Natural Green Soap Colorants: part 2

Last year I tested six natural green colorants in cold process soap – you can read about it here – and no sooner had I completed the experiment than I thought of all the other natural green colorants I could have tested. I decided almost immediately to make a second experiment… and it only took me another year to do it 😉 but here it is! In this experiment I will test six more natural green colorants or additives in cold process soap: liquid chlorophyll, comfrey leaf powder, cold pressed hemp seed oil, neem leaf powder, nettle leaf powder, and sea weed extract/powder.

Parameters

After my first experiment, I realized that there were variables that left some questions unanswered. So I did three things differently this time:

  1. A control: I left some of the batter uncolored. In the first experiment the green clay was so pale it was difficult to see any color effect at all. Since I knew my soap recipe yielded a white soap, I could confirm that the clay did effect the color of my soap, if only slightly. But I couldn’t prove or show you this because I didn’t leave any of the batch uncolored. This time the control will make the effects of the colorants obvious.
  2. Gelling: this can have a big effect on your soap colorants and this was something I was left wondering about last time. So this time I decided to split each colorant into two separate molds, oven process one of them and leave the other one out, uncovered, at room temperature.
  3. Weight and equalizing each batch: Last time I measured my dissolving oil out by volume, and this time I did it by weight. Since I was also using hemp seed as an actual colorant, I needed to even that out to make sure that each test got the same amount of extra oil. I decided to add 5 grams of extra oil to each test, including the chlorophyll which is a water based liquid, essentially mixing the oil and the liquid chlorophyll.

The Additives

After my last experiment I received several suggestions for other green colorants to try: alfalfa, avocado, cucumber juice, chlorophyll, and other powdered botanicals. While I was game to try anything, I left some out because either I couldn’t find them, or because it would have been too difficult to test in such a small quantity, and to compare to the other additives. I really wanted to try avocado purée but there was no way I could have done it on such a small scale and account for the added volume and unknown amount of water.

Here are a few details on each of the additives I ended up choosing. Natural-green-colorants-test-F-and-P (7)Top to bottom, from left to right:

  1. Chlorophyll, liquid. Trophic Chlorophyll (Super Concentrate) extracted from Mulberry leaves in a distilled water base. I used a quarter of a tea spoon and it wasn’t enough to even register as a gram on my scale, which is why I didn’t bother adding the same amount of water to the other colorants. 
  2. Comfrey leaf powder. Hand harvested, dried and powdered a month prior to the experiment.
  3. Hemp seed oil: Manitoba Harvest brand, cold pressed organic. The hemp oil was the palest of the colorants, and I was glad to have the control to show that while it is pale, hemp oil can color your soap.
  4. Neem powder. Purchased at a health food/ethnic grocery store. Used typically in hair care. Dull greyish green color, but the fine powder is always nice if you want a less speckled look.
  5. Nettle leaf powder. Hand harvested, dried and powdered a month prior to the experiment. I choose nettle because it contains a lot of chlorophyll.
  6. Sea weed extract. Cosmetic extract made for skin and hair care applications that I purchased at a soap supply store. I guess it is basically powdered seaweed.

I started by weighing out the additives at a gram each. I came to this weight by starting at the most common ratio for any colorant, 1tsp / LB of soap, which is about 0.7 grams of botanicals, and then rounding up to 1 gram, my scale’s smallest unit. I added 5 grams of extra virgin olive oil to each colorant, except the hemp oil. I used the hemp oil as a colorant, adding it in at 6 grams, to replace the olive oil and 1 gram of powdered additive.

The Soap

For the soap recipe, I used the same bastille recipe I had used the first time around, but increased the batch size to account for the control and the oven processed control. The recipe is a basic bastille soap with olive oil, coconut oil and castor oil. Lye concentration at 38%. Superfat at 4%, and with the added 5 grams of oil in each colorant this gets bumped up to a 7% superfat.

I mixed the soap to emulsion them poured out a predetermined amount for each color  and mixed in the green colorants and oil. Then I poured half of the colored batter into a 6 cavity muffin mold – destined for the 170 F oven – and the other half into a crimped cupcake mold destined to sit uncovered in a cool room. The smooth soaps were left in the warmed oven for 4 hours, to try and force gel (although, to be honest, not sure they did gel) and the crimped cupcake soaps were left uncovered on a tray in a cool room. I unmolded two days later, and here are the results!

Results

This time I made more of an effort to take good pictures of the soaps at different times in the cure. Et voilà!

