How To Clean Up How You Clean Up

Well, finally, after years of Google searches, I have my own consignment of Castile soap on the way. What’s that, you may ask? And rightly so. The emotive answer is that it’s the thing that’s going to free me from chemical household cleaners. The pragmatic answer is that it’s a soap that’s made mostly from olive oil, but can be made from other vegetable oils, and comes in solid or liquid form.

So, with this liquid soap, I will endeavour to make my own dishwashing liquid, my own all-purpose cleaner and of course, a little something for the bowl. An almost-pun.

Then, once I have gained joy, I will see what else I can concoct.

Why am I so determined to get rid of my chemical cleaners though? The story starts a few years ago, when I lived on a biodynamic wine farm. By and large, the use of chemical pesticides was discouraged, for good reason, so I had to find other ways to clear my room of my crawling roommates. With time, they got to stay. For free. And then I realised that most of the grey water on the farm was being recycled, so using branded toiletries and cleaning products didn’t make sense. My search for natural (or chemical-free) alternatives lead me down some interesting paths and I soon learned that if you have bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in your home, you’re pretty much set.

Other unexpected positive turns were that I started getting less acne and less split ends. Shiny hair. Less scabby skin. Less body odour, ironically. So, if you think you’d like to give it a go, here’s what I do, and have been building up to, through trial and error, for about three years.

For shampoo, I use a bicarb paste once or twice a week (I keep some ready-made in a disused pill holder, those with the snap-on lids, in the shower), and brush my hair twice a day with a bristled brush. Stick some coconut oil on the ends if they start feeling dry, or use a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar and water as a rinse (preferably when single, or if your partner likes you smelling like a ‘parcel’). Facial and body lotion? Look no further than grapeseed or macadamia nut oil. OK, maybe try Sunumbra Sunscreen, it’s organic and a tube usually lasts me a season (I only use it on my face and kind of reckon that if it’s monsoon weather, I’m OK without it). Most chemists and health shops stock it.

The only two things I’m still using that are branded are deodorant and toohpaste. I am still not convinced that shoving bicarb in my mouth every day is a good idea for anyone. But the search continues. There are a few green variations I’ve tried, and at least they have the added bonus of allowing you to go for a wine tasting directly after brushing your teeth. Anyone tried minty Shiraz lately? Not so tasty. And well, I’ve discovered I’m not that sweaty, so guess what? In winter, I sometimes forget to use my roll-on deodorant. But I believe bicarb comes in handy here too. Will report back.

Anyway, so I’m moving on to the kitchen and bathroom. Already using Saturn-looking balls for my laundry. I bought them three years ago for R350.00 and they are still going strong. The brand I use is not for sale in South Africa anymore, but probably because there is a perfectly suitable local version available called biowashball. It’s worth saving up for.

The upside of all this is that I’ve saved a lot of money by going green in this way. I can also recycle more water into my garden in summer, when the dam levels are low. It all works together nicely.

Watch this space. It’s going to be very clean soon.

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