DIY handwash & bodywash

Perhaps it’s because I first started making natural skincare products about 8 years ago, or maybe I just run out of cosmetic products earlier but I’ve definitely made more progress switching my skincare over to natural products than household cleaning products.

So far, we are now using homemade handwash, bodywash, deodorant and toothpaste.

I did, once upon a time, also make my own cleanser, toner, moisturiser and lip balm but these take considerably longer and many of the recipes I’ve used in the past (particularly for toner) need to be kept in the fridge. So it’s going to take me a little longer to switch over to those.

So today I’d like to share recipes I’ve used for hand wash and body wash, and a couple of tips for using them.


Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 10.09.29 am.png

Recipe #1: Handwash

1/2 cup castile soap

1/2 cup filtered or distilled water

1 tbsp vitamin E oil (optional but highly recommended for its antioxidant [=anti-ageing] & moisturising properties)

1 tbsp sweet almond or jojoba oil (in a pinch, or if you’re just getting started, you can use olive oil but make sure it’s extra virgin and high quality)

15 drops tea tree essential oil

5-10 drops lavender essential oil

 

Combine all ingredients in a foaming pump bottle. It’s important that you do get one of these (I bought mine from Biome eco stores) because the soap is very liquid, When you use a foaming pump bottle, it does the work for you, so the soap comes out in a nice little white fluffy foamy puff on your hand. This has a few beneficial consequences: it has a much soapier texture than the liquid on its own, you get a better lather, and you use less of the product.

 

You’ll probably need a funnel to get the ingredients into the bottle easily. Add the water first so it doesn’t froth up.

 

The essential oils aren’t just for smell. Tea tree and lavender both have antiseptic properties.


 

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 10.03.03 am

Recipe #2: Body wash

 In reality, you could use exactly the same recipe as the handwash (with the option of switching out some of the essential oils for your favourites) but I made the below recipe as a gentle baby wash and shampoo, and I really like this as a body wash. It’s pretty similar!

 

1 1/2 cups castile soap

4 tbsp vegetable glycerine (this is important as I’ve recently learned glycerine can be made from animal fat)

2 tsp almond oil or jojoba oil

1 tsp aloe vera juice (optional: aloe is a great ingredient for sensitive skin)

10 drops of an appropriate essential oil (if making for a baby be sure to check which ones are safe to use and which age you should use them from)

2 tbsp filtered or distilled water.

 

Again, combine all ingredients as for the hand wash in a self-foaming bottle, adding the water first. Shake to combine, and give it a little shake before use.


 

A note on costs:

Most of these ingredients can be bought from healthfood shops but they tend to be fairly expensive. If you are planning to make several things yourself, I recommend you list everything you will need and buy them online from an Australian provider (e.g. Biome) as most ingredients will be cheaper online.

However, the initial cost can still be expensive, particularly if there are lots of different essential oils you need, as some of these can cost upwards of $20 a bottle.

At a guess, the ingredients for the hand wash would cost about $60… but you will have enough ingredients to make many, many batches. And the castile soap, which you’ll run out of the fastest, is reasonably cheap to buy.

Prior to making my own handwash, I would buy Thank You brand hand wash, which costs $7.50 a bottle. Except for the castile soap, each of the ingredients will easily make more than 10 bottles of hand wash that lasts about as long as a Thank You bottle.

So, without doing any calculations whatsoever (sorry!) I would guess that you end up spending about the same amount of money. But, the more products you make at home, the more you save, because you can use your essential oils across multiple products.

 

A final note: essential oils have a surprisingly short useby date. Usually a couple of years. If you don’t use them within that date, suppliers recommend you throw them out. Personally, I don’t. I keep them and keep using them and have found no problems arising. I think the point is they aren’t going to do any harm (that I know of) but they just lose some of their aromatherapeutic (is that a word? It should be!) properties, or, I think, some become stronger. I certainly wouldn’t recommend using any expired oils in toothpaste, lip balms or face products, and definitely not for anything you might use on a baby. But for your run of the mill hand wash or body wash, I don’t see why it would be a problem.

 

Let me know if you decide to give one or both of these recipes a go!

 

Live better.

 

 

Reducing waste without compromising oral hygiene

It may be a controversial topic, but in this post I am going to explore ditching toothpaste and commercial toothbrushes and tooth floss.

It’s all things oral hygiene, and I think you may be surprised by some of my recommendations.

Firstly, and perhaps least controversially, is to share with you how easy it was to switch from plastic-handled to bamboo-handled toothbrushes.

I signed myself and my husband up with toothcrush, and we receive 2 bamboo-handled toothbrushes every 2 months. Since we don’t tend to replace our brushes quite that frequently, we will be able to stockpile them and delay re-subscription for next year to save a little money. However, it’s a fairly cheap service. We are paying under $50 for the year, which works out to 12 toothbrushes. Roughly $4.15 per toothbrush.