Freshly unmolded:

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Not bad at the unmold! My biggest surprise was the lack of difference between the oven batch and the room temp batch. The only one that is obviously different is the hemp seed oil, and it seems the cooler the soap, the more obvious the color. I guess it makes sense since it is cold pressed oil, perhaps heating destroys something in it.

Ok now, at two weeks, here also with the control peeking in on the right.

2 week cure:

natural-green-soap-colorants-2wk-cure-Flora&Pomona

I find that at the two week mark you can really see that the oven processed soaps are yellowing and browning faster. Kind of like leaves in the autumn.

6 week cure:

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Not bad at full cure. Some blotches (soap from other tests) have appeared on the soaps, and that means I should wipe my spatulas better 😉

Normally, this is where most colorant tests end – at the 6 week cure. At this point most soaps are not only fully saponified but fully cured. If the color stays until the six week mark this is considered a good colorant, and in fact, this is where I was going to publish my results. But as life should have it, that didn’t happen and another 12 weeks passed before I sat down to write this. And I’m glad it happened that way, because here is a pic of the soaps 5 months into the cure…

20 week cure:

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Thoughts on the Results:

My feeling is that natural greens are particularly difficult because as we know, leaves brown easily. They get brown and yellow at the onset of cold weather, when they are picked, when they are cooked or otherwise broken down. And this explains also why the oven processed soaps yellowed faster. From the beginning and throughout the process chlorohyll was the most impressive colorant. It packs a real punch with the clear bright ocean green, but as you can see, it ages the least well. The chlorophyll is extracted so it’s not bound by leafy cell walls, which explains both why it is greener at first and then fades quicker. I also noted that the chlorophyll resembled the spirulina and chlorella I used in my first experiment, and that’s because sea weeds contain high amounts of chlorophyll.

I believe the reason the nettle and comfrey have held up the best is because they were 1) fresher and 2) more intact – ground in a coffee grinder – meaning the chlorophyll is still bound in the cell walls. The more you break botanicals up, the faster the cell walls will break down in a challenging environment: like alkaline soap, a hot stew, an infusion, or a tincture. So, if you can stand the speckled look, grinding your botanicals yourself might be the way to go. Although, these too will end up yellowed and faded too. The reason the neem has stayed the same color is probably because it already did its yellowing on the store shelf. When I bought it it was already yellowish brown. But I bet fresh neem leaves are green too.

As for the hemp oil, I really should have used more of it to know for sure. But I do believe that hemp would be no different than any other leafy botanical. Unless the green color comes from something other than chlorophyll.

Conclusions:

I realized a while ago, that the only botanicals that seem to really hold true and stay fast, are roots or botanical extracts, like indigo. Extracts make sense, because they are no longer tied to/in the cellulose of the plant. But does anyone know why this is for the roots – alkanet root, tumeric root, madder root? I have a feeling it’s because chlorophyll is kind of the problem, because its purpose is to be reactive to sunlight.

I now feel that I don’t need to test any more green colorants. But if you have any other ideas for other natural colorants I could try, let me know! And please share any comments, suggestions or questions you might have on the subject. Let me know if you want close ups of the different soaps, I could add those in after if you want. Thank you so much for stopping by 😀

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2017 Soapy Updates, plus a note on Naked Soap

Happy April! I wanted to share what’s been going on over at Flora & Pomona. So far 2017 has been a productive year, albeit with a slow pace (I am a stay at home mom to a toddler after all). Most of my energy I put into production, because that’s my passion, but also because I am trying to build enough of an inventory to officially launch an Etsy shop. Having an online outlet is going to be a big step for me and I decided on Etsy after visiting an Etsy MTL event two summers ago. I expect that I will have five listings to open with within the month! On May 20th I will be participating in the artisan market Marché créatif de la Paroisse in the St-Édouard church on 425 Beaubien.

This soaping season I decided to cut my bars a bit thicker so that they use up more evenly. I also started beveling the edges on my bars: this makes the soap more comfortable to use, at least until the edges wear down from use.

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Rose Water & Coconut Milk Soap – with beveled edges and a thicker cut

I have had lots of fun using ingredients from local producers this year too – like making Oat Stout Beer Soap using beer from a local Quebec brewery, and Mocha Latte Soap using fairtrade coffee beans from a Quebec roaster.

I have also decided to make larger bar versions of the puck shaped Wool Wash soap that come on a hemp rope.

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Flora & Pomona’s Wool Wash Soap with Lanolin : larger bar version

This year I renewed my determination to make high quality natural soap, but with an added focus on what I call naked soap. By naked I mean soap that is not “dressed up” with colorants and fragrances but that smells and looks like what it is made of. A soap made with shea butter will smell very different from a soap made with cocoa butter, and a soap made with goats milk will smell and look differently from a soap made with distilled water. Instead of using synthetic colorants, which I rarely did anyway, I use herbs, clays, resins and infused oils.

