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Monday, July 28, 2014

Recycled Liquor Bottle Soap Pump

I have been home from work for a few weeks due to my TMJ issues, but the good thing about that is I've had extra time for projects during the times that my pain meds are doing their job.  I recently saw some things on Pinterest where people were making soap pumps out of old liquor bottles, and I thought, "I have those things!  I must make it NOW!"  And so, I did.

To start, you will need the following:

A power drill with multiple size bits
Tacky Glue
Empty liquor bottle (mine is a Patron bottle)
X-acto knife with a fresh blade
Box cutter (or a very sharp knife)
Old soap pump from either a store-bought bottle or a recycled soap bottle

If you are using a Patron bottle, you will need the cork from it for this project to work.  If you are using a bottle that already has threads, then you just screw the pump on and you're done. Of course, I had to be stubborn and I wanted THIS bottle to work!

First, cut the ball off of the top of your cork.  You only need the part that will be gripping the bottle. The goal is to get it sized right to fit around the neck of the soap pump in the proper place. put the pump into the bottle and look where that should be to get an idea of how much carving you will have to do in the next step.

Next, take a small drill bit and CAREFULLY drill a hole through the center of your remaining cork.  This is very delicate work, and I can't believe I didn't break the thing. 

Next, use a larger drill bit and drill out more cork in the center, being careful not to get too close to an edge.  After that, take the x-acto blade and go around the inside of the cork, gradually trimming more and more until the cork is the right size to slide onto the pump.

Put tacky glue inside the circumference of the pump.

Slide the cork onto the pump and align it where it will be resting inside the neck of the bottle.  You will be tempted to put this into the bottle and check it out, but don't do that because you will have a big mess to clean up, and it will get stuck.

Be sure to wipe any excess glue off of the pump with a damp paper towel.  It will get on the pump when you are sliding it on. 

The most important step for this project is drying time. I may have gotten impatient and taken some hot glue to a few spots on mine, but you want to let yours dry for at least 24 hours.  While you're waiting, you can wrap the neck of the bottle with twine for a little extra decorative touch.

Spread tacky glue around the neck of the bottle, wrap twine and cut ends at an angle so they blend in better (tapered instead of straight across), and hold in place for about 30 seconds before letting it set to dry.

After everything has dried, use some of my easy liquid soap made from bar soap to fill your bottle, and put it next to the sink.  I love mine.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Easy Wreath for $3.00

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley
What do you get when you combine a pool noodle, duct tape, coffee filters, and hot glue?  An awesome wreath, oddly enough!  I'm definitely not the first person to do this, but I loved it so much, I had to post it.  My favorite thing is when I make something beautiful out of really inexpensive things, especially when there is as big a transformation as this one!

I was so happy with how this turned out, except now I really want to paint my dining room, since it turns out that's the only place I have room to hang this thing:

I guess it's subtle. Keep in mind, this wreath is bigger than it looks; My dining room ceilings are about 13 feet high.

First, let's go over the supplies:
Duct tape: on hand, or $1.00 at Dollar Tree.  You only need a little bit.

Coffee Filters:  You will need 2 packs, as I used about 200 filters for my wreath.

Pool noodle!  One per wreath.  

To begin, cut about 18 inches off of your noodle.  I eyeballed it, I just cut it to a length that I thought would give me a good wreath form. Tape the ends firmly together to create a continuous circle.  If you do it tightly enough, it will not have any deformity to show the taped seam enough to effect the wreath's final look.

Chunk helped.

Next, get your glue gun ready and get your coffee filters out!  The best method i found was put my finger in the center of the filter and fold the filter around it so there's a slight "point" shape. That's where I put the glue.  It's easier to fold as you go, but if you lick your fingers and pull out a bunch of filters at one time, that's easier than trying to pull out a fresh one every single time.

This is how I folded each one, don't worry about being perfect.

I'm pointing to where I put the glue.  Prepare to get some burns today.

