Monday, May 17, 2010

Cleansers and Homemade Toiletries

I've been on a slow progression towards sustainability and eco-friendliness, but I wouldn't consider myself a freak of any kind. Yet.

I can still go to a permaculture event and say things like "I'll bet it will be full of those kind of people" in a judgemental way. Like I'm expecting couscous-eating, natural haircoloured, granola-eating, yoghurt-making, composting, off-the-grid weird people. And then I'm shocked to realize that I may have become one of those people! I was thrilled to find a room full of those people and fit in just like I belonged there, asking questions about homemade cheese, where to find a cow share and how to use grey water.

Anyway, I think you start using cloth bags, and progress to trying to use more glass and less plastic, steering away from food grown in Chile and China and growing your own, and things sort of steamroll from there.

These are the things I've been making a lot of use of in my house this year and how to make them if you care to try. I don't claim they are the best recipes, or that they are my own recipes, or the ones you'll love, but they work for me right now and I try to improve on them from time to time. Much of it is new to me too.

Homemade Deodorant

Why are we unwilling to cook in aluminum, but we'll spread it under our arms daily? Try to find a non-aluminum deodorant and you're kind of stuck with Tom's of Maine. It's fine, but you can do it yourself in about five minutes. I did it this morning. You'll still sweat, but I'd argue that sweat is a natural thing that serves a function. But it's really icky to smell like you sweat. This will help that.

1/3 cup baking powder
1/3 cup corn starch
About two capfuls of oil (I use olive because I have it in the house, but I
want to try coconut one day)

Mix it all together, kind of kneading the dry mix with the back of a spoon until it's evenly mixed. Screw your old deoderant stick all the way down and pack your new deoderant in. Good to go! I do find that the first two days or so it's a bit crumbly, but it hardens with age.


There are things in toothpaste that started to bother me, mostly the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Why would you want to put that in your mouth? I know you don't swallow it, but you swish it out into the water system where it isn't removed and you drink it in your coffee or tap water tomorrow. I haven't successfully gotten it out of my life, but I'm getting closer. Here is some of the hokus pocus behind why I stopped using toothpaste. Although this tastes really gross, it feels great and was an easy change to make.

1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
A few drops of mint extract (it doesn't help much though)
Enough water to make a paste that you like

I mix it in a tiny tupperware and keep it in the bathroom, dipping my wet toothbrush into it. Keep your tongue out of the way! I haven't actually tried to get the girls to use this, but it might be a good thing for Alice, who hates mint and will one day have to graduate from the bubblegum kids toothpaste. You don't need the mint extract at all, or you could swap it out to something citrusy maybe.


Again, the SLS is in all of them and it's sole purpose here is to create bubbles. Who said we wanted carcinogens in our soaps, or that we even needed bubbles in the first place? Here's what I do.

Put 2 tbsp baking soda in a mason jar or pump bottle. Shake it up with a bit of water. Sprinkle some in your hair in the shower (more on your scalp rather than your hair). Rub that in and let it sit for a bit. Rinse it out. Then spray with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Rinse out.

It took two weeks or so for my hair to stop looking greasy. The theory is that shampoos strip your skin and hair of natural oils and then your body works hard to replace it. That makes you wash more frequently and your body keeps working to keep the oil levels up. Baking soda doesn't strip your skin of oils, and your body has to adjust to this change. It doesn't have to work so hard and you won't have to shower so often (unless you do stinky manual labour, but most of us don't actually get that dirty in our daily lives).

I like this change, and it means that I can reuse my grey water and put it directly on my garden. Again, if we put things on our bodies that we wouldn't put even our plants, does that really make sense?

Laundry Detergeant (makes 10 litres, or I use two 4 litre milk jugs and add a bit of water after I've used a bit first to make room in the jug)

I'm not totally sold on this one but I've been using it for months now. I'd say our socks are looking not crisply white, but hanging them outside in the sun now instead of in the basement should help. I'm so glad that spring is here!

1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda this time!)
1/2 cup Borax
1 grated bar of Ivory soap (is that really free of icky chemicals?
I'm not sure)

Melt the Ivory in 1 1/2 litres of water on the stove. All the washing soda and Borax and mix until totally dissolved. Stir until thickened and remove from heat. Pour this into to two milk jugs and fill with hot water from the tap. Shake it up to mix. Use 1/4 cup per load of laundry, or a couple of glugs if you don't want to measure.

I find it thickens as it sits, so I shake it up before using again and I occasionally water it down a bit.


Baking soda and vinegar (not together unless you're making a volcano to entertain the kids!) work for most cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen.


None of this is new and none of this is hard. I'm a lazy environmentalist. :-) Mom used some of this in the '70s when the world went through the same recession and oil/gas crisis we're seeing now. Your motivation may be to save money or to save the earth or to stop running to the store and supporting Walmart, but simplifying what we do helps in all of these regards.

Join me in my freaky adventure through life!


Bonita said...

It's very interesting that you posted this today... I just ran out of my last laundry soap and was just going to make my own for the first time! I'm going to use your recipe instead of the other one I found, only because yours seems a bit easier and you took the guesswork out of "what am I going to put it in, and how big is my container?" Anyway, instead of the ivory soap, I'm going to use pure olive oil soap and then add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Hope that works! I'll let you know.

And by the way, you are definitely "one of those"! Just sayin'...

Evelyn in Canada said...

Let me know how it goes. I would think that pure olive oil soap would work well (I don't have freaky natural products like that in my house!) and I don't like my clothes to smell particularly. But see how easy it is to be uniquely you!

And are you calling my freaky?

Bonita said...

I don't have freaky natural products in my house either... my friend gave it to me when I sent her my original recipe! :-) And I'm not calling you freaky exactly... just one of them, that's all. "A little out there" is more what I would say.... ha ha. Love you anyway!

Unknown said...

Cool recipes, Ev. I haven't quite gotten to where I make this stuff myself yet - but it's on the List. :)

Watkins does make a nice aluminum free antiperspirant, I used to use it all the time (it smells really nice, green tea if I remember rightly). Not sure what all else it has in it, but it's at least one possible alternative for those not ready to make their own.

I have done the baking soda shampoo thing - that works well.

Earths General Store carries pure soap flakes - which is what Ivory used to be, long ago ... that would work in your laundry soap recipe!

Patty-Jean from LittleQuiver said...

Great Post Evelyn! Love your new pasta maker - my husband brought one into our marriage, when we got together, but I have yet to use it.

I'm a die-hard 'no poo-er' as well. It has been 2 years not that i have been doing Baking soda, and rinsing with vinegar. At a women's retreat recently, I met alot of other, 'no-pooers' and learned a new trick that I'm LOVING! I add 1 tsp of raw honey in w/ the BS and warm water - it seems to add extra conditioning AND when it's rinsed out it feels a little more squeaky clean. If you try it, let me know how you like it! Don't use glass, i already smashed one in the tub during a shower - ouch;) live and learn!

Evelyn in Canada said...

Patty-Jean: Good point about the glass in the shower. I hadn't thought of that. Maybe I'll start using the plastic (ick!) pump that the kids use. I've heard of using honey as an extra conditioning treatment. I don't have raw honey though, it's pasteurized. Does that matter? I'll give it a try, especially for my daughter whose hair is changing and getting coarser as she enters pre-puberty.