On a couple of occasions, the subject of homemade soaps, personal care items, cleaning agents, and other concoctions has come up, and a number of people have expressed an interest in this area. A related area of concern is the effect that these kinds of compounds can have on our own health, as well as the environment in general. So, I thought it might be useful to start a thread in which folks can share their recipes and ideas.
I keep a number of bulk items on hand from which I make homemade deodorant, toothpaste, dishwashing compound, laundry soap, and so on. Calcium carbonate, olive oil, glycerine, baking soda, washing soda, borax, castile soap, white and apple cider vinegar, and a variety of essential oils are a few of the ingredients I always keep on hand. From them, I can make most of the personal care and household cleaners I need, as I need them, and I don’t have to worry about the toxicity of unidentified or unpronouncible ingredients or the toxic preservatives that are required for mass produced and mass marketed products.
The advantages of doing things this way include:
- A simpler inventory of constituents, rather than having a plethora of products on the shelf for a variety of purposes. For instance, baking soda can be used as a part of the compound or regimen for laundry, deodorant, toothpaste, or for cleaning your bathtub, toilet, and oven. A bulk bucket or bin on hand will suffice, in place of having a separate product on hand for each task.
- Tremendous cost savings. Much of the cost of these kinds of concoctions are in the advertising and packaging. Fortunately for us, there are several good web sites out there that focus on "frugal living", where folks share their past experiences with concocting homemade replacements for the "store bought" varieties.
- Greater control over the kinds of chemicals to which we and our families are exposed. Those who have been following my healthcare posts are aware of the concern I have about the pharmacopoeia of chemicals to which we are exposed every day. These are implicated in all of the more common disorders that plague us today. By formulating our own concoctions, we are taking responsibility for understanding the chemical properties of the compounds we use, and being proactive about avoiding disease. This is critical in these coming years, as the availability of high tech healthcare is uncertain, going forward.
- Fuel savings. Every time a bottle of, say window cleaner is shipped, the bulk of the transportation expense is spent on shipping water, a commodity that should rightly be produced in situ.
- Adaptability. Recipes can easily be customized to accomodate the immune/allergy status and scent preferences of the user.
I believe that it will be valuable for us to understand more about how chemicals work, to use them effectively, to protect the environment from further damage, and to protect ourselves from harm. For instance, as many of you may know, the mixing of bleach and ammonia produces chlorine gas, which is highly toxic and essentially odorless. Every year there are fatalities related to this phenomenon. Often, the wrong conditions are created when a zealous amateur housecleaner pours both ammonia and bleach into a toilet, in an attempt to bring back the sparkling white finish. Within the poorly ventilated confines of the bathroom, the liberated chorine gas is inhaled, the victim loses consciousness, and continues to breathe the toxic chlorine gas. This points up the need to understand how chemicals behave, and to know their effects.
So, to get the ball rolling, I’ll post a few recipes. But I’d also like to point out that there are many sources already posted on the internet. Googling "homemade [whatever]" will usually produce several satisfactory results. Also, it is instructive to google "frugal living". You may have to wade through a bunch of inapplicable posts about clipping coupons, but there are a lot of gems in there, too.
So, here’s my favorite recipe for deodorant. This one is more effective than the commercial varieties, has no toxic aluminum compounds, and its scent is generally acceptable to both genders. This is only a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, which I prefer, as perspiration is an essential mechanism by which the body regulates temperature and rids itself of toxins that cannot be eliminated by the liver/colon or the kidneys. Further, any toxins eliminated by sweating relieves strain on the liver and kidneys.
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp olive oil
5 gtts tea tree oil
5 gtts lavender oil
1. Mix three parts baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with one part table salt (sodium chloride).
2. Add three teaspoons of glycerine for every 1/4 cup of dry mixture.
3. Add enough water to make a thick paste. If desired, a few drops of peppermint oil may be added to improve the taste.
4. Apply and use just as you would any other toothpaste. Store unused toothpaste at room temperature in a covered container.
The above recipe produces a compound that is unlike the product most of us are used to, and it takes some getting used to, and some adjustment in the technique used in brushing. The recipe that follows is closer to conventional toothpaste in both taste and consistency, but is more abrasive, and can exacerbate dental sensitivity.
