A while back I wrote about the many ways I use vinegar in our home. And I’ve been saying over and over again that you only need vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and soap for the majority of your cleaning. Well, several people have asked me what I use baking soda for – it’s high time I gave baking soda it’s due!
1. Shampoo Replacement. The number one article here at One Green Generation is A Non-Toxic, Frugal Way To Wash Your Hair Without Buying Shampoo. I explain it all in detail there, and I wrote a follow-up about it here as well. Try it!
2. Deodorant. Another very popular post here is How To Make Your Own Deodorant (A Very Simple Recipe). I encourage you to try that as well – so simple!
3. Air Freshener & Deodorizer. Brilliantly easy, all you need to do is open up a box of baking soda, or dump a pile of it into a bowl, and leave it in an offensively smelling area – your fridge, your closet, your pet area, you car, wherever! (Change it out every 3-6 months.)
4. Carpet and Garment Deodorizer. Just sprinkle a bit over the offensive area and let it sit. A little while later, you can vacuum or shake it out.
5. Counter, sink, and tub Cleaner. Just like using Bon Ami or some other powdered cleaner, sprinkle it onto the surface and rub with a wet cloth. Be careful on delicate surfaces – test it out first to make sure it won’t scratch, though it’s more delicate than most powdered cleaners. To shine the surface afterward, you can spray a bit of vinegar and wipe clean.
6. Jewelry and Silverware Cleaner. You can use a paste of a baking soda mixed with a bit of water (3:1 or so), or if that doesn’t work well enough you can try replacing the water with hydrogen peroxide.
7. Coffee, Tea, Rust, and Hard Water Stain Remover. Scrub with the same 3:1 (baking soda: water) paste, and it should do the trick!
8. Pot and Pan Cleaner. Sprinkle some baking soda onto your rag or sponge, and clean your pots – it will take off many stains.
9. Drain Unclogger. If water hasn’t yet backed up, pour 1 cup of baking soda down, followed by 3 cups boiling water. Repeat if the drain doesn’t clear. If the drain still doesn’t clear, follow with 1 cup of vinegar. This makes it bubble, fizz and usually that does the trick! If this does not work, we usually buy enzymes from the local health food store.
10. Cat Litter Extender. If your cat is persnickety about clean litter, in addition to cleaning the litter daily, you can shake a light layer of baking soda onto the litter and mix it up.
11. Garlic Smell Eliminator. Cutting boards and other surfaces can be cleaned with a thick paste of vinegar and baking soda. Apply this paste and let it sit for 10-15 minutes – it will both clean and deodorize.
12. Bath Softener. If you want to feel extra soft and silky, dissolve 2 cups of baking soda in your bath water. This works well if you have itchy skin from bites or hives also.
13. Exfoliator. I use the same mixture for my hair (above) as a light exfoliator on my face every couple of weeks. It’s quite rejuvenating.
14. Homemade Toothpaste. You can make your own toothpaste by using two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of peroxide. I don’t do this regularly, but I have done it in a pinch.
15. Denture or Retainer Soak. You can soak these overnight in a glass with water and baking soda. It will leave them clean and deodorized.
16. Fill small holes in Drywall. Yes, I have rented many homes and sometimes you find yourself without spackle. Ah, just mix a bit of white toothpaste with some baking soda and fill the holes! Let it dry completely before you paint or anything – but you might find you don’t need to paint!
17. Fire Extinguisher. Great for a grease fire in the kitchen, a car fire, or another small fire. Just sprinkle it over the fire until the fire goes out. Keep it in your kitchen for sure!
18. Shoe Deodorizer. Sprinkle a small amount in your shoe, or put some in an old sock and tie the sock – then stuff it in your shoe overnight.
19. Ant, Roach, and Flea Deterrent. If you have ants or roaches, sprinkle baking soda in the areas where they are coming in the house. If you have fleas on the lawn, sprinkle baking soda around the areas where you and your pets walk by. This helps. I’ve written other tips for organic ant control here. You can try it with snails and rabbits, too!
20. Cook with it. Lots of yummy things. Like pancakes!
Please Pick Up Where I Left Off!
What else do you use baking soda for?
