Sunday, September 10, 2017

Force of Nature Review

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During the past year, I've made friends in many places around the world. We have a little-known glue that holds us together. Allergic contact dermatitis. We or one of our children have allergic reactions when we touch things. Many of us are allergic to MI (methylisothiazolinone) or other preservatives as I've noted in previous posts. Many are allergic to fragrances including both synthetic and natural scents. Essential oils are our enemies. Some are allergic to coconut based products. Some are allergic to metals like cobalt, nickle and gold. Cleaning supplies are a constant struggle because companies aren't required to disclose their full ingredient list, hiding small amounts of our allergens in "fragrance" or "surfactant" and since there are no laws requiring disclosure of what we put on our counters, we find ourselves needing emotional support just from the anger we feel when we get responses from companies that use words like proprietary. (Though laws are changing as we speak!) Even companies like Seventh Generation and Norwex add unsafe chemicals to their "all natural" products and it's like pulling teeth to get companies to disclose ingredients. Many general practitioner doctors and nurses don't take the allergy seriously because painful cracking skin is not as dangerous as anaphylaxis, (even when it lands your child in the hospital because a paper cut has become cellulitis). We are a passionate group trying to educate each other and the world to recognize allergic dermatitis as a real problem.

That said, one of my new friends posted about a newer company that is trying to help people who are concerned with what we're cleaning with. Most people wouldn't ask for cleaning supplies for Christmas, but I asked my husband for this new system and I was giddy when I opened my gift! (I told him that it was the ONLY thing I wanted and he would ruin my Christmas if he didn't buy it for me - manipulation at it's finest!) It ended up being a cheap gift for him to go purchase!

I couldn't be happier with it. It's truly non toxic, contains zero allergens and is as gentle to the skin as water. It doesn't magically erase everything, but it is a great cleaner for most basic cleaning. It kills germs, deodorizes, and cleans windows better than anything else you can buy in a bottle. I don't know of any one cleaner that cleans by itself. Cleaning takes work. I will say that there are some real magical qualities about it. Here is a simple advertisement that describes the basics of it:

Here's a short video on the basics of the science behind the cleaner:

This is not new technology or a new cleaner. It's been around for years and it really does kill germs. (verified independently by the good people of my daughter's school district) There are other companies who sell large scale systems to be used in hotels, universities, sports arenas and theme parks. Medical supply manufacturers are using this to disinfect and clean and because it's environmentally safe, is hypoallergenic, completely non-toxic and poses almost no risk of pathogens developing a resistance to it.

Here's my mostly unbiased review of Force of Nature Cleaning system. I say "mostly" because I love it so much that I'm no longer truly unbiased. But I am honest about what it can and cannot do. I sing its praises as I've found something that actually removes the pee smell from the bathroom where most cleaners try to cover the smell with perfumes and end up making it more intense. That alone makes it worth the very reasonable startup cost!

Surface Cleaning.  In my tests below, I used a freshly bleached white cotton floursack towel to clean the surfaces. Though I usually use a microfiber cloth to clean, I did not want the type of cloth to affect my test results. On a 5-star scale with 5 at the top, here is what I found:

Glass and mirrors:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

The first set of pictures shows greasy finger prints. The second picture shows half of the mirror cleaned. It's hard to get a good picture of a clean mirror) I guess that's why most catalogues just gray out the reflection), so you'll have to take my word for it.  This particular mirror in my house shows every streak and smudge all the time because of the way the sun shines into the room.  Even my Norwex kit leaves streaks on this mirror. I don't know why the rest of the mirrors and windows seem to be immune to streaking, but this one was cleaned well with FofN.

