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Archive for September, 2016

Common Ingredients in Commercially-Made Soaps vs Homemade Options

Common Ingredients in Commercially-Made Soaps vs Homemade Options

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Many commercially-made soap products are not called soaps to begin with, because technically they are detergents.  They can’t say their soap products are soap because of the harsh chemicals that are commonly used to make people “feel” cleaner.  Consequently, look at a few different brands, and while they may appear to be soap and marketed as soap, they can be just as harmful to the skin as detergents and household cleaners.   This should be reason enough for all of us to try and buy organic soaps or make our own, particularly to have on hand during a period of self-sufficiency.

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Homogenizing Soaps With Chemicals

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The first thing that comes to light is that many soap companies use synthetic chemicals to act as binding agents that hold ingredients together so the finished product looks nice and consistent.  However, these same chemicals also double as harsh cleansers that were created and tested extensively for the purposes of putting in soap products.  The key was to make them as minimally-irritating and as less-dangerous as possible while still being potent enough to clean the skin.  While this seems harmless to the majority of people who use commercial soap, these chemicals do damage the skin and cause a range of problems for many.

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Cocomidopropyl Betaine

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This synthetic agent is used to make the soap creamy and foamy once it gets wet.  It is also a harsh cleanser and de-greasing agent that can also reduce static cling in hair.  This chemical is a well-known skin irritant and a contributor to contact dermatitis.  Contact dermatitis is essentially a rash that forms from an allergic reaction to a compound or chemical that damages the outer layer of skin.

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Dipropylene Glycol

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This is a chemical solvent, and too much exposure can irritate the airways, eyes, and lungs.  It not only dissolves grease and oils, including the natural ones the body produces, but it also helps bar soap to remain solid when it gets wet.  It also helps to retain the creamy consistency of some liquid soap products.

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Sodium Tallowate

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You know about tallow right?  Well this is a derivative of beef fat that is used as a moisturizer in many soap products.  There’s also a variation that comes from palm oil that does the same thing.  In both cases, the fats are known to clog pores, cause blackheads and even contribute to eczema outbreaks.  Not only that, but we’re putting processed animal fat onto our bodies.

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Stearic Acid

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Stearic acid is an amino acid that works as a cleansing agent, but it’s derived from natural sources.  However, it is also an acid that can irritate the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. 

Keep in mind that these are just some of the ingredients listed on some of the “gentler” soap products out there.  There are many other harsher combinations being used for stronger soaps.  Companies need to use chemicals to give soap its effectiveness, fragrance, texture, and appearance.  Then they need to use more chemicals to try and minimize the damage that these substances can have on the skin.  Then they add certain moisturizers or vitamins (often buried within harmful compounds) in order to replenish and soften the skin. 

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Natural Ingredients

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These are a far cry from the ingredients found in many natural, homemade products.  Things like coconut oil, olive oil, essential oils for fragrance, lye (processed to neutralize burning) and salt are common examples.  The compounds in the oils, along with the lye or salt can remove dirt and grime without damaging the skin, and they infuse the skin with nutrients at the same time. 

While natural soaps may not foam up as much as synthetic variants, they work just as well, if not better than their commercial counterparts.  We’ve highlighted different homemade soap recipes here before, and will continue to do so from time to time.  However, there are hundreds of different recipes out there, and most of them use common ingredients that are easy to put together.  Take some time to experiment with different ones in order to get in the habit of making your own soap products.  This will help avoid exposure to harsh chemicals that may end up doing more harm than good over time.

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The Long History of the Trusted Utility Knife

The Long History of the Trusted Utility Knife

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Did you know that there have been variants to the modern utility knife since the early days of the Roman Empire?  Some believe that pocket knifes emerged before then as well.  This is a testament to the practicality and usefulness of this tool, and it also illustrates the importance of having one on hand at all times.

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Jack Knife

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The first known jack knife dates back to around 600BC, and the design hasn’t changed all that much since.  A thick and sturdy blade was anchored between two pieces of metal or wood that were riveted or welded together.  The blade was a few inches long, and could easily be stored in a pouch or pocket without harming the user.  However, they weren’t mass-produced and available to the general public until the 1600s.  A company in England is attributed to creating the “penny knife”, which was the first affordable utility knife that was a favorite among laborers and farmers. 

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Switch Blades and Butterflies

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Butterfly and switchblade knives started to make an appearance in the 1700s.  A French company is attributed to inventing the first butterfly knife early in the century.  It had a rudimentary design that is not fundamentally different to what we see today.  Two pieces of material encapsulate the blade which can be concealed easily and deployed quickly.  Switch blades were considered to be invented around the same time, but they weren’t mass-produced until the middle of the century in England.  It had a spring-loaded locking mechanism that was released by pressing a button. 

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The Modern Utility Knife

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The original utility knife was thought to be made near the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and it included a rudimentary fork, spoon, pick and blade.  However, it looked more like a cheap can opener than anything else.  It is thought that the modern utility knife was built on the designs of the jack knife, butterfly and switchblade.  It wasn’t until the late 1890s when Swiss inventors came up with the knife that would become the gold-standard:  The Swiss Army Knife.

The Swiss Army Knife was made for soldiers who needed a foldable multi-tool that could serve as a can opener while including a special blade and screwdriver for taking apart their rifles.  The first Swiss Army Knife was born, and it was originally called the Soldier Knife.  It included a blade, screwdriver, can opener and reamer, which was a tool used for working with metal.  It also included sturdy grips made from polished oak. 

Design improvements by the end of the decade including incorporating a special spring mechanism that allowed more features to be installed on each knife.  The next thing to appear, in addition to the items listed above was a corkscrew and then a smaller cutting blade.  Later versions would add things like files, scissors, hooks, mini-saw blades and pliers.  Today, you can find more than a dozen different Swiss Army Knife products, including one that is almost 9 inches wide and includes 85 tools. 

This article isn’t intended to be a plug for the Swiss Army Knife, and there are many different brands on the market today to choose from.  However, it is undeniable that the Swiss did create one of the most practical and ubiquitous utilities that turned out to be a total game-changer.  More than 20 countries supply variants of the utility knife to their military forces, and NASA included the Swiss Army Knife in tool kits for astronauts. 

The utility knife is a staple for almost every prepper, those who love the outdoors, contractors and anyone else who wants access to a multi-tool that can be used right away for a million-and-one purposes.  Make sure that you don’t forget to include a good utility knife in your survival kit or bug out bag.  However, due to the fact that they are so popular, and many companies produce their own versions, it’s important that you test its quality and functionality before relying on it in the field.  However, once you get the right knife for your needs, it will definitely make life a lot easier now as well as in the midst of a survival situation. 

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