Topics of Crunching

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dawn: Miracle Product or Too Good to be True?

I considered take a picture
of myself hugging my big bottle of Dawn,
but I'm not having a good hair day.
Dawn. It works. And when you measure it's effectiveness by the ounce, it's one of the best deals out there. Lately, I've been seeing some amazing ideas for how to use it, and I'm super stoked to start using my big blue bottle for more than dishes. But there's always that nagging feeling - is this miracle just a little too miraculous to be a good idea? After all, so many things that offer the ultimate in convienence come with a huge price tag - one that I pay off with guilt-dollars. Environmental impact, social justice, or just buying into a lie: three things I'm just not into. Does Dawn make the cut?

Let's start off with the list of Pros, in this case what Dawn can do. Since it cuts through just about any kind of grease like a charm, it makes for some really unique applications.

(I have not tried all of these yet, but as I do, I'll try to come back to update this post.)

Uses of DAWN Dishwashing Fluid: A quickly compiled list

NOTE: Original Blue Dawn. Not anything else - no other brand, scent, version. I'm pretty serious about this.

Sources: One Good Thing, Life Crafts & Whatever, Modern Day Moms

Freezer Packs
Partially fill a strong zip-type sandwich bag with Dawn dishwashing liquid, close and freeze. The liquid soap stays cold much longer and it can be re-frozen many times. It will conform to the place you need an ice pack.

Carpet Cleaner/Stain Remover for any Cloth
1 part Dawn with 2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide. Mix together and pour directly on the stain. Add light scrubbing.

Spot Treatment/Pretreat
For oil-based stains such as lipstick, grease, butter, motor oil, cooking oil, and some pen inks, simply apply some Dawn dishwashing liquid directly to the stain and scrub with a small brush or toothbrush until the oil is removed, and then launder as usual.

Flea Dip and Dog Shampoo
Use it to bathe the dogs. It kills fleas on contact and is much cheaper than expensive dog shampoos.

Bubble Solution
1/2 cup Dawn, 1/2 gallon warm water, 1 tbsp glycerin or White Karo syrup. Best. Bubbles. Ever.

Greasy Hair Disasters
If your kids get into the vaseline, or maybe (like me) you're doing a super-cradle cap treatment with mineral/baby oil, you'll want more than shampoo to cut through that mess. Use it just like shampoo and rinse well.

Clean Automotive Tools or Spills, or "Mechanic Hands."
After you have finished your automotive repair project, soak your dirty tools in Dawn before you put them away to remove all the oil and grime. Dawn also helps prevent rust from forming on the tools. Spill oil on the driveway or garage floor? Start with cheapo kitty litter to absorb, then finish up with a scrub of dawn and a stiff bristled brush. It's also the best cleaner for oily, greasy mechanic hands.

Soap Scum Remover
Heat up a cup of vinegar in the microwave to 1.5-2 minutes and add to a spray bottle with an equal amount of Dawn. Little to no scrubbing is needed.

Repel Ants
Spray counter-tops, cupboards and any other area where you see ants with a solution of Dawn and water. Wipe dry. The slight residue of Dawn that remains will not be a problem at all for kids or pets, but ants hate it. Should you see a trail of ants, go ahead and hit them with the Dawn spray.

Stripping Cloth Diapers**
Add a squirt or two of original Dawn dish soap to your washer and run a hot wash, then rinse until there are no more bubbles. Dawn is a degreasing agent and helps stripping by removing oily residue. Be sure to rinse, rinse, rinse until the water runs clear.

** New to cloth diapers? Here's my post on cloth diaper savings, and another about how we cloth diaper. You can also make your own detergent, which is super effective and safe on cloth diapers

Unclogging Toilets
A cup of Dawn detergent poured into a clogged toilet allowed to sit for 15 minutes and then followed with a bucket of hot water poured from waist height will clear out the toilet. Apparently, human waste is grease-based. Yikes.

Poison Ivy Treatment
Poison ivy spreads through the spread of the oil within the blisters. Washing the affected area with Dawn, especially on children who keep scratching the blister’s open, helps dry up the fluid, AND keep it from spreading.

Sidewalk De-Icer
When walkway is clean (right after you did all that crazy hard work) pour on a mix of 1 tsp of Dawn, 1 tbsp of rubbing alcohol, and 1/2 gallon hot water. They won’t refreeze.

Repel Pests from House Plants/Aphid Control on Fruit Trees
In a spray bottle, combine 2 tablespoons Dawn in a gallon of water. Try to get spray both sides of the leaves, branches and the tree trunks. In the case of fruit trees, let sit for about 15 minutes and then rinse the trees thoroughly.

I love this stuff. I buy the super sized bottle, and it's one of the only commercially-made products that you can always find under our sink (DIY cleaners that live "sub-faucet" in my kitchen include Orange Cleaner and Dish Detergent). But I've been thinking for months that I could be really falling for a dupe (for more on what the heck a dupe is, check out my other blog and "The Duped Project"). Maybe this product, amazing though it may be, is actually terrible. You know - like "wow that's a beautiful ivory necklace!" or "my, this rhino-horn syrum works great on my shingles," or "those baby seal boots are rockin with that albino tiger belt" kind of terrible.

Before you tell me, yes, I've seen the heart-warmin' commercials where the Green Peace volunteers lovingly caress an adorable baby duck with Dawn post-oil spill disaster. That's a darn cute duck. And a pretty fantastic marketing ploy. Whether or not it's 100% true, or a classic twisting of facts to sell soap, I'm happy that Donald and Daisy weren't preening petroleum into their bellies that day. But is it really as benevolent as it seems?