While pregnant I told my dentist that the mint toothpaste was making me feel really ill. His response was to brush with just water, and said the action of brushing is more important than using toothpaste. This has given me the confidence to ditch commercial toothpastes altogether in favour of a homemade product, which I can’t really call a ‘paste’. I used the recipe available on Biome Eco Store’s website, (with the addition of cinnamon essential oil for taste) and, while it’s slightly more effort to get the product onto the brush and then into the mouth, the relief at no longer using toothpaste tubes (not to mention the questionable ingredients in them) seems worth it.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 12.03.46 pm

It doesn’t taste like much while brushing (personally I don’t find it bad at all, as the strongest flavours are salt – from the bicarb – and coconut) but when you rinse your mouth out with water you can taste the essential oils and stevia and personally I think it’s much tastier than bought toothpaste. The texture is what takes getting used to. You can feel the slight grittiness cleaning your teeth, but other than that it sort of feels like brushing with water. And it doesn’t foam up like a commercial toothpaste (but think of what they put in there to make it do so!), so if you have what I am beginning to realise is a fairly common quirk and can’t feel clean without a lather, this may not be for you.

Noosa Basics makes a charcoal and candelilla wax tooth floss, which works just as well as the commercial brands, but has the added bonus of being completely compostable. It also comes in a cardboard box – the only part of the packaging that proves slightly difficult to recycle is the metal cutter, but as per a previous post, you can put this in a tin with your metal bottle lids and recycle in your council’s recycling bin.

Okay, so most people’s oral hygiene routine probably ends there. I haven’t yet explored mouth wash, though a quick online search has yielded multiple options for a simple homemade variety (remember that commercial brands use alcohol which can contribute to mouth and throat cancer – though I would never dream of convincing you to give up drinking alcohol so maybe the amount in mouthwash is negligible when compared with my wine consumption). But I do think it’s worth sharing one last product with you, that could replace mouth wash. It’s called a tongue scraper, and no, it’s not painful or particularly gross.

Although I haven’t yet used mine enough to see whether it makes a difference, the reviews I’ve seen online indicate that it is helpful not only in mitigating bad breath but also in preventing sickness. If I manage to find the time while looking after my 2-month-old I will use it more regularly over winter and repost to tell you my personal opinion on its efficacy.

So there you have it! A complete introduction to reducing waste and unwanted chemicals when it comes to oral hygiene.

Live better.

DIY Household cleaning step 1: the toilet

In keeping with my ‘step by step’ approach, and trying to minimise unnecessary waste, I decided to continue using any commercial products I had and to replace them one by one as they ran out. By chance, the first thing I ran out of was toilet cleaner.

There seem to be a few ideas floating around on the internet about how to clean a toilet with non-toxic DIY ingredients but they all seem to come back to good old vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

Does anyone else have fond memories of watching or helping your parents unblock drains with vinegar and bicarb as a child? Or was your experience just the volcano science project?

Anyway, this method is slightly different and much less dramatic (sorry), but surprisingly effective.

As you may expect, you need to do a little more scrubbing (nothing beats elbow grease) than when using a heavy-duty commercial product. But, think about what you are using to clean your toilet currently (unless you’re already ahead of me) and where that goes once you flush it away.

So, it’s pretty simple. You will need the following:

  • White vinegar
  • Tea tree essential oil
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Spray bottle
  • Shaker jar
  • Rice (maybe)

Actually the hardest part about this was sourcing a shaker jar with holes in the lid so I could sprinkle the bicarb easily. I wanted something that would have a cap over the top to stop moisture getting in, but as I couldn’t find one easily I decided to put some dry rice in with the bicarb to hopefully stop it from clumping. A couple of weeks later and it’s still good so maybe it worked.

Fill the spray bottle with white vinegar and add a good 10-20 drops of tea tree essential oil.

To clean the toilet, spray the inside of the bowl with the vinegar/tea tree solution and leave it to sit there for about 5 minutes. Then, sprinkle the bicarb over the top (if you listen carefully you can hear a very slight fizzing sound, which is far from the frothy excitement of those childhood experiences but nonetheless satisfying) and use your toilet brush to scrub straight away.

That reminds me, I haven’t thought of a plastic-free alternative to toilet brushes yet… well, one step at a time!

Now, this worked really well for me for the usual week-to-week stains on the toilet bowl. However, one of our toilets had a longer-term stain from the water itself and I wasn’t able to remove it using this method. So in a future post when I have got around to trying out another more intensive cleaner, I will let you know how I go. In the meantime, enjoy pictures of my toilet. I thought it would be worth showing the before and after. Not perfect, but I thought there was more of a sparkle to it afterwards.