Despite of common wisdom that the best and most economical thing for a small batch soap maker can do is to find a recipe and stick to it, varying only your fragrances and colorants, I have never had a standard formula. I have developed a preference for certain ratios, but this is not the same. Each soap I make is made for a specific purpose and I formulate my soaps according to the qualities I’m looking for. But back to the naked soap.

My initial motivation for making unscented and colorant free soaps was because I found a retail outlet in a children’s clothing store in my neighborhood. Once I started making these soaps it all just made sense. Of course I have a baby myself, but I also suffer from psoriasis and generally sensitive skin. For babies, children and people with skin issues, less is always more. I also discovered that my soaps actually smelled good – all by themselves.

Last year during a market a man walked up to my stall and asked me: “do you have any soaps that will leave a good smell on my skin”. I thought about it for a while, then said “no.” I have never used fragrance oils but I did have soaps scented with essential oils. But none of them would have scented your skin. I guess I could have given him some kind of sales pitch, but I just knew that I didn’t have what he was looking for. There are lots of soap makers who make soaps that will perfume you, but I’m not one of them. And when I use essential oils, I use them because I think they have purpose to serve, and never in such a quantity that they’ll double as perfume. So hopefully even after you use one of my soaps, even those scented with an essential oil blend, when you step out of the shower, you too will smell like what you are – yourself, naked and clean.

Some examples of Naked Soap 😀

How to Make your own Hot-Sauce

Harvest time is almost over here in Canada. The farmers markets are announcing the end of the season, and some have already packed up. Maybe they are selling their last heads of garlic, boxes of lunchbox peppers, and maybe if you are lucky, a whole bag of red hot peppers for $1.50. Or maybe you grew your own and some of them are slowly drying on your windowsill? Whichever way you find yourself sitting on a bunch of hot peppers, and whichever stage of of freshness they are in, Halloween weekend is the perfect time to make and enjoy your own hot-sauce!

You can make hot-sauce with fresh or dried peppers. You can use half-dried half-fresh peppers. You can use almost decomposing peppers. You can also mix in onions, sweet peppers, and even sweet fruits in your hot-sauce – like mango, papaya, and banana! The options are endless. Here is what I did with my bag of hot peppers 😀

Recipe:

  • 2 Cups of Vegetable Matter. You can use only hot peppers, or fill the 2 cups to your taste by adding a bit of veg. I used:

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  • ~ 1 ½ cup of fresh, red hot peppers, a couple of lunchbox peppers, seeded and diced. If you want your sauce HOT then leave the seeds. You can use dried peppers as well, but don’t pack them down too much when you measure.
  • ~ ½ cup of mixed veg: cherry tomatoes and half a red pepper, diced. You can also add some diced onion
  • 1 Tsp of diced garlic
  • 1 Tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Pepper to taste ~ ½ – 1 tsp
  • ½ cup spring or distilled water (it lasts longer if you don’t use tap water)
  • ½ cup white vinegar

Instructions:

  • Put your diced peppers and vegetables in a sauce pan and add the waterSAM_0449
  • Bring to a simmer, and let simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Let cool, then add the pepper, salt, sugar, and diced garlic and then blend in a blender or using a hand blender. Pulse until it looks like sauce.
  • At this point, you choose whether you want a hot sauce like Tabasco or something a bit thicker. If you want a smooth sauce, just strain the mixture through a sieve, using a spatula or spoon to pass the mixture through. Discard the rough stuff after.  If you want a thicker sauce, you can add the vinegar right after blending, without straining.SAM_0453
  • Add the vinegar and stir until fully mixed.
  • Now, you taste the sauce, perhaps using a chip 😉 And if you find it lacking in salt or pepper, or vinegar, you season to taste. I think I added a bit more salt, and a few spoons more of vinegar.
  • Pour the sauce into a couple of sterilized (boiled and dried) bottles. Or if will use it within a week or so, just put it in a mason jar or something 😀SAM_0459
  • My sauce turned out quite mild, because I didn’t include the seeds, and I filled out with tomatoes and sweet pepper. But it was certainly very very delicious, and perfect addition to fried rice, or breakfast eggs. Enjoy!

