Friday, August 26, 2011

baking soda! and other stuff

Okay, so this post will probably not be exclusively about good ol' bicarbonate of soda, but it will play a starring role.

I've been working for a very long time on gradually making more things at home that I might once have purchased ready-made. This coincided with becoming a bit quietly tree-hugger-ish/crunchy/whatever. This started when Pic was really a wee one. I was thinking about all of the things we used that might end up harming her: toilet cleaners, floor cleaners, surface cleaners, ecc.

A while after that, I also started thinking about the items that I use that might have a negative impact on my body and on the earth.

I started out very simply by stopping use of disposable cleaners (those toilet bowl scrubbers or whatever they were, disinfectant wipes, so on), plug-in air fresheners (we went through a weird phase of being somewhat obsessed with these...why?) and fabric softener sheets.

I switched from bottled window cleaners and surface cleaners to white vinegar and water solutions. Much later, I began adding baking soda in as a scrubbing agent. I switched us to "green" laundry detergent and dish detergent. I bought us some reusable bags (which I still forget to bring sometimes) and reusable water bottles. I started collecting canning jars and then buying glass storage containers for our food storage needs.

More recently, I've focused more on myself. 2009 seemed to be a year of change for me. I stopped using shampoo and I started using cloth pads. As for shampoo, I started using shampoo bars. In May of that year, I tried to go the no 'poo route (please note the placement of my apostrophe). The article I read indicated that it might take anywhere between two and eight weeks to adjust to that. I waited five before I got really tired of my hair being constantly greasy and gross and switched back to shampoo bars. At some point, I stopped worrying about buying specifically-marked shampoo bars and started using whatever bar of soap looked good to me.

I restarted my no 'poo affair in May of this year. I have a much better (for me) system now. I use one of Pic's old shampoo bottles (I still use Burt's Bees baby shampoo/body wash for her...when she deigns to bathe herself). I put some baking soda (really, this is how I measure...if I had to guess, I'd say I use about a tablespoon, maybe a bit more because I have a big head) in the bottle and then add warm water when I get in the shower (I don't enjoy mixing it beforehand and having it waiting because then it's too cold). I shake up the bottle, turn off the water and squirt the solution over my scalp. I rub the solution onto my head for a good while and let it sit until I'm finished washing and rinsing the rest of my body. After my shower, and after I get the excess water out of my hair, I spray an apple cider vinegar and water mixture onto my head in nice big puffs. (I tried using straight apple cider vinegar, but I'm pretty sure that ruined two spray bottles. Either that, or I bought really cheap bottles. Now, I use about two parts vinegar to one part water.) Then, I comb my hair and think about doing something with it. And, seriously, for the first time I can remember, I can wait a day (or maybe even two!) before I wash my hair again. This, coming from a person who used to sometimes use industrial cleaner on my hair. (Oy with the poodles. I really do try to block that out.) This, coming from a person who used to wash her hair twice a day because it was so greasy.

As for my cloth pads: I love them. I know the very idea freaks some people out, but, well, obviously not me. I bought twelve pads from an etsy shop two years ago and have been very happy with them ever since. I would like to have some cloth pantyliners also, but I keep telling myself I'll learn to sew and I'll make those myself. Recently, I bought a Diva Cup. I was very nervous about using it, but it worked for me. Seriously, though, for either of these, you have to not be squeamish about what your own body produces (and then rejects when it realizes there's nothing growing in your uterus). (Oh, and there're instructions for "women's cloth" in Handmade Home if you're interested in making your own.)

Last May, I also started using baking soda to wash my face. I keep a little jar of it in the shower and a jar of it on my bathroom counter. I just pour a little in my hand and add a teeny bit of water to form a paste and scrub that on. About a year ago, I started using witch hazel as an astringent, thanks to the recommendation of some friends. Recently, I started trying to use coconut oil on my face also, but I'm still undecided on whether that is doing any good. And, I can't use it during the day because, although it supposedly is absorbed into your skin in fifteen minutes, my skin refuses to absorb it in anything less than four thousand hours (or something).

This May, I also finally got around to making my own deodorant. I stopped using antiperspirant a little more than three years ago because I got all paranoid about its ingredients. I was mainly using Tom's of Maine's deodorant, sometimes Trader Joe's. However, with both, I still had to carry deodorant around with me because I was seriously stinky. The homemade deodorant? I freaking love. So much. Definitely. It is not antiperspirant, but I'm already used to my sweat. But, oh. my. gracious. I don't smell. The first few days I used the deodorant, I kept sniffing my underarms, constantly reminding myself of Otto.

A couple of notes on this deodorant: while I didn't smell unpleasant, I did smell chocolately; it's weird to smell chocolately from my underarms. Here's a big duh statement: have a short jar or container handy. I didn't have one the first time I made this and ended up putting it in a jar that was too tall for me to easily get to my deodorant. Pain in my butt. Cardo made his first deodorant recently and he poured the liquid into his old deodorant container and that's worked for him. I use two little jars now. I divide the liquid into the jars and keep one in the bathroom and one in the refrigerator until I need it. (My deodorant has tangerine essential oil and Cardo's has lavender essential oil.)

The deodorant has baking soda, among five other ingredients.

I also make our laundry detergent. It's been something close to two years since I started that. I am happy with the results. I would like, however, to make a small amount of liquid detergent for when I handwash (which, um, I kind of never get around to). I also occasionally make air freshener. I just started doing that because we already have the essential oils for the deodorant. I pour a bit of baking soda on a saucer and add a few drops of whichever essential oil (the lavender is stronger).

I also use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning just about everything in our home: toilets, counters, the oven. I occasionally get around to using vinegar as a fabric softener, but I can almost never remember to add it to the rinse cycle. I use vinegar and water to clean mirrors and the non-carpeted floors. Oh, I have also used baking soda on the carpet if it smells (sprinkle on before vacuuming).

So, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned baking soda about a lot of times here. (Oh, yeah, I've also used baking soda paste to soothe sunburn. And, I've used it to brush my teeth, although it tastes awful and I'm still not sure if I need fluoride so I haven't yet moved to making my own toothpaste.) So, yes, when Cardo asks if I really need that much baking soda, I do. I even use it to bake once in a while.

All of this seems like a lot, but really, I started making these changes almost seven years ago. I'm all about gradual change, letting myself ease into new things. And, there's so much more I'd like to do, so much more I'd like to make here and so many different ways I'd like to use less new and/or disposable stuff.

In my dreams, I cook and bake much more and I make our clothes (sometimes out of the clothes and other materials we already have on hand). Maybe I'll work on that over the next seven years.


A couple of notes: I have been meaning to post on some of this for quite some time, so I crammed it all here in one post because otherwise I'll never get to it. But, geez, this post is long and took me forever to slog through. Also, can you tell who does most of the cleaning around here? At some point, I hope to be able to replace a lot of those "I"s with "we"s.


Anonymous said...

There are two things on there I don't think I could ever do: the cloth pads and the no-shampoo thing. I tried a... not a Diva Cup, but a sister of it, when they first came out (AGES ago), but I didn't like it. As for the cloth pads, not to be gross or anything, but what in the world do you do when you are out and about? Keep the dirty one(s) in your bag? As for the shampoo thing, my hair is too unruly as it is.

How do you make deodorant? I'd be interested in that.

v said...

Cloth pads: yes, I have to bring a bag with me. I'm pretty much a homebody, so this has rarely been an issue. (I don't carry a purse, so I don't mean that I just let it hang out in my purse. Various people make what I think they call wet bags (that might only refer to bags for cloth diapers?) but I use a small ziploc. I hope to eventually not. I always soak the pads as soon as is possible and I sometimes use vinegar water.)

No 'poo: Yeah, I know what you mean. I have funky hair. Rather, I think, I have funky, greasy skin that leads to funky hair. (I know this isn't what you mean by your hair being unruly, but it's the issue I have.) As I said, my first no 'poo experience totally sucked and I was ready to never try it again. Both times, I waited until there was a good chunk of time I didn't have to look necessarily presentable. I just got lucky the second time figuring out a system that works for me.

Oh, the deodorant. I got the recipe from Angry Chicken. Link: (It seems weird to say recipe.) The ingredients were easy for me to get ahold of if I didn't already have them. So far, I love it. I've been using it for three months. Cardo likes his too, but has only been using it for a few weeks.

v said...

Another deodorant note: We don't have a microwave, so I use a metal bowl (that I do not use for food) over a pan of water...a double-boiler situation for melting the ingredients. It's still super quick.

kate said...

Oh geez, now I have a whole new list of things I want to try. I really am very interested in this "no 'poo" thing but I'm terrified to try it. Looking through the link that you posted (and then linking to what she linked) it seems that hard water could potentially be a problem. I have VERY hard water. Hmmm, I'll have to think more about this.