For gluing, you want to use a dot of hot glue about the size of a pea or smaller.  Blow on the filter to cool the glue for about 10 seconds, then place it on the noodle and hold it in place for about 20 seconds.  The pool noodle will melt a little bit, so you probably want to do what I did and work next to an open window.

At first, I started out just kind of sticking the filters in a clump, to see how dense I would have to place them to hide the noodle.  It's best to put these pretty close together, in my opinion.  I probably placed them all about 1/2-inch apart, maybe closer in some areas.

Once you glue a filter, let it set for about 30 seconds before you glue more next to it or disturb it, this way it will set in place and not move when you bend it to get to the next spot. 

Chunk helped by napping and putting his toy opossum by me for moral support.

After awhile, I realized it is easier to do this in sections:  I flipped it over, did the bottom middle section first, and that helped even everything out, as you can see below.  once I had that layer down, I flipped it back over and started going around the circle, putting coffee filters in a row above this one, and so on.  You have to fold them back a lot to get to where you want to glue it, but you want them all crinkled at the end anyway.

After 2 or 3 rows, I then started doing rows perpendicular to the original direction.  That is, instead of going around the loop,  I started going around the circumference of the actual noodle, so I could build up a whole section and work all the way around. This was easier than going back and possibly missing spots, and I didn't have to wait as long for them to cool, since I could just stick the filter under the previous one.  It also helped hold them in place to set up, so I didn't have to hold them in place myself as long.

In the end, I had to put about 6 or 7 rows of coffee filters all the way around so that the wreath could hang against a wall and not show the noodle, and also be nice and full.  Yours may be different.  

Here's the finished product, I'm so happy with it!

This is how I hung the wreath.  I took a thin ribbon and wrapped it over the tip of a size 8 knitting needle, and I stuck it through the foam noodle.  Then I tied it in a small loop.

I also added a little decorative touch, some typewriter key beads and a little glass bottle, because I felt that all that white on the wall was just too much:

Disregard my cracked wall and paint tape marks, I REALLY need to paint this room!

I'm so happy with how this turned out.  I'm sure that you can make one that's just as beautiful.  In total, it took me about an hour and a half to two hours from start to finish.  It's a great TV project.

At some point, I'm going to write a tutorial for my book page wreath that I made for my wedding reception decor, and is now hanging on my living room wall:

It was also made with dollar store materials, and I think was cheaper than the coffee filter wreath to make!  You'll have to wait for that post, though.

Thanks so much for reading, and don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $25.00 gift card to Outback Steakhouse!  It ends on July 24, 2014 so be sure to enter!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DIY Liquid Hand Soap From Bar Soap

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

I had made the switch to bar soap in my household, mainly because hand soap is so expensive!  However, despite the studies proving that bar soap kills germs just as effectively as liquid soap, my family was not on board.  So, I used bar soap and still seemed to go through just as much liquid soap.  I am not going to spend this much money on soap!

In addition to the extra cost of liquid hand soap, the antibacterial chemicals are really not good for people.  Not to mention the fact that using antibacterial soap has many other negative effects, including drug-resistant bacteria.

Enough of the ranting about the "why,"  let's get down to the "how!"

1 4-ounce bar of soap
1/2 gallon of water (I used tap water, some prefer to use distilled)
1 tbsp vegetable glycerine (found in the first aid section of stores)
tea tree oil for a preservative (just a few drops per batch)
lavender oil is optional for scent
Jojoba oil is also optional, if you want to get fancy.
Pitcher or other container that will hold 1/2 gallon and seals
Empty liquid soap pump, I bought one on Amazon, but you can re-use one from store-bought soap.

Since this was an experimental batch, I used a cheapo bar of soap from Dollar Tree, it was perfect!

You can choose to either grate your soap or you can "blow it up" in the microwave, just like I did in my Laundry Detergent Post.  Either way, make sure the soap is in little tiny pieces once you're done, whatever the method.  Put the soap in a pan, and add the water and glycerine.
Glycerin is a very important ingredient here, don't skip it!

Turn the heat to medium-high and stir constantly until all the soap is dissolved.  Don't stir too vigorously, you don't want a lot of bubbles.