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 7.33.39 pm
Before (left) and after (right).

You can also use the vinegar solution to clean the seat and other parts of the toilet rather than using any other spray cleaner.

There you have it. My first home-made household cleaning product. Pretty easy, right?

So, when your toilet cleaner runs out, instead of adding another bottle of it to the shopping list, why not give this method a go instead? It even comes with a built-in 5 minutes of rest while you are waiting for the vinegar to do its thing!

One less toxic product down the drain is one more step towards a more ethical lifestyle.

Live better.

One for the ladies: zero waste menstruation

To be fair, I probably have never had an entirely waste-free period, but only because of my need for chocolate! This post is for those of us with a menstrual cycle… or anyone else with a particular interest in learning more about women’s hygiene. A warning to the men who intend to read this. Please don’t continue reading if you can’t handle a frank discussion on uterine walls being shed and coming out of the vagina in the form of blood.

I’m going to skip the preamble today, aside from acknowledging that periods can be very messy. Especially when they come unexpectedly. Or when you are unprepared. Or when you have a heavy flow.

Suffice to say, one incident in high school (thank goodness I went to an all-girls school!) was enough for me to be permanently paranoid that my fertility is on show for the world to see whenever I have my period.

So, you can trust me to be honest when it comes to the coverage that the various waste-free options have to offer.

I delved into the world of waste-free periods about two years ago (though being pregnant has effectively made my trial 9 months shorter) and have first-hand experience in 2 of the 3 products I am going to talk about today.

The first thing I tried was a menstrual cup. Friends had recommended it, and I was just starting to get really serious about waste so I thought I would give it a go.

Initially, I was very disappointed. It leaked out the sides well before it was full and I couldn’t figure out why. I also had a little bit of pain and had to take it out and replace it a few times to get the right position. After researching online and re-reading the instructions, I realised I wasn’t inserting it completely correctly.

The menstrual cup probably took me a good 4 cycles until I was confident that I was using it properly, and after that, I found it highly effective. However, there was still the aforementioned issue of paranoia, and the occasional tendency for it to fill up when I was not able to empty, clean and reinsert it (for example in the middle of teaching a class full of students).

So, I had replaced tampons with a menstrual cup but I still felt the need to wear panty liners or pads as an extra precaution, and sometimes they were necessary. Therefore the next step was to try washable pads.

I’m not one to judge you if the idea of a washable pad makes you baulk. Truth be told, it’s not the pleasantest thing to clean. However, for me, the issue of disposable pads going to landfill was more of a catastrophe than having to wash my blood off a cloth surface.

While it’s been long enough that I am struggling to remember the sensation of walking around with no protection other than a disposable pad, I think the feeling of doing the same but with a cloth pad is comparable. You still get a bit of wetness, which is why I far prefer the menstrual cup as the primary means of protection, but if you’ve relied only on disposable pads I suspect this will be a fairly similar experience.

Both of these – the menstrual cup and cloth pads – come with a higher initial cost than their disposable counterparts so for your first period you will spend far more than what you normally would. Menstrual cups go for about $50 and cloth pads range from about $12-$25 each, depending on the size and brand. I needed to spend about $300 on my set of cloth pads when I first started to make sure I wouldn’t run out.

However, given that in Australia tampons and pads are still subject to the GST (while condoms and lubricant are not), perhaps it’s better to pay for these ‘luxury items’ far less frequently by opting for the reusable products, rather than submitting yourself to the sexist GST month in, month out.

While ultimately neither of these products will last forever, the reduction in waste sent to landfill over the lifespan of them is dramatic, even if you look at just one woman’s use.

Although I’ve not yet got the first-hand experience for the newest item on the zero-waste period market – period-proof underwear – I have several friends who’ve recommended them, so I will definitely use these when I get my period back again, probably still in conjunction with the menstrual cup.

I’ll do a follow-up to discuss the merits of all three options again when I have the insider’s knowledge.

So, now that I have discussed the ins and outs of eliminating single-use products from menstruation (aside from the chocolate, of course), I’m curious. Have I convinced anyone to give it a go?

If you’re still not convinced, let me leave you with two final thoughts (and coincidentally they form the core philosophy of this blog.

1: Living better is about small steps that you are ready to take to improve the way you live and how that impacts on the environment. So don’t feel that you need to go all out straight away. I took my time to wean off of disposable feminine hygiene products.

2: Revisit your primary motivation for making small changes in your lifestyle. If you examine your motivation and, like me, find that reducing waste is more important to you than the potential ‘ick factor’, you might have to re-evaluate your choice!

Trust me, while it may be weird at first, it doesn’t take long to get used to a new way of dealing with menstruation. Humans are incredibly adaptable!