Your Natural Home
Creating a cozy hearth for the family


"Slow Fashion" is Ethical Fashion

I was a new mom with not enough hours in the day to think about my wardrobe and not enough money to buy new. A charity re-sale shop was my destination shopping spot. So when my mother invited the family for lunch with a distant relative visiting from Sweden, I can remember puzzling—no, agonizing—over what to wear. The woman worked in fashion design! I loved my mother and didn’t want to embarrass her. I finally went to my closet and grabbed a blue and white striped cotton long-sleeved shirt I’d  found in a thrift shop and put it under a white pullover sweatshirt. And jeans—part of my daily uniform. Simple was the best I could pull off in this situation.

The Swedish fashion designer was elegant, of course—beautiful, and not at all over-dressed for our very casual family. Over lunch my sister asked the inevitable question, “So what is the ‘in-fashion’ in Sweden now?”

She thought for a moment and then pointed to me, “Much like what Mary is wearing—simple, layered….” I don’t remember the rest of her comments, but she made my day!  I still have that striped cotton shirt, some 35 years later, even though the cotton has worn quite thin.

That experience was part of what made me into the re-sale shop junkie I am today. Apparently, many of you are, too. High-end consignment shops and big box thrift stores are popping up faster than tattoo parlors next to taverns.

I’ve been chasing down re-sale shops for almost 40 years. I’ve gloated over finding an almost new Ralph Lauren black sweater for a few dollars, and I’ve cried over a beautiful knit turquoise throw I bought for the sofa. Somewhere between the washing machine and the living room, it turned into 50,000 cute little spider-sized shawls.

refinished trunk from thrift store
This was one of my first finds in a thrift shop over 50 years ago. A coat of varnish on the wood, and a dark green paint on the body brought it back to life. It's been a terrific storage unit since then.

Having babies was my introduction to bargain hunting. Babies grow way faster than weeds. Mine never had a chance to wear out clothing, even when they were crawling, and their pudgy little knees were red by bedtime. Every three months I was moving them into a whole new set of clothing.  We were living on a tight budget, so by the time they began to wear out clothing faster, I was ready for those thrift shop runs. Kids’ clothing was expensive—but not where I was shopping.

I learned to think of this as a lending library situation. I kept a bag or two handy for clothing and household items we weren’t using and dropped it at the charity re-sale shop whenever I made a stop there to hunt for treasures.

Then I started browsing adult clothing. I have a difficult time buying an item and knowing whether I like it until I’ve worn it a few times. Is it comfortable? Do I really like that color on me? What was I thinking when I bought this?  Donating barely worn new clothing wasn’t an option for my budget. Besides that, I noticed that my thrift shop finds were unique—I never ran into anyone wearing the same outfit I was.

I had a few friends doing the same thing, but not many. Today “slow fashion,” like “slow food” is the new name of the game, and I’m gratified to finally, after all these years, be a member of the “in” crowd.

Elizabeth Cline in her book, The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, claims that when we fall into the trap of buying cheap, trendy, poor quality clothing, we’re not only wasteful. Only a tiny percentage of this clothing is produced here in this country. Most comes from polluted textile factories with poor working conditions in other countries.

“Ethical fashion,” she suggests, is “make, alter and mend” The other option she suggests is buying recycled, organic and locally made items.

You’re probably familiar with most of the cautions if you buy at consignment or thrift shops. Find some good light to examine your item in detail. Buttons? Working zipper? Seams intact? Rips? And my favorite—be sure to check the care label. Does it need hand washing or dry-cleaning? If you have a sewing machine, resurrect it. A quick, easy adjustment or repair on a quality item could give it a happy new life with you.

Some people advise a “sniff test.” Probably a good idea, although I don’t always remember, and I’ve never been stung. I recently saw a complaint in an advice column about a housemate. No, they got along great, but the housemate had one flaw—she was a second-hand clothing store junkie, which the complainer felt was “disgusting.” She worried about bedbugs. Bedbugs? She’s got to be crazy! I’ve yet to see bugs of any kind in these shops. However, if I was buying an upholstered piece, I’d be a little more cautious. I’d sniff, search, and scrutinize, even before I’d dare to sit on it to test the “feel.”

