Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Im not a hippy (really!)

Its true - Im not a hippy, I dont buy organic food or let my underarm hair grow long (though in winter...) but I am becoming more conscious of the amount of chemicals in the the things I use on my body. 
It all started when I first made some melt and pour soap just to save money. Then when my hubby wanted a more lathery soap I made some cold process soap from scratch. Lovely soap - just oils that I chose to put in it and no nasty additives, chemicals or preservatives. 
Then I made a shampoo bar and used a cider vinegar rinse instead of commercial conditioner and my headaches disappeared. I checked the ingredients of my "natural vit E face cream" and was shocked a the amount of additives in that and so sourced a proper natural cream with only items I could understand on the label. Next was soap nuts for the laundry to save money and again no chemicals in them and they wash the clothes just as well. 

Toothpaste is the latest conversion - have you checked the label on your toothpaste at all? Mmmm quite a few nasties in there too including SLS and some other unpronounceable items. You can use just baking soda or bi carb but it doesnt have a nice taste (I used salt once when I was a child as we had run out of toothpaste and it made me vomit so that is not an option). 
I looked online and found a few recipes for natural toothpaste and the first one I tried (as I had the ingredients already) was bicarb soda, vegetable glycerine and a few drops of spearmint essential oil. I mixed a small amount of bicarb with some glycerine to make a paste and a tiny bit of the spearmint oil to get rid of the salty taste of the soda and dipped the toothbrush in it and cleaned my teeth. No foam but it cleaned my teeth great and they felt clean and smooth for a very long time. Next I got some bentonite clay and mixed that with some bicarb soda, a bit of cinnamon and some glycerine to make a paste and a few drops of spearmint for flavour. Ok so its a bit off putting putting mud on your toothbrush and you look like you have been eating dirt when you are brushing with it but once rinsed away you are left with clean smooth feeling teeth and they look shiny and white. I will continue to try these and make sure the grittiness doesnt make my teeth sensitive to hot and cold - when I used a baking soda toothpaste years ago my teeth became so sensitive I had to stop using it (but it could have been other things in the toothpaste and not just the soda causing that).

As with anything I make - I test it on myself first - then convince the family (a husband and 2 teenage sons - not an easy conversion!) to try the item and then once they sort of get used to it I stop buying the commercial item and they dont miss it. My youngest son just rolled his eyes when he heard I had made toothpaste and said "no way!!!"
So that is hair, body, face, teeth and clothes all pretty much chemical free - I guess food is the next thing? But Im not a hippy - really!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Misconceptions about soapmaking