I have lived in the north, south, east, and west – and ants find you know matter where you live! I have tried all sorts of different organic sprays and urban legend tinctures. Most things work a little bit and then the ants come back.
So how do you get rid of ants? Here’s what I’ve found that works best:
In The Home
First off, you have to trace your ant trail as far as you can trace it. That means across the windowsill or the floor, through the window or door, and outside. If they are coming through a crack in the wall or ceiling, you may not be able to do this, but at least follow it to the crack. If they’re coming through a wall, you may be able to go around to the outside of your house and find where they’re coming in.
Then you’ll need to get rid of the trail. If you only kill the ants you see, more ants will return in their place, following an ant trail established by scent. The best way I have found to get rid of the ant trail is to spray it with orange oil cleaner (which you can find in any health food store – try to find one that isn’t dyed orange, and is a natural color). I spray the entire trail inside with a hefty dose of orange oil cleaner, and leave it there for several minutes. Then I wipe it clean, go outside, and do the same.
After I’ve gotten rid of the trail, I spray the orange oil cleaner into the entry point on the outside of the house (if I can find it). That means every crack, crevice, window, or doorway where they are coming in. Don’t wipe the spray clean – just leave it.
In a pinch, you can also use straight vinegar in a spray bottle. In my experience this does not last as long – the ants find their way back a day or two later. But if you need to take immediate action, this will help. You can also combine it with shaking some ground cinnamon into the corner or crevice where the ants are coming into the house. It may look a little weird, but the ants will not cross the cinnamon. Baking soda can work as well, though again, not as well as the orange oil.
In The Garden
In the garden, I leave ants alone because they help break down the nutrients for plants – they’re a natural part of the garden ecosystem. However, if you have a serious infestation (sometimes ants will bring in aphids), or if you want to get rid of fire ants, you can deter them. Try scattering ground cinnamon, wood ash, and/or diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your beds.
Anyone else have any organic ant deterrent tricks?
This post was inspired by a comment from Charlene – thanks for asking, Charlene!
Well, my first article about washing hair without shampoo spurned such a tizzy of interest, that I thought you all might enjoy an update.
I have been shampoo-free for over 5 months now. I LOVE it!
- I’m finding I can use a decreasing amount of baking soda and still get the same results. Also, I can now go 4 days without washing or rinsing, if I put my hair up on the 4th day.
- It’s CHEAP: I have been using the same bottle of vinegar since almost the beginning, and it’s still 1/2 full. I’ve used just 1 small package of baking soda.
- I love the way it makes my hair look! It’s a deeper, more natural and luscious color.
But mostly, my hair is pretty similar to how it was before. It’s just that now I don’t have to think about buying shampoo and conditioner (baking soda and vinegar are things we always have around the house), I don’t have to worry about what’s going onto my head and into my body, and I’m saving money.
There were several questions about containers, how I keep from getting it in my eyes, and other similar points. So I thought I’d share with you my containers:
One is an old shampoo bottle, the other is an old salad dressing bottle. The trick is to be able to get the solution where you want it, which is why I use these bottles with long stems and small holes. It works really well, it has become totally natural for me. For me, this is just the way hair is washed now!
After using either Recipe #1 or Recipe #2 for a while, you might try using the following more diluted method.
Recipe #3: The Simple Method Diluted
1. Use an old shampoo bottle or a squeeze bottle of some variety (see photo above). Mix 1 part baking soda to 6 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. (You just need to saturate your scalp, not the rest of your hair.)
3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.
4. In an old shampoo bottle or a squeeze bottle (see photo above), mix 1 part Organic White Vinegar to 8 parts Water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick (which lasts through several bottles of mixture) and 1/2 t vanilla (or a vanilla stick seen in the photo above). This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair with a faint scent of spices.
5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse completely.
Questions? Thoughts? Ideas?
Have you tried this since I wrote about it? Do you use a different method? Have you tried to do this in the past?
I get an awful lot of questions about what household products I use. Which dish soap do I use? What shampoo? What do I use to clean the floors? So I thought I should answer that, with the hope that you benefit from my years of trial and error!
In The Kitchen
- Dish soap: Planet or Seventh Generation Free & Clear (in the dispenser in above photo). When we eventually start making our own soap, I imagine we’ll use that for dishes instead.
