DIY Products and Temperature Shift – How to Deal.

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So if you’re new to DIY products (especially for your bod) and you’re experiencing the summer heat, you may be noticing your creations are not handling the heat well. That’s ok – I don’t always handle the heat well either, but I have lots of tricks to help my body cope – and good news: you can help your body butter cope, too. Here are a few of the tips I have up my sleeve:

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1). Some recipes can benefit from a higher ratio of solid / higher temperature withstanding ingredients. For your body butter, you may consider greatly increasing your ratio of cocoa butter, which holds a solid state at a much higher temperature than coconut oil, or adding a bit of beeswax to the mix. For your toothpaste, you may want to increase your baking soda content by a tablespoon or so. Play with your recipes a bit to get the mix that works for you.

2). Experiment with changing your location of storage. Some rooms in your house might be hotter than others, maybe you can keep your product in a downstairs bathroom if it is cooler there? Even switching the product from your countertop to under the sink might be enough to make the difference. On the extreme end, you may just want to keep it in the fridge. However, this can cause it’s own problems for texture – some things you just don’t want to be rock solid. For this problem, I recommend either:
A). Popping your products in the fridge from the time after your hygeine / beauty routine til about 8 hours beforehand, and then taking them out again, to soften up until you start your routine again (for example, if you have a morning routine, refrigerate the items during the day, and then take them out to sit overnight to be malleable for the morning) OR
B). Keep a lunch cooler bag in your bathroom with an ice pack in it. I have done this in my hot bathroom, and it works like a charm. Just don’t forget to change out your ice pack!

3). Just use your recipe in liquid form, or try an alternate liquid recipe. For example, you could use my glycerin based spray on moisturizer for your skin in replace of a body butter. However, even if your body butter turns to body oil, it still works just as awesome, it’s just not as fun to apply. Consider transferring it to a squeeze bottle, or just using plain old olive oil out of a squeezer instead if you are worried about the mixture solidifying in there again.

Out and about with some sunscreen or another product in danger of melting? Keep a freezer pack in your bag with it. Have a product that’s already separated or melted? Not to fear, just mix it again as per the directions in the recipe, and refrigerate or freeze to harden prior to leaving it out again to soften to workability. The only thing that might need adjustment is the essential oil content – you may want to freshen your oils up by adding a few extra drops when you re-mix, as extreme temperature changes and additional processing can cause them to evaporate off a bit.

I hope this helps with your temperature troubles!

4 Ingredient Dishwasher Detergent

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As promised, here is my homemade dishwasher detergent recipe! It works wonders on my dishes, especially since I discovered citric acid – this seems to be a key component. Yes, it does contain borax. See my FAQ for my opinion on its safety! Yes, the occasional crusty pan comes through – especially if I’ve fried some eggs, but i have never found a detergent that seems to kick fried eggy butt, franky. Especially on spatulas. What is it with that?! See my post on CREAM OF TARTAR for a solution for stubborn stuck on messes!

Anyway, here we go. You’ll need

1 part citric acid*
1 part sea salt / kosher salt (do not replace with table salt)
2 parts borax
3 parts washing soda – NOT the same as baking soda!

Mix well in a large bowl, and transfer to your container of choice!
Use about 1 tablespoon per load.

AND in your rinse compartment: full strength white vinegar – I find this to be crucial. If you find you are getting residues, check your compartment to make sure it is topped up.

I have been told that folks with softer water need less citric acid, and those with harder water need more. I have neither soft nor particularly hard water, so this mix works for me. If you have really hard water, though, and you are getting residues, add 1/2 part more citric acid and see how that goes.

This detergent MAY harden / clump over time due to the citric acid content. I recommend making SMALL batches, using it regularly and quickly, giving a shake every now and again, and adding a terra cotta brown sugar protector (soaked) to your jar. If you have any other tips or tricks to avoid this, please post a comment!

I hope this works for you – let me know how it goes!

*If you need citric acid, check your local soap making shop like The Soap Dispensary, or you can buy it online at New Directions Aromatics.

Simple, natural, non-polluting facial scrub!

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Lately there has been growing environmental concern about “microbeads” in our facial and body scrubs. These small, plastic beads – which manufacturers claim are scrubbing your pores (a claim I question having any real validity) are flowing out of our houses, making it through our cities’ water purification systems and into our waterways. This is causing problems for fragile ecosystems as animals and fish ingest these beads, and as they interfere with the life cycles of the organisms these sea creatures normally eat. For a full article on the subject, check out Scientific American here.. Anyway, does it seem necessary to scrub your face with plastic when there are a vast many natural alternatives?

I have a simple, CHEAP recipe for a natural facial / body scrub that cleanses your pores and should not dry out your skin. You do NOT have to keep this scrub in the fridge (which I find you need to with a large number of recipes online). I have never found a refrigerated scrub to be convenient, especially if you are using it in the shower (many of us are). I would say most people would forget to grab it prior to hopping in – and don’t think I need to elaborate on how annoying that is!

What you will need:

An old shampoo / body wash bottle or something else you can squeeze a relatively dense substance out of.

5 parts baking soda
2 parts sea salt
1 part vegetable glycerin
2 parts water
*Optional: Essential oil for scent

Mix together well and funnel into your bottle. If the substance is too dense to funnel, add a touch more water until at the desired consistency. If it is too dense to funnel, it will definitely be too dense to squeeze out of your bottle!