Bathroom sink soap scum.
⭐⭐2 stars on existing soap scum.
⭐⭐⭐⭐4 stars on frequent cleaning and keeping soap scum from building up.
To be fair, the company doesn't claim FofN will cut through soap scum, so I didn't expect much. We use Kiss My Face olive oil bar soap which tends to leave a bit more soap residue compared to liquid cleansers.  The picture below shows the before shot after 2 weeks of normal use, but without more than a wipe down (don't judge me!), the next is FofN, then a simple wipe down with a microfiber cloth, and finally after using a mild abrasive, Bon Ami, which is what I use to scrub the buildup in my toilet bowls and shower floors. The Bon Ami did the best, but for frequent cleaning, I use FofN with a microfiber cloth and it does fine.  I probably use the abrasive cleaner once every 3 weeks or so (or when I have guests at my house) to get a good shine.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐5 stars on outer bowl. I usually wipe everything down once because I don't like getting pee on my rags. I spray down the pee sprinkles with FofN and then wipe it down with toilet paper. Then, after I clean the bowl out, I spray the whole throne down and wipe it down with a dry rag.  If you use a wet cloth, you'll probably get streaks because this product doesn't contain drying agents like alcohol.
⭐⭐2 stars on inside the bowl water ring buildup. I get rings around my bowl if I don't clean it every day or two. And who cleans the inner bowl every day? After having kids, I clean the seat and under-seat daily because, well, I don't want to sit on their pee. I use Bon Ami (others have told me they use baking powder) to clean the inside of the bowl. After I get the ring scrubbed out, I spray the whole thing down with FofN to deodorize and finish it off.

Stainless Steel. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐5 stars
I thought FofN did a good job. I had to rub at it, but it worked as easily as any commercial stainless cleaner.  Since this test, I've been pairing the cleaner with a microfiber glass cloth and find it a very good combination with the least amount of work.

Car upholstery. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
Easily took basic dirt spots off of the upholstery and carpet. 

My sister reported that FofN cleaned the leather seats in her SUV. After several months of driving, the leather seat had picked up some of the dye from her denim jeans. She accidentally sprayed the seat and noticed that the dye was lifting from the leather, so she wiped it off with a cloth and she said that it came off like magic without damaging the leather at all.

Grease. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars.
I give it 4 of 5 stars simply because I had to spray and wipe it twice. It did a nice job with just a plain cotton cloth, but when paired with a microfiber cloth, it worked perfectly on the first spray. I think paired with wiping up with a wet microfiber kitchen cloth first. (My new favorite microfiber is eCloth by the way - way cheaper and better size than Norwex)

General surfaces.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
Basic spills and dirt. 

Pencil, Pen, Crayon. ⭐ 1 Star.
Not many basic cleaners can take crayon, pencil and marker off of a wall without some abrasive or scrubbing. This didn't surprise me as I already knew that electrolyzed water does not typically do well with petroleum based oils or waxes.

Carpet and Pet/human stains. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars
(disclaimer, I don't have a pet)
To be honest, I can't rate on actual pet stains, but I did have an incident where a child wet all over carpet.  Most moms have had this experience. Most recently, I soaked up the excess urine with a large rag, then doused the area with FofN cleaner and soaked up the area with another towel. No residue, no perfume covered pee smell. No smell at all. It was the easiest accident to clean up. I also used this as a spot treatment for the house carpet for basic spots.  I haven't tried it on wine or juice mostly because we only allow water on carpeted areas, but if I could make a couple gallons at a time, I'd put in in my carpet cleaner and use it that way.

Bathroom and kitchen. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
This is the best bathroom and kitchen cleaner I have ever used. It cleans floor to ceiling. Countertops, toilets, floors, stainless, refrigerator, table, chairs, you name it. I love it. I usually use a wet cloth to remove dust or crumbs, then spray the surface down and wipe it off with a dry or lightly damp cloth.

Deodorizing. Just spray and let dry.

Bathroom/Toilet. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
-The only thing I've used that actually gets rid of the pee smell in the bathroom around the toilet. As I stated before, this alone is worth the cost.
-I poured about 3 tablespoons into my shower drain.  Got rid of the nasty drain smell that seems to arise from the depths without warning.
-The bathroom, after cleaning smells like nothing. Just clean. LOVE it!

Sports Equipment. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
- Sprayed stinky gym bag.  Odor free in 5 minutes
- Sprayed a smelly shirt, shoes, shin guards, socks.

Car. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.  
- Sprayed a mist into the air and upholstery.  Got rid of the spoiled milk smell that had leaked out of a sippy cup
- Sprayed into the vents. Fresher air

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
- Cleaned and removed all the nasty refrigerator and freezer smell. I had previously used bleach water which was messy and I had to change into work clothes in case I dripped bleach. FofN is much easier and works just as well.

The system.  Ease of use, appearance, etc.

Ease of use. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
My child can read the quick guide and easily work it. You just empty the little salt and vinegar packet into a bottle, press a button and after 4-6 minutes, it's ready to pour into your spray bottle.

