Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cleaning Products

This is going to be an ongoing subject as I endeavour to replace a huge number of different products.  Like most things on my sustainable living journey I have had some victories and some failures.

Firstly the victory - shampoo and conditioner replacement.  Initially I tried to use soap nuts liquid (more on that later) combined with guar gum (thickening agent) to wash my hair.  Unfortunately it just didn't clean my hair well enough and it started to look greasy.  Yuk!  Fortunately I discovered a much more effective and much easier solution.  I now wash my hair using 2 cups of warm water and 1 T of baking soda.  I pour this slowly over my hair and work it through.  This gets my hair squeaky clean but not stripped of natural oils (which many commercial products do).  I follow this treatment with 2 cups of warm water and 3 T of apple cider vinegar.  Again I pour this slowly through my hair and I try and leave it dripping wet for a minute of so and then rinse it out.  The smell of the apple cider vinegar goes away once my hair is dry although there is the odd smell of apples if my hair gets wet in the rain.  My hair is now clean, soft and shiny.  Please, please try these two products.  They are healthy, probably already in your cupboard, environmentally friendly, cost effective and they do the job.  What more could you ask for?

Now for the failure - soap nuts.  Soap nuts can be ordered on line and are dried fruit with the pips removed. They contain natural soap which is released in warm water.  The company I purchased them from recommended putting about 6 nuts in a cloth bag and straight into the washing machine.  This didn't clean the clothes well enough and I think this was possibly because my washing water wasn't warm enough.  I tried activating them in hot water for 15  minutes beforehand and then putting into the wash.  Again, this didn't quite do the job either.  Finally I decided to make my own soap nuts liquid.  This means that all the soap is drawn out before hand so it can start working immediately.  Just boil 50 grams of soap nuts (smash them up in a tea towel using a rolling pin first) and add 4 cups of water.  Boil for 10 minutes, strain, cool and pour into a recycled container.  Add a few drops of essential oils for a nice fragrance.  I use this liquid to wash my dishes and clothes.  I do think this is working well enough but it is a gentle cleaner.  It is not suitable for very dirty clothes or very greasy dishes.  It does a nice job of cleaning stainless steel and other surfaces.  By adding a few drops of tea tree oil it is great for cleaning bathroom surfaces and floors as the tea tree oil is a natural anti bacterial agent.  So overall I class this as a failure.  My reason for this is although it works in some cases  in order to be practical I think we need a product that can do all the cleaning - not just the easy stuff.  For this reason I will be exploring other dishwashing and clothes washing solutions.  There are plenty of recipes online which I will be testing and I will let you know what I discover.  Again you can use the soap nuts liquid for surfaces and floor cleaning however I think we will find that some standard common ingredients (baking soda and vinegar) do the job just as well and the ingredients are very easy to access.  

So overall these experiences have helped to clarify what I am looking for in a product on top of the health and environmental concerns.  I want products that can be used in all situations and applied to as many different jobs as possible.  I also prefer products that are already used in the home rather than purchasing specialised products.  

I have been using the soap nuts (shampoo) as a body wash and this is a nice gentle cleaner.  However I am very interested in learning how to make my own soap from ingredients such as milk and honey (both of which I have easy access to).  I will talk about this project in future posts.

Finally - now that you've eliminated shampoo and conditioner - I think we should have a go at moisturiser.  I feel quite strongly about this for two good reasons.  Your skin is a sponge so anything you put on it you may as well eat.  The ingredients of many moisturisers are very long and certainly not edible.  The other reason is the high cost of commercial moisturisers.  Most of this is down to marketing and packaging.  

The recipe I am using is this:

Heat 1/2 cup of good quality olive oil with 2 T of grated beeswax.  Remove from the heat as soon as the wax melts.  Now get 1 C of tepid water and use a blender, stick blender or electric beaters to emulsify into the oil.  To do these you need to pour a slow steady stream of water into the oil while mixing all the time.  I have had mixed results from this.  Often I only get 1/2 a cup of water into the oil before it stops accepting it and forms water bubbles instead.  This doesn't really matter.  You just end up with a thicker, greasier moisturiser.  And the moisturiser will soak into the skin very quickly.  Add a few drops of essential oil if you want a fragrance but make sure you use one that is gentle on the skin.  Some essential oils will aggravate the skin.

I think that's enough for now.  By replacing shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser you have saved lots of money and it is so much better for you and the environment.  What is also amazing to me is they work just as well, if not better, than the commercial products.

Katherine's First Day of Life 

My next post will be all about Katherine, our pet lamb and future milking sheep.  If you can get hold of a great local supply of raw milk then you can make yoghurt, ice cream, cheese and butter.  With the huge price of dairy products you will soon be saving lots more money.  Katherine is an ongoing project - we won't be milking her for another year - but I think you will enjoy following our journey with her.  

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