make my skin itch.

I’ve seen a lot of recipes for both powder and liquid versions. From my little batches I’ve found a couple of things that work well for me.

Powder Laundry Soap or Detergent is much easier and quicker to make than liquid since it requires no cooking or pre-dissolving. It’s also easier to store. Though keeping a small amount of liquid on hand can make a great spot treatment (recipe to come).

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent:

1 Cup of grated*** Laundry Bar Soap lightly packed (I like Pink Zote*.)

2 Cups of Washing Soda

1 Cup of Borax

I use about 3 Tablespoons** of the mixture per load. Folks with HE machines may want to start with 1T or 2T. My washing machine is anything but high efficiency!

Grate the bar soap, measure ingredients, mix, and use. I can make a double batch with a hand cheese grater in less than 15 minutes (larger quantities will require more time). It dissolves best in hot or warm water. If you need to wash in cold water see below.

The small batches are quick & easy to make. You can double the recipe and put the ingredients in a gallon-size Ziplock-type baggie and mix by stirring and kneading it in the bag. The baggie isn’t nearly as attractive as the vintage glass I’ve seen others use, but it has some advantages. It’s super easy to mix the ingredients. If clumps start to form you can easily break them up. I keep a measuring spoon right inside and close it tightly between use, squeezing out extra air. It takes up very little space. And I reuse the same bag several times.

I found Zote and Fels Naptha at Walmart for 97 cents each. I can find Zote at my local hardware store and international market too. Check in the laundry section or with other bar soaps. Washing Soda ($3.99/box) and Borax ($3.99/box) are carried in the laundry section of many of the same stores and at many grocery stores too.

*I like Zote because it’s so economical and has a few simple ingredients. I like the Pink variety because I can see how well I’m mixing the soap with the other ingredients. Is there a bunch of pink on one side and hardly any on the other? Then I need to mix it up more. Because grated soap can be kind of “fluffy” you’ll want to pack lightly as if measuring brown sugar. Don’t pack too firmly or you’ll end up with a whole new bar of soap.

**I see a lot of Laundry Detergent recipes calling for much less laundry soap per load. If your clothing is getting clean with that, great! Use less. But if you think about it, the box of Washing Soda itself tells you to use 2 Tablespoons a 1/2 Cup per load. I guarantee if you mix it and use only 1T of total mix, you’re getting a lot less than 2T of Washing Soda in your laundry. High Efficiency washers may very well be fine with 1T since those use less water, but anybody with a regular washing machine is probably not getting very much active ingredient. Even plain water can clean out some dirt, so you should probably do some experimenting to see what works best for you. I found that to get our clothing clean in our machine I need 3T. The mix is low sudsing, and it’s still very economical.

Our machine kind of sucks (pardon my language), so it needs all the help it can get!

I like to start the machine on the Hot water setting no matter what fabric I’ll be washing. (I can switch later.) This helps it dissolve more quickly. I set the load size to Small and let the hot water start flowing, then I add the homemade laundry detergent. After the homemade laundry detergent has been in the hot water for a few minutes, I can switch the water setting to warm or cold as needed for the fabric. Then I switch the load setting to Medium or Large as needed to fill the machine the rest of the way. The detergent doesn’t have to be totally dissolved before adding clothing. As the machine agitates the mixture will dissolve even more. But the more the detergent dissolves before I start the load, the more the active ingredients have a chance to do their job.

I should mention that my washing machine lives in my kitchen. Not sitting in the middle of the kitchen next to the fridge, but it’s a stackable in a closet/pantry. So it’s not exactly the “large” size it claims to be, and it doesn’t wash as well as I’d like. But I don’t have to go far to switch a setting. If I am going to walk away I can leave the lid open so the wash cycle won’t start until I’m ready. More on that soon.

I haven’t had a problem dissolving homemade laundry soap with any temperature water — my clothes still rinse cleanly. But you can try putting the ingredients in a blender to make finer particles that will dissolve more quickly. Let the dust settle before you take the lid off the blender. Keep it dry to help prevent clumps.

If you tried the above suggestions for cold water and still have a problem with powder dissolving enough then you might try a liquid. Water in some areas may respond differently. I’ll post a recipe for that soon. Liquids also make good spot removers and may be necessary for some HE machines.

***Editing to add that about 1 inch of Zote laundry bar grates to make about 1 Cup of grated soap lightly packed. About 2 inches of Kirk’s Castile equals 1 Cup. I’d expect Fels Naptha to be similar to 2 inches of bar per 1 Cup of grated soap, but having actually measured.

Adult Visions, Dirty Laundry

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 23 is Adult Visions.

The day’s prompt asks:

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

When I was about six years old I remember thinking that one day I would be eight years old. Eight seemed so old. So grown up. So far away.

I didn’t especially like the number eight at the time. I much preferred seven. Eight seemed sinister. Perhaps because it rhymes with “hate.” I’m not really sure, but that’s what my pre-eight-year-old mind thought about it.

Then one day, I turned eight years old. It was fine. I didn’t feel very old, but now all the six year olds looked really young.

Becoming an adult has been somewhat similar. I have a few aches and pains, but I don’t especially feel forty-something. I certainly don’t feel old or even that mature. I just kind of feel like me. But now when I see people who’re in their twenties they look so young. Practically babies!

Aside from not feeling especially “grown up” there are several things I didn’t expect about achieving adulthood.

One of the biggies is how busy I would be. It’s hard to manage my time and all the activities. Work. Mom stuff. Food. Cleaning. Once in a while down time is needed to reboot, but you end up having to steal it from somewhere because it doesn’t usually happen on its own.

You have to plan for your plans to change. No matter how much planning I do, events always seem to turn out different than I expected. Childbirth. Dinners. Picnics. Christmas. Travels. It’s like the line in “Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows” when Harry ask when it was that one of their plans ever worked out as they expected. (I’ll add a link to a video if I can find it.)

You still need to plan, but then you have to accept the situation when it turns out differently. That’s going to happen a lot more than you think it will when you’re younger.

The biggest thing I didn’t expect about adulthood is how much laundry there would be. It’s one of the great myths of being grown up. You think you’ll be free when you’re of age, but in reality there’s a never-ending stream of dirty clothes following you wherever you go. You’ll need to wash those.

Oh sure, you can fold the clothes and put mount laundry away. You’ll be mostly done. Maybe you can even skip a day. But unless you’re doing laundry in the buff, while your family is likewise in the buff, you will never ever be completely done with laundry. You can get the family to help, and I suppose you could hire other people. But the fact remains that you must still deal with it. Not even our cats have to deal with laundry. This is strictly a human thing.

They don’t tell you that part about growing up.

I’ll try to clue in my daughter. Perhaps her goal, as an adult, can be to someday hire somebody to do the laundry. I can help her learn how to handle the laundry situation efficiently and effectively, so that it doesn’t become a thing. I’ll plan that. We’ll go from there.

(By the way, I edited this as I thought of more things. But the laundry, it’s always a thing.)

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.


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.

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