During the course or lecture Self-sufficient Off-grid I sometimes ask about this subject: suppose you have your own aquarium at home; which of your current grooming products would you throw in? For fear that your fish will die instantly, you probably don't dare to throw any in. Yet this aquarium example is reality: the shampoo or deodorant or dishwashing liquid eventually ends up in the wild through the sewer, where all chemical substances continue to cause damage for years to come. Reason enough to switch, apart from the big financial advantage.
also published in the Z.O.Z. in 2016
There are hundreds of recipes for your own cleaning and care products on the internet that contain many ingredients. I like simplicity, so with this approach you don't have to spend (or little) time making remedies yourself. It only involves three ingredients: bicarbonate, soda and solid soap. A golden fourth would be (apple) cider vinegar, since you can also clean hundreds of objects with vinegar.
The basic ingredient is usually bicarbonate. Bicarbonate can be bought under the name "Baking soda" in an orange cardboard packaging at every Chinese or oriental store (Toko), and nowadays also in some supermarkets. Bicarbonate is a kind of "edible soda", because bicarbonate is a body-specific substance. You can buy regular soda at any supermarket as a cleaning agent. All kinds of soda variants ("sodium"...) are very often used in regular cleaning products, just look at the packaging of normal toothpaste and cleaning products.
Below is a description of each application:
As a toothpaste, only baking soda is perfect. Despite the fact that hygienists and dentists swear by the ultra-toxic fluoride when I ask, I always get many compliments for my healthy teeth since I brush my teeth with bicarbonate. Never brush your teeth with (sea) salt because that affects the tooth enamel too much. First wet the toothbrush under the tap, then press the toothbrush into a container or jar with bicarbonate and then brush your teeth. If you also want a fresh mouth odor by brushing your teeth, mix a few drops of peppermint oil (available at the drugstore) in a container with bicarbonate.
You have to clean something that is dirty. For that reason I wash my armpits (with soap) in the morning and if necessary again halfway through a hot summer day, instead of using deodorant as a cover-up. (If you do this, you won't have to shower every day.) Washing your armpits instead of deodorant works for most people. If you prefer to use a product, use baking soda as it absorbs odors very effectively. It seems difficult to apply (bicarbonate is powder) but it works. At a wedding, it has sometimes prevented me from having unpleasant odors with a tight-fitting suit.
Always keep washing your hair with (warm) water when you stop shampooing! A lot of people who read "stop shampooing" think it means "stop washing the hair", but that is really a very bad idea. Hair skin produces sebum and this makes the hair dirty and greasy, so always keep washing the hair with water.
It is easy to stop using shampoo at all on short hair. However, use bicarbonate (or other ecological means) on long hair. Before showering, dissolve the bicarbonate in a bowl of water. It is recommended to rinse your hair afterwards with (apple) vinegar as a conditioner, so that the hair does not feel like rope too quickly. It can take a few weeks before there is a new balance, so don't be alarmed if the hair feels like rope or very greasy. If it doesn't work right away, it is advisable to wash your hair with shampoo once less times a week. In any case, washing your hair (and showering) every day is not very healthy.
For me, getting off shower gel was a big step, but I get used to it. You can also just use ecological solid soap. All non-liquid soaps based on olive oil are -in my experience- the most pleasant for your skin. For that reason I now only use Aleppo soap, and also because this is the only soap with only natural ingredients (without any other additives). In any case, use little soap in the shower, because soap dissolves the natural protective layer of the skin. Not using soap at all also works very well; it is quite a long scrub under your armpits.
As a general cleaning agent (such as dishwashing liquid), ordinary soda dissolved in warm water works excellently, although the foam when washing dishes is a big loss. Vinegar is more useful for cleaning surfaces such as counters, tables and for mopping the floor.
Grated hand soap and soda together (ratio 1 to 1) is a great washing powder that can be made in no time. It is also possible to add Borax (which bleaches things), but in practice this is not necessary at all.
In summary, for a fraction of the money you can be much more environmentally conscious without too much preparation time. You cause much less chemical pollution and production of packaging material. You also benefit from a greater natural balance in your body. I also always enjoy the simplicity on holiday: I only have a toothbrush and a bowl of bicarbonate with me and no other care products.
Check out our popular course Selfsufficient Off-grid.