UPDATED April 2019
New Recipes: Toothpaste, Deodorant, Soap, Shampoo & Conditioner, Laundry Powder & more...
Note: I have added links to a few trusted local (to Turkey) makers and suppliers of good quality ecological products. I am not affiliated with them and I'm not getting a commission or such from them.
To combat the horrendous problem of plastic waste we have to approach it from three points. The 1st point is at the production and design stage, but sadly the corporations are lagging in terms of ethics and planetary preservation urges. The 3rd point is disposing responsibly, but sadly even diligent recycling practices are simply not enough, so this takes us to point 2; consumer responsibility and our potential to activate change and sway those pesky manufacturers.
See this link (an 8 minute video) about recycling that explains why we should avoid product bottles.
In an attempt to curb my contribution to planetary destruction I have made quite a few changes at home, some of which I've written about. (see Sustainable Living)
Like everyone else I'm stretched for time and would much prefer to just buy what I need, but until really good versions are available in stores I'm sticking with homemade. The reasons for making my own products are simple:
1. Bought products often contains harmful (to us) ingredients. Skin and lungs absorb them so we want to know they are healthy.
2. The harmful (to us) ingredients are also harmful to our planet. For instance palm oil is present in virtually every form of shampoo, soap and cleaning material (and if you are still thinking it's ok to consume palm oil see here*1).
3. The packaging is most often not recycled or becomes toxic during a high embodied energy processes which defeats the point.
4. We can assume all products are or have previously been tested on animals and this is not something to tolerate for the sake of shiny teeth or hair!
So here are some of my tried and tested homemade recipes:
Clay - 2 tbsp (I found dermatological clay but recipes call for what they call Kaolin Clay)
Bicarbonate of Soda - 1 tsp
Coconut and/or Olive oil - 1 (or 2) tbsp (or enough to make it into a kind of paste)
Mint oil - lots of few drops (I use China Oil as that is what I have at home)
(You can also add tea tree oil if you like taste and smell)
Mix up and keep in a small glass jar. (I jab my dry clean toothbrush in, but the more fastidious among us can use a small spoon or such to apply)
Bicarbonate of soda*2 - 2 tbsp
Coconut or Olive oil - 1 (or 2) tbsp (or enough to make it into a kind of paste)
Mint oil - a few drops (I used China Oil as that is what I have at home)
(Optional: Stevia can be added as a sweetener).
Mix up and keep in a small glass jar. (I jab my dry clean toothbrush in, but the more fastidious among us can use a small spoon or such to apply)
I am happier to use some olive oil into the mix as it is local to Turkey (where I live) and long distance shipping of coconut oil is not kind to our planet. I can't say if my teeth are whiter or not, they seem the same to me and I am VERY happy to NOT have my mouth full of frothing, sweet toothpaste that was squeezed out of a plastic tube. The salty taste of the homemade toothpaste takes a little getting used to, but I actively prefer it and I think it's better for my oral health
There is some discussion that bicarbonate of soda may be too abrasive on the teeth, I've heard the argument both ways and I saw no detriment but have substituted the softer kaolin clay mix with just a small spoon of bicarbonate of soda .
Bicarbonate of soda - 1 tbsp
Corn starch - 4 tbsp
Coconut oil - 2 or 3 tbsp (less in summer, more in winter)
Essential oil - a few drops (I used Tea Tree and Lavender oils)
Mix up and keep in a small glass jar, apply with finger tips to clean armpit by rubbing a pea sized amount in.
I have not yet tried to use olive oil instead for this (I'll let you know when I do!), but I have been using the coconut oil version all summer. It's quite hot and humid here and I've had many a cause to perspire. Apparently I'm not a very smelly person so I'm not the best tester, however I'm an absolute convert, I still have some roll-on Nivea in my bathroom, but won't touch the stuff, my armpits smell great and they also seem quite smooth, I've heard that this recipe also works well on hairy armpits.
Apparently bicarbonate of soda can irritate some skin types so kaolin clay is recommended instead.
New Recipe for Deodorant!
You are not going to believe this!