You know what really annoys me? People who have no idea about how real soap is made, who have an absolute hissy fit when they hear that to make soap you have to use sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). If you don't use caustic soda you don't have soap - if the thing you use to clean your body doesn't have caustic soda in it (listed sometimes as saponified ...oil) then you are washing with a synthetic detergent - you know the type of stuff you wash your dishes and your car with! When you mix oil and caustic soda/water (lye) together it causes a chemical reaction called saponification and changes to a safe item called soap - there is no mystery in it - it is a very basic chemical reaction and once the saponification is complete - usually about 24 hours with cold process soap and a couple of hours with hot process soap then what you have has no sodium hydroxide/caustic soda/lye in it. If it did it would burn your skin! Handmade soap got a bit of a bad name in the good old days of "make it yourself or go without" they didn't have access to sodium hydroxide from the hardware store or supermarket like we do - they used soda ash - this is the ash left after burning wood. Sounds safe doesn't it? Well no, because you mixed the ash with water to make the lye but you never knew how much to put in and whether you were making a mild soap or a very harsh burn-your-skin-off soap. It was pretty much guess work. So the old soaps sometimes were not the best for the skin even though they were completely natural. These days we have access to soap calculators online that tell you exactly how much sodium hydroxide you need, how much water and you put into the calculator the oils you are using and it works it all out for you. No guesswork and a completely safe soap in the end. 
People seem to think that the caustic soda is still in the finished soap - well it isn't! You MAKE soap with caustic soda but it is NOT in the the finished soap due to saponification.
So if you see sodium hydroxide, or lye, or saponified on your soap ingredient list don't worry - you will probably find the only other ingredients are very natural, like oils and a bit of colour and fragrance - compare that to the chemical list on the back of your shampoo and conditioner bottles, the wrapping on your soap free shower gel and other items you put on your skin.  
Another thing that people get confused about is the curing time for cold process soaps. They think that this has something to do with making the soap safe to use - well it isn't - the soap is safe after it is completely saponified which is around 24 hours if you made it correctly. The cure time is for the soap to harden. When you first make the soap it is pretty soft, safe to use but soft - so you would use it up very quickly. When the soap sits on a drying rack for 4 weeks the moisture in the soap evaporates and you end up with a nice hard bar that will last well. Soaps also get milder as they age too. Some soaps that are made with a high amount of olive oil need over 6 weeks to harden enough for use, some need even longer (months). But the soap is safe to use even if its soft. Most soap makers test their soaps the next day to see what its like - they wouldn't do that if they thought it was going to burn their skin off. 
Not sure I have allayed all your fears about soap but perhaps if you check the labels on your shower items and compare to a handmade soap you might see what I am on about. You can always look up those ingredients online to see what they are (but be prepared to be shocked).
Check out how I make my soaps here  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

My soapmaking adventure

Oh dear - I had forgotten about this page really - its been about a year (!!!!) since I actually wrote anything here and that is not good - not that anyone reads this blog and I do get a bit caught up with Facebook and waste most of my time there!
So what have I been up to - well since I discovered melt and pour soaping that has become a bit of an obsession for me - love it. Eventually I got up the courage to try making soap from scratch too - cold process soap its called. Love it too!!! I have complete control over what goes into the soaps from start to finish, my hubby wanted a really lathery soap and felt the M&P soaps weren't bubbly enough for him. He loves the cold process ones though - then I thought I would make a shampoo soap when I realised how many chemicals I was putting on my head! So I did quite a bit of research into this and took lots of notes, read everything I could and came up with a recipe of my own using oils that were good for the hair and scalp. I loved it, my hubby actually thought it was great (and usually he is a hard sell) then I gave some to my Mum and Sister and they loved it too. Word got out and people started asking to buy my shampoo bar - everyone seemed to like it and it was suitable for all sorts of hair types.

You may think its weird to use soap on your hair but it contains only oils that are good for your hair and if you use it with a cider vinegar rinse your hair is left shiny and lovely. I have been using nothing but this since November 2011 and my hair is the best it has ever been. You see the soap is slightly alkaline and the rinse is slightly acidic so one counteracts the other and your hair is left pretty much pH neutral and in the best condition it can be - no chemicals, preservatives, no SLS or other nasties. In fact I used to get a LOT of headaches for no reason - when I stopped using commercial shampoo and conditioner I noticed I hardly ever get headaches now and if I do I rarely need to take anything as they just go by themselves. I used to have to take strong pain killers for them and now Im lucky to even need a panadol. I think by getting rid of most of the chemicals I was putting on my body in soaps and shampoo etc I have detoxified myself. The next step was to find a moisturiser that had less chemicals and unpronounceable things in it. A bit of searching on the net and I found one with mainly natural things in it and I love that. Then I thought - what about the laundry? Perhaps I could make a laundry soap - sort of looked at that but then found Soapnuts from Pure Revolution
Again I love these - no chemicals, my wash is clean and Im saving money - what more could you want?
Dont get me wrong - Im not a hippy and out to rid the world of chemicals - I just want to see what I can do for myself and perhaps get a few others to change for the better too. I still dye my hair on the occasions that the grey just gets too obvious and Im not too bothered if there are colours and preservatives in my food but little by little Im changing and I think its for the best.
Anyway check out my soaps on Facebook at VivianneK Soaps