- Diswasher soap: Ecover tablets. I have been on a quest for the perfect soap and have tried just about every green brand. This one is the only one that works well. I hate that each comes in its own package (recyclable plastic), but it’s truly the only one that works for us. We can set our dishwasher to all the energy efficient cycles, and the dishes come out sparkling.
- Counter & cupboard cleanser: Bon Ami or straight Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
- Floor cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with hot water (1:8 or so). Or sometimes, hot soapy water.
In The Bathroom
- Hand, Face, & Body soap: Ballard Organics unscented, local, organic, handmade liquid soap.
- Shampoo: Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with water, 1:3 or so.
- Conditioner: Spectrum organic white vinegar mixed with water, 1:4.
- Shaving cream: Ballard Organics unscented, local, organic, handmade liquid soap.
- Toothpaste: Tom’s of Maine SLS-Free Flouride Toothpaste.
- Toothbrush: Preserve recycled plastic toothbrush.
- Deodorant: Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with Bob’s Red Mill cornstarch.
- Counter, cupboard, and shower cleaner: Bon Ami – or straight Bob’s Red Mill baking soda – followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4) for disinfectant & shine.
- Mirror cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
- Tub & Tile cleaner: Bon Ami or Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with enough water to make a smooth thick paste (scrub in and let sit 20-30 minutes, then rinse). Followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4) for disinfectant & shine.
- Toilet cleaner: Either 1/2 cup straight Spectrum organic white vinegar, or Ecover toilet bowl cleaner.
- Floor cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with hot water (1:8 or so), with a tablespoon of dish soap.
In The Rest Of The House
- Wood floor cleaner: Murphy’s Oil Soap in warm water (1T soap per 1 gallon bucket).
- Wood furniture cleaner: A dab of olive oil (can be mixed 1:2 with lemon juice if there is a buildup of wax or other material) or straight Murphy’s Oil Soap. In the past I’ve also used Murphy’s Oil Soap Multi-Use Wood Cleaner with Orange Oil but olive oil is working fine.
- Window & Mirror cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
- Dusting: For non-wood surfaces, Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4). For wood surfaces, I use a microfiber dusting cloth (it works with a static charge).
- Laundry Soap: Planet liquid laundry soap. My skin is very sensitive, and this is one of the few that works well but doesn’t irritate my skin. My next step is to learn about soap nuts.
- Fabric Softener: Spectrum organic white vinegar (1/2 C per load in washer).
- Fabric Stain Remover: Generic brand Hydrogen Peroxide (2T per load in washer. If there are blood, wine, or other tough stains: pour directly on fabric and leave for 24 hours – scary the first time, but it doesn’t bleach and it works!).
Suggestions, Thoughts, Questions?
Since I learned about aluminum in normal antiperspirant about 19 years ago, I have been searching for the best non-toxic deodorant. For whatever reason, most “natural” deodorants don’t work for me – they don’t deodorize my underarms (how unladylike!).
But several years ago I found Alvera Aloe & Almond Deodorant. It works and smells beautifully. It’s not tested on animals and it has ingredients I can pronounce. The problem: not very many stores carry it. So over the years I’ve gone from natural store to natural store looking for it, I’ve stocked up from time to time, I’ve had stores order it, and I’ve ordered it online, but all that is time consuming, frustrating, and resource-depleting. I did this for years!
[UPDATE October 2012: due to several comments about Alvera, I no longer recommend that deodorant. It contains "alcloxa": here's what Wikipedia says about alcloxa, or allantoin. And Cosmeticsinfo.org has this to say: "Alcloxa is a heterocyclic organic compound that contains aluminum. In cosmetics and personal care products, Alcloxa functions as a cosmetic astringent. Alcloxa, the aluminium salt of allantoin, combines the astringent and mild antimicrobial properties of aluminium with the anti-irritant, soothing, healing properties of allantoin." Thank you, readers, for looking into it!]
That is, until the week Matt went to the hospital when I brought him a bag from home that included a brush, shaving supplies, and… yep – our only stick of deodorant. So, after stepping out of a nice clean shower at home, I desperately searched for an alternative. I reasoned to myself that if baking soda works on my hair, why not try it on my underarms? Afterall, it’s an ingredient in many deodorants….
