Sunday, February 14, 2010

Soaps versus Detergents

Laundry detergent, bath soap, baby soap, shampoo, baby shampoo, spray window cleaners, spray tub and tile cleaners, "general purpose" cleaners, dish washing liquid, dish washer detergent, the list goes on.

The idea that we need different soaps for different things was a marketing ploy to sell.... DETERGENTS and cleaning solutions.

Until the Chemical companies came on the scene with "better" soaps (which are really detergents made from petroleum products and phosphates), everyone used the same bar of soap for all their cleaning. Truth is, detergents and cleaners do sometimes clean better or rather, do a faster job of cleaning. But what's in them? Uhm...chemicals that many don't really want on their bodies or in their environment.

A bar of homemade soap is good for all things washing! Dishes to hair, clothing to bodies, it's all the same. So find some homemade soap or better yet, just MAKE some homemade soap (not hard to do).

You could also use some Castile Soap. Dr. Bonner's is one brand that is a liquid. There are other brands out there, just Google "Castile Soap". There is also Kirk's soap, which is a bar Castile soap. Burt's Bees also has "natural" soaps. Most stores now carry a line or two of "natural" products.

Sometimes you need to go online to find the local distributor of a product. Simply Google the product. For example: "Kirk's Castile soap" then go to the maker's website and click on "retail stores". You may have to enter your zip code to see a local store. Take a good look at who is selling it. Sometimes, there is only one retailer - so you're going to either pay their price or order it on-line. By the time you've paid shipping, it's probably cheaper to just pay the local price.

However, sometimes you will have multiple places you could purchase the product. In that case, do your homework and think about what the prices in that store are like. I KNOW that something I buy at Cracker Barrel is going to cost more than say at an IGA. How do I know this? Because I've eaten at Cracker Barrel and they are rather expensive - at least to me. I've also shopped at the local IGA and know that they tend to have rock-bottom prices. Sometimes, you have to look and see who has the better price - Publix or Kroger. Both are upper-end grocery stores - at least in this area of the world. I alread know that I will pay higher prices at Cracker Barrel, a lesser price at Publix or Kroger and the least of all price at an IGA. UNLESS, a chain-type store is having a sale on the item or I have a coupon. (I don't know if many of the "natural" soaps go on sale or have a coupon. Though, while I haven't seen a sale or a coupon on them, it doesn't mean a sale doesn't happen or that coupons aren't available.)

So how do you tell a "natural soap" from a detergent soap? You're going to have to read the ingredient list AND know what is a "chemical" and what is a vitamin description.

Soap is made up of 3 things: Lye (Either Sodium hydroxide or Potassium hydroxide) , fat(s) such as lard, olive oil, etc. and water. With fragrances or other little "niceties" thrown in. Those niceties are such things as milk, flower parts, oatmeal. Stuff that you can recognize what it is.

Now I will note here: Potassium hydroxide used to be obtained from soaking hardwood ash in water and letting the lye leach out. Sodium Hydroxide is made from regular salt that has been subjected to electrolysis to separate out the sodium. Both are "natural" in that the substances are found in nature and processed with water or other minerals to form the lye component. They are subjected to heat or electrolysis to precipitate the resulting minerals into a usable form. They have had no petroleum used in the formula and in theory, are something that could be made at home.

Kirk's Original Coco Castile lists the following ingredients on the wrapper (I'm looking at the wrapper as I type.) Coconut soap, water, vegetable glycerine, coconut oil, natural fragrance. That's it. All of the ingredients are "natural" meaning, found in nature not manufactured using petroleum or chemicals.

I also have here an ointment from Burt's Bees called Res-Q Ointment. ON THE TIN it STATES that it is 95.70% natural. Humm...Burt's is normally 100% natural, so what gives. The 4.30% "unnatural" is??? Here's the label: Sweet Almond oil, olive oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, tocopheryl acetate & tocopherol (vitamin E), lavender oil, comfrey leaf & root extracts. So what is "unnatural"??? And how bad is it for you? Well, I'm sorry to say that Tocopheryl acetate can be from a petroleum product, though it can also be obtained from nature in the form of vinegars. HOWEVER, both tocopheryl acetate & tocopherol (which can also be from a petroleum product) are what MOST vitamin E compounds are made of. Burt's Bees are simply acknowledging this. And the fact that they are not trying to "hide" it tells me they are a reputable company.

However, BE AWARE that companies change hands. What was once an all natural company may be sold and the NEW OWNERS may then change the ingredients on the box WITHOUT saying a word about it. The ONLY way most people find out is when they reread the label and find out that the product is not LONGER ALL NATURAL!

Case in point: Tom's Toothpaste. When I first started buying it, I read the label. There were no SLS, fluorides, etc in it. Several years later - after their 2006 sale to Colgate-Palmolive, I reread the label. Low and behold, now it not only has SODIUM FLUORIDE in it, (From a Wikipedia on fluoride: Fluorides are toxic to humans, however CaF2 is considered relatively harmless due to its extreme insolubility. ) it also has SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (shown to cause mouth ulcers aka "canker sores" and other problems with contact on the skin) and a bunch of other CHEMICALS in it. But the box STILL READS "NATURAL" on it!!! They claim the sources are "natural". Uhm...yeah, but how many chemical processes does it take to get it from a rock to sodium fluoride? And it's imported from CHINA? Oh, now I feel safe. I mean, we KNOW how well the supervise ALL chemical processes there! Or not.

If you've ever read the list on a package of regular soap it gets even better. MORE unpronounceable names than you can shake a stick at. If you do a Google on the ingredients, you will back track to petroleum products being used.

Moral to the story, read the label. If you start seeing polysyllabic words, know it's probably had chemical magic preformed on it somewhere along the way. Know that the fewer ingredients on the list or the simpler the items are, the least processing has been done on it.
It sounds intimidating, but make yourself a cheat sheet.

Lye = sodium hydroxide or Potassium hydroxide.

Tocopheryl acetate &/or tocophero = synthetic Vitamin E (I don't know where to get non-synthetic Vitamin E).

SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (aka SLS) = a surfactant (it makes bubbles) bad stuff to me. Can cause mouth ulcers and skin rashes. Found in everything from toothpaste to hair products & soaps.

Sodium Carbonate = washing soda (can be found in the Pool or Water softener section) more pure than A&H Washing soda, which has extenders in it.

Calcium Hydroxide = slake lime, pickling lime. Used in making mortar, plaster and whitewash but ALSO used to make pickles, hominy and nixtamal. And as an additive to baby formula to provide calcium.

Calcium carbonate = aka, limestone, chalk, marble. cheap antacid, blackboard chalk and used to balance the ph in a pool. It's also used as an abrasive as in toothpastes.

Ok, this list should get you started.