Buy seasonal clothing at the beginning of the season. The racks will be full. As the months pass, they become more and more picked over. By late August you’re looking at garish, multi-colored, striped shirts and tacky t-shirts with messages like, “Sometimes something amazing comes along and here I am.”

Buying re-sale is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes you must plow through a lot of duds before you find a jewel, something like kissing frogs to find the prince. And you meet some interesting characters when you’re not running into friends. I was in a big re-sale store recently and turned my back on my cart that held several items. When I turned around, a woman had picked a shirt out of my cart, was holding it up and inspecting it. I fought the urge to grab it back. What to do? Finally, I smiled at her and said, “Isn’t that a great shirt I found? I really like it!” She didn’t say anything (and she didn’t smile), but she put it back down, left, and avoided a confrontation. I loved that top and wasn’t about to give it away.

And sometimes it just makes sense to ignore all the rules. I saw an article once that warned readers to never buy used rain gear. However, several years ago I bought a white three-quarter length raincoat with a hood and a white fake-fur lining for $12. I didn’t recognize the label name and it didn’t have a care label. It has seen me through an elegant (but wet!) barn wedding and many damp, grubby walks in my neighborhood.

Don’t underestimate the entertainment and fun in these shops! It’s treasure hunting at its finest. I remember the time when a friend’s niece and her husband went to the city for a quick visit. They’d brought only casual clothing, so when they scored some opera tickets, they had no dressy clothes to wear. They promptly headed to the closest Goodwill and bought appropriate clothing—including a frilly summer hat for her. They emailed a photo of themselves in their finery to friends.

I’m to a time in my life when those babies have grown and gone. I’m trying to pare down and simplify, preparing for the time when I’ll need to move out of my big house into something smaller. Last summer, with friends, I hosted a giant garage sale. Everything that was left went to a charity shop that came and collected it. I’m still going through my house, deciding what items really “give me joy.” I continue to “thin.”

My last visit to my favorite thrift shop, however, just about undid all my good efforts. I noticed the most wonderful rattan elephant—about the size of a kitchen table. It was so beautiful that I paused to check the price tag. $25! I could afford that! As I stood and admired this elegant creature, I thought about everything I had just moved out of my house. Where would I put this gorgeous animal? Only then was I able to move on.

But I still think about that elephant. I think it could have given me an elephant-sized amount of joy….

How to Use Ayurveda in Your Daily Routine to Stay Healthy

Ayurveda’s treatments are through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies. All ayurvedic medicines are made up of natural materials to remain close to nature. A human body is made up of three doshas according to Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These doshas are the three fundamental principles working in outer nature, which are responsible for individual human nature and regulate their physiological processes. When our doshas are not in balance, it often leads to diseases, infections, stress and anxiety. 

Ayurveda has so many benefits for the human body, mind and soul. The following points will shed some light on how to use Ayurveda in a daily routine to keep your body healthy.

Ayurveda for healthy Body

Follow a Daily Routine

You should follow a ‘dinacharya’ daily routine as the first thing to be healthy. A routine helps to maintain a balance in the body and mind. It means your sleeping, eating and exercise times should be the same every day. You should try to wake up 1 hour before the sun rises. 

There are sattvic qualities in the morning around us that bring freshness and peace to our mind.

Right after waking up, look at your hands for a while and then gently move them over your face and chest down to the waist. This helps in cleaning your aura. You should eat at regular intervals but do not binge eat or over eat. This helps your body and ‘Agni’ (digestive fire) to work in a balanced way and the ensure food is digested properly. 

Pray After Waking Up

Say a little prayer after waking up in the morning and before getting out of bed to start your day on a positive note. This brings freshness and positive energy to your body, mind and soul and other people around you.