So I used it like baby powder, just a splash. And it was the best deodorant I’ve ever used. No kidding.
The following day, I didn’t need to re-apply. Amazing!!
But then… on day 3, I realized my left underarm was itching a bit. So I did some online research, and found that straight baking soda might be too strong. Apparently, you need just a tiny bit. In my various hours of research, I came upon a solution: mixing baking soda with cornstarch. The cornstarch actually works as a light antiperspirant, and the baking soda deodorizes.
I’ve been using it for two weeks now, and I love it. Absolutely love it.
- In a reusable and resealable container, mix 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch.
- Close the container and shake vigorously for about a minute, to thoroughly mix the two powders.
- Then dab a small amount to the skin of your armpits with a soft cotton cloth, cotton ball, or cosmetic applicator. Apply as if you were lightly applying baby powder or cosmetic powder.
- The application should last at least a day – for me it lasts at least 2 days!
- This method hasn’t left any stains or residues on my white or black clothing. It seems to do better than normal deodorant in that regard! (Still, of course use caution with expensive and/or hard-to-clean items, as you would with any deodorant.)
- A nice way to store your deodorant powder is in an antique cosmetic jar (above), which you can pick up at a garage sale or thrift store.
- Aluminum is a neurotoxin, and is found in most antiperspirants. It has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, respiratory illnesses, reduced renal function, and DNA damage. Find out more here, here and here. You should be able to find aluminum-free baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) in your local health food store. Note at 7pm: After receiving a few notes from readers, I’ve done some extensive research, and found that aluminum is used to make baking powder, but not baking soda. … So it looks like any old baking soda will do!
- The parabens in many antiperspirants may be linked to breast cancer, and there are possible complications associated with SLS in deodorants.
- Curious how conventional antiperspirants work? Find out here.
- If you decide that straight baking soda isn’t right for you, you might try “The Rock” or use one of the recipes here or here for homemade deodorant.
I had heard of “no ‘poo” methods of washing your hair, but I was scared of the “transition periods” people wrote about, and the nebulous “just use vinegar and baking soda” methodology. I had a tough time finding concise instructions, and I was happy with my own shampoo. Plus my skin is extremely sensitive, my hair gets greasy pretty quickly and is extremely straight (which is a bad combination). So… I put it off, I made excuses, and life got in the way.
But now the economy isn’t doing well and we’re trying to tighten our belts a bit. My favorite online store stopped selling my favorite shampoo and I’m trying to buy locally. Plus, since I researched all those crazy chemicals in shampoos, I’ve been leery of getting them near my body. So despite any reservations, about 3 months ago I decided to try the “No ‘Poo” method.
I loved it the first time I tried it! No kidding. My hair looked great and my scalp felt invigorated! Since then, I’ve fallen more and more in love with this method of washing my hair. My hair has a slightly deeper color and shine. There it is, in the picture above. My hair doesn’t get any greasier than it did when I used my shampoo, and it feels, looks, and smells clean and wonderful!
It is a little strange and a little difficult to get used to, because you don’t shampoo with sudsing action like we are used to. But there’s that redefining normal thing again! We’re only used to a certain way because some marketer packaged this bottle of stuff and told us how to use it. So – this is how I clean my hair….
I started out using one recipe, which worked pretty well. But about 2 weeks ago, I did some experimenting and found a solution that works better for me. I’m listing both methods here, as we all have different hair types.
Recipe #1: The Paste Method
1. In a small dish or ramekin, mix 2T of baking soda with a couple of tablespoons of warm water, until it forms a thick paste. Add more water as needed – it should be a bit thinner than toothpaste. (Note: I have medium-length hair, so you may need to adjust the amount of baking soda if you have shorter or longer hair.)
2. Taking the paste into your hand, massage it into your dry scalp. Massage your scalp all over, for at least 30 seconds. (This will probably feel pretty good!)
3. Leave on your hair for a minute or two. Then rinse well.
4. In an old (and well rinsed) shampoo bottle, mix 1 part Apple Cider Vinegar to 4 parts Water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like.
