conscious living in april

First of all, a huge welcome to any of you popping over from Rhonda’s Down to Earth blog. I’m utterly thrilled to have a mention over there, I really am! It was Rhonda who inspired me to start blogging in the first place, and I’ll be forever indebted to her for the very kind email I received when I wrote to her. I’ve learned so much from her blog over the years. So hello to all of you, grab yourself a cuppa and have a poke around, and do say hi!

To those of you who haven’t been here before, I’ve been reflecting each month on a different area of life in an attempt to make sure what I do lives up to what I’d like to think of myself as doing. I’m calling this ‘conscious living’, and you can read my initial explanation here.

In February I talked about food – what I eat and where it comes from, and what I’d like to change.

In March I talked about how I use my time, and how much of it I spend doing thing things I want to do.

This month I’d like to talk about toiletries.

On the whole my use of lotions and potions has been dictated by money – I’ve never had much, and so I’ve bought whatever was cheapest, or on offer, usually from a discount shop or local supermarket, and ‘unnecessary’ things like posh moisturisers have tended to come from charity shops after people have donated unwanted presents.

Over the past few years, since I started my first blog, I’ve been experimenting with making a few things for myself, partly because it often works out cheaper, partly because I know exactly what’s gone into the things I make, and partly because it’s nice to learn new skills.

One of the first things I made was my own face scrub.

I started with a recipe from The Fragrant Pharmacy, but didn’t have a lot of the ingredients, so made a very basic version by just mixing ground almonds, fine oatmeal, sweet almond oil, and lavender essential oil. I’ve written about it in more detail here. I’ve been using it for years now, and I love it.

After a while, inspired by Rhonda, I branched out and tried making soap. My first attempt turned out pretty well, after a bit of rebatching.

I’ve made several batches since then, mostly using Rhonda’s instructions. Of course, I’m a bit of a one for ignoring instructions on occasion, and tend to experiment a little with what I have, rather than go and buy something new (NOT something I’d recommend in soap making – read Rhonda’s instructions please, or some others, before taking risks yourself!)

My last batch looked rather more like mashed potato than soap.

However, it still works, and while it doesn’t look quite as pretty as the previous lots, and I won’t be giving it away as presents, it’ll last us several months.

(Incidentally, I’m plotting a little experimentation with local soap – as good as olive and coconut oil are, they don’t grow anywhere near here and I’d love to try soap making with something that does!)

I use my soap mostly in the bathroom, and have a bar by the kitchen sink for handwashing.

I did try using it for washing my hair, but I just couldn’t get it to work properly. My hair’s just below shoulder length at the minute, and has always tended to be a bit greasy, and I’m struggling to find something to replace ordinary shampoo.

I did try bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar for a little while. There’s a bit about this method here, and in other places too. Basically you use the bicarb as shampoo, and the vinegar as conditioner. Plenty of other people have had good results, but I just couldn’t get myself past the hair-like-straw stage.

I wondered about turning my own soap into liquid soap, and using that as shampoo. I tried a couple of years ago, just melting my own soap in boiling water – see the results here. Sadly, that didn’t really work on my hair either, and just felt rather like very soft water. That got mostly used for cleaning in the kitchen.

A couple of months ago I tried making liquid soap again, using this tutorial. This version has glycerine in it. It took me a couple of days to get it right (I must write up what I did, the whole thing was quite interesting!) but I ended up with lovely liquid soap, not too runny.

Promising, but unfortunately I can’t get this to work as shampoo either! The same hair-like-straw problem persists after a few days, and I’ve gone back to ordinary shampoo. I wonder whether the answer is to just replace every other wash with this, and because I’m using less ordinary shampoo, be able to buy more expensive, organic brands?

I also tried using my liquid soap for washing dishes, but I just couldn’t get on with that either. Maybe I’m indoctrinated to want bubbles in my soapy water… I’ve gone back to my usual Ecover washing up liquid, and use my liquid soap in the shower and for hand washing.

While we’re on a quick diversion from toiletries to washing up… I went through a phase of knitting cotton dish cloths.

Very cheery and easy to knit, and I set my mother off knitting them too. I struggle to get them to dry out properly – I suspect either my cotton is too thick, or my stitches too tight – so I tend to use them for general cleaning rather than washing up. My mum uses them for washing up though, with no trouble at all.

Also for cleaning (both house and myself) I revived a couple of old towels, one that was very frayed round the edges, and one that had a large ink stain in the middle. I cut them into squares, hemmed the edges, and now use the white ones as face flannels, and the yellow ones to clean with.

Since we’re up in the sewing room, it’s about time I showed you these…

… yep, washable sanitary towels. I’ve been putting this off, as it feels kind of personal (of course!) but this seems like a good time since we’re on the subject. These were my first attempt, no pattern, no proper seams, and a safety pin for closing, but they actually worked perfectly well – no leaking, and no unexpected sharp points!

They’re ever so comfortable to use, not at all like disposable ones. I’ve changed the design over the years, and at the minute have a fleece base (I’ve progressed from safety pins to actual poppers now), with a cotton-wrapped piece of towel inserted on top. It’s much more convenient – mostly you just change the top rather than the whole thing.

I don’t find them a bother at all to use. Each one is soaked in a jar of cold water for a few of hours, then washed in soapy water, and hung to dry. When I’m done with the lot of them, they go in with a normal load of washing.

There’s plenty of different types you can buy, but I thought I’d experiment with making some first before shelling out, and actually mine work pretty well, and cost pretty much nothing to make. And, of course, you can have whatever colours and patterns you like – you don’t get that with disposable ones… There’s instructions here if you want to have a go – I just made it up as I went along.

