A couple of years ago, not long after we moved into our new house, my husband and I decided to look at changing a few of the ways we had always done things and find some areas in which we could improve our lifestyle while also effecting a positive change on the environment around us.
The first two things we did immediately after we moved in, was get a composting bin so that we could make our own compost and then we connected a water butt at the end of our garden to the gutters on our neighbour’s large shed (with his permission!) to store rainwater. It rains a lot in Ireland and we had previously lived in apartments where we couldn’t have a water butt and every time it rained we used to stare out of the window wishing we had a water butt, as we watched all that precious rainwater going to waste.
We had been trying to reduce our waste, our consumption of products we didn’t need and had also tried (unsuccessfully) to eliminate plastic completely from our lives for a very long time. When we moved into a house which was larger than our previous apartment, we also knew that this would incur extra bills, as well as having a slightly bigger mortgage than we were used to. Unfortunately we were able to reduce our use of plastic but not eliminate it – it is literally everywhere and in every supermarket we go to in Ireland and we don’t live near a bulk-buy goods store which would enable us to bring our jars and containers with us and take home our goods that way. We have become very conscious of what we buy, where it has come from, how far it had to travel to get to us and sometimes being just a little bit more conscious as a consumer is our way of doing our bit for the environment. We have come to accept that being “zero waste” is an unlikely possibility for us at the moment, but becoming “low-waste” or reducing waste is something we can definitely do and a little is always better than nothing at all.
Not content with the steps we had already taken however, I decided to look at what I could make myself within our home that would help us to reduce our waste even further and also had the added bonus of reducing the chemicals we were using in our home. So I started making my own soap, soy wax candles, laundry powder, antibacterial spray (using distilled white vinegar and peels from citrus fruits and essential oils), moisturiser, body butters, body scrubs…the list goes on. I used to shudder at the thought that, every time I finished a jar of moisturiser or a plastic spray bottle of antibacterial cleaner, the plastic would end up either getting recycled (hopefully) or going straight into landfill. I was also genuinely worried about the amount of chemicals my husband and I had been using, both on our bodies and in our home, from SLS and phthalates to sulphates and micronised particles of goodness knows what!
On my journey to making my own homemade products, I tried many (many!) things that absolutely did not work, despite extensive research on my part, including the sourcing of various ingredients and then testing, trying and modifying recipes I had found. Homemade Shampoo was a big fat “No” from me I’m afraid. My hair was greasier than fried chicken for weeks on end and no amount of waiting it out to see if it would improve made any difference (apparently known in hair circles as the “transitional phase”). Homemade Shampoo is an experience I won’t be repeating!
Next I tried toothpaste – another “No”. I figured some things are honesty better left to experts and scientists who really know how to formulate a product. I also tried to make my own eye shadow, mascara and cosmetics using ethically sourced mica powders, oils and butters. Being a glam girl at heart who loves to put her best face forward, I really, really wanted this to work. No matter what way I tried, I couldn’t get the consistency right. Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, some of those things did end up in the bin and honestly I could have cried at the time – firstly because I had failed and secondly because the very thing I was trying to avoid (more stuff going into landfill) was actually happening. Those were not good days for me I can tell you. Instead, for certain things I decided to choose ethically sourced sourced products which were not tested on animals, registered with the Vegan Society (to be absolutely sure they were not tested on animals in any way) and with as few chemicals as possible in them. I thought at first that everything would cost more but I was pleasantly surprised and while it is true that some things can be more expensive, most of what I needed was exactly the same price as I would have paid previously (and certainly cheaper than my method of trying, testing and then throwing everything in the bin – honestly I could cry!).
But hope was waiting just around the corner. I am proud to say that to date, over the past two years, I have successfully made my own facial skincare (moisturiser that actually works and doesn’t just sit on the skin going nowhere fast), serums, lip balms, candles, soap, laundry powder, hand cream, bath salts, body scrubs, body butter and body shimmer oil (fancy!). I hope over the coming weeks and months to share some of these recipes with you.
I had to give up on the homemade shampoo, toothpaste (a gritty mess of goo), coloured cosmetics (a word of warning – none of the mascara recipes I found online worked – none of them and I tried a LOT), deodorant (a verified disaster) and dishwasher tablets (I am still working on this one and I may go to my grave doing so because I am truly determined to bring you actual tablets that don’t fall apart before they go into the dishwasher).
I am delighted to bring you two of my recipes today and have made video tutorials for each of these – one is for a soy wax candle and the other is DIY Laundry Powder. I cannot take full credit for the laundry powder as there are a variety of recipes available online, most of which contain Borax which I didn’t want to use so I took elements from several recipes, created this one and lo and behold it is the best laundry powder I have ever used. We could never, ever go back to using store bought laundry capsules which is what we used for years before I made this.
My soy wax candle uses Eco Soy Wax (I use C3 wax which is for container candles, eco wicks and recycled jam jars plus essential oils for scent). When I saw the chemicals listed in an old candle we had in a cupboard I was absolutely horrified. I am including a photo of the ingredients on this candle so that you can see it for yourself. What was I thinking all those years that I filled our home with crazy chemicals?!
Coming this week will be my “Citrus Zest Melt & Pour Soap” which I will post below as soon as I have finished editing it. Melt & Pour is the easiest way for me to make soap – the cold process method commonly used in soap-making uses Lye which is a chemical that in its raw form is pretty dangerous so because I have no idea how to make candles with Lye, I have chosen the easy way out and Melt & Pour is my process of choice.
As always, thank you for reading and I truly hope you are inspired to try your own DIY recipes some rainy Sunday afternoon!
Until next time,