Clean Your Face, Mouth, Eyes and Nose and Scrape Your Tongue

Wash your face with water and rinse your mouth. Splash water on your eyes with cold water, blink and rotate your eyes in all directions. 

Include jal neti in your daily routine to clean the passage to your nose. It clears out the dirt and blockages in the nasal passage and allows you to breathe properly with no congestion. A teapot-like vessel called a neti-pot is required to do this process with lukewarm saline water. 

According to Ayurveda, tongue scraping is necessary to remove the coating on the tongue that accumulates overnight, which contains toxins, which eventually leads to illness. Use a tongue scraper to gently scrape your tongue back and forth. 

Eat Fresh Food

Eat fresh and homemade food with salads. You should have a balanced diet in order to stay healthy and have a strong immune system. Include seasonal fruits in your diet along with curd as it promotes proper digestion. Avoid canned, frozen, processed and packaged food as these are harder to digest and produce toxins in your body. Your diet should be lighter in summers and include vegetable soups in winter in your diet. 

Yoga

Yoga is not only about breathing in and breathing out and asanas – it’s a way of life. We are in an era where we cannot get away from stress. But we can find ways to reduce it and adopt a routine to be stress free. Yoga improves the quality of life and teaches you how to manage the outer part by managing the inner self. Some of the benefits of yoga are reduction in stress, improvement in strength, flexibility and increased immunity. Yoga is also provides strength to your legs that benefits a lot during Everest Base Camp Trekking Tours. It also helps in reducing or eliminating the risk of depression, anxiety and heart disease. It helps to improve your overall well-being. 

Meditation

Meditation helps in training your mind to stop the mind chatter. It helps in relaxing your nerves and promotes your overall well-being. It also lowers high blood pressure, improves immune system, increases energy levels and concentration. It decreases stress and anxiety, improves emotional stability and increases mindfulness.

Ayurvedic Courses and Treatment

No other place can be better than India for Ayurvedic courses and treatment as it is the birthplace of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic courses promote holistic health and well-being which comprises exercise, mindfulness and dietary regulations. Panchkarma treatment is one of the leading therapies in Ayurveda courses in Kerala which cleanses our body of toxins. The courses attracts many national and international tourists. 

Drink Water

It is very important to drink lots of water throughout the day and keep yourself hydrated. It is advised to drink lukewarm water after waking up or water from a copper jug filled the night before. It helps in flushing out the toxins from your body and makes you feel light and refreshed.  

Stress Free Sleep

Your body rejuvenates when you sleep properly. Your body's cells work to strengthen the immune system and give vibrant energy in the body. Avoid late nights, watching TV and use of smartphones before you sleep as it hinders with your sleep quality. Take a warm bath before sleeping as it will relax your body and help you in falling asleep faster.  


Bipin Baloni is a yoga teacher from India and his core specialization is in Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. He organizes 200 hour yoga teacher training in Goa. Bipin Baloni conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India in different cities. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda and Health.

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

If you want to decorate your home for Christmas, you don’t have to create waste to do it. Lots of Christmas décor on sale right now are made from plastic. And, even worse, most of it gets tossed in the trash at the end of the season. In fact, Americans alone produce 25 percent more waste in the months between Thanksgiving and New Years. Yikes! Considering the average American already produces approximately 4.4 pounds of trash per day, we don’t need to be adding to that. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to avoid this. Here are some zero waste Christmas decorations you can get behind. 

christmasdecorations_opt
Zero waste Christmas decorations are simple, beautiful and budget-friendly!

Tree Decorations

First and foremost, there’s two times of Christmas décor: Decorations you put on the tree and decorations you leave around the home. We’ll look at what to put on a tree first. 

  • Reuse old ornaments –this is probably the simplest, cheapest thing you can do. If you have boxes of ornaments from last year, or from years prior, just reuse those. You’re keeping them out of the landfill, and if you keep them in good condition, they can be passed down to your own children in time. 
  • Dried citrus –There's such a rustic charm in dried fruit. All you need to do is cut the citrus of your choice into thin slices (not too thin or they’ll burn), put them in a dehydrator or oven, and let them bake for 2 hours. If using an oven, put it on 200 degrees F. Then you can just string through some twine and hang them on your tree! 
  • Popcorn, cranberry or dried citrus garland –To make a popcorn and cranberry garland, just lay out the popcorn and cranberries in the pattern you would like to make. Then, push a needle through the first piece of popcorn, wrap it around, and tie loose but secure knot. Repeat this for each piece. At the end of the garland, thread it through again and then tie the string back around and into a double knot. You can do the same if you prefer to use just dried citrus. 
  • Salt dough ornaments –using salt, flour and water you can easily make your own salt dough ornaments. Once you make your dough you can cut them into fun shapes using Christmas cookie cutters. You can also paint them using natural DIY plant dyes! For more detailed instructions, check out how I made and decorated salt dough ornaments in my zero waste Christmas ornaments 
  • Pine cones and twigs – These are easy to find if you forage for them. Use twine to hang them as is from your tree. You can make some really beautiful rustic twig ornaments in the shape of stars or Christmas tree Just get creative!
  • Crocheted ornaments -If you’ve got a love for sewing and knitting, this could be for you! You can make some cute crocheted angels, Christmas trees, etc. 
  • Locally bought or thrifted ornaments -You can always opt for purchasing your ornaments instead. But if you do that, be sure to get them thrifted, or handmade by a local artist! Thrifting will help keep décor items out of the landfill. Shopping locally will help support your local economy and also lower your carbon footprint since that item won’t be mass produced or shipped overseas to get to you. 

House Decorations

If you want to decorate your home for Christmas, sometimes less is so totally more.

  • Old decorations -Again, can’t stress this enough – reuse whatever you already have! It’s the most ecofriendly thing you can possibly do. And the most economic too. 
  • Tree trimmings - These look super cute around the home – if you have any clippings from your real Christmas tree, you can put them in jars and use them as a centerpiece. You can also tie them together to create a kind of garland to hand around door frames or fireplaces. 
  • Real wreaths -Nothing beats a wreath made from real pine. You can make one yourself by bending an old metal old hanger into a ring, using some twine and a little creativity. Maybe add some dried citrus to it or pine cones for decoration! 
  • Candles –If you want to make your house look all warm and fuzzy, you can’t go wrong with candles. Try using soy or beeswax candles though, and avoid any candles with artificial fragrance (bad for the planet and your health). 
  • Plants –Some poinsettias and a little greenery never hurt! Check and see what your local farmers market are selling plant wise right now. Or, hit up your local plant nursery. Any plants with festive colors works wonders for warming up the home! 

How are you planning to decorate this holiday season? Be sure to check out my blog for even more zero waste Christmas decorations

Aunt Lilly's Farm Soap

I think it’s appropriate that my last soap project for this series is a re-make of the soap that started me off on my soap adventures 50 years ago. If you remember from the castile soap project I mentioned that when I was a young woman my mother introduced me to an old woman named Lilly who lived on a farm near Iowa Falls, Iowa. Lilly was straight out of the pages of The Foxfire Books edited by Eliot Wigginton. She was the real deal and she showed me how to make tallow soap on her wood stove.

The only thing I’m going to do differently this time is I am going to use rendered pig fat (lard) instead of rendered beef fat (tallow). I purposely chose lard because I decided that if I had any leftover after rendering it that I could use it for cooking. Yes, I rendered my own lard for this project. Store-bought lard is—in my opinion—odious stuff. The texture is grainy. I simply don’t like it. Who knows how those pigs were raised and with what chemicals they were fed? I was also able to source pig fat from an organic pig who lived a good life and who was humanely dispatched. If you can’t do this please do what you are comfortable with.