The question is: Is Dawn really ok for the environment?

Here's one of the best, quick-and-to-the-point answers I came across:
Dawn is safe for the environment and is the only detergent used by wildlife rescuers when cleaning aquatic animals affected by oil spills. Dawn is water soluble and is a non-irritant. It contains no carcinogens, and its surfactants are biodegradable. Dawn also has a line of soaps made from biodegradable plant oils.

There's a few other objections to consider though. Dawn is produced by Proctor and Gamble. This company is known, in the raging-against-the-machine circles, for less than savory business practices. Here's an excellent article about concerns from an animal-rights angle. On the other side of the coin, here's good write-up of why Dawn is still a better choice than other dish fluids.

Conclusion:  I'm glad I did my research because now I know more about this product I'm using, but none of the evidence I turned up changed my mind about Dawn. I'll still stay away from the fancy new-fangled versions (unecessary fragrances and additives will take away from it's effectiveness and could introduce other problems like carcinogenic phthalates or environmentally-unfriendly ingredients). But I'm going to continue to use my "true blue" - in the grand scheme of things, this is a truly semi-crunchy option for a multi-purpose (to say the least) product.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Effort It Takes

A while back (at least a year ago) a friend who was instrumental in my switch to cloth diapers posted this conservation-minded witty quip on her facebook. Maybe you've seen it before:

I wish I could give you a source, but I can't find it!
Genius, eh? At the time I looked for the source, original designer, etc and couldn't find anything. (Side note - if you want to use my stuff, go ahead! - and if you feel so lead, be kind and redirect back to my blog).

My friend and I decided that the concept was gold, and it had too many applications to be ignored, so we penned this little number together.

Design by Far.  Logic by Semi-Crunchers everywhere.
I enjoyed researching - watching them make the diapers on How It's Made, reading about the process. It's ludicrous. So much wasted energy and time (forget materials) for something that your kid poops in. As if you really handle the doo any less when you just wash it yourself.

If you like, share! If you really like (and you aren't already an avid cloth diaperin' fool) you can check out my posts on cloth diapering:

Babes on a Plane

My husband and I spent several years living in Europe, making an annual trip back to the states for a week or two around Christmas. After a few years there, we had our first baby on German soil. How romantic! How unique! How exotic!

Until it's time to bring baby home to meet grandma.

We made the transatlantic flight back home several times, and they were all - well - pretty awful. The worst part was not the crying or the thrashing or the incessant dropping of toys. It was the constant anxiety about what the other passengers were thinking. You get the looks from the moment you board - as you waddle down the aisle (laden with every baby-distraction device known to man). Those looks that say "Oh please, for the sake of all that's good and holy, please don't let them sit near me!" Then, as you try to wedge your kid's car seat into the obscenely minuscule space (that you paid $400 to rent for 9 hours) it comes - the dreaded comment.

"Hope that kid isn't going to cry through whole flight"

Sometimes you just overhear it as he or she "whispers" to their fellow traveler. Sometimes they just come out and say it. It doesn't always come in such a harsh form, but it might as well. And all I could think was "Yeah. Me too."

Apparently, I'm not the only one who goes through the entire 7 step grief process before embarking avec bebe. And some just stop at step #3 - bargaining.

I recently came across this photo, and I had a variety of reactions. In chronological order, I thought:

1. Well that was considerate. And smart.

2. Wait, what on earth? Why are they catering to those people? Those other passengers should be charitable enough to think of the poor parents, not demand bribes from them.

3. As if it wasn't bad enough that the family had to prepare for a long flight with twin 14-wk-old infants, they had to pay for and prepare and carry on hundreds of baggies of candy and ear plugs.

I read in the notes that accompanied this photo that some of the passengers thought the little gift was cute and thoughtful, but some thought it was overkill. I wish I could say I agree with the latter, but I have been there. I have felt the burning eyes of 70 jet-lagged travelers as my child screamed for the second consecutive hour. I know that niceties would go far. I've even considered doing something much like this.

Should I have given in? What do you think? Did the parents of these twins (who reportedly did very well on their first flight) do the right thing, overreact, or react too defensively to a very real sense of judgment? Or am I totally off-base on my analysis? Maybe I'm just imagining all those glances and comments - maybe I'm stuck in my own stage of flight-grief (#2 - guilt!)

Either way, I feel like it's a symptom of something bigger. Our society (wasting away for lack of procreation - yes, really) has lost touch with what a baby is, how they react to natural circumstances, and how to empathize in a charitable way. No wonder no one wants kids any more! Complete strangers treat them like a burden. It's a challenge to bring them to a restaurant, much less an airplane. And American parents worsen the situation by isolating themselves with defensive reactions to any advice or correction. If it takes a village to raise a child, you must allow the villagers to help.

In the end, I brought my baby girl back to the states to see her grandparents as often as I could. Some flights were better than others. All told, I crossed the atlantic 7 times before she was a year and a half. Every one of those trips was a necessity (it would take no less to do it!). I suppose that makes me a bit of a subject matter expert. I think that what those parents did was understandable, smart, and creative - but I wish that it hadn't been called for.

Next time you're on a plane, and you see some poor frazzled parent boarding, please do this small courtesy that one wonderful passenger once did for me: Look them right in the eye and say "What a beautiful child! I'm sure she'll be an angel - but even if not, I'm happy to have the seat beside her."

It's the little things folks. No candy bribes necessary.

If you like this post, you may like some other slightly sarcastic mommy banter. Check out: