Making Our Own Natural Home Products
by Swetha Singhvi, Bangalore
A couple of years earlier I had many ideals and ideas of how I wanted to live, raise my children, where I should live and what the world ‘should’ be like. And, the reality was always in conflict of my ideas and ideals, initially it seemed like there will be someday, then came a peek into feeling sorry for the earth, guilty about all the things people were doing wrong, pointing my finger towards the world outside and feeling terribly scared and fearful of what will become of this place. In one of many conversations with a dear friend I saw the truth. Initially it shocked me that I was fooling myself. My friend very honestly and simply said that I really didn’t care. Really? I thought I did, was my internal dialogue. The truth surfaced and with that luckily my ability to accept that maybe I didn’t. And so, I found ways, just like that, meeting the right people, reading the things I needed to know, exploring myself and somehow I felt it then that I need to part of the solution. I believe that there’s balance in nature and it makes me joyful to know that I’m on the right side.
It is only getting clearer each day that internal chaos is what brings about external damage. Gandhi said it and many other great saints of the past and in the current era keep saying this; that change begins at the individual level.
What did I change? It’s in progress and so far what I’ve achieved is as simple as reducing my load on the water bodies I guess. The use of natural products in everyday use not only makes me guiltless but has been grounding me in its own beautiful ways. There’s a sense of gratitude for our mother and the simplicity of making and using them has been infectious in various other areas of my life. The synchronization is like spinning cotton. The loose fibres are all getting pulled together to form a beautiful, pure thread. The beauty of spinning is also such that it requires one to be aware and it’s exactly how I’m trying to live my life these days. To be in the now.
Some of the things I’m using and making are listed below.
1. To begin with is Tooth powder made of wood ash & salt. I haven’t gotten around to using it everyday as yet, although the taste and smell of it reminds me very fondly of my grandmother.
2. For bathing I use a peethi powder that Wild Ideas is selling in little glass jars, smells wonderful. Reminds me of my sisters and my pre wedding days when we religiously applied it for a month or so before our weddings to get that perfect bride look J
3. To wash oiled hair, I use the traditional Shikakai powder mixed with a little chigare powder. I make a paste with the bio enzyme shampoo and water, on the previous night and use generously.
4. For hand wash, we use the soapnut liquid made by soaking them in the clear enzyme.
5. For laundry, I use the Soapnut liquid that I make by soaking the soapnuts in the bio enzyme clear liquid and it really cleans beautifully.
6. Body Butters, lotions, lip balms, insect repellent, cold, cough and pain relief balms
7. For dishes, I use various options:
a. Soapnut powder made into a paste with pulpy enzyme and clear liquid
b. Shikakai powder in pulpy bio enzyme
c. Wood ash, chigare powder and pulpy bioenzyme paste.
8. For house cleaning, the clear liquid acts as a great disinfectant and only a capful is added to clean the floors at home. Do not use it on marble.
9. For toilet cleaning, I use the pulpy enzyme just as other cleaners are used. Apply it in the toilet bowl with the cleaning brush for about 10 minutes and scrub clean.
10. I use the enzyme to clean the gas stove and oven. It removes the grease and grime.
The above list takes care of my entire household & personal cleaning needs, not only is it easy on one’s pocket, however marginal, it also eliminates any store-bought products that mostly come in plastic bottles. In all, I’m very proud that I don’t buy any commercial products, expect for a handmade detergent bar sometimes, and made using only 3 ingredients.
What I have learned over the last few years is not a switch in lifestyle but a switch in my living. Watching my own living has been an inspiration to change my ways and they happened naturally. A lot of people ask me how much effort it takes. I think to myself, really, no, it’s actually not an effort but a joy in doing something that I feel responsible about. And the sync happens if we allow it to. For me the sync happened as if magically. I started visiting our family farm, as I used to earlier dream about leaving the city and moving away to a farm in someplace ‘beautiful’ and I was waiting for many years to start living, until through various ways I began to realize that living happens only in the now. There might be ideal situations for many, but right now, today, for me it’s about doing whatever I need to wherever I am, not in the future in some natural space but right here where it’s needed the most.
My biggest fear used to be the fact that my children were growing up watching and observing everything I do and say, and for many years I only worried more and did less, as if thinking could have changed my ways, and I felt more and more guilty because I had put up such high standards for myself that whatever I did was always falling short. This entire grounding that I am experiencing today is how changed I am and I see that reflecting in my children and that gives me a sense of fulfilment that whatever I am doing today is great. Not that I am a perfect parent but because I accept my shortcomings and that acceptance is allowing me to grow.
I grew up in a family that follows the teachings of Mahaveera. Ever since I remember there’s one thing that we were told, that being born as human is the only way to salvation or Moksha. Maybe true. The only thing I know is that to be born in the human form one must come to this one and only beautiful planet, our true Mother, Gaia or the Earth. What child likes to destroy their own mother? Is human form really the ultimate or are we missing something crucial? In many of these questions, I have started to see the role of the mind. Is it truly ours? Are we allowing an entity to take control of our lives and being the puppets of its whims and fancies? I still don’t know the answer for myself, but try it, question it. Are we, in the ways we are leading our lives, damaging not just the Earth, but rather bringing an end to Humanity as a species? Our few generations, it seems to me, are the most important ones in this time-space reality of the Earth. One may take this seriously and not be sad or overwhelmed by it. We must be joyful in our endeavour’s, whatever they are. For me, it has been about questioning myself and staying with the question long enough for the answers to appear, as if magically. THERE IS NO PLANET B. If we claim to love our children, then we must love our Mother and take care of what we put on her, your children are watching. They need a place to love and feel happy in, not clean up our mess. They may have a better life.
I’d like to share some of the simple things that can be made in one’s own kitchen that may help in cleansing one’s house and body.
- Tooth Paste:
a. Calcium Carbonate tooth paste
i. 100g calcium carbonate
ii. 50g bicarbonate of soda
iii. 5g salt
iv. About 6–7 tablespoons coconut oil/glycerin enough to make a paste
v. A few drops of Peppermint essential or cinnamon or clove as one prefers.
vi. Mix together in bowl and place in a clean, sterilized jar in a cool place. Use as required but always keep the lid tightly closed.
b. Tooth powder
i. 200g Calcium carbonate powder
ii. 70g bicarbonate of soda
iii. 5g salt
iv. 25 drops of peppermint
v. 12 drops of peppermint essential oil
2. Peethi Powder for bathing
a. Gram flour (besan)
This is a versatile recipe and I’m certain most of us have grown up bathing with this basic recipe. However to make it more appealing and beneficial one can play around with many more additions to this. For eg, you could use orange peel powder, dried flower powder, coffee powder, sandal powder and the list is endless. One can use rose water, milk cream, buttermilk, oil or just normal water to make a paste and scrub away all the dead cells.
3. Sugar Scrub for bathing
a. 2 tbsp of Granulated sugar (brown or white)
b. 2 tsp Coconut oil
Just like the peethi powder, one can use this as a basic recipe and add anything to this. One can add coffee powder, orange peel powder, essential oils etc. This can be made instantly or even stored. You could fresh fruit pulp like papaya, ripe strawberries, or any other fruit you desire and use it instantly. These cannot be stored. I use left over or very ripe fruit pulps. Moisten your skin and then scrub over your face and body. It removes all dead skin cells and even moisturizes the skin.
4. Body Butter
a. ½ cup coconut oil
b. ½ cup almond oil
c. ½ cup kokum butter
d. ½ cup mango butter
e. A few drops of essential oil (optional)
i. Place all ingredients in a double boiler or in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water.
ii. Allow the butters to dissolve in the oil. Turn off the heat
iii. Let it cool. You can place it in the refrigerator until a thick layer is formed. About ½ an hour
iv. Use a whisk or electric beater and beat until fluffy and butter like.
v. Transfer into clean and dry containers. I prefer using sterilized glass jars.
vi. These can be stored for atleast 6 months and make great gifts.
vii. In my experience, I use less oil and more butters in the hot months as it tends to melt.
Optionally, you could skip the cooling part and transfer to container after the butters melt. It appears like a salve and can be used the same way. Make sure to allow it cool completely before closing the lid.
5. Citrus Bio Enzyme for Multi-purpose cleaning
You will need:
a. Citrus Peels ( Lime, lemons, Citrons, Oranges, Mosambi)
d. A pinch of yeast (dried)
The Ratio is 1 parts jaggery: 3 parts peels : 10 parts water. Mix everything in a sturdy glass / or plastic container which has a lid. Leave room for aeration, do not fill to the brim. Stir twice a day in the first few weeks using a wooden spoon or stick. Stir clockwise. Once the enzyme is ready, strain it through a sieve (not a very fine one) and pour it into clear containers and allow the enzyme to settle completely. I have noticed that lemon enzyme takes a while to settle but other heavier peels take lesser time. Once the clear liquid and pulp separate, transfer the clear enzyme into a different bottle.
i. One could substitute jaggery with brown sugar
ii. Yeast needs to added in the first round, following which, the ready enzyme can be used in a small quantity to accerlate the process of enxyme making in the progressive rounds.
iii. Stir the mixture clockwise atleast twice daily for the first 2 weeks or so.
iv. It takes about 3–5 weeks for the first round to be ready.
v. I use used paint buckets with lids for large quantities and sturdy glass jars for smaller quantities. A lid is a must.
vi. The enxyme needs to be made indoors away from direct sunlight, else the microbes will not thrive, and compost, else it may attract maggots.
vii. You could make mixed peel enzyme but individually they smell better. Lemon smells the best, but produces more clear enzyme than pulpy.
viii. Enzyme can be made using various fruit and vegetable peels, each have their own distinct uses and can be used as supplements for gardens, for cleaning etc.
6. Uses of Bio Enzyme
a. Bio-Enzyme Laundry Liquid.
i. Soak soapnuts in the clear liquid for about 3 weeks.
I use 50% water and 50% Clear enzyme and soak enough soapnuts to fill half the container. Basically, all in equal quantities.
ii. Squeeze the soapnuts after about 2–3 weeks and strain the solution and it’s ready to use.
iii. I re-boil the soapnuts in water (enough to cover the soapnuts) for about 20 mins and extract the rest of the saponin from the nuts and dilute my laundry mix.
iv. Only use citrus enzyme for making laundry liquid as other enzymes have strong colours.
b. Bio-Enzyme dishwash
i. I use the pulpy enzyme with soapnut powder and a little chigare powder and make a paste to scrub and clean all my dishes.
ii. You could the liquid bio soap (the laundry one) to clean glass.
Please feel free to write to me at Singhvi.S@gmail.com for any other recipes you might need and I’d gladly like to share whatever I know.