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How to Make Galen’s Cold Cream

Two things have changed since my first three attempts at making lotion: I attended a workshop on making lotions and I bought a hand-blender. I am not sure which made the most difference but I have a feeling they were both important. After using an eggbeater to try to make lotion and ending up with a kind of waxy froth cream (I pretended it was lotion and it kind of was, until it separated), and using a plain ol’ whisk to make cream and ending up with a thick, white paste (which was actually, very amazing. Just not creamy…) I finally signed up for a workshop and went to the library and got a bunch of books. There was one recipe in all of these texts, including the workshop handout: Galen’s Cold Cream. In French, it’s called Cerat Galien.

I have written a bit about my adventures in making lotion already, so rather than go over all of those recipes, I would like to go back to basics and tell you about Galen’s Cold Cream. Galen was a Greek physicist who invented a recipe for a cream using rosewater, olive oil and beeswax. After application, the rosewater in the cream evaporates leaving the skin feeling cool. Hence the name Cold Cream! I remember as a teen reading American novels in which all these ladies were covering their faces in cold cream at night and I didn’t have a clue what it was. I thought it was some kind of grease mask. Which it kind of is, I guess. Mostly, it is used as a cleanser at night, or simply, as a night cream, as it is pretty heavy. Or, as I recently discovered, as Body Butter. Honestly, it is just as luscious and creamy as any body butter you might buy for $20. Just look at it!

Galen's Cold Cream

Galen’s Cold Cream

Ok, so you can probably tell, it’s back to basics for me because this time I actually managed to make a cream. What I learnt is that the most important thing is to get a hand blender, a good simple recipe to start, and finally, to not be afraid. The cream can take a lot of beating. Literally. If you are using beeswax or a GMS/stearic acid type of wax, then you have to blend it good and long or else it will separate. Also, don’t be afraid of Borax, or sodium borate: it is a completely natural and non-toxic substance. When using beeswax it is a co-emulsifier and helps the wax bind water and oil, and also to keep them bound. The original recipe does not call for borax, but then you may have to re-blend it at some point.

Ok, without too much ado, here is the original recipe for Galen’s Cold Cream (they are all the same, but these measurements came from Janice Cox’s book “Natural Beauty from the Garden”) with notes on alternatives.

Ingredients and Measurements:

  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil          – or almond oil. I used half lavender-infused almond-oil, and the other half grapeseed oil.
  • 1/4 cup Rosewater      – you can also use distilled water, if you want something less floral.
  • 2 tbsp Beeswax            – if you don’t have it in pellets, it helps to grate it. Do not substitute for other waxes
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon borax. I recommend this if you have it.

Instructions:

  • In a double-boiler, melt the beeswax in the oil. Heat slowly until the wax is fully melted in with the oil. Here my beeswax is almost melted:SAM_0662
  • In another double-boiler, mix the floral water with the borax and heat until the borax is fully melted and at the same temperature as the oil.

When working with beeswax it is important that both the water solution and the oil solution be really hot, since beeswax has a high melting point and a fusion point of 63C. Apparently, you can do this without a thermometer by judging that both be very hot but not boiling, and most importantly, the same temperature. If you do have a thermometer, you can make sure that they are both around 60 C (140F). According to the workshop I took, the water should be at 55 Celsius (131F) and the oil at 65 Celsius (149F). But I think that the most important part is that both solutions should be hot, and at the same temperature. Personally, I have had some trouble getting my temperatures above 60 C, so I stopped there.

  • Once the solutions are at the same temperature, or 55-65, then slowly pour the water into the oil, or the other way around. It doesn’t matter which one you pour, as long as you pour slowly, and whisk/blend while you pour. Alternatively, you can also pour the water into a blender and then turn the blender on low and slowly drizzle the oil into the vortex. I started by pouring the water into the oil while blending with a milk frother (a little battery operated whisk). When all the water had been incorporated, I switched to my handblender and buzzed for 20-30 seconds until it looked like this:
Freshly blended cold cream

Freshly blended cold cream

Then I stirred in my GSE and poured it into an old body butter jar, and tried tapping out the air bubbles. Voila! SAM_0668It set really nicely, and was luscious right from the start. It settled and got a bit harder over night, but it spreads just like a Bodyshop body butter.

The cream the day after,  being stirred with my stirring stick, and with a sunflower petal on it :)

The cream the day after, being stirred with my stirring stick, and with a sunflower petal on it 🙂

Because I used an infused oil, rather than an essential oil, it smells like fresh lavender and faintly of rosewater. It is the best cream ever! I use it as a night cream, and as a body butter. My daytime face cream is another cream I made with less oil, and an addition of e-wax. But that recipe is for another post 😀

Easy and Delicious: Apple Crumble

Happy Autumnal Equinox! Yesterday we officially entered autumn: the leaves have started to turn and harvest is in full swing. In other words, it’s the perfect time to make apple crumble!! Last weekend my boyfriend and I went out to orchard country, south of Montreal to a region called the Monteregie, where we stayed at a 200-year old orchard inn at the foothill of Mont Saint Hilaire. SAM_9847It was a beautiful getaway, and we came back with the most deliciously sweet Galas. One of my most favourite things to make with apples is crumble. It is simple, quick and always amazing. It also keeps really well in the freezer, and is easy to defrost in the oven.