By the way, soap made from animal fat is particularly good for skin irritations like poison oak or ivy and has a nice creamy lather.

soap 2
This is my best soap so far. Photo by Renee Benoit

Rendering Pig Fat into Lard

  • 3 lbs of pretty clean pig fat (That means: as much of the meat removed as you can)
  • Slow cooker

Chop the pig fat into 1” chunks or smaller. If you have a meat grinder you can run the fat through the grinder. It will melt all that much faster. Put the chopped or ground fat into a slow cooker on LOW. If you put it on high it could brown the fat which will make it have a strong scent. Let it slow cook for a long time. It might take 6 hours. When it’s all melted and there are little brown bits (cracklins) floating in it, scoop the cracklins out with a slotted spoon and then strain the melted fat through a sieve and then cheesecloth to get rid of all the cracklins and particles. Letting particles stay in the soap can make the soap go rancid. You can fry the cracklins until crisp and eat them if you wish. No carbos there! The melted fat will be a light golden color but when it solidifies it will be white and gorgeously smooth.

This will keep in the fridge, covered, until you’re ready to make Farm Soap.

Lilly’s Farm Soap

Ingredients

  • 248 g (8.75 oz) distilled water
  • 103 g (3.65 oz) sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 794 g (28 oz) rendered pig fat also known as lard
  • 25 g (.88 oz) lavender essential oil (optional)
  • 8 g (.28 oz) tea tree essential oil (optional)

Equipment

  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Face and/or eye protectors (a weed wacker mask is awesome because I can wear my glasses with it)
  • Rubber gloves (regular dishwashing gloves work fine)
  • Immersion blender (you can blend by hand and there’s more control over splashing but it takes longer)
  • Stainless steel pot (I use 3 qt with high sides and a pour spout)
  • Silicone molds enough to make 12-1”x2”x3” bars
  • Wax paper
  • Tea towel or cloth
  • 2 Measuring cups (plastic is fine)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Digital scale (important: I wouldn’t try making soap without it. In the old days of guess-and-gosh sometimes soap would have too much lye in it and was very hard on skin!)

Using the digital scale measure out your distilled water and pour it into your high sided stainless-steel pot. I use gram measurement because I think it is most accurate. By the way fudging on the ingredients can put you at risk for having not enough or too much lye in the soap. (By the way, if you have too much lye in your soap you can grate it and use it for laundry detergent.)

Put on your protective gear and, using the same digital scale, measure out your lye. I use a dedicated plastic measuring cup for the lye especially. It just makes it easier to keep the equipment separate from my cooking utensils.

Still wearing your protective gear, stir the lye into the water with a stainless-steel spoon or the end of the immersion blender. Be careful not to splash. Just stir quietly. You’ll notice that the lye kind of crystallizes. Just stir and it will break up and dissolve. Then it will heat up. Stick your candy thermometer to touch the liquid and set it aside. It will probably heat up to about 150 degrees. Set it aside some place safe while you get the oil ready.

If you stored your lard in the fridge you need to melt it again. A double boiler works well for this. Set it aside until the lye water cools down to 100-110 degrees. Then carefully pour the melted lard into the lye water. Start by stirring with the immersion blender without it being turned on—it won’t take long—then turn the blender on low and mix until the mixture comes to “trace”. You know, the texture looks like rippling thin pudding. When the lard is barely starting to come to trace this is when you add essential oils if you want. Continue blending until it's fully at trace.

Now fill your molds and let them set for 24 hours.

Put all your soapy equipment in the sink. Don’t wash it now as the equipment is covered with mixture where the chemical transformation is not complete. It’s still “hot”. Wait for 24 hours because then the transformation will be complete. No more lye!

When the soap has set up sufficiently—maybe a couple hours—cover it with wax paper and a light towel so it won’t set up too fast and crack or get "ash" on the surface. If it looks like it’s cracking move it to a cooler place (not freezing) just cooler. Ash is not a disaster by the way. It doesn't look great but the soap works fine all the same. Check it after 24 hours but if it’s not hardening and coming away from the edges you might have to leave it longer up to 2 – 3 days. Then you’ll be able to unmold the soap to cure on a cooling rack. Cure it for about 4 weeks to make it harder so it will last longer.

If you want to use tallow instead of lard, increase the amount of lye to 105 g (3.7 oz)

If you follow my instructions you’ll never buy soap at the store again! How cool is that?

 

Homemade Shea Butter Soap

Everybody has to make ugly soap once in a while and this was my time. My first three soap projects were pretty much glitch-free with no big surprises. Even so this is not a complete disaster. Sometimes soap turns out ugly and that’s OK because my family can still use it. It will be very good and work very well. After a couple uses the rough look that makes it not good for gifts or to sell will have dissolved away and it will look like “normal” soap. Nice and smooth. Mom used to say, "Beauty is as beauty does."

This was my fourth soap project. In hindsight I think that my oil mixture was too warm when I added it to the lye water. It set up extremely fast – within a couple minutes - and was too thick to easily pour into the mold. It came to trace so fast I kept blending it too long.  I should have stopped. I just didn’t believe it would be ready so fast. As a result, I had to use a stainless-steel spoon to scoop it into the mold and then smooth out the top with the straight edge of a stainless-steel knife. This resulted in a very textured, not-smooth soap.

So... if I've learned anything it's Respect The Trace! If it looks ready, it's ready! Also if you think you need to leave the mixture on the stove over the double boiler to keep it melted, don’t. Take it off the heat and set it aside.

Shea Butter Soap

ugly

Ingredients

  • 227 g (8 oz) distilled water
  • 101 g (3.55 oz) sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 595 g (21 oz) olive oil
  • 128 g (4.5 oz) shea butter
  • 71 g (2.5 oz) castor oil

Equipment

  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Face and/or eye protectors (a weed wacker mask is awesome because you can wear glasses with it)
  • Rubber gloves (regular dish washing gloves work fine)
  • Immersion blender (you can blend by hand and there’s more control over splashing but it takes longer)
  • Stainless steel pot (I use a 3 qt with high sides and a pour spout)
  • Silicone molds enough to make 12 - 1” x 2” x3” bars
  • Wax paper
  • Tea towel or light cloth
  • 2 Measuring cups (plastic is fine)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Digital scale (important: I wouldn’t try making soap without it. In the old days of guess-and-gosh sometimes soap would have too much lye in it and was very hard on skin!)

Using the digital scale measure out your distilled water and pour it into your high sided stainless-steel pot. I use gram measurement because I think it is most accurate. Using inaccurate measuring tools to measure the ingredients can put you at risk for having not enough or too much lye in the soap. (By the way, if you have too much lye in your soap you can grate it and use it for laundry detergent.)

Put on your protective gear and, using the same digital scale, measure your lye into the plastic container. I use a dedicated plastic measuring cup for the lye. It just makes it easier to keep the equipment separate from my cooking utensils.

Still wearing your protective gear, stir the lye into the water with a stainless-steel spoon. Be careful not to splash. Just stir quietly. You’ll notice that the lye kind of lightly crystallizes. Just stir and it will break up and dissolve. Then it will heat up. Stick your candy thermometer to touch the liquid and set it aside. It will probably heat up to about 150 degrees. Set it aside some place safe while you get the oil ready.

Melt the shea butter in a double boiler. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the melted shea butter. Set it aside. When the lye water cools down to 100-110 degrees carefully pour the oil mixture into the lye water. Start by stirring with the immersion blender without it being turned on for a little bit then turn the blender on low and mix until the mixture comes to “trace”. The texture look like rippled thin pudding.

Fill your molds filled and let them set for 24 hours.

Put all your soapy equipment in the sink. Don’t wash it now as the equipment is covered with mixture where the chemical transformation is not complete. It’s still “hot”. Wait for 24 hours because then the transformation will be complete. No more lye!

When the soap in the molds has set up sufficiently - in a couple hours - cover it with wax paper and a light towel so it won't set up too fast and crack. Peek at it and if it looks like it’s cracking move it to a cooler place (not freezing). Check it after 24 hours to see if it’s hardening and coming away from the edges. If it's not you might have to leave it longer. Up to 3 days. Then you’ll be able to unmold the soap to cure on a coated cooling rack. Curing it for about 6 weeks will make it harder so it will last longer.

