Let’s talk about hand washing : soaps, gels, sanitisers..

So that was the kitchen grey water all done in the last post. Phew! Our search and Go Green mission continues with the bathroom now. Can you think of areas in your bathroom which need looking at with a stern eye?

HYU2Waste water from your Handbasin: Have you thought of all the products that we wash down the sink? Oh, and water. Check out my Oct 2016 post for eye-goggling water wastage facts and solutions.

Let’s start with soap/handwashing gel and look at the harmful chemicals they contain:

Fragrance/perfume/parfum/essential oil blend/aroma:

WE WANT FULL DOSCLOSURE!

I love how any of these words cover a secret list of ingredients the manufactures frangrance.jpgdon’t have to tell you about as they are considered a trade secret- Grrrrr. In the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a plasticizer linked to sperm damage. Here is just one study: Li-Ping Huang et al (2014) and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk Read Ch. 9 & 10 of this link. Sheesh!

Triclosan: We looked at this in the previous post and decided we were anti-antibacterials! Arghhhhh!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): These need a post all on their own! Next one coming up!

Parabens: These are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products because they prevent the growth of fungi, bacteria and yeast. Commonly used parabens in cosmetics are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben. Though parabens have  been detected in human tissues and bodily fluids, it is their discovery in the breast tissue of patients with breast cancer that has raised public concern over their use. However, studies investigating the health effects of parabens are conflicting. But this is yet another post……

Handwash/soap/gel:

Just like with dishwashing soap/gel/detergent, my advice is the same: keep it simple! Avoid anti-bacterials or products with oh so many ingredients especially ones which are unpronouncable and which you don’t understand ( I swear they think up these complicated names deliberately so as to confuse most of us) and or make your own!

Recipe 1:

Liquid castille soap. That’s it! And if you have a bar of castille soap and want to make it grated castille2into a liquid, it is pretty damn easy! All you need is:

  • 1 bar of soap (one with as few ingredients as posible)
  • About 8-10 cups of distilled water
  • A grater
  • A saucepan

Grate your soap and put it in a saucepan with the distilled wáter. It’s not an exact science so you will have to experiment BUT, Its important to use distilled wáter else your soap will go off. Yup, it takes on the texture of that thick, green bogey your nose produces when you have a bad cold. Ugh. Anyway, heat all that up without boiling, till your soapflakes have totally melted. Let cool and voilá!

Recipe 2:

Remember the soapnut liquid we made in the clothes washing post? We’re going to use that here:

  • 1/2 cup Liquid castille soap
  • 1/8 cup soapnut liquid
  • 5 drops Essential Oils  (any of the following EOs are powerful natural anti-bacterials): Cinammon, Basil&Rosemary, Clove, Thyme, Oregano, Lemongrass, Tea tree, Lavender.
  • Mix it up and use it as needed.

Idea 3:soap

Plain and simple bar of soap! Nothing fancy and does the trick!

Hand sanitisers:

We live in a society which is so obsessed with cleanliness that I feel that we sometimes overdo it. Following the disclaimer that I am not an official researcher or scientist 🙂 , my take is that sanitisers are great in hospitals for staff who move from patient to patient or at festivals/fairs/camping/trips where access to handwashing is restricted but apart from that, I’d simply dispose of using them. How about just washing your hands with soap? Sanitisers with less than 60-95% alcohol are not much good anyways so regardless of what the sellers say or advertise, stick to washing your hands with soap – nothing beats that for you or me.

 

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Step 12: Generating eco-friendly Waste: Let’s talk clothes washing

3D collection of household cleaning products isolated on white background
The contents of these add a chemical gunk to our environment plus leave us with trash

Let’s look at the types of waste we generate ( some of which we aren’t even aware we generate) and try to look at ways to make it cleaner and greener and on the way, get rid of even more packaging and chemicals. Shall we start?