Once all the soap is melted, remove from heat and add your oils.  A couple drops of tea tree oil since there are no preservatives in this stuff, and your optional lavender oil too.  I also added 2 tbsp jojoba oil at this point for moisturizer.

Once everything is mixed, pour your soap into a pitcher or some other container that you can seal.  Let it sit for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so.  After that, put the whole thing into the freezer for about 20 minutes.  This expedites the cooling/thickening process.

After you take the soap back out of the freezer, stir it again to get it well-mixed. It should be nice and thick at this point. Fill your soap dispenser, and then put the rest away in the bathroom cupboard for refills. Be sure to label it well and keep out of reach of children and husbands who make messes.

And there you have it:  Liquid hand soap that works great, and is way cheaper than the stuff you buy in the store.  As always, everyone's batch will turn out a little different, so you may need to stir this before each refill, or you may need to add more water to the batch.  See what works for you, but I'm loving my compromise for soap use, and my savings.  I also think my soap dispenser looks awesome.  

Lastly, let's talk about cost.  The cost of the store-bought liquid soap I was buying was $1.00 for 7.5 ounces on Amazon Prime Pantry.

That's pretty inexpensive, but we were going through about 1 a week in my house (or more). With a conservative estimate of 1 per week, that's 4 dollars a month for 30 ounces, and $48.00 a year and 360 ounces. I know, that's NOT that expensive, but I just don't like to spend all that money, okay?!

So, now I'm going to determine the cost for the initial supplies for this project and then calculate the cost per ounce:

2 quart pitcher: $1.00 at Dollar Tree
Vegetable Glycerin: $2.99 for 4 ounces on Amazon
1 bar (4 ounces) of soap:  $1.00 at Dollar Tree
Tea Tree Oil:  I had on hand, but price is $6.58 for 10 ml on Amazon
Jojoba Oil:  I had on hand, but price is $7.99 for 4 ounces on Amazon
Lavender Oil:  I had it on hand, but price is $10.49 for 2 ounces on Amazon

So, assuming I had nothing on hand, the initial cost for the project is $30.05. I also bought this soap dispenser for $13.05 on Amazon, but that's optional as you can use old dispensers on hand.  That's not going to save me money in the first year, obviously, but over time, I'm convinced that this will almost pay for itself.  so I figured the best way to calculate cost per ounce is just to go off of what I actually used for each batch.  Therefore, the following calculations will be the price of the actual soap recipe, not the pitcher or dispenser.

$1.00 for the bar soap
$2.99 for the glycerin, but there are 8 tablespoons in the bottle, and only 1 tbsp for 1 batch.  Therefore, $2.99/8= roughly 37 cents per batch.
$6.58 for the tea tree oil for 10 ml, I used 10 drops, and there are about 20 drops in a ml. Therefore, about 33 cents per batch.
For the Jojoba oil, it costs $7.99 for 4 ounces, and I used 2 tbsp, so $7.99/4 = $1.99 per batch.
Lavender oil is $10.00 for 2 ounces, I used 10 drops, so that's about 59 ml in a bottle and I used 1/2 a ml, so the cost per batch is 8 cents.

Therefore, total cost per one half-gallon batch is $3.77 (that's 64 ounces)
In comparison,
One half-gallon (or 64 ounces) of store-bought liquid soap costs $9.00 (it would take about 9 bottles to get 64 ounces of soap)

Therefore, the cost per ounce is as follows:
Store-bought liquid soap is 13 cents per ounce.
Homemade liquid soap is  just under 6 cents per ounce. 

Compared to the yearly cost of $48.00 per year, my recipe is $21.60 per year.  Love that savings!

Whew, that was a lot of math.  

If you look at the numbers, even the initial costs of materials are negligible when you are paying less than half the price for a superior product that doesn't have triclosan or other bad chemicals in it, and you can make it with whatever scents or oils you like!  I'm sold. 