5. Coat your scalp and hair with the vinegar, and allow to sit for at least 30 seconds.
6. You can either rinse or leave it in your hair. (I rinse.)
Recipe #2: The Simple Method
There are two reasons why I switched to this recipe: 1. The paste idea was a bit messy for my taste, and 2. The apple cider vinegar smelled too strong for me. I’m much happier with this version!
1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle of some variety (I reused one we’d bought from a local kitchen supply store). Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts Water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix. [Update: after writing this post, a number of readers have researched and found that baking soda is aluminum free - it's baking powder that often contains aluminum. My own research confirms this.]
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 (which lasts through several bottles of mixture) and 1/2 t vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.
5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.
I will tell you there have been two times when I’ve washed my hair with shampoo during these two months: both times when I helped clean years of stuff out of my parents’ garage, and them made several trips to the municipal waste and recycling center. I… needed my hair to be super clean after I came home!!!! But other than those two times, I haven’t needed shampoo at all.
Several others that I know and love have used this method as well. Riana wrote about it recently. Green Bean does this, though I’m not sure she’s written much about it (correct me if I’m wrong, GB). Beth has gone no ‘poo. Katecontinued as well. Mon wrote a good article on the subject here. Here’s an inspiring post from Sarah, who has been shampoo-free for nearly a year. Here’s a whole lot more info. In fact here is a whole forum dedicated to the subject.
I Encourage You To Try This!
I can honestly say that I feel liberated! I no longer have to deal with finding good shampoo and conditioner. Plus it’s much cheaper: I buy a package of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar, and they’re enough for months. I know it’s safe because I know where the ingredients came from. I also use fewer materials – there are only 2 ingredients (or 4, if I use cinnamon and vanilla), plus I only have to use this method once or twice a week. And lastly, it’s easy!
Will You Try It?
Will you try it? Or if you’ve tried it before, please give us your 2 cents – what method works for you? Please feel free to ask me any questions, too!
2/17: For more, check out my update here: No ‘Poo: New & Improved!
Yesterday I received a comment and email from Stephanie. She has been following what we write about here, is participating in the Green Your Insides Challenge, and is simplifying her lifestyle in many other ways. Did I mention she’s 19 and in college?!
College is a perfect time to make changes, but it’s also a stressful time to make changes. I think many of us can identify with that!
So please take a look at her plea below and see if you can help. (The original comment is here and is reproduced with permission.)
So, I stopped using my chemical-laden acne wash and products that bleach every fabric my face touches (pillowcases, towels) in order to try a less-drying BAR SOAP… though admittedly one said to be for made for acne, and not a homemade one either.
And while it worked for the first few days in the transition, where my face was nice and soft and NOT DRY for once… currently I want to run screaming back to the aesthetician for more of the CHEMICALS. My face hurts. The pimples and redness have been spreading like a rash, and it is driving me absolutely crazy–to the point that I can hardly concentrate on my work for an hour and a half because my face hurts and I just want it all to stop.
The sad thing is I wasn’t this worried about it when I went to the aesthetician to rid my acne. I guess I got used to having a clear-of-acne forehead over the last year and a half.
Maybe my skin is sensitive, period? There *is* aluminum laurel sulfate in my shampoo, so if I stopped using that, I wonder if it would help my face? Should I just switch to a Dr. Bronner’s soap or another homemade plain soap? Or a plain oatmeal soap like what you tried first? (Rhetorical questions!) And yet I hate the idea of dropping these things; I have half a bottle left of my shampoo still. It feels too wasteful to just drop everything because my face no longer looks clear of acne, and I can live with it if I have to… and yet it’s painful and I’m used to not having it and I don’t feel CLEAN with a face like this. And spreading like a rash.
I’m sorry — I just really needed to vent all this. I know there’s no “quick fix” to anything but… I’m new to all these green changes and I’m new to paying attention to my body’s reaction to what I do to it and it’s frightening how much self-hatred I’m going through all of a sudden. And I don’t know what to DO! I wish there were a way to search a bunch of blogs AND ONLY THESE BLOGS on Google so I could find what people are saying about different soaps and ways to wash hair and etc.
If you have experience with this – or just moral support – I’m sure Stephanie could use it!!