Making a crumble crust only really requires 3 ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter. With those 3 ingredients you can make a whole slew of crumble varieties: delicate sandy crumbles, caramel-y crumble, spiced crumble, gluten-free crumble. My personal favourite is a crunchy oat crust. Here is a fool-proof recipe I have used for years that is sure to impress, but that you can whip up in ten minutes.

This recipe is enough for two eight inch pans of crumble. You can use apples, pears (or a mix of both as I did here), rhubarb (always sugar the ‘barb first though), blueberries, strawberries, cherries etc. etc. Mixing berries is always good.

The Crumble:

  • 3/4 Cup oats. Try to use old fashioned oats, not quick oats.
  • 3/4 Cup flour. You can use gluten-free flour. Ideally use unbleached flour.
  • 1 Cup brown sugar. This seems like a lot of sugar, but it is what makes the crumble a crunchy shell.
  • 1/2 Cup cold butter, cut into cubes. If you are using un-salted butter, add 1 Tsp salt as well.
  • Cinnamon to taste. About 1/2-1 Tsp.SAM_0030 - Copy

Mix the dry ingredients quickly before adding the cubed butter and then work with your pastry blender or by scissoring two knives, like this:SAM_0032 - Copyuntil the butter is well integrated and pea-sized crumbs appear, about 5-10 minutes. Don’t worry if it appears a bit dry, moisture from the fruit and butter will mix through the crumble and the sugar will caramelize. Put the crumble into the fridge while you prepare your filling.

The Filling:

You will need 3-4  apples and/or pears for each pan, depending on how thick you want your filling. If you are using organic fruits, you can keep the skins on. SAM_0028 - Copy

Core and slice your fruit thinly, toss directly in the pan with a bit of sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

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Pour the crumble over the fruit, and spread it loosely over your filling. Don’t pack it down.

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Bake for 30 min at 350 F (180 C), preheated of course. If you don’t have a convection oven, put the broil on for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.SAM_0042 - Copy

Don’t feel bad if you end up eating the whole pie 😉

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Cleaning Green: How to make your own Natural Cleaning Products

For the past month or so I have been on a crazy DIY bender, discovering and making my own cleaning products. This post is a weeks in the making: as I have been reading, mixing and cleaning, I have added more and more recipes and notes. My hope is to make a master list of of how you can replace store-bought, commercial and often toxic cleaning products by making your own green, truly clean cleaning products, using things you may already have in your pantry!

Here is a pic of the products I used to create all of the products below:

L to R: Borax, Salt, Baking Soda, Vinegar, Distilled Water, Alcohol, Almond Oil, Soap

L to R: Borax, Salt, Baking Soda, Vinegar, Distilled Water, Alcohol, Almond Oil, Soap

Essential oils. For cleaning purposes, the most important is tea tree oil.

Essential oils. For cleaning purposes, the most important is tea tree oil.

While some people are cleaning junkies, using specific products for specific tasks, others may like things a bit more… au naturel. I fall into the latter category. Either way, whenever we clean, we usually feel that we are making our environment and home safer by cleaning it. Although most people these days are aware of the dangers of toxic chemicals lurking in domestic cleaning products, it may be hard to give up certain products that seem relatively benign, like Windex or laundry detergent (even if it’s just because we have been around them all our lives). Perhaps we feel that some things can be excused because we don’t use them that often, like bleach. Still, I believe that almost everyone can appreciate saving their cash, and minimizing their impact on nature. I do think that most people, if presented with safe, ecological alternatives to industrial cleaning products, that won’t cost them an arm and a leg, they will choose it. We all drink the water, after all. So, with too much ado, here is a list of the most common household cleaning products and how you can whip them up at home. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below 😀

Air Fresheners:

Nothing gets my goat as much as Febreze and Lysol commercials: smiling Stepford wives spraying their entire, already clean homes (including their children’s rooms and clothes!) with pastel colored bottles of toxic gunk as if adding chemicals to the air will make it cleaner. When I first moved to North America I didn’t know what Febreze was, and the idea of spraying my things to clean them seemed oxymoronic. I can remember my boyfriend at the time explaining “you spray it on your shoes and stuff” and me holding a bottle thinking really? I also remember the first time I tried it, probably on some old hockey equipment or something, and how for the rest of the day I was short of breath and couldn’t stop coughing (and this was before I developed adult asthma).