Bonus: If you want to make a unique pump for your awesome soap, see my post for making a soap pump out of a recycled liquor bottle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

DIY Antimicrobial Fabric Refresher with Only Essential Oils

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

So, I really used to like Febreze, especially the antimicrobial type. Killing germs and good smells?  I'll take it! That is, until I realized that if I'm using all these chemicals on my furniture around my pets,  shouldn't I research the safety of said products?

I really intended for this blog post to be a simple recipe and that's about it, but after I researched everything further, I couldn't help but post my findings here.  I love using natural products whenever possible, but I also wanted to show that just because something is natural, doesn't mean that it's necessarily safe.  This is why I have a huge problem with people who use essential oils for everything under the sun.  I'm a fan of moderation.  If I have a natural remedy for an ailment, I'll use it--but, if I have pneumonia, you bet that I'm going to use the physician prescribed inhaler and antibiotics, because at that point, garlic and echinacea only go so far, and I prefer to live.  Medicine in itself is not evil.  Just because pharmaceuticals have largely become a business doesn't mean that, at some point, someone didn't invent them with the intention of saving lives.

Upon doing some research, I found a great website called the Environmental Working Group.  They rate cleaning products on a scale from A to F based on the safety of the ingredients. Well, surprise, surprise:  Febreze Antimicrobial got a big fat F.

Now, I want to point out the fact that, just because my recipe uses essential oils, doesn't mean that it isn't unhealthy at high levels or to certain people.  I use lavender oil around my house because I have no children and I am not planning to become pregnant at this time.  However, I will definitely change my habits once that time comes, because lavender and tea tree oils can mimic estrogen and suppress testosterone, and have both been proven to cause breast growth in young boys.  Personally, I'm very against using lavender baby products period (e.g. bubble bath for "bedtime," etc.), because of these findings.  Therefore, I must insist that those with children or who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant please study the research and make an informed decision whether to use these oils--not just regarding this particular recipe, but in everyday life as well.  My advice is to abstain from using such products, or to use them very sparingly.

Now, if you looked at both articles, I still prefer to use the essential oils over the Febreze.  Febreze also has a lot of hormone disruptors and can cause reproductive issues, and can cause developmental delays, etc.  My goal is that you become informed about what you are using in your houses and putting on/around your children and pets.  If you look up Lavender and Tea Tree oils on the EWG website, they both get a grade of C.  Now, the Tea Tree oil gets a C because there is some concern for respiratory reactions and skin allergies, and some concern for cancer, but I still will take those odds over Febreze's F!  Lavender oil gets a C because of some cancer concern, but other than the previously mentioned hormone concerns, it's relatively safe.  Cedarwood oil also gets a C, but it just says that's due to general concerns of systemic/organ effects, however, there is no data showing proof of anything, so there's only concern.

Now that you are aware of the risks and associated literature, I'm happy to share my recipe with you.  Hopefully I haven't been too much of a Debbie Downer!  When it comes to chemical of any sort, I really want people to be aware. Just because you're using natural oils that come from a plant doesn't mean they can't hurt you.  Remember, opium is a naturally-occurring chemical that comes from a flower!

Tea tree oil is proven to be a natural anti-microbial agent.  I doubt it is as effective as the storebought chemicals, but I think it is much safer than them, and I'll take a little less efficacy for a safer product.

Now that I've shoved all that information in your face, the recipe itself is actually quite simple. Here's the list of supplies:

Lavender essential oil
Tea Tree essential oil
Cedarwood essential oil
12 ounce spray bottle in a dark color

The recipe is simple:  Add 10 drops each of tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, and lavender oil.  Fill the bottle the rest of the way with water (distilled if you prefer, but I just use tap water, it works fine).  Leave about an inch of space at the top of the bottle so it doesn't overflow when you screw on the lid.

When using, shake the bottle well to mix all the oils, then spray onto fabric surfaces in your home, such as pillows, furniture, rugs, curtains, etc.  Please be sure to test this solution on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn't effect the dye.  I have never had a problem with it, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Oh, and the reason I recommend using a tinted bottle is because the essential oils are often light-sensitive and therefore light can cause them to break down. It's the same reason beer comes in brown bottles.

The purpose of the three oils are as follows:  Tea  tree oil is a natural antimicrobial/antibacterial agent.  Lavender oil is simply for the pleasant scent.  Cedarwood oil is also mainly for the scent, but it is also proven to repel ticks and fleas, so if you have pets that like to bring them inside on occasion, this makes it less likely that the critters will want to stick around on your furniture.

If you like this recipe, see also my recipe for DIY Flea and Tick Repellent, which I've been using on my doggies for 2 years.  Ever since we had a serious flea infestation of my house after I had been using the store-bought flea treatments and pesticides, I've been using this stuff instead, and we have not had problems ever since. Plus, my dogs smell awesome. 

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent (No Grating Necessary!)

Somehow, Picasa deleted all my photos from this blog post onward, and after months of trying, I cannot get them back. I am going to make another batch of detergent and take new photos to update this post, but please be patient with me until then.  I apologize that the images are gone. :-/  -Ashley

I've been making my own laundry detergent for awhile now, but I've always had issues in the past with it becoming chunky and separated.  I prefer the convenience of using a dispenser for the liquid stuff, and so, stubborn as I am, I kept working until I found a good balance of proper ingredients, along with a product that stayed relatively consistent throughout.

This recipe is for 5 gallons of detergent. I used one 2.5 gallon liquid dispenser (found near pitchers and cups at the store), and the rest I poured into whatever I had on hand.  I wasn't planning on 5 gallons, I thought I was making 2.5 gallons at first.  But when my final product turned into a solid gelatinous mass, I had to discover my mistake and mix it with 2.5 more gallons of water to get it to the right consistency.  No worries, however, because my mistake and learning experience is the reason I know this detergent will work.  Trust me, I did a LOT of mixing!

A lot of people prefer to make a powder form of detergent using similar ingredients, but I do laundry with cold water A LOT.  I hate washing in hot water and I think it's a waste of money.  This stuff works in cold water.

1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
1 bar Fels Naptha
1 bar Ivory soap
Lavender essential oil (optional)
Tea tree essential oil (as a natural antibacterial/preservative)
5-gallon bucket
5 gallons worth of containers for finished product
Large steel pot
Rubber spatula for stirring and mixing
Large funnel

The first step is going to be to get your solid ingredients into a liquid form. I prefer to do this with as little water as possible, so it is easier to transport from the stove to the bucket.  I also hate grating, so this is my solution:

Take a bar of ivory soap and put it in the middle of a microwave-safe plate. Put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. DON'T WALK AWAY!  You need to watch this very closely, and I recommend using oven mitts and possibly safety goggles, because really, I'd rather be too cautious than lackadaisical. You probably won't need the whole 3 minutes until you see a large cloud of soap starting to form like pictured below.  

Once it gets to this point, stop the microwave and let it sit for 30 seconds or so before you take the plate out.  Give a few more minutes for the soap to harden, then break off the chunks and set them aside on a separate plate to cool completely. You will still have some bar soap left on the plate. Repeat the microwave process until all the soap has turned into a "cloud."

Give about 20 minutes or so for all the "blown-up" soap to cool completely.  Now comes another fun part, the crumbling!  Take your big pot, hold a hunk of soap in your hands over it, and rub your hands together.  The soap will crumble into a very fine powder, and now you will not have to grate a thing.

You will want to do the same thing with the Fels-Naptha soap.  Since it is more dense than ivory soap, I recommend slicing it into a few chunks before heating it up, because you're not going to have the same reaction as the ivory soap had, and it takes a little bit longer for it to expand and cool.

After about a minute and a half of microwaving, My soap wasn't getting any fluffier, so I took it out and let it cool, flaked off the parts I could, and put the remaining solid parts back in the microwave to repeat the process.

I did this twice, and I still ended up with a couple of chunks at the end, but none of the chunks were bigger than the size I'd have gotten from grating the soap anyway, so I was very happy with this method!

Next, I added water.  You may want to use distilled water, but I used good old-fashioned tap water. My tap water is pretty soft, but if you have hard water, you may want to go with distilled or bottled water. Dollar Tree often sells gallon jugs of the stuff for a buck each, so you could get those and use the jugs as storage, too!

I only added enough water to cover the soap and be able to easily mix it.  Probably about a quart or so of water was used, but I'm just guessing here.   Turn the heat to high and stir CONSTANTLY.  Nobody likes the smell of burnt soap, trust me.  Stir until it is combined and you have a hard time finding chunks. 

After the chunks have dissolved, add your borax and washing soda, continue to stir until well-mixed. 

This took awhile, but eventually I ended up with a yellow-ish liquid.  Pour that into your bucket.

Here is how it should look at this stage if you did everything right. Sort of like lotion-consistency.

Next, start adding your water. Remember, you need to have the total end result yield 5 gallons.  My photos below are from my original goof-up when I only made 2.5 gallons, and the mix solidified into a big gel-chunk.  I had to re-stir, dump it out into the bucket again, and add more water.  Instead of getting pictures of that whole mess, just pretend the bucket pictured is 5 gallon-sized and that I added more water, okay?

Keep stirring and make sure that you mix after every bit of water you add. The goal is to make sure your mix is even, so be sure to stir all the way to the bottom of the bucket when mixing. 

About halfway through, add your essential oils. I used about 20-30 drops of tea tree oil, and about 40 drops of lavender oil for the whole batch. I love the smell of lavender, and I am not a fan of tea tree oil personally, but I really wanted to incorporate some sort of ingredient that stops bacterial growth, since I wasn't using distilled water, and if this soap lasts as long as I think it will, that may be a necessary step.  

I usually get my essential oils on Amazon, and I also used Prime Pantry to get the other ingredients at a great price.

After you have finished adding all the water, get out your funnel and pour the detergent into your containers. Be sure to leave the lid off until it has cooled completely. This will thicken quite a bit, but you shouldn't have to stir much during the cooling process, as long as you did enough stirring while you were mixing the soap. 

There you have it!  Liquid laundry detergent that works great, lasts a long time without growing bacteria, and doesn't get all chunky after a few days.  You may get a small amount of chunks, but nothing like other recipes I've tried. The difference seems to be in the Ivory soap.  Don't ask me why.  Please feel free to post your own experiences with homemade laundry soap, and let me know what you think!  I'm always working to improve my homemade stuff. 

Now, let's talk about cost:

I already had the containers, lavender oil, and buckets on hand, but you can get all sorts of things at the dollar store.  I'm not counting my on-hand items into my cost, just fyi.

Tea tree oil was a separate purchase, I paid 6.58 for the whole bottle, and we'll say I used 1/10th of the bottle for a batch, so we'll say 66 cents cost. 

$3.97 for 76 ounces, I used 8 ounces, at a cost of about 42 cents.

1 bar costs 1.09 and I used the whole bar for one batch.

10 bars were $3.97, and I used 1 bar for a batch, we will call that 40 cents.

This cost $9.07 on Amazon for 55 ounces, but I know you can get it at most stores very cheap.  I had to go with Amazon, as I couldn't find it anywhere!  I used 1 cup at about $1.29.

The grand total is $3.86 for 5 GALLONS of quality detergent!  

If I use 1/2 cup of detergent per gallon, that means I get 160 loads of laundry out of this batch.  I'm being generous with my portion here, but most people only use about 1-2 tbsp per load of laundry, so this could last much longer.  

Assuming I will use 1/2 cup of detergent per load of laundry, then the cost per load of laundry is about 2 1/2 cents per load. I can live with that .

I have found that this detergent does get rather thick.  I have had better luck using it in bottles than in my dispenser container, because of the thickness.  It still doesn't really separate like other recipes did in the past, and as long as I stir it before using it, it works great.  I did just want to say that I am still using the original dispenser pictured above, but I keep a wooden spoon with it and if it has been a few days since use, I do stir it up a bit before using, that makes it much easier to dispense.  Nothing is going to be as uniform as the store-bought stuff, unless you add more chemicals.  I am still very happy with how this turned out, but I wanted to update that you may need to stir this occasionally for best results.