Spray bottles. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars.
They have 2 spray bottles, but it looks like the second generation spray bottle is the one they sell with the system now. Both have benefits and flaws in my opinion.

The original sprayer creates a fine mist and with a pumping action, you can achieve a continuous mist. It's great for covering a large surface like a shower wall or tub. Ergonomically, it's OK. The pump is a little stiff, but fine for most users. A young child might have trouble with it or someone with arthritis or muscle weakness could find it tiring to use. It's also a little tedious to close. To accommodate the continuous spray, it has a tight seal that requires the arrows to be lined up and tightly fit into place. My biggest complaint is that when I drop it, as I often do, it can pop open and spill the contents. This isn't a deal breaker for me because it's inexpensive and totally non-toxic and non staining.

The new sprayer is similar in shape, but has a basic spray or stream function like most store bought cleaners.  It is easier to spray and much better for soaking larger areas down (like sports equipment and carpet accidents).  Ergonomically, it is better than the original sprayer, The spray mechanism is easier to squeeze and it's easier to close with a simple screw-on top. The down side to this bottle is that the screw-on sprayer loosens easily and overall the sprayer is rather fragile. I broke the plastic head off the first day when it slipped out of my hand. It still works fine, it just looks broken. 

Appearance. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars.
I like it. The company asked me if I liked the color and display. Because of the high traffic area I have my system in, I don't keep it on the counter regularly.  I told them that if I did have it in the kitchen or displayed somewhere, I think I'd rather have a gray base and bottle cap, but this is really not my biggest concern.

Price/Value. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars.
I was actually really surprised that the start-up cost was so reasonable. After researching some of the electrolyzed water systems out there, I was expecting to pay several hundred dollars at best.  Some of the smaller industrial systems are several thousands of dollars, so to see the system retail for less than $100, it was an easy decision to give it a try.  The salt/vinegar packets are reasonable too making the cost of use after purchasing the startup package pennies per bottle of cleaner. I'd love to just have the recipe because I'm cheap, but it sure is easy to use a pre-measured packet. They will sign you up for automatic shipments when you purchase the kit, but this is easy to adjust or cancel depending upon your volume of use.

Customer Service/Support. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 10 Stars out of 5. I've communicated several times with the Force of Nature Cleaning company from asking how the product works, how it can be used, what it works on and eventually begging to be a salesperson because I'm such a fan. They have replaced defective items in a very timely manner. They are incredibly responsive and friendly and helpful. I honestly can't think of any negative aspect of their service and support.

Other notes and observations.
Because the efficacy of the cleaner and deodorizing power of hypochlorous acid is so unstable, the solution only lasts a couple weeks. This may turn some people off, but I have never had a bottle last more than a week or so. The batches are smaller than a normal sized bottle of cleaner you'd buy at the grocery store. I usually use a bottle and a half to clean my entire house and then I use the other half throughout the week for basic cleanups (countertops, doorknobs, etc).

I highly recommend the system and if you buy it directly from the company, you can almost always get a $30 off coupon, and around holidays, they offer even better deals. You can buy or check out the system by clicking anywhere on this page that says "Force of Nature" or "FoN" or click the logo below:
I've been using it for well over a year now, so I know more about it than I did when I first started using it. I can answer questions about what it does and does not work on. I'll even test the product on a cleaning task for you if you want to know about a specific task I did not address above. Feel free to ask questions about my experiences or share your own experiences with Force of Nature below! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Salty Sweet Texturizing Hair Mist

(scroll to the bottom for recipe)

Since my daughter's diagnosis with ACD - allergic contact dermatitis (chemical allergies that cause rashes/eczema), I've been missing hair products that give my hair a little extra texture or volume. I have 2 hairsprays that we can use, but haven't found a dry shampoo or texture spray that I like. I've only ever used dry shampoo as a texturizer, not as a reason to soak up extra oil in my hair. Several friends online encouraged me to make a DIY spray with salt, sugar and water. I wanted something that would dry faster than water. And because my daughter is allergic to essential oils in addition to several other chemicals, I had to tweak almost every online recipe I found.

I started with some recipes online and then went to work. I slaved for hours coming up with the right combination of ingredients. Just kidding. I actually threw a bunch of stuff together and after a few trials, I realized I came up with something I really liked. Thankfully, I wrote the recipe down before I forgot it.