I believe that if you take out your trash regularly, do your dishes, clean your laundry, flush your toilet and let air circulate through your home at least once a day, your home will smell fine. I also believe that the only way to freshen your air is to open your windows and air it out. But if you are looking to replace a commercial air freshener, or way to get rid of the smells from last night’s dinner party there are many easy ways to enhance the aromatics in your home that aren’t harmful to your lungs, your pets or your kids. Here are some of them:

1. Stove-top Air Fresheners: anyone who drinks a lot of tea knows that nothing smells as nice as a pot of chai simmering on the stove. There are endless combinations of herbs and spices you can put in a pot of water and simmer off: the smell will slowly spread through your home in a lovely way. This is particularly good in winter, when the air tends to be extra dry. My favourite melange is cinnamon sticks, cloves, and anise seeds, or cinnamon and ginger. You can also put a few drops of your favourite essential oils, or food-grade essences, like vanilla or almond.

2. Incense: There’s a lot of quality incense out there, better than the soapy josssticks you had as a teen, and subtler than the church/temple varieties that do smell nice, but tend to smoke up a room horribly. But if you are not into smoke you can always use

3. Candle Incense Burners: You can get them at most dollarstores, or department stores. Many gift shops and herbalists carry them as well. If you are unsure about the metals ones, get ceramic or glass. All you need is a tea candle and some oils, although you can buy (or heck, make them yourself!) aromatic wax pucks too.

All-purpose Cleaner:

An all-purpose cleaner can be a good thing to have for those random spills and light stains, when scouring powder is not appropriate and you don’t want to get a bucket of soap water out. But commercial all purpose cleaner, much window cleaner, usually contains ammonia as well as phosphates and other nasties. Here is a recipe for an all-natural all-purpose cleaner I got from Sophie Uliano’s book “Do It Gorgeously:” Make sure you have a clean empty spray bottle (this recipe make 14 oz), and distilled or purified water.

  • Bring 2 cups of distilled water to a boil. Take off stove. Then in a bowl or measuring cup mix:
  • 2 Tbsp Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Borax
  • 1/2 Tsp Washing Soda (I used baking soda)
  • 1/2 Tsp Liquid Castile Soap (I melted a hard bar of Dr. Bronners in distilled water…)

Watch it fizz:SAM_9761

Pour in the hot, but not boiling water. Mix. Let cool, and then add 20 drops of tea tree oil (this is what the recipe says, but I had tea tree castile soap, so that was too much for me. I put in probably 5 drops of tea tree). Pour the cooled mixture into your bottle. A funnel helps.

To be honest, when I looked at the bottle it looked so tame, I never thought it would work. But wow does it ever! Even my dirty kitchen linoleum wiped clean! But I am not showing you those, so here here is a wall with fingermarks and dust.

Wall before

Wall before

Wall after all purpose cleaner!

Wall after all purpose cleaner!

Drain Cleaners:

Most of us have used drain cleaners, or de-cloggers at least once in our life. If you have you will know how toxic they, and the fumes they product, are. The best way to keep your drains unclogged is prevention. Make sure you brush your hair before showers, and don’t pour mop water down your shower drain but rather into the toilet. Get a hair trap – you can get them at the Dollarstore or any hardware store. The next thing you should get is a plunger. Most clogs can be dealt with by pouring really hot water into your drain and then giving in a few plunges (for a kitchen sink, just make sure you don’t have PVC pipes, because boiling water can damage the joints and the PVC. Also don’t pour boiling water on porcelain because it can crack) If your drains are badly clogged, borax is an amazing de-greaser and natural solvent: just pour 250 ml of borax into your drain, let sit for ten minutes, and then follow that with a pot of boiling, or really, hot water.

Dryer Sheets:

Dryer sheets seems to be a uniquely North American laundry must. As a kid, when we visited Canada on vacation, my mother would purchase boxes of them to bring back with us to Europe and there she used them in various ways, placing them in drawers and closets. I never got into the habit of using them myself, but I know that a lot of people do use them for their anti static properties. Just this month I discovered the Wool Dryer Ball, which you use like you would a dryer sheet, but rather than using them for their smell and anti static qualities, the Wool Dryer Ball cuts the drying time, some say in half. This is a big claim, but somehow I don’t doubt it (I have yet to try them myself). Wool Balls apparently also soften your clothes, and remove static, so they would also be a great replacement for fabric softener. You can buy them in boxes like tennis balls, or you can make your own! Here is another great post on how to make your own Wool Dryer Balls, from Crunchy Betty.