 

I. Household Liquid Waste:

Have you ever thought about what is in your waste and where it goes? And I don’t mean just your garbage (that’s another post) , I mean the dirty or grey water as it is called, from your washing machine, dish washer, shower, bath, laundry tubs, kitchen sink, hand basin….Let’s look at all this a bit more closely, shall we?

Waste water from the washing machine: Washing machines account for almost a quarter of household wastewater or, depending on your machine, about 60–180 litres per wash. So, in effect, washing six times a week could send more than hotpoint_rpd10457j_wh_05_l[1]1000L down the drain in one week alone. Add to that your dishwashing, shower and bath water, and you’re soon up to 4000L a week for the average family of four. Not to mention the  detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets, possibly bleach….that’s quite a chemical mix that you send down the drain every time that you do a wash. Here is a list of laundry chemicals for you to boggle yourself with. So, what do I suggest? Well, you could either buy eco-friendly products or make them yourself! Why not? Plus they are cheaper on the pocket, a win-win situation!

Detergents: Making your own detergents sounds like quite the task so you could buy eco-friendly ones. Here is a review of a few green detergents for my US readers. Here for my UK readers. If you can’t find anything in your area or on an online site or just wanna try your hand at something which is actually quite easy, you could try either or both of these 2 DIY detergent recipes:

Recipe 1: The Soap Recipe

Ingredients:Scented-Wellness-Bath-Salts-2

  • 1 bar of plain soap ( with as few ingredients as possible so stay away from Dove type soaps or antibacterial etc) or pure soap flakes
  • 1 cup of Borax (in the laundry section of most supermarket chains)
  • 1 cup of Washing Soda (this is also found in the laundry section and is not the same as baking soda)
  • Salt
  • Grater
  • Airtight container

Method:

Grate the bar of soap into as fine a powder as you can manage or use pure soap flakes.

Put the grated soap or the flakes into your container and add the borax and the washing soda. The measurements for soap, borax and washing soda are of a 1:1:1 ratio. Easy, huh?

Put the lid on and shake well until completely combined.

To use, add 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.

Recipe 2: The Soapnut/Ritha Recipe

IMG_3309 (005)
These nuts are endemic to Nepal and India and are saponin rich.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 litres of water
  • 80 soap nut halves ( you can order these online or get them at your local organic shop). They come de-seeded so will be in halves
  • A container
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 60 drops of laundry friendly Essential Oils like Lemon, Lime, Lavender, Orange, Tea Tree, Lemon grass, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Pine, Spruce, Cypress, Thyme, Palmarosa, Citronella, Wintergreen, Bergamot, Cedar wood, Spearmint, Oregano, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Sage, Petitgrain bigarade, Vetiver, Coriander, Juniper Berry

Method:

Heat 2 litres of water in a large pot and when boiling add the nut halves.

Stir from time to time during 10 minutes. Switch off the heat. and let cool for half an hour

soapnutSieve and put this water into a  storage container.

Put 1/2 litre of water in your pot again with the already boiled nuts and blend till a thick soup is formed. Be careful as its very soapy.

Then boil this for 10 mins and stir as before and then allow about half an hour to cool.

Sieve and mix with liquid 1 and 1/2 litre more of water.

Now add 2 tbsp salt for preservation.

Add  Essential oils to make it smell good!

I have been using this recipe for YEARS and I love it, especially for the coloured wash. For whites, once in a while, they will need brightening when following the soap-nut recipe in which case I use either of the 2 methods below:

How to Whiten Whites?

  • Pre-soak the whites in washing soda ( 1 cup in 1 bucket of water overnight) and leave them out to air dry under the sun after washing them.
  • Simply add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to the washer drum before adding water or clothes. The hydrogen peroxide can also be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer where it will be dispersed into the wash cycle.

How about Fabric softeners (FS)? Dryer sheets (DS)?

Some tips for DIY fabric softeners:2e9212331bad4a079de280f32470a8e9[1]

  • Baking Soda: Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabrics.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is a good non-toxic alternative to fabric softener. It softens fabrics and also helps prevent static cling. Use it on towels, diapers, and heavy fabrics like denim (avoid using it on delicates). Add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to your rinse cycle.
  • Vegetable Glycerin: Mix 1 cup of vegetable glycerin with 1 gallon of water, and add 1/2 cup of the mixture to your rinse cycle.

