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:
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.
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.
Very cool recommendations. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!
"1/8 teaspoon refined (white) stevia or 1 teaspoon honey"
Neat post C1oudfire, but honey in my toothpaste?
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.
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.
Excellent thread, c1oudfire.
Very much in tune with preparations for a more natural lifestyle.
I will be following the posts with interest as there are some really clever things being posted here.
Thanks for noticing, Sam. I agree that we've already got some really useful, knowledgable contributions, and I'm looking forward to more. I've always appreciated the nuts-and-bolts practical threads the best.
I have noticed that soap scum stuff in tubs and sinks does benefit from a grease cutter like vinegar or lemon juice before applying the abrasive baking soda. Hard water is the bane of my existence sometimes! If you have problems with lime scale or rust stains on porcelain, try using a pumice stone or high-grit wet sandpaper... works wonders and won't scratch the enamel!
I was so happy to find the baking soda and peroxide paste because I have white tile on my kitchen counters and the grout gets stained so easily (mostly coffee!!)... now I can leave the "bleach" paste exactly where it's needed for however long it takes. No more worrying about whether the cats might get into regular chlorine bleach or me spilling something and accidentally causing a dangerous chemical reaction.
For those of us with dry skin or oily/dry combination skin, one of the absolute best treatments I've found is rubbing with some sugar and a little olive oil. Coffee grounds also work and help perk up your skin. If your skin is really dry, you can just wipe off the mixture and leave the olive oil to moisturize your skin, or you can use a mild soap (like Dr. Bronner's) to wash up afterwards.
Tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract are great acne treatments, so is green tea, either mixed in with soap or diluted and applied lightly with a cotton ball.
Worn out socks make the best dust rags because the nap really picks a lot up.
Newspapers work great to polish windows, enamel cooktops, and stainless steel. Much much better than paper towels.
If you have pets, be careful when using essential oils. Some of them are toxic to animals, and others are very repellant/confusing (cats hate citrus and pine, and tend to pee on it cover it up!).
More excellent pearls! Thanks, Plickety.
OK - so what I get out of this is go ahead and leave the oil on my skin but don't pick up the cat until it's all washed off later or the cat will try to do it for me. Is that the gist?
Sam - hehe, either the cat will try to lick it off or tons of fur will get stuck to you, at least until the oil soaks in :) Of course, raspy cat-tongue might be pretty good to exfoliation as well if you don't mind smelling like fish the rest of the day?!
Just stumbled across another nifty trick!
I always knew that boiling water in the microwave made it easy to just wipe clean with soap and water without using harsh chemicals. But I just found out that the same thing works for your oven or any braising/broiling pans and grates that have baked on muck on them. I had a drip rack that was seriously coated in goo and all the scrubbing with steel-wool was just making my hand tired. Before I ended up throwing it out or using Easy-Off on it, I decided to put it and it's pan full of water into the oven to heat up. After about 15 minutes the muck started to fall off and it was easy to get the rest off with a scrubber... but BONUS, it also seemed to melt the goo inside the oven door, and I found it just wiped off with a soapy sponge and little elbow grease with the scrubber on the tough spots.
Yippee --- no more Easy-Off or hours on my knees scrubbing with my head in the oven!!
Not sure if this really counts as a homemade concoction, or just a nifty moving tip, but it's pretty useful.
I had a a few antique bottles and decanters that I needed to ship and I was really worried about them breaking. With glasses and jars, you can easily pack the void with newspaper or peanuts to support them, but stuffing through a bottle neck is a whole other story. Many older/thinner glass bottles do break in transit without some sort of interior support no matter how many layers of bubble foam you wrap around them. I ended up using a funnel to pour vermiculite/perlite into the bottles, tamping a little with a small dowel as I went, and then bubble-wrapped them. The vermiculite doesn't add hardly any shipping weight, and when I got to my new location, it was easy to pour it out of my perfectly intact bottles and put it in my new garden beds.
That's a clever one, Plickety. . .
Here's one, again, that isn't exactly a concoction, but useful information for the use of one of the "ingredients" I always keep on hand. (See my original post, above):
Many years ago, our home had an invasion of the dreaded carpenter ants. While not as bad as termites, they can do some serious structural damage to a wood-framed house before their presence becomes evident. We first noticed them when they entered the house through a ceiling fixture in the kitchen. A little investigating revealed that the roof around the fixture was riddled with them. To deal with the immediate problem we called for professional assistance. After unsuccessfully attempting to sell us an ongoing preventive spraying program, the young, kindly exterminator took pity on us (we were as poor as church mice in those days), and gave us the following tip: Borax (the common household product) is a very effective insecticide. When it gets on the legs of the little varmints, they carry it back to their nests, thereby erradicating the whole infestation. He recommended sprinkling it on insulation before installing it.
Well, we were on the verge of insulating and re-siding the house anyway, and the roof needed replacing, so we took his advice, and it has worked beautifully. Despite the fact that we have many hickory and honey locust branches overhanging the house, we have never had new carpenter ant problems. We know the potential is still there because we regularly find them under the rooftop deck, but they never seem to be able to establish themselves within the walls or roof of our home.
In those days I did not understand anything about the potential cumulative effects of toxins in the environment. Borax is, of course, approved for use in the laundry, and boron is a necessary trace element, but can be toxic if ingested in large quantities. As a precaution against inhalation exposure, I guess I would be careful that ductwork is airtight, especially on the cold air return side, to avoid having boron pulled into the ventilation system. Granted, this is not a perfect solution, but it beats the heck out of spraying neurotoxins within the confines of one's home, and Borax is cheaper than dirt. (It seems to me that the old advertising jingle was something like "New Borax laundry detergent -- it's tougher than dirt").
I hesitated before posting this one, as it is not a concoction per se, but with many of us using wood stoves, the risk of bringing the little buggers into our homes is pretty high. This is an easy, low-cost, relatively nontoxic alternative to the potent neurotoxins offered by professional exterminators. My apologies, in advance, to any 3E exterminators in the community. . . . Isn't it time to find a more environmentally friendly profession anyway?
I haven't tried them yet, but I've done the internet research for homemade shoe polishes, and the following are the omments and recipes that I thought had the most potential:
I'm assuming most traditional shoe polishes are pretty toxic, since they smell really bad and contain warnings to apply only in a "ventilated area." What are some alternatives to make my shoes shine?
Many commercial shoe polishes contain either trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, or nitrobenzene, all of which are suspected human carcinogens that can easily be absorbed through the skin.
Shoe polish can be extremely harmful to the environment. If you have old shoe polish around the house, make sure you don't dispose of it by washing it down the drain. Instead, save it for a hazardous waste collection program, which most municipalities organize at least annually. Contact your hometown sanitation department for more details.
How to Make Shoe Polish From Banana Peels
By Paul Seaburn, eHow Editor
You're on your way to that big job interview when you look down and realize your image is going to take a beating when your potential boss sees those scuffed shoes. Can you give those leather shoes a shine in a hurry without making a shoe polish mess? Yes, if you can find a banana and a soft cloth. The inside of a banana peel contains oil and potassium, two ingredients in commercial shoe polish. What a banana peel doesn't have is the harmful chemicals and additives also present in shoe polish, making it a great green alternative as well. The banana makes a healthy snack, the peel is biodegradable and the shine looks great for the time it took. Don't "slip" up the next time your shoes need a shine---grab a banana peel.
Make Your Own All-Natural Shoe Polish
By Erin Huffstetler, About.com
Polished shoes look great and last longer. Here's how to make a top-rate shoe polish from things that you already have at home:
• Olive oil
• Lemon juice
1. Combine one part lemon juice to two parts olive oil to form a polish.
2. Use a clean cloth to rub a small amount of the polish into your shoes. Then, allow it to soak in for a few minutes.
3. Buff with another cloth, and enjoy your shiny shoes!
Benefits of Using Homemade Shoe Polish:
Tips and Warnings:
1) Apply to clean, dry shoes
2) Repeat monthly or as needed to extend the life of your leather shoes
3) Cheap olive oil works just as well as more expensive grades
Home-made shoe polishNeutral Color Shoe Polish
To make a neutral-color, home-made shoe polish, you would need:
• Soap flakes 30 g (1 oz)
• Potassium carbonate 15 g (0.5 oz) (Obtain from chemist/pharmacist)
• Beeswax 150 g (5oz)
• Gum arabic powder 15 g (0.5 oz)
• Icing sugar 45 g (1.5 oz)
Slice the beeswax and add to 568 ml (a pint) of water. Stir in the soap flakes and potassium carbonate. Boil until a smooth paste. Whilst the mixture is still hot (turn off the heat, but act quickly), add and stir the gum arabic powder and icing sugar. For a specifically black polish, 280 g (10 oz) of charcoal powder from the chemist may be added at this stage.
In recent history the black colour comes from an aniline dye. The next recipe indicates that nigrosene (generically, a blackdye made from oxidized aniline) was domestically procurable in the 1940s.
Note that the above recipe uses potassium carbonate (potash) whereas the following recipe uses potassium bicarbonate, which is not potash. Imperial Measures are in brackets.Black Shoe PolishMelt wax in boiling water and stir in the potassium, using a large pot to allow for the mixture foaming up. Dissolve the nigrosene in a little cold water and stir it in thoroughly, bring to the boil, and simmer gently for some minutes, stirring it until it creams. Take mixture off the fire, and stir in the turpentine. Put away in small tins, tightly closed.
Get Buff! Make Your Own Shoe Polish on the Cheap
by Chris Baskind
Here’s a very simple recipe for making a natural shoe polish. It does a great job, is non-toxic, and costs just pennies. Start with a quarter cup (2 fluid ounces) of extra virgin olive oil. Add about 5 drops of lemon juice. Apply to leather surfaces with a soft rag, then buff clean. You might want to test a small amount in an inconspicuous place before doing the entire shoe. This natural polish removes dirt and leaves a nice shine. It’s perishable, though, so discard any unused polish or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
An emergency filler for protecting stuff is popcorn. I once bot a box of Cracker Jacks on vacation in AZ and stuck a valuable ring in it to mail home without hassle. No problemo.
Homemade cat litter --
(note that I'm not encouraging people to use pet waste compost on food items... but a separate feces compost pile to be used on ornamentals or trees is better than flushing it, burying it, or cocooning it in plastic to be enshrined in a landfill)
And to add on to the natural/homemade shoe polish post: Soot (lamp black) and beeswax (or rendered tallow) makes excellent black polish. Using tallow offers better waterproofing, especially in the cold when wax can crack.
Here's a great site for making natural dyes from plants. While this site is geared more toward organic woven fabrics, some of these plants can be dried and ground (or boiled down to a dry paste) to add to wax or fat for the same effect on leather. If your leather is untreated, you can use the water bath method to dye it first before sealing/polishing it with wax or fat.
What a great idea!
Just when you thought it was safe to browse the threads at will . . . . . . . out of the dark recesses of your mind . . . . . . emerges: THE HOMEMADE CONCOCTIONS THREAD! . Yes, it's still here, making you feel guilty for buying cosmetics, toiletries, and household cleaners made from all sorts of EVIL chemicals that will ROT YOUR BRAIN! (Or at least give you a really bad rash.)
For those who need more convincing about the dangers of the cosmetics and toiletries industry, I suggest the following book:
Not Just a Pretty Face -- The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
By Stacy Malkan
Lead in lipstick? 1,4 dioxane in baby soap? Coal tar in shampoo? How is this possible?
Simple. The $35 billion cosmetics industry is so powerful that they've kept themselves unregulated for decades.
Not one cosmetic product has to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration before hitting the market. Incredible? Consider this:
The European Union has banned more than 1,100 chemicals from cosmetics. The United States has banned just 10.
Only 11% of chemicals used in cosmetics in the US have been assessed for health and safety – leaving a staggering 89% with unknown or undisclosed effects.
More than 70% of all personal care products may contain phthalates, which are linked to birth defects and infertility.
Many baby soaps are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical 1,4 dioxane.
It's not just women who are affected by this chemists' brew. Shampoo, deodorant, face lotion and other products used daily by men, women and children contain hazardous chemicals that the industry claims are "within acceptable limits." But there's nothing acceptable about daily multiple exposures to carcinogenic chemicals — from products that are supposed to make us feel healthy and beautiful.
Yeah, and EDTA...
Persistent Organic Pollutant used in everything including the Food industry, and does have weak cytotoxic, and genotoxic effects.
And let's not forget that most of these items are packaged in Plastic Bottles! Not only wasteful and polluting, but also a source of toxic leaching -- BPA anyone?!
Any one else done this? . . (hopefully for goats)
MILKING MACHINE FROM CAR PARTS
It is so cool!
Do not wash more than two or three times a day with a basic soap as this may cause your skin to produce more oil.
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