Yes! Lemon. simple as that
You take one lemon and after each shower cut a thin slice and rub into your arm pit, if you have just shaved you may wish to wait a bit as it might sting and if you have a citrus sensitivity just don't bother trying (or try in a very small area)
I keep the cut lemon in my fridge for an extra cooling after shower effect and it really works... no pong plus the natural antiseptic of citrus on my skin with NO toxic additives.
This apparently works on even the stinkiest of hairy pits, teenagers even! Though it certainly doesn't stop you sweating there is zero smell as long as you apply to freshly washed skin (don't go trying to drown out your smell after a work out - that's gross!)
For some health facts behind this look here
I buy local soap (meaning basic olive oil soap made with minimum of ingredients; some call it Castile soap) These days when I run out of village made I buy a brand of olive oil based soap that is not plastic wrapped and does not contain palm oil. (I searched high and low for it!)
The brand is available in Migros: Anatolia Daphne, Mehmet Aydin Bitkisel Sabunlar
We no longer buy liquid soap despite the convenience; somethings are more important than an easy life so we figured out how to make it instead.
For Liquid soap you simply grate a bar of soap into a pan of boiling water. One bar to around 4 glasses of water but it depends on the soap. Then after you have mixed it all in simply add as many drops of lavender oil or whichever oil you prefer for the scent (Lavender also has relaxation qualities)
After you let it cool add to a large jar and then decant as you need to your soap dispensers. (I use old ones that I took the labels off... Reuse - Recycle !)
This green soap looked wonderful when I first made it but over the days it became stiff (impossible to pump up) so I simply dissolved it in some more hot water and we used it all up gradually) I'm not sure why this happened, I was told that palm oil has that result however though I cant recall the brand I know there was not palm oil listed on the ingredients, anyway I persevered and tried new soap... and I'm very happy with the results.
This liquid soap is our hand soap, our body wash, our shampoo (except my dyed hair) and it can be used as washing-up detergent (see below)
SHAMPOO method 1 (that my partner uses and we use for my 5 year old daughter who has long hair)
Olive Oil soap (either straight from a solid bar or in a liquid form as above)
Apply to hair by making a lather from the bar (this is a natural soap so it doesn't froth up like chemical laden manufactured shampoo) or apply some liquid soap and wash into hair as you would any other shampoo then rinse thoroughly.
Many swear by this being the best shampoo alternative ever. My partner is obviously happy; he let his hair grow long since he started using it. My hair
became dull and sticky though and looked greasy, I understand this is because the ends of my hair are dyed, which is what I use method 2 (below).
After washing I add some oil to my daughters hair when I'm drying it as a conditioner to avoid it getting knotty, I wash her hair at most every week (more frequently in the summer) and her hair looks and feels clean all the time. Even if she gets a bit sweaty I simply brush it through, natural body oils are not to be eradicated at the first instant, they are not unhealthy but over-washing can irritate and dry the skin and then creates a need for extra conditioning and then more frequent washing.
SHAMPOO method 2 (for colour treated hair and if you prefer)
Rye Flour - 1 tbsp (organic, sieved)
Tap water - enough to make a watery shampoo like consistency
Before I wash my hair I often rub some oil into my hair ends which are colour damaged (see CONDITIONER : stage 1)
You MUST mix the shampoo fresh each time before you use (or you will have created a sour dough).
Keep a container of sieved flour ready in your bathroom.
Put some water in the bottom of a small plastic water bottle, funnel the flour in and then shake up. More water can be added.
Apply this to hair and scalp and massage lightly. It will NOT froth up because it does not contain the chemicals that make shampoo, soap and toothpastes froth, these bubbles do not serve a purpose.
RINSE very thoroughly as there are often tiny bits of the flour husk left, but they do blow dry out or shake out easily when the hair is dry (avoid going on an important date wearing a black top if you haven't shaken your hair out first!)
If there is shampoo left over I use it on my body instead of soap and then thoroughly rinse out the plastic bottle so it can be reused. (A glass bottle might break in the shower)
The reason rye flour is perfect as a shampoo is explained really well here on My Healthy Green Family blog
STOP PRESS AGAIN!!
A new IMPROVED and ULTRA EASY SHAMPOO BAR
I am so happy to have found The Aware Co in Fethiye. Leyla Temiz runs the company is so very helpful and is constantly introducing new things that make sense ecologically, she stocks various products and introduced me to the amazing Shampoo Bar from Bizim İşler Datça, they have various products that I will be testing but so far I've just tried the normal & oily hair type with cold press coconut, castor, olive and jojoba oils and shea butter. As my hair is dry on the ends I still use a touch of argan oil Before I shower, then I simply wash my hair with this amazing and practical bar of shampoo soap!, I'm thrilled that its a success and am very happy to share the links with you... go... buy loads... never buy a plastic bottle of shampoo again! There are so many alternatives that are far far better and this one also makes it easy!
CONDITIONER : Stage 1 Before washing.
Oil (olive, argan or other good quality oil)
Before swimming in the sea or pool or before showering take a few drops of oil and rub it in to the dry hair ends. This protects and nourishes the hair.
CONDITIONER : Stage 2 After washing and rinsing.
I only do this occasionally as the oil method seems to work best.
Apple Cider Vinegar (I use Homemade apple scrap vinegar: see The Zero Waste Chef recipe for this) - 1tbsp
Optional essential oil for smell
Dilute the vinegar with approximately half a litre of water in a jug.
Dunk the long hair ends in then pour the whole lot over hair and rinse out.
Simply rub some more oil into your hair after towel drying and while it is still damp. The oil gives the hair definition and is absorbed, and seems to be the best way to condition hair in a natural way.
My hair is long and colour treated, since it became grey or maybe the water here but the texture has roughened up a bit so I can't tell exactly how well these methods works comparatively but I do know the usual shampoo and conditioners are not satisfactory at keeping my hair soft and frizz free. I don't blow dry or style (or even brush) my hair.
You can see that I'm a messy hair person from my photos, these were taken on an ordinary hair day having been washed 2 days previously and after a summer of over-washing and pool chemicals. (Who knew the back of my head looks like that!?) Believe it or not this is my preferred look; I simply don't care for sleek perfect hair, but I'll work at getting some more moisture into the ends. I'm sure, with perseverance these homemade methods can be adapted to suit every hair type and style.
Washing hair less often results in less consumption of products and water, it is also better for the hair. I used to feel unclean if I didn't wash mine every two days, now in the winter I wash it around every 4 days and it has more body and is less greasy ever since.
Since August when I first posted this I have started using less Apple Cider vinegar conditioner and more oil on my hair ends and this has helped with the general condition of my hair, I have also stopped dying it (makes sense seeing as I'm against unnatural products yet every month I was dumping chemicals on my head! It has taken a while to shift myself into gear on this one as very few women that I know allow themselves to go naturally grey... I'm kinda excited about the quite startlingly white patch that is emerging. I'll let you know how it turns out....) My daughter Mia's hair is amazing and I can say the olive oil soap method is perfect for her and my partner Serdar who's hair is getting longer and looks great! (Update: Mia and Serdar have also switched to the Shampoo Bar that I mention above)
Other hair washing methods that I've tried (and rejected):
--Bicarbonate of soda dried my hair out terribly.
--Whisked egg... (yes seriously) seemed decadent in terms of cost to the chickens and was kinda gross to use, also my hair felt heavy and dull.
--Lush brand solid shampoo bar. I was gifted two from the UK by my lovely sister, but I'm not a convert; we can't buy them here (in Turkey) and having them sent from afar drastically reduces the sustainability factor. Also they didn't seem to be great for my hair possibly because they contained Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which creates the frothy foam, but also dries hair and can be an irritant. (There's also some controversy regarding toxicity.)
I apply oil to my skin occasionally BEFORE I wash and this keeps my skin soft. (I use the oil after I shower if I have forgotten) I ABSTAIN from buying any face or body products.
My skin isn't great, I'm 49 years old so a few wrinkles are to be expected and I still get spots (I never entirely grew out of that!) but I find a simple wash with soap and water (and some oil to moisturise if necessary) is just as good as all the other stuff I've tried over the years. I use a tinted sun cream*3 outdoors and in the winter I have been gradually using up my supply of E45 cream which has been great for chapped and sensitive skin, but soon I'll try out a natural recipe. (In most cases it makes ecological sense to finish what you have rather than throw it away) Chapped lips are a problem in the cold windy months in our family so any ideas on that one will be appreciated!
LAUNDRY POWDER 1
Soap (Hard natural)
Optional essential oil
White vinegar as softener.
I couldn't find washing soda (which is sodium carbonate) so I made some by spreading a 2cm thick layer of bicarbonate of soda onto a baking tray and baked in oven at 220 C for an hour, (stirring twice). See here for details.
Blend or grate approximately half a bar of soap then mix with 2 cups of washing soda.
Store in a jar or air tight container. Use as you would normal powder in your washing machine.
Pour some white vinegar to the softener slot.
This powder seems to work well except on some stubborn grease splats and our whites still seem the same brightness of white. (Though I took a break from using the homemade stuff for a while so my test may not be accurate until I try using over several months without interruption) There is dispute as to whether the soap will clog the machine after a while, which is why I use less than other recipes recommend.
Soap Nuts. These I bought from The Aware Co They come all the way from Nepal (I think) so. like coconut oil and other imported things they are not my first choice, they don't get whites ultra white so I only use for the lightly soiled mixed colour or dark washes.
Confession regarding my laundry..... I use bog standard powder laundry detergent for when I'm doing Serdar's white shirts. He needs to look bright and sparkly when he is at business meetings and until the day that wearing white becomes dreadfully uncool (soon I hope) I'll stick to convention.
Lemon or (other citrus fruit) slices or peel
Bicarbonate of soda
Water to dilute
Leave the lemon slices in the vinegar for a day and then discard the lemon.
I mix the above ingredients in various measures (lots of bicarb for toilet cleaner, leave out the bicarb for window cleaner and while dusting). I have old cleaning product spray bottles that I use for my homemade products.
Note: bicarb and vinegar bubble up a lot when mixed.
I am IN LOVE with the amazing scouring pads that are a natural fiber from a kind of gourd. I bought them from The Little Pebble in the River who are amazing and lovely and sell great handmade things. These are also available at Sifir.Atik (Atiksizev) who have a great blog and loads of recipes in Turkish as well as an online store.
I have yet to try dishwasher detergent or other ways of making washing-up liquid so I buy in bulk to minimise the packaging and I buy the best possible brands for environmental impact. I tried the liquid soap recipe as a washing-up detergent but found it wasn't sufficient to clean our pots and pans, I tried a half and half mix of the two and that seemed like an adequate compromise. (UPDATE: I have new recipes for these so I'll be trying and keep you posted... subscribe to be sure you get the updates)
I have a few left over products and a half bottle of bleach in the house that I use very sparingly, but with time I hope to phase them all out. A life time of using harsh cleaning products to achieve what we perceive as necessary hygiene is a hard habit to break, but we must strive to none the less.
Here in Turkey and for Turkish I will be ordering natural fiber scouring pads (and some of their other products) I prefer to always buy locally but couldn't find these yet.
I hope that you find these recipes useful and that your hair, teeth, armpits and home all sparkle!
I'd love to hear how it goes and if you have any other ideas please share so we can thrive in our bodies, our homes and with our planet.
*1 Regarding the link to 'Say No To Palm Oil'. This is a simple explanation of palm oil impact, there are many sources of information about this subject and many recommend we simply find sustainable brands or other snacks and products that contain a different oil. I elaborate about this more here, but in short what needs to change is our consumer habit, replacing one oil for another does not solve the problem or eradicate the single use packaging disaster!
*2 Bicarbonate of soda is also called baking soda. It is not the same as baking powder. I buy mine in bulk from a spice shop straight into my own container.
*3 Sun screen creams and lotions are contentious these days as many contain ingredients that are harmful to marine life (I assume that means even when on dry land just washing our faces puts those chemicals into the water system) so they should be banned entirely!. I haven't done my homework on this yet, but in the meantime I'm trying to ensure we cover up and avoid the sun rather than just cream up.
For Turkish versions of similar plus many more recipes and Zero waste ideas see Atiksiz ev