Some tips for DIY dryer sheets:

  • Aluminum Foil: Believe it or not, a crumpled up wad of aluminum foil in the dryer eliminates static cling.

    Aluminium foil
    You can use up the foil you have, in this way rather than on food!
  • Tennis Balls: While they won’t reduce static cling, they will keep your sheets nice and fluffy.
  • Dry Bath Towel: Throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes and it will soften everything while they are drying.

How about Grease Removers?

Recipe: The Homemade Grease Remover

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons Cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda

Method:

Mix together and cover the stain with the formula. Let stand for 30 minutes or more to absorb as much grease as possible, then wipe away. Soak the remaining stain in the following formula:

  • 1/2 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 5 drops Lemon or Orange oil

Soak until stain disappears. Wash in hot, hot, hot water.

Stain Remover?

Use hydrogen peroxide but make sure to swab a coloured garment with a cotton swab soaked in peroxide, on a hidden patch first. If the colour transfers, stop. If not, soak the stain for 10 minutes before washing it.

How about Sportswear Stench removers?

Have you noticed how modern sportswear, despite all its amazing qualities, somehow also has an ability to not just retain smell but to convert it into a stench which starts to emanate from your supposedly washed clothes as soon as you start heating up? Ugh! So unlike good ol’ and much cheaper cotton! Here is a nice and easy way to get rid of this stench:

Recipe: The Sports Stench Remover

Ingredients:

  • I cup of vinegar or 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 a bucket of hot water

Method:

Mix the vinegar in the hot water and soak your clothes for an hour (if using vinegar) and not more than half an hour (if using hydrogen peroxide). Wash as usual. Add more vinegar if your clothes still retain the smell or soak for longer till you get the hang of it 🙂

 

 

Step 4: Bulk Goods

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You now have a fair idea now of all the items you have been buying which come in or are wrapped in plastic – pretty huge, huh? (Quick, remember your mantra and chant it a few times round about now). Wanna lower that number?

A good way to lower that number is by starting with your kitchen and the answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Bulk Goods!

Gulp! BULK goods? But I am just one/two! Why would I/ we need food items in BULK! (Minor heart attack/ FullSizeRender-3 19.02.49hysteria etc). Relax! The goods come in bulk which doesn’t mean that you have to buy in bulk. You can buy as much or as little as you like. The important thing is that no packaging is involved! (Gasp ) These goods include lentils, dried beans, peas, rice, flours, sugar, nuts, seeds, even cereals for your breakfast etc. The best bit is that you can either take your own bags ( buy some muslin ones) or use the bags these sort of places supply. Some places give you plastic bags- ARGH, avoid these like the plague! You also don’t want to end up throwing the paper bags  other places do supply so TAKE YOUR OWN BAGS. Most shops will weigh your bags and discount it from the total. Isn’t that cool?

IMG_6378.JPGI am very lucky in that there is a shop selling bulk oils including carrier oils plus vinegars and liquors, near my home. I love the amphorae the oils are displayed in, don’t you? I walk over every 2 months or so with my old glass bottles of oil/ vinegar and they get refilled with whichever variety of oil I choose to buy – usually a Spanish, local, virgin olive oil.

 

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If you aren’t the type or simply don’t have the time or energy to make your own, you won’t believe what I am going to say next but, shops selling detergents, soaps, shampoo, conditioners and other cleaning products in bulk exist too! Yep! A 10 minute walk away from the bulk oil place, I have this little gem, run by the nicest and chattiest woman you can find. A real gem! I usually buy shampooo, floor cleaner and limescale cleaner here – I make the rest ( and will tell you how!).

There, that is a huge number of your total plastic weight out of the way! BRAVO! Go and reward yourself with a lovely glass of wine or whatever cooling and or alcoholic beverage you  fancy, for you deserve it!