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
- 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.
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!