Homemade Toothpaste II
4 ounces calcium carbonate (chalk)
2 ounces baking soda
Enough glycerin to make a paste
1/8 teaspoon refined (white) stevia or 1 teaspoon honey
10 drops essential oils, such as oil of wintergreen or peppermint
Combine the ingredients in a bowl, stirring vigorously until well blended. Scoop the paste onto a toothbrush with a knife or spoon. Makes 3/4 cup.
With regard to household cleaners, surprisingly, these tend to be even more tricky than personal care products. What works for one individual, will not necessarily produce the same results for another. This seems to be largely related to the qualities of the water available for cleaning, and the kinds of devices that the home has in use for softening and purifying water. So, it seems some personal experimentation is necessary. A common complaint with homemade cleaners of all sorts, is that they leave behind an unattractive film. Some folks include a bit of white vinegar in the concoction to counter this. Others add white vinegar to the rinsing process. There are lots of highly varied recipes online for giving you ideas.
There are a couple of books on homemade household cleaners, but I have found the internet and the advice of those "in the trenches" to be at least as valuable than books on this subject.
Again, I think it is most useful for us to gain at least a rudimentary understanding of common chemical properties, and to understand rudimentary chemical concepts, like oxidation, reduction, and pH. This is not exotic science, and it is all around us, every day, whether we understand it or not. We may as well use this knowledge to our advantage, and toward our health and safety. I have some training in chemistry, due to my healthcare background, as well as some bench chemist experience in my younger days. Hopefully, we’ve got a real chemist in the house, that can tutor us along.
Well, that’s a start. I hope this is helpful in making us more prepared, more self-sufficient, and more eco-friendly.
Well those will come in handy-
We have modified just about everything for our zero energy use-
Tractor implements are modified for food, feed and hay production. We will be using an electric chainsaw attached to the side of the lawn tractor to cut hay and then once dry, it will be raked onto a tarp and stacked for winter. We use deep mulching in many gardens but be aware- it takes longer to heat the ground and plant early so we only use in certain crops (strawberries, rhubarb, asperugus and permacultured areas). We modified a car AC pump into a milking pump and I can’t wait to use it!
Homemade concoctions don’t always work the first time – but after keeping at it and thinking of the rewards – well it’s so fun to use that part of the ole brain.
i have used in the past a tooth powder of ground walnut hulls, ground clove, and myrrh powder. some of the christians out there might recognize myrrh as being one of the gifts of the magi and one of the ingredients used to heal the wounds the christ suffered on the cross. it was a mainstay in ancient medicinal circles and was a major trade item.
i am interested in extracting essential oils if anyone has info on the technology i would appreciate it.
it is easy to make tinctures of all kinds of herbs just by soaking them in pure grain alcohol for a few months.
Very cool recommendations. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!
With your background in Ayurvedic medicine, you know far more about herbal preparations than I do. Do you make your own walnut/myrrh/clove tooth powder? That’s a powerful combination, and I’m sure you know, should be used with caution, and probably should not be used by pregnant women. I’d be interested in the preparation, though.
My husband uses an application of ground goldenseal, myrrh, and cayenne powder in treatment of periodontal disease. He just started it a couple of months ago, so it’s hard to say whether it really works. It tastes terrible, but then, most real medicine does. I have successfully treated my own strep throat with goldenseal/myrrh tea . . . again, it tasted horrible . . . but worked like a charm.
As you probably know, myrrh has a long history of symbolic significance, across many cultures. Catholic scholars have commented that the gifts of the magi were not only physical, but symbolic. As I recall, the symbolism is as follows:
Gold symbolized Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense was used by priests, thus symbolising Jesus’ priesthood. Myrrh was used as an embalming agent, which prophetically signified that Jesus was born to die.
Interestingly, I understand that at that time, the value of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, ounce for ounce, were the same at that time, though that may be apocryphal.
I remember, when I was a little girl, thinking that the gifts of the magi were exotic. It’s a strange twist that I now keep two of the three in stock at my home, routinely . . . life has a funny way of folding back on itself.
"1/8 teaspoon refined (white) stevia or 1 teaspoon honey"
Neat post C1oudfire, but honey in my toothpaste?
[quote=Lemonyellowschwin] "1/8 teaspoon refined (white) stevia or 1 teaspoon honey" Neat post C1oudfire, but honey in my toothpaste? [/quote]
I agree, and I use the stevia instead. Sorry, I cut-and-pasted that from an old file, that I lifted off of some website.
Another subsitution for the stevia in that toothpaste mixture would be xylitol. Yes, it’s an evil nasty chemicalized sugar alcohol, but it does wonders for the teeth. It is literally the only sweetener that is actually beneficial for your teeth. And since we aren’t actually ingesting much, if any, of our toothpaste, this is one artificial thing I’m not opposed to using… in fact, it’s the only artificial sweetener I can tolerate (but only in small doses).
I’ve been using plain baking soda infused with mint or wintergreen leaves as a tooth powder and it works wonders. Just crush some fresh herb leaves, put them in some cheese cloth, cover with baking soda and let sit for a couple days to infuse the natural oils into the soda. Wet the bristles of your toothbrush lightly and then dip into the soda. It’s not quite as tasty as the paste recipe, but it does do a fine job of cleaning the teeth and freshening the breath. (I’m sure you could use ground clove as well if you had gum issues or teeth sensitivity).
I have multiple sensitivities to chemicals so I’ve had to experiment a lot with cleansers and such. I use baking soda (NaHCO3) anywhere I would have used softscrub (like porcelin basins, tubs, toilets). It takes a little more elbow grease, but it works, especially if you use white vinegar as a rinse (woohoo watch it foam!). White vinegar (acetic acid CH3COOH), lemon juice (citric acid C6H8O7), hydrogen peroxide (OxyClean or the liquid mixture H2O2) and household ammonia (ammonium hydroxide NH4OH) are pretty much the only cleansers use anymore. All of these will cut grease and dirt, and the peroxide is a milder bleach than chlorine bleach.
There also isn’t the dangerous chemical reaction between ammonia and peroxide, ammonia and baking soda, baking soda and peroxide; and only foaming bubbling with these and citric or acetic acid… nothing toxic or life threatening.
Since I’ll be recycling my greywater in the garden soon, I am learning to stay away from any sodium-based cleaners like chlorine bleach (sodium hyperchlorate NaClO) and borax (sodium borate Na2B4O7) because excessive sodium is hard on the plants and can make your soil too alkaline. However, if you were disposing of your greywater into a pond or sewer system, then sodium-based cleansers probably wouldn’t be as detrimental. Unfortunately, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate NaCHO3) is also sodium based, but the chemical composition does allow it flush out of the soil a little faster than the others, plus you don’t really have to use a lot of baking soda to do the job.
You have to watch out for the bad chemical reaction (toxic chlorine gas) between chlorine bleach and ammonia or peroxide! Yeah, and adding vinegar or lemon juice with chlorine bleach can result in hydrochloric acid in some instances… so that’s not too good either. Pretty much, don’t use chlorine bleach anywhere near anything else that is either alkaline or acidic because sodium hyperchlorate is naturally unstable.
The only place I use sodium-chlorine bleach is a very weak solution to disinfect food preparation equipment that can’t be boiled… but hydrogen peroxide is still my disinfectant & antiseptic of choice.
Yeah, you do have to rinse all these natural cleaners off, but a little bit of white vinegar in the final rinse takes care of any streaks.
Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda is often used to whiten teeth, but I find it also bleaches grout wonderfully and kills off mold and mildew in the shower.
By request – a link to the agriculture thread where I mention deriving soap from boiling quinoa leaves and hulls which have a high saponin content like soapwort; and making your own potash lye for soap by filtering water through hardwood ashes.
[quote=PlicketyCat]Another subsitution for the stevia……………………..kills off mold and mildew in the shower.[/quote]
Wow, Plickety, what a great, comprehensive survey of the use of common, relatively nontoxic substances as cleaners. And I’m going to try the toothpowder idea, too. Nice and simple.
I also have multiple chemical sensitivities, and I’m already using some of your suggested cleaning regimens, but you also mentioned a few that I hadn’t discovered, but I’m going to try.
When cleaning the tub, or similar surfaces, I sometimes spray with white vinegar, let soak a few minutes, then sprinkle with baking soda. This foams, and seems to ease the elbow grease a bit.