If you are using a scrub regularly, this one should keep for as long as you are using it. Basically it will have the same shelf as your ingredients, as it is a raw mixture. The glycerin is moisturizing without clogging pores, and the baking soda and salt will strip any make-up or oils off your face while still being relatively gentle*. If you want something scented, add a drop or two of a mild essential oil like lavender – use very sparingly**.

SHAKE BOTTLE well before each use!* Apply to your face generously and rub. Rinse thoroughly with water, and you should have some wonderfully radiant results!

*If you find that the ingredients are separating and you are left with a hard mass at the bottom of your bottle, add a small amount of HOT water to the bottle and give a vigorous shake.

If you find you have a reaction to the recipe (any lasting redness or itchiness, or a break-out), discontinue use – you may want to try one of these fresh recipes.. These recipes unfortunately need to be refrigerated and have a much shorter shelf life, but if your skin is sensitive it may be worth it. Because all skin is different, there are many recipes out there for all types. This one just happens to be the best for me, and the most convenient in terms of shelf life and storage!

**I would advise trying to recipe on your skin without the essential oil first, and then adding it later if you desire – as essential oils can sometimes cause reactions, it would be best to know if it is the scrub itself or the essential oil giving you a reaction if you do end up having one.

To demand the removal of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, see Care2’s petition!

Chocolate body butter, yum!

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Ok, so you don’t eat this lotion. I mean, you could, but it would NOT taste like it smells. Anyway, ready for a yummy smelling lotion that will deeply moisturize your winter scathed skin? A lotion that is super easy to make, and does NOT need to be refrigerated like many fresh lotions? I’ve got one for you with only THREE ingredients!

What you will need:

6 parts coconut oil
4 parts cocoa butter
1 part olive oil

Set yourself up for double boiling your ingredients. Please see my FAQ if you need an explanation of this process!

Add the coconut oil and cocoa butter to your double boiler. Stir until completely melted.
Put the mixture in your freezer for 10-12 minutes until it partially solidifies, as in picture 3. Remove from freezer and whip on medium speed with your electric hand mixer until i starts to get fluffy, then gradually drizzle in the olive oil until it comes together with peaks as in picture 4 – stop adding olive oil when it reaches the desired consistency. And you’re done! Transfer some to a mason jar or other container, and you can keep in your bathroom for as long as these oils would keep on your shelf*. But I doubt it will last that long!

Don’t forget to leave some skin exposed to slather on the excess from your beaters! I can’t bear to let any of this lovely stuff go to waste. And look out for chocolate hungry husbands…..you will smell so delicious, you might get a nibble!

*If you find your mixture solidifies or returns to an oily state, simply remove from your container and re-whip, and you should be good to go again! It still works just as well in an unwhipped state, but is simply easier to apply when light and fluffy.

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!

What the heck is ‘no-poo’, anyway?

So I have replaced my shampoo with a very simple alternative, and have been going strong for months now. It’s called ‘no-poo’, and it’s trending, even among some celebs. How many ingredients do you need? Three! Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and….wait for it…..water. You will also need two shampoo bottle sized squirt-able bottles. I used my old dishsoap bottles. A bit of the essential oil of your choice if you so desire. The howto? Up next!

Start with mixing, in the first bottle, about 3 – 4 tbsp of baking soda to about 3 cups of water. Experiment to get the dilution that feels right in your hair. I like a bit heavier concentration. Shake it up before use – depending on how much hair you have (I have very little), your bottle may last a few uses or many.

In the second bottle, mix about one part apple cider vinegar to one part water. Reduce ACV if you find this too strong. Add about 5-10 drops of the essential oil of your choice if you want to mask the vinegar smell during use (it doesn’t linger on your hair afterwards, so the scent is mainly for your own benefit).

Wet hair. Apply the baking soda mixture to your hair so it is saturated with the stuff and massage in. Next, saturate your hair with the apple cider vinegar mixture and massage again. The reaction between the baking soda (a base) and the vinegar (an acid) creates a wonderfully pH neutral environment in your hair, leaving it silky smooth and healthy with no residue. Rinse thoroughly!

You can also experiment with adding some vegetable glycerin (about 1 tbsp) to your baking soda mix for extra moisture. Furthermore, some folks choose to rinse each step separately instead of combining the two. And others skip the ACV entirely. You do what feels right for you hair – after experimenting a bit, you will get used to what works for you!

According to some, there may be an ‘adjustment period’ (anywhere from a few days to a few weeks) where your hair’s natural oils (which have been stripped with traditional shampoo) come in a little strong, and you may get a slight oiliness to your hair. Once your hair adjusts to not having the oils stripped from it so frequently, the oil will tone itself down. I myself didn’t notice this happen with my hair, but the warning is due as I have heard that this happens!

No parabens or other harsh chemicals for your hair, just good, clean, natural ingredients that pH balance your hair and scalp! Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

UPDATE 01/06/2014: I have had some questions re: using No-poo on colour treated hair. From researching folks’ anecdotes on many a forum, it seems to be either a non-issue, or to protect your colour BETTER than shampoo. If in doubt, use a lower concentration of baking soda.