I call it "sticky spray," but my daughters correct me with a mocking tone saying, "Don't you mean SALTY SWEET TEXTURING HAIR MIST, Mom?"  Yes. That's what I labeled my bottle. It's a very descriptive name, don't you think?

I love this recipe. It doesn't take much (4-5 pumps - more for thick hair, fewer for thin/fine). You won't want to overdo it or it'll weigh down your hair or make it difficult to comb, but it's perfect for making your hair less slippery when you need some texture to hold your style. I mostly use it on my daughters hair when they ask for french braids, I add a mist of this spray and the hair doesn't slip around while I'm braiding, but is much easier to braid than wet hair.  It's my go-to for updo's.

I added 91% isopropyl alcohol to it which has two distinct benefits: It drys faster on the hair. And it extends the shelf life of the spray. I would guess that there are a few people out there with a sensitivity to pure rubbing alcohol, but in general, it's pretty benign (though it can be drying on the skin). Without it, I'd advise keeping in the refrigerator and making a new batch every 2 weeks.

OK, enough blabbing about it. Here's the recipe. I've added links to my favorite suppliers, but almost everything can be found at a local grocery or drugstore.

1/4 cup distilled water
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 tsp raw or brown sugar
1 tbsp. 91% isopropyl alcohol

In a glass or glass measuring cup, warm the distilled water in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Stir in salt and sugar until it dissolves. Add alcohol and mix well. Pour into a glass 1-2 oz. bottle with a mist sprayer or let cool enough to pour into a plastic bottle with mist sprayer.

OPTIONAL: Add a pinch of cornstarch for a dry shampoo use, but remember to shake the bottle before spraying.  I didn't think this made much difference in my thin, fine hair.

Happy hair styling!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

magically sweet retirement ahead

There are few cakes I get to make that make me squeal in delight with every added detail. This was one of those cakes from idea to delivery. My friend Cora contacted me and asked if I would make her Aunt a retirement cake. When she told me that her Aunt was most excited about working on her fairy garden during retirement, I could hardly contain my joy! A grown up fairy garden cake is way more fun to make than one for a 4 year old because I can use colors besides pink and green.  I went overboard on the pictures, but since Cora didn't get to see the finished cake in person, it seemed like the right thing to do so she can see it up close too.

The moss roof is a homemade sugar cookie, covered with frosting and cookie crumbs.


Cora was my "fairy consultant" and she made sure I was properly educated in fairy culture and put to rest my presuppositions. She made sure I knew where glitter comes from. I don't know if you can see the glitter trail on the roof because it doesn't show up in photos as well as in person.

The wings only took me 3 tries to get right. FYI, gelatin shrinks until it dries.

Congratulations, Chris! I wish you a very sparkly and magical retirement!

Friday, July 14, 2017

a dollop of cake

My now 11-year-old daughter is hilarious. Yesterday she had me laughing so hard with her quick wit and creative humor.  I have repeated her jokes over and over because, well, she's funny and I am starting to mimic my dad in telling the same jokes over and over again so I need new material.

She had her cake all figured out and I was willing to make it, but I have to admit, it was a little boring compared to her bacon feast or Rapunzel's tower.  One night we were sitting down at our Taco Friday dinner, reprimanding her for nearly emptying the huge tub of sour cream on one taco. I said something about making her a cake filled with sour cream and she joked, "I should have my cake look like the sour cream tub."

I laughed at her joke, "You really should!"

"Wait, can you actually make it look like sour cream?"

"Yes, I can."


"Yes, if you share the rest of the tub on the table with your brother and sister."

This one is only slightly bigger than the Costco size tub we normally buy.

I asked some of her friends describe her with one word.  Unanimously, they agreed on "crazy."

Looks like she expired a long time ago. So don't eat.

Happy, Birthday, crazy girl!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Broadway Bound!

My neighbors are wonderful. They're normal - but not so normal that they're boring. They're fun and real.  I wish Minnesota didn't shut down for winter 8 months out of the year, so we could hang out more.

One particular family has a special place in my heart. They're theater geeks like me. I've done shows with each of the kids and I'm pretty sure I'll someday say, "I knew them when..."

Sweet Zoe has finished high school and off to college next fall. I was excited to be able to make her graduation cake featuring some of her theater experiences and excitement for the next stage of her life (cheesy pun intended).

My goal was to have the cake upstage her. I'm not sure it worked, but it sure was fun to try!


Center Stage