If this is the first you are reading this I love making soap because now I know what is in it for sure. I'm not guessing what a long, unpronounceable chemical might be and I know what I'm putting on my body and what is going down the drain. I'm also saving on packaging in the landfill. Always a good thing!

 

Easy Homemade Coconut Oil Soap

I was going to make Shea Butter Soap this week but then I realized I didn’t have the castor oil additive so I changed plans and made 100% Coconut Oil Soap. This is also very easy but a little bit different in one way so let me tell you how it went.

First, here’s the recipe and instructions.

coconut soap

Pure Coconut Oil Soap Recipe

Ingredients

  • 248 g (8.75 oz) distilled water
  • 116 g (4.10 oz) sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 794 g (28 oz) coconut oil

Equipment

supplies

  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Face and/or eye protectors (a weed wacker mask is awesome because I can wear my glasses with it)
  • Rubber gloves (regular dishwashing gloves work fine)
  • Immersion blender (you can blend by hand and there’s more control over splashing but it takes longer)
  • Stainless steel pot (I use a 3 qt with high sides and a pour spout)
  • Silicone molds that make 12-1”x 2”x 3” bars
  • Wax paper
  • Soft lightweight cloth
  • 2 Measuring cups (plastic is fine)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Digital scale (important: I wouldn’t try making soap without it. In the old days of guess-and-gosh sometimes soap would have too much lye in it and was very hard on skin!)

Using the digital scale measure out your distilled water and pour it into your high sided stainless-steel pot. I use gram measurement because I feel it is most accurate. Now, using the same digital scale, measure out your lye. I use dedicated plastic measuring cups for these 2 items. It just makes it easier to keep the equipment separate from my cooking utensils. The high sided stainless-steel pot is also dedicated. The pouring spout makes it easier to decant the finished soap into the molds.

Put on your rubber gloves, long sleeved shirt and eye/face protection. Stir the lye into the water with a stainless-steel spoon. Be careful not to splash. Just stir quietly. You’ll notice that the lye kind of hardens or crystallizes. Just break and stir. It’s not that hard and it will break up and dissolve. Then it will heat up. Set your candy thermometer to touch the liquid and set the pot aside. It will heat up to about 150 degrees. Set it aside some place safe while you get the oil ready.

Melt the coconut oil in a double boiler. Set it aside until the lye water cools down to 100-110 degrees. Then carefully pour the melted oil into the lye water. Start by stirring with the immersion blender without it being turned on – it won’t take long – then turn the blender on low and mix until the mixture comes to “trace”. Do you remember from my last post what I said about “trace”? This is when the chemical transformation occurs and the mixture looks like thin pudding and has soft ripples in it.

Right away pour the mixture into your molds. This is where I got caught by surprise. The mixture hardens rather quickly. Much faster than the 100% Olive Oil Castile or 50/50 Olive Oil/Coconut Oil Soap. Scrape the remnants out with a stainless-steel spoon if you have to. If you have the molds on a cutting board covered with paper towels you can gently shake the board to settle the soap in the molds. Don’t feel bad about smoothing the soap with a stainless steel spoon or knife and don’t expect perfection! We’re just learning and professional looking refinement can come later.

Put all your used equipment in the sink. You can wash it easily in 24 hours because it will be soap at that point and the chemical transformation will be complete. No more lye!

Cover the soap molds with wax paper and a light towel. With this recipe it hardens so fast you will be able to put the wax paper on it and light cloth over that pretty fast. It won't stick. After 24 hours you’ll be able to unmold the soap to cure on a cooling rack. You can put it in the freezer for a couple hours to help make it easy to remove. Pure Coconut Oil Soap only takes about 4 weeks to cure and then you can use it. Unless you’re impatient like me….