I also have a keeper which I use occasionally (and I do use organic tampons if I’m roaming about the countryside, or on trains all day).

In summary, some things I’m happy with…

  • we don’t buy any soap now
  • I don’t buy any face scrub
  • I use sweet almond oil as a face moisturiser – one bottle lasts years
  • I’ve made most of our face flannels and cleaning cloths
  • I buy hardly any disposable sanitary products
And some things I might like to think about changing…
  • shampoo! I just wish I could find something that would work effectively for me – any suggestions?
  • toothpaste – we use cheap conventional toothpaste. I’ve never tried to make my own, but have heard it’s not too difficult. Have you tried it?
  • washing up liquid – I’m happy using Ecover, but it would be nice if I could use my own liquid soap. In the meantime, I must remember to get the Ecover bottles refilled rather than buying new.
Ooh, I am enjoying pontificating on various aspects of life over the months! It really is making me think, and I’ve been changing and experimenting with all kinds of things as the months pass.
What about you? Do you make any toiletries yourself? Have you found an alternative to shampoo that you’re happy with? Ever made your own toothpaste? Your own sanitary products?

On a lighter note, it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m rather excited – I do like birthdays. I’d half planned to go on an introductory bee-keeping course (bees! Yes, really!) but unfortunately it’s full, so I shall be spending the day lying around and reading, popping to our favourite cafe, and doing nothing but cheery things.

Thank you ever so much for popping in today, it really is lovely to see you here!

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12 Responses to conscious living in april

  1. dee68 says:

    Just popping over from down to earth,
    Have you tried either aloe vera or coconut oil to add more moisture to your hair after the vinegar rinse?

  2. xo.sorcha.ox says:

    I recently saw instructions online for lavender bath salts. It looked so easy to make. Really made me wish we had a bathtub! 😉
    ~S.

    -> here via Down to Earth. And am now following via email. A lovely blog this is! 🙂

  3. Thanks to both of you! 🙂

    Dee, I haven’t tried adding anything as a moisturiser – thanks for the suggestion! I’d got it into my head that it wasn’t washing properly, and that’s why it felt odd, but maybe it is actually just too dry. I will investigate, thank you!

    Bath salts Sorcha? What a lovely idea, thank you 🙂 And tis lovely to have you following along! 🙂 xx

  4. TDQ Karen says:

    Love the idea for a facial scrub.
    I did once follow the theory that hair is self cleaning which says that after three weeks the hairs oils balance themselves out and your hair no longer needs to be washed but I c0uld not get through the greasy stages and gave up!

    Have a great birthday.

  5. sara says:

    Hi..just popped over from DTE..lovely blog..yes i have tried the face scrub..gorgeous..not tried toothpaste either but might have a bash at it.
    Been meaning to ask somewhere in blog land this question..i actually colour my hair bad me i know..would the vinegar and bicarb have any effect upon it..you know i don’t want to end up with green hair lol..
    Have a great birthday..
    sara

  6. Rachel says:

    Lovely to see all your toiletry adventures! I found bicarb mixed with rosemary tea (just rosemary leaves steeped in water) was a really effective shampoo – mixing a teeny bit of normal shampoo into it seemed to work too. Still not quite got the balance right with the vinegar conditioner – the mixture that left my hair feeling nice smelled a bit too much like a chip shop! Sara – I’ve got dyed hair and the only effect was that I think the colour faded a bit quicker than normal. No green, thankfully!

    Not figured out a good washing-up liquid alternative yet either – tend to use a little bit of Ecover or Planet Clean (which is as good but cheaper) with a splash of vinegar in the water, seems to make it go further.

  7. I enjoyed reading your different ideas for simpler living very much and your photos.

    Wendy

  8. sara says:

    Rachel thank you hun..will give it a go then..
    sara

  9. Alison says:

    Hi there, just popped over from Down to Earth. Interesting post about toiletries, I’m still at the adapting my food stage but I’m sure this will come in useful when I get this far into simplifying!! Off to read some more now.

  10. Mandi says:

    Hello! I too am popping in via Rhonda, and I’m glad I have!

    I tried making my own toothpaste once, using baking soda (I’m in Canada, other folks call it bicarb), hydrogen peroxide, and a bit of peppermint extract. It tasted terrible! I used it for a few days then tossed it. Adding stevia and using a liquid other than peroxide might work better though.

    Hubby and I currently make our own bar soap, and I use coconut oil as a moisturizer and chapstick. I make my own deodorant and it works much better than the store-bought stuff (1 part coconut oil, 1 part baking soda, 1 part cornstarch – melt and mix over very low heat, then pour into cleaned old tubes; it needs to be kept in the fridge when the weather is warm). I’ve also made a great scouring powder for cleaning around the house (1 part baking soda, 1 part salt, and 1 part borax). We’re still using commercial organic stuff for washing up, and normal shampoo. I have also made my sanitary pads (out of flannel…. oh so soft!) and I use a Diva Cup instead of tampons. It’s much simpler, and I worry less about leaking than I did with disposable stuff!

    Great to meet you, and I’ll be lurking around in the future!
    Mandi

  11. Eliza Ludwig says:

    Hi there,

    I’m here from Down to Earth also. Great blog.

    Been looking for a facial scrub recipe for ages so this is perfect timing. Just wondering – do you store it in the fridge? Or is it okay in the cupboard? Seems silly to ask but just thought it might go mouldy if left out?

    Homemade sanitary pads. I had never thought of it, but have used cloth nappies for both my babies so makes sense.

  12. Hi. Such an interesting post. I’m here from Down to Earth too. I have really enjoyed reading your blog (thank you Rhonda). I will be following you from now on.

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