Why I choose to DIY (or, Why I Am Not a Crazy Person)

As frequently as I come across people who are stoked to find out that I make my own body and cleaning products, I find myself speaking to people who come across as viewing me like I am some crazy time waster or paranoid nutjob. I get your concern – it may seem daunting and bizarre to make your own products when so many are readily available to buy. Huh? You make your own toothpaste? You know you can buy that, right?

Yes, I know I can buy that. And I know that people spend years trying to find beauty products that are just right for them – their skin / hair type, their budget, their preference for fragrance. A guy I know finds the scent of coconut oil to be “too girly” for him. Okay, sure. Although I wouldn’t smell coconut oil on a man and be like “Wow, what a girlyman,” I see how someone might have a preference for different scents and such. I know a few people who can’t get over the fact that their laundry might not smell like hibiscus flowers or Essence of Hawaii anymore if they start to DIY.

That being said, there is a bit BUT in here for me. BUT what about your health? You might not believe it makes a MASSIVE impact on your health to regularly douse your body and home in known carcinogens (and many people need to believe the impact is massive to make a switch), but for me, any negative health impact I can easily avoid is a no-brainer. I can’t do much about the radiation leaks from Fukishima. I can’t do a lot personally about the pollution in the city air that I breathe. I can’t do much about toxic runoff into our groundwater, or acid rain. I mean, people can make differences in these areas, but I am talking about me personally, at this point in time. I just am not in a position to change these things anytime soon. So I have to start with what I CAN do.

It’s just like when I tell people I buy organic and I get hit with the whole “Well, we’re all f*ed anyway, there’s chemicals in everything” speel. Well, okay, I get what you are saying, but why not minimize exposure as much as you can? If, as people say, we are regularly exposed to so many chemicals and carcinogens that are beyond our control, why not at least make some impact on the exposure we CAN control? Why not? If I can increase my chances of a few extra years of life to spend with my loved ones, why would I not work towards that? I don’t think that makes me paranoid – I think it makes me proactive and informed. Feel free to disagree, but know that I don’t exist in a state of fear every day. I feel empowered and joyful to be doing what I can for my family!

Your skin is a naturally absorptive organ. If you are putting chemicals on it, you DO risk having them absorbed into your body. And if there are residues on your hands (ie. hand cream, hand sanitizer, etc), you don’t even need to rely on your skin for entrance to your body. Try your mouth. If it’s on your hands for a long period of time, it’s likely in your mouth as well. And when it comes time for home cleaning, you are breathing in those sprays and powdered cleaners. So it’s hitting your respiratory system as well.

Now, I don’t mean to come off as fear mongering. In fact, if you want a balanced perspective on the likelihood of absorption of chemicals through your skin, start with this well written article.. There are lots of misleading quotes out there that have their facts stretched. But there IS a risk to your body, and I personally would rather not take it for a tradeoff of the minor comfort of convenience buying my own personal care products and cleaners, or some kind of fragrance (that I could easily largely re-create with a DIY personal scent using essential oils). Not to mention that if I run out of something, I can easily whip up a batch of it with ingredients that I keep in bulk in my cupboard, rather than running out to the store.

Not to mention the OTHER reasons for DIY. Cost, for example. Most of my products are made at a tiny fraction of the cost of anything I could buy with the same effectiveness. I generally use widely available, CHEAP ingredients that you can buy in BULK and bring your own container for at places like The Soap Dispensary. If you are bringing your own container and buying in bulk, this approach also largely reduces the amount of plastic waste that goes into the garbage. You can’t recycle a toothpaste tube, to my knowledge!

Some of the products I make I find to have superior effectiveness to storebought alternatives, like my toothpaste and deodorant for example. Not to mention “No-poo!”. I love what this does for my hair (and my son’s cradle cap)!

So I hope this explains the reasoning behind what I do. Yes, I am also a crafty person. I do a lot of home baking, and gardening as well. I like the feeling of personal empowerment that comes from producing things for yourself with less reliance on middlemen. But let me finish with a tiny pep talk on how EASY it is to DIY home cleaners and body products! Most of my basic recipes only involve a few ingredients, and usually only basic mixing is involved, unless there is an ingredient you need to melt. It really only takes minutes to make things like toothpaste, deodorant, spray cleaners, and the like. And if you need a little jumpstart to get you going, why not try hosting one of my DIY parties?. A really fun learning experience for friends and family!

And if you still think I am a crazy person, that’s okay 🙂

Is your laundry toxic?

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There is much discussion online about the toxicity of commercial laundry detergent – and after some research, while my son was still in cloth diapers and developing rashes, I decided to make the switch to a homemade recipe – some of the commercially available “less toxic” alternatives still have some major chemical offenders in them, or at the very least, are super expensive, and usually contain a scent of some kind.

For a thorough discussion of the toxicity of many household products, especially laundry detergent, see this article. Since this guy breaks it down like nobody’s business, rather than discussing the dangers of commercial detergent, and dryer sheets, I am instead going to give you a safe, easy alternative – proven gentle for even my little guy’s tush.

What you need (click on “Sourcing Ingredients” in the page header for links in regards to where to buy these if you have trouble finding them, or click the affiliate links below):

Baking soda
Washing soda
Soap flakes
White Vinegar
OPTIONAL: Borax*

*Disclaimer: There is some controversy as to the relative safety of Borax – I fall on the side of it being safe enough for my family, and definitely much safer than the alternatives in commercial detergent. However, you may choose to do some research first. I have found this article to be amazingly helpful.

So all you are going to need to do is combine your ingredients (I use an old big honey tub – some relatively large plastic or glass container that can live in your laundry room is best!) at the following ratio:

For very sensitive skin, or very dark colours: 2 parts baking soda, 1 part washing soda, 1 part soap flakes. Stir or shake well to evenly distribute. About 3 tbsp per average load – but experiment with quantity if you find it is not enough / or too much (ie. there is residue on your clothes).

For tougher jobs, and lighter colours: (Read: construction clothes, stinky sports gear, tough stains / dirt). Combine 4 parts washing soda, 2 parts soap flakes, 1 part borax. Again, combine and mix well to distribute the ingredients. Three tbsp per load or so. The vinegar rinse, as described below, is especially helpful for these tough jobs.

Add a tablespoon of borax* to a load if you want some extra whitening power and are using the sensitive skin recipe. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to your rinse cycle (when the water is full) if you want to completely strip any residue at all from the clothes. Vinegar also acts as a natural fabric softener / anti-static agent. It won’t leave a scent – if it does, you’ve added too much. You can even add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice to the rinse cycle if you would like a mild scent to your clothes. I add tea tree when dealing with a particularly nasty load (read: poop or puke).

IMPORTANT: DO NOT add the vinegar to your wash cycle, or it will neutralize the cleaning ingredients.
*If someone still develops a sensitivity, remove the borax.

And there you have it! I hope your laundry washing days are a lot less toxic. And dryer sheets? I find I don’t need them at all with this detergent, and the vinegar rinse. Still, if you find things still come out a bit clingy – see this link to make your own felted dryer balls!