I used one of my 100% Olive Oil Castile bars to shower with when it was only 3 weeks into its 6 weeks curing phase. It worked great!

Epilogue: I'm getting addicted to making my own soap. It's very easy and not scary at all if you take the right precautions. Now I know exactly what I'm using to clean myself off with. Now I know there aren't any chemicals getting on my body or going down the drain. I'm not using packaging that goes to the landfill. What other benefits can you think of when making your own soap? I bet there are a lot!

A Guide to Zero Waste Cleaning

Switching to zero waste cleaning is not only great for the planet, but also better for your wallet and your health. Conventional cleaning products contain a bunch of questionable ingredients. I mean, just look at bleach: That stuff will make you cough and sneeze your head off. It can’t be good for you. Plus, one quick walk down the cleaning aisle reveals tons of plastic packaging everywhere. From sponges to detergents to spray bottles—it’s all plastic. Thankfully, it’s easy to fix that! You can save money, help the planet (and your own health) by switching to greener, more natural cleaning supplies. Here’s how to clean, waste-free. 

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Zero waste cleaning is both rewarding and aesthetically pleasing!

Rags, Wooden Brushes, Mops and Brooms 

First things first, take a look at the cleaning tools you’re using. You probably use a lot of paper towels, sponges, disposable cleaning wipes, and a Swiffer, right? But that’s a lot of waste, if you think about it. Try swapping it out for more sustainable, reusable options.  

One big game changer for me has been using rags. You can make your own rags to cut down on cost pretty easily — just cut up an old shirt or sheet you no longer wish to use. You can use these to wipe down surfaces. The best part is they’re reusable and washable.

For items that need a good scrubbing, there are all kinds of wooden brushes you can get. They’re not only beautiful, but also compostable at the end of their life. For the sink, I wash dishes (and clean the sink) using a wooden pot scrubber. There are so many other kinds of wooden brushes available though, ranging from wooden toilet brushes to wooden hand broom and dust pans. You just have to know where to look. Life Without Plastic and Wild Minimalist sell a bunch you’ll fall in love with. 

Also, consider investing in a mop and bucket – it cuts back on waste compared to a Swiffer you have to keep changing. If you must use a Swiffer, use a rag in place of a disposable with it. 

A wooden broom is also a good idea to sweep up dust. More power to you if you find one with plant-based bristles! You can get a wooden pan or a metal pan to match.  

All-Natural Cleaning DIYs 

When you’ve assembled your plastic free cleaning tools, you’ll now need your actual cleaning DIYs to put them to use.  

For general cleaning, I recommend using an all-purpose spray, one that will be effective in any room of the house. I recommend my orange peel vinegar cleaner or my lavender vinegar cleaner. They’re very similar, but with varying scents. They’re excellent to use on almost any surface and can be used to clean a variety of things, such as tables, counters, mirrors, windows, baby toys, etc. Also, the orange peel cleaner is a great way to give orange peels a second life! 

For more specific cleaning needs, here are some DIYs to keep your house spotless: 

Find more DIYs I use to keep my home clean and fresh smelling (I totally recommend them!).  

Laundry

It’s also important to develop a low waste laundry routine, as this also counts as cleaning. As a general rule, I recommend swapping out disposable dryer sheets with wool dryer balls, and traditional detergents with DIY ones (or soap nuts). This will help you reduce waste and prevent polluting waterways, as conventional detergents do. 

Here are some laundry detergent DIYs: 

For a more in-depth guide, here’s my personal zero waste laundry routine

Stains 

To get stains out is a tricky thing. It depends on the kind of stain. Generally speaking, I recommend using a stain stick of some sort to get stains out. I personally love Ethique’s stain stick and it also doubles as a laundry bar to hand wash items in the sink. However, you can also try using baking soda, lemon juice, coconut oil or vinegar to remove a stain. Here’s a stain removal chart I reference often for more specific stains. 

This is how I clean without creating waste, and it totally works for me. Will you give these tips and DIYs a go? How do you keep cleaning low waste? 







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