From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Toothpaste Edition

April 16, 2009

First of all: WOW! 35 comments on my recent post asking for book ideas. They’re all so inspiring; now I want to write a dozen more books! Oh, and speaking of books, if you live in Canada, YOU CAN BUY SLEEPING NAKED IS GREEN AS OF TODAY (it comes out in the U.S. in mid-June, so my beloved American readers will have to hold tight)! The boy in my life — who might just be wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m the epilogue” at the launch — is reading the book as we speak and chuckling away, so all of my fellow eco-nerds north of the 49th parallel: Make your way to the nearest independent bookstore and get a copy. I promise it won’t suck.

Anyway, back to the contest: my editor is still deliberating on a winner, but I just wanted to thank all of you for your contributions. Although I’m not sure who he’ll pick, I must say, I really dig this whole what-your-granny-knows-and-isn’t-telling-you topic.

But moving on — it’s time for another installment of From the Pantry to the Bathroom, where I talk about how to use natural foods for both cosmetic and hygienic purposes. We’ve already covered the wonders of coconut oil as deodorant, apple cider vinegar as toner and a combo of baking soda, vinegar, cinnamon and vanilla in place of shampoo (which I’m sorry to say I’m not keeping up — my head got itchy, my hair got greasy and I didn’t have the patience for it).

My friend Meghan is about to host a workshop on making your own cosmetics, and to promote it, she’s posted this video explaining how she makes toothpaste using baking soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint oil. Because I’m too lazy to do this myself (and because I don’t have a trampoline to bounce on while brushing) I’ll just embed the video here:

If you’re looking for other homemade recipes, I believe Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish has one that calls for baking soda, wintergreen oil and stevia powder (although she’s since gone back to the tube variety on account of her gums hurting). But if you’ve got one already that you love, feel free to share the ingredients below; and let me know if you’ve had good or bad experiences making and using your own paste. Now that you can recycle Tom’s of Maine tubes (they also sell SLS-free baking soda toothpaste with Thistle-approved ingredients), I’m kind of tempted to just keep using that, but then again, it’s always fun to transform the bathroom into a little eco-laboratory.

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon

January 17, 2009


OK, first off, don’t worry — there isn’t any actual urine sitting in that bottle. But it sure looks like pee, doesn’t it? (That stuff in the bottle on the left, by the way, is baking soda and water, which refuse to interact with one another unless shaken vigorously). Anyway, this is besides the point. The point is: After one failed attempt last year to wash my hair with nothing but vinegar, I decided to give the whole natural approach to hair maintenance another shot.

Reader Melinda over at One Green Generation convinced me that her homemade system would leave my hair shiny and clean without also leaving me with an I’ve-just-spent-all-day-at-a-fish-and-chip-shop smell.

Needless to say, I was skeptical. However, as part of my new semi-regular series From the Pantry to the Bathroom, I want to make more of an effort to try new things — more specifically, new homemade things.

So I took a few minutes this morning to assemble the recipe, then followed her directions, which go like this:

1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle. Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.

2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds.

3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.

4. In an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle, mix 1 part organic white vinegar to 4 parts water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.

5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.

I must say, it’s a bit awkward trying to pour watery liquid onto your head without having it run everywhere. The reason regular shampoos and conditioners tend to come in gel-like consistencies is so that you can squeeze a dollop on your noggin, put it down, then gradually work it into a lather until it disperses evenly. But with these mixtures, you tend to get a lot in one place and very little in others.

At least they both felt nice on my scalp, and there weren’t any major problems in terms of rinsing them out in the shower.

However, I do have long hair, so it felt like I required a LOT of this stuff. At least it was cheap.

Blow-drying my hair, I sensed it was taking longer than usual and got the occasional whiff of vinegar (this might be my fault, though — Melinda suggests using white vinegar, and I chose to stick with apple cider because I thought it smelled less offensive… maybe my olfactory senses are messed up). Still, I persevered, then brushed it out.

The result? Well, see for yourself:


Not too shabby, eh? (This is my bedroom, by the way — I was trying to get some natural light on it.) So far, it doesn’t smell at all, which is a good thing, although it’s not necessarily softer or shinier than it usually is. I think the real test will be how long it lasts — if it’s greasy by tomorrow morning, I’m definitely docking points.

Overall, I’m kind of semi-pleased with this Pantry to the Bathroom experiment. It’s obviously a better option than using chemical-heavy brand-name shampoos and conditioners, but considering I already use all-natural stuff and make a point of refilling it from the bulk store, I don’t know that this is really reducing my carbon footprint by that much.

What do you guys think? Are you into this whole no ‘poo movement or is it not worth the fuss?

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Deodorant Edition

January 2, 2009


Welcome to the first installment of From the Pantry to the Bathroom, where I feature natural alternatives to beauty and hygiene products, all of which can be created by using ingredients found in the kitchen pantry (think toothpaste made from baking soda and peppermint extract; face masks assembled from oatmeal and honey; etc).

While I was entrenched in the darkest days of my green year and not buying any new plastic, let alone consuming products full of chemicals and preservatives, I ultimately had no choice but to make myself clean and pretty using whatever I could find in the house. Now, I still do this, but it’s more in the name of laziness and frugality.

Sometimes, homemade stuff doesn’t turn out so great — using vinegar instead of shampoo, for instance, unless perhaps you have thick, curly hair and don’t mind a permanent redolence of fish ‘n’ chips — but occasionally I’ll stumble upon something so effective and simple, I just have to share it with every woman (and sometimes men) I know.

So without further ado, here is my first find:


The recipe is very simple:

– Coconut oil

– Put on underams

That’s it!

You can find coconut oil at most grocery stores (definitely at any health food store). It looks something like this:


Coconut oil is great for cooking — it can be safely heated to high temperatures, it’s great for smoothies and has lots of beneficial side effects (ask your local nutritionist about it). But it’s also useful as a moisturizer, a shoe polish, and, if you’re feeling kinky, as a lubricant.

I can’t remember what, exactly, possessed me to spread coconut oil underneath my arms recently because I’ve been using a combination of the crystal rock and the wild-yam scented Green Beaver brand of deodorant for a while with mostly positive results. But in the end, I found that coconut oil is a lot more effective. In fact, it almost smelled better once I started to sweat a little. I’m not sure whether the oil is clogging my pores or not, but whatever — I’m sold. Try it out!!

Update: Burbanmom/EnviRambo has also just seen the coconut oil light — check out her post on it over here.

Deodorant ad above from Flickr