Health

The feeling that comes with knowing your laundry, kitchen, and bathroom are clean is something like intense joy. We often judge this cleanliness by what we smell: the smell of disinfectant. Bleach. Soap. Strangely tropical flowery fragrances that would never actually be in our apartments naturally.

What these smells actually tell us, though, is that we have replaced dirt and germs with chemicals and artificial substances. Replacing bacteria with these agents is sort of like replacing a stomachache with a headache – the unpleasantness is still there, just in a different form. We clean our little living spaces with chemicals that are unsafe to even inhale. What is up with that?

I’m not dissing our love of freshly cleaned chemical smell. I love it, too. I am saying, though, that there are some natural cleaning agents that actually get the job done better, and much more safely, than the commercial products to which we’ve become so accustomed.

Below are five natural cleaning products to replace commercial cleaners:

Task: laundry
Natural solution: soap nuts

I’m sorry, what? Soap nuts? That’s the reaction I often get to this.

Soap nuts, native to India and Nepal, are these little round berry things that grow on trees and do a fantastic cleaning job by releasing natural saponins to free dirt, oils, and stains from clothing. They are unscented and wonderful for those of us with sensitive skin and allergies. In fact, they’re used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

Not only that, but they clean incredibly well. I spilled red curry all over a new white shirt. In a moment of pure stupidity, I didn’t wash the shirt right away, leaving it to bask in all its curry-stained glory for two days. I felt defeated when I finally put it in the wash. To my surprise, it looked good as new after I took it out.

What you do is place around five soapnuts in a reusable muslin bag (which typically comes with the order) and place them in the washing machine. It’s not unsafe to put them in the dryer, but I prefer not to do that. The soap nuts can be reused for about five washes.

The best part? Soap nuts are completely non-toxic and can be composted when done, and they are pretty darn inexpensive. I love them, and order mine here, although Amazon and plenty of great retailers also carry them.

Task: dishes (in the dishwasher)
Natural solution: white vinegar

I know, I know. It sounds strange. But, if you want your dishes to actually be stain free and deep-cleaned, I’m telling you, this is how. Just put white vinegar in the dish soap slot and run the dishwasher. That’s it. They will be sparkling when they’re done, and the vinegar smell isn’t apparent when used in the dishwasher.

Task: quickly remove a stain from clothing or carpet
Natural solution: Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and water

I can’t tell you if it’s ok to use on fabrics that require dry cleaning – I’m going to assume it’s not. I can tell you that last time I spilled hot sauce down my cotton shirt (I’m messy, ok?) I put water and a little dab of Dr. Bronner’s almond castile soap on a tissue and wiped away the stain. It went away completely after wiping for around 20 seconds each with three damp/soapy tissues. It probably would have been quicker had I used a washcloth, but that would have made too much sense.

Castile soap is good to have around the house, too, as it has many uses, including washing dishes in the sink, as an ingredient in natural body washes and shampoos, and to hand wash delicate fabrics.

Task: maintain shower cleanliness
Natural solution: apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great everyday shower cleaning spray. I also like to add a few drops of lavender oil to remove the vinegar smell. You can use this as a quick toilet bowl cleaner, too, by spraying and letting it sit, or using a toilet brush. Add coconut oil, too, and lemon or lime juice for an extra cleaning kick.

Task: use an all-purpose cleaner in the bathroom and/or kitchen
Natural solution: coconut oil

Coconut oil is magical and life-changing. It has hundreds of fantastic uses, and it’s incredibly gentle and safe on skin. In fact, I use it as a face wash and body moisturizer every day. Aside from its gentleness, its cleansing properties are incredible.

Dampen a rag or sponge with coconut oil – it can be in liquid or soft form – and wipe down any surface that needs cleaning. The dirt will come right off; it’s amazing to watch.

Pretty amazing, and a little strange, that we can safely and naturally wash our faces with the same product we use to clean our showers, floors and countertops.

I hope these cleaning products help you replace the dangerous, nasty chemicals currently under your kitchen and bathroom sinks! I swear by each of them and have found success using them to keep my apartment clean. They’re great for dorms, too, because we all know those little rooms can get dirty. Happy cleaning!

Do you use any natural ingredients in cleaners? Share below!

Image: Umberto Salvignan

Health

There are many methods to avoiding the harmful chemicals found in commercial shampoos. Many people do the no-poo method, and others go for the clay washes. Since I hold a 9-6pm corporate job, I’m not in the position to experience the two-week no-poo transition phase, in which my hair would be a massive grease ball. Plus, after some research, I realized clay would be a no-go because it’s just difficult to find all the ingredients.

So, I went with plan C, which was… figure out what other random things can clean hair and make a concoction.

Luckily, I found some great information and recipes using ingredients ranging from coconut milk to castor oil to honey. Very interesting.

I decided to do a little remix to a recipe I found on Wellness Mama’s blog, using some ingredients I already owned:

1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup Dr. Bronner’s almond scented liquid castile soap
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp coconut oil
6-8 drops lavender oil

Shake and enjoy! Because of the coconut milk, this will last for about a month, which is why making small quantities at a time is key. One thing I’ve found is that the shampoo is a very thin consistency, but all it takes is about a teaspoon. Once that small amount is on my hair and I start lathering, it gets foamy and covers my whole head.

This is a great natural alternative for those who love the foaming aspect of shampoos (most shampoos foam because of chemical agents). The clay method doesn’t foam, and neither do many other recipes.

This shampoo works really well for me. I underwent a short transition period during which my hair was ridding itself of the chemicals other shampoos had built up, but it was only noticeable to me when I felt my hair. It didn’t look strange or dirty; it just felt a less soft than usual.

Some people experience no transition, others experience a more noticeable one if their hair has seen a ton of product. Once the transition ends, though, your hair will be shiny, soft and all-natural!

Ever washed your hair with uncommon ingredients, or done the no-poo method? Share it in the comments section!

P.S. Check out my DIY Natural Body Wash and DIY Natural Face Wash recipes.

HealthSkills

Last week I shared my natural face wash recipe. This week, I’m sharing my body wash recipe, which also includes several essential oils.

If you haven’t read my last article, you may be wondering why on this green earth I would use oil to wash my face and body. To sum it up in a nutshell, most of our facial and body cleansers contain harsh, even dangerous, chemicals, including industrial cleaning agents and ingredients in antifreeze. To top it off, many natural and essential oils contain antibacterial and cleansing properties.

It sort of blew my mind and got me freaking out about what I’d been putting on my skin all these years. So, I did some research on natural stuff, and now here I am, with some chemical-free and deliciously scented face and body washes that I made myself. They work wonders.

So here’s the recipe, which includes the incredible and inexpensive coconut oil that comprises the majority of my face wash. As with the face wash recipes, the possibilities are endless here. Essential oils and castile soaps do wonderful cleaning jobs, they’re not harsh on the skin and they don’t send chemicals down the drain into our water.

The Recipe

1 cup castile soap – inexpensive, health foods stores
3 drops rose oil – pricey, health foods stores
3 tsp coconut oil – inexpensive, grocery or health foods stores
5 drops lavender oil – somewhat pricey, health foods stores

Note: while some of the oils I use are pricey (close to $20 for a small jar), they last a long time. Most recipes call for only a few drops of each, as a little goes a long way. Plus, the oils can be used for all kinds of health purposes. They’re a good investment.

Soap-wise, I chose Dr. Bronner’s organic almond liquid castile soap. It smells de-lish but not too strong. Like I did for my face wash, I used a mason jar, but feel free to use any type of bottle or container.

Be sure to shake it up before use, every time! Otherwise, the oils will sit on top and not mix in with the soap.

Other than that, just put it on a washcloth and use it the way you’d use regular body wash! Scrub and rinse.

For extra moisturizing and cleansing, you can rub coconut or another type of essential oil on your skin when finished. I’d recommend coconut oil just because it’s so much cheaper than your typical essential oils, plus it smells awesome and works wonders. You can wipe it off or leave a light layer if it’s comfortable for you, although leaving it on all day feels a little weird in my opinion.

I hope you find my recipe beneficial, but feel free to find the scents that work best for you! Research can let you know the best ingredients for dry skin, oily skin, and normal skin.

Anyone have other recipes for natural body washes? Share below!

Image: Annouk, Flickr