Laundry Detergent:

Not long ago a did a post on how to make your own laundry detergent. There are a lot of good blogs posts on this subject, most of them follow a recipe of: 1 part borax, 1 part washing soda, 1/2 part soap flakes.SAM_9540

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L to R: Borax, Salt, Baking Soda, Vinegar, Distilled Water, Alcohol, Almond Oil, Soap

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L to R: Borax, Salt, Baking Soda, Vinegar, Distilled Water, Alcohol, Almond Oil, Soap

 

Here in quick form is the recipe for the detergent I use at home: 2 cups borax, 2 cups washing soda**, 2 cups soap flakes and 30-40 drops of lemon essential oil. It is amazing and I am never buying detergent ever again 😀

UPDATE! About 3 months later, I DID buy laundry detergent. In one word, what happened was buildup. Everything just started feeling greasy, and even smelling greasy and I had a baby coming and needed to start stripping cloth diapers and cleaning baby clothes. At first, when using this laundry soap, your clothes have no buildup because they get stripped by detergents at every wash. Your clothes really aren’t that dirty, and warm water and soap will take care of most minor stains and smells. The borax, washingsoda and EOs help deodorize and freshen your clothes from most airborn odors. BUT, after a few months, grease builds up in the fibers of your sheets and clothes, especially if you use as much body butter as I do lol 😉 And that is what made me go back to store bought detergents. A green,scentless, eco detergent mind you, but a detergent nonetheless. I think part of the problem might be that the laundry soap is in powder form and not liquid and in the short, shake and spin cycles in most top loaders, the soap flakes may not get dissolved fast enough to mix with the rest of the ingredients, but I didn’t think to try mixing it with water at the time. A year later, I still use BioVert. I DO use my homemade laundry soap as a booster however, so it’s not a complete waste. I think next time I make laundry detergent, it will be from scratch: using lye and oils.

Scouring Powder:

like Comet, contains bleach and “other” crap that they do not list. Go figure. If mixed with ammonia, or cleaning products containing ammonia, bleach can create toxic, noxious fumes. If you want a clue to how bad comet just listen to the kids. I found this children’s rhyme on wiki that goes like this: Comet, it makes your face turn green / Comet, it tastes like gasoline / Comet, it makes you vomit, / So get some Comet, and vomit today!  Haha, right? I have used baking soda as scouring powder for years, a lot of times just out of pure laziness and cheapness, but also because it works. I find a soapy sponge dipped in baking soda will get ride of most grime, and it doesn’t make me choke! If you need something more potent than plain baking soda, here is a simple recipe for homemade scouring powder: 1 cup borax, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup salt, and if you want, add a teaspoon of some essential oils, like tea tree (which is anti-fungal and antiseptic) or citrus oils. I used a mix of wintergreen and peppermint 🙂

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Sink before

Sink before

Sink After

Sink After

Scouring Pads:

Steel wool scouring pads filled with soap, or bleach powder like Brillo pads can be very harsh on your skin, and your dishes. The worst thing about steel wool is how pieces of it break off and get lodged in your skin and under your nails. But they do tend to work, so we put up with them. Lucky for us, there are now things like the Euro Scrubby and coconut fiber pads that you can get at places like Maison EcoloNet or your local health-food store. I got myself a euro scrubby the other day and was amazed at how well it works. Here’s a pic:
The Euro Scrubby

The Euro Scrubby

The sales lady assured me that “I will be back for sure” because apparently all of her customers who’ve bought one, come back for more. I can believe that because its the best scrubber I’ve ever had. I paid 3$ for mine.

Window Cleaner:

Most window cleaners, like Windex, contain ammonia.** Here is a recipe from Crunchy Betty that works fantastically and is amazing simple and cheap. She calls it Alvin Corn because it contains: alcohol, vinegar and corn starch. You will need an old window cleaner bottle, or a spray bottle, and a funnel. You can get both at the dollar store. Boil some water (preferably de-mineralized/distilled water), and let cool just enough that it doesn’t melt your bottle. Recipe: pour 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch into your bottle, followed by 1 cup of the hot water. Shake. Then add 1/8 cup alcohol and 1/8 cup vinegar. Shake. Spray. Clean! Thank you Crunchy Betty! Here is her post and recipe. I was amazed when I tried this the first time, but I did notice that for the windows facing a busy street I had to spray and wipe a few times to get it clean. So I have adapted the recipe for city folks like myself, who are plagued by city grime and black windows, use 1/4 cup alcohol instead of 1/8 cup.

Wood Polish:

This is so easy it’s ridiculous. Choose a light scent-less carrier oil, like almond oil, grapeseed oil, or a non-virgin light olive oil, or even sesame-oil (un-roasted of course). Take a lemon and give it a light rinse in cold water. Since you will not be eating this there is no need to scrub the skin clean – in fact, you want the oils in the skin, so it’s important not to clean them off. Peel the skin off, using a carrot peeler or paring knife, but don’t include the white skin underneath. Place the skin of one lemon in a glass jar and pour your oil over the skin then place the jar in a hot-water bath (or double-boiler). Let the lemon skins steep in the oil like this for at least 3 hours. You can do the same thing by placing the sealed jar in a sunny/warm place, like a south facing window, for 3 weeks, giving a shake every day. After your time is up, strain away the skins, and keep you oil in a sealed jar in a dark place. To use: pour or spray a bit on a rag or directly on the wood, and rub away: the wood should be clean, shiny, and smell very lightly of citrus when you are done. Your wood will thank you. It will not stay greasy, but your wood will soak up the excess and the more you polish with this lemon oil, the better your wood will look.

Lemon maceration in almond oil, on table that was just polished

Lemon maceration in almond oil, on table that was just polished

Footnotes:

* To make your own washing soda bake a pan of baking soda for an hour at 400 degrees, stirring once, then you have washing soda. Washing soda is more alkaline than baking soda, and thus, most caustic and may be irritating to the skin.

**Ammonia is not something you want in your cleaning products: mixed with bleach or vinegar it creates an extremely toxic and harmful gas. Although ammonia occurs in nature, pure ammonia is corrosive and can cause permanent damage to skin and tissues and inhalation of ammonia fumes can cause lung damage.

Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub: easy recipe

It is definitely bitter-sweet when September rolls around and it starts getting colder and darker. We may feel a bit melancholy looking at the yellowing leaves, having to accept that summer is over, and worse still, that winter is coming. But for a great deal of people autumn is also their favourite time of year. For some, the cooler temperatures may come as a relief. After months of wearing nothing but T-shirts and shorts it can feel oddly luxurious just to drape a scarf around your neck, or to wear those vintage gloves you got at a summer street sale. For others, it may be the abundance in fresh produce that the harvest brings about. In most northern countries, autumn is often a wildly beautiful time of year – although we are not quite there yet, the beginning of fall also comes with the promise of some great views and landscapes – when the maples turn a deep red and orange, almost like fire. But most of all, I think it’s the fact that autumn is a transition from life to death (at least in Canada – hello minus 30 Celsius) that makes us appreciate those last flashes of life even more, and makes us want to prepare ourselves and our homes for hibernation. So in the spirit of autumn I have created a spicy sugar scrub that is so easy and quick you can whip it up in five minutes, before your shower or bath.

There are lots of sugar scrub recipes out there, most of them are pretty similar. This one was inspired by the spices used in pumpkin pie and ginger snaps, and yields about 2 cups worth of scrub. Enjoy!

In a bowl mix:

  • 1.5 cups Cane Sugar. Don’t use regular brown sugar because it will be too sticky. You want something on the dry side. I used cubed raw sugar that I pulverized with a pestle and mortar.
    Cane Sugar in Cubes

    Cane Sugar in Cubes

    If you find the cane sugar too rough you can do the same 😀

  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda (you can omit this if you are sensitive to baking soda, and just use a little less oil).
  • 1 Teaspoon each of powdered cinnamon; clove; ginger; and 1/2 Teaspoon cardamom. You can use each to your liking of course.

With a whisk, mix all the dry ingredients well. Then slowly pour in

  • 1/2 cup of Olive Oil. You can use sesame seed oil, or grape seed oil as well.

Mix until everything is well incorporated and until all the dry ingredients are oiled. If you find it too dry and hard, add a bit more oil, or if it is too liquid, you can add a bit more sugar. Try it on your hand if you are unsure about the consistency. It should look and feel a bit like thick cake batter. Resist the urge to lick the spoon though 😉 Put into a glass jar and store in your fridge or in a cool dry place. Wrapped with a ribbon and add a nice colourful sticker and this is a great gift!

When you are ready to use, point the flow of shower head away from you (so it doesn’t wash away) and scoop a bit out in the palm of your hand and scrub in circular motions (avoiding breasts and face). Scoop and scrub, scoop and scrub, until silky smooth! Enjoy!

Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub

Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub