Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Cleansing Journey

Oh the dilemmas I face on a day to day basis! For the longest time, one of my big dilemmas concerned how I keep myself clean, both non-toxically AND sustainably.  Some of the basics have been covered for a while, I shower out on the porch with rainwater in the winter and I bathe in the creek in summer.  For many this would seem sufficient, but for me . . . I was concerned about the chemicals I might be putting on my body and then onto my ground or the creek.

So we started buying "natural" shampoo.  Unfortunately, natural means different things to different people. For me, if there are ingredients that I cannot pronounce, or that I have to do research on to figure out what they are, I begin to believe that, maybe, there could be a problem there.  For example, what is Sodium Laureth Sulfate anyway, other than the second ingredient (after water) in my "natural" shampoo?  Some say it is a carcinogen, but OSHA and the American Cancer Society say it's not.  And what about Cocamidopropyl betaine?  Even after reading the Wiki article my only take away was that the American Contact Dermatitis Society voted it Allergen of the Year in 2004.  Polyquaternium-10 seems relatively harmless despite its un-readability, it's a polymer (I read that as fake stuff) that helps your hair lie flat.  Near the bottom of the list I find Methylisothiazolinone, which I won't even try to pronounce, is a biocide.  Biocide.  That means, in the most basic sense, that it kills life.

Oh Me!  Something needed to be done, and my friends at the Ladies Homestead Gathering Inspired me by having a meeting themed on natural cleansers.  My time had come.  I had one month to experiment so I could report my findings.  I searched the internet for an obscure idea I was pretty sure I had heard of, baking soda as shampoo.  The recipe I found consisted of a 1/4 cup of Baking Soda
mixed into 3/4 cup of water.  This is massaged into your hair then left there while you soap down the rest of your body (which I did using a wonderful anti fungal natural soap made by an herbalist friend and my own hand crocheted washcloth).  
Then your first rinse is with 3/4 cup of vinegar mixed into around a quart of water. (I usually use white vinegar but you can use any type, cider vinegar is more photogenic)
Then just keep rinsing until you are satisfied that you are all clean.  

I found that my hair felt very heavy while still wet and I worried that it was going to be stringy and nasty looking, but that was not the case at all.  It did not feel the way it does when I use strong detergent shampoos (even my 'natural' shampoo counts here) but it was decidedly clean.  I did this for a month and was more and more satisfied with how it was leaving my hair.  I was able to proudly report to the ladies that this was a natural (or at least non-toxic alternative cleaner that works)

But this wasn't good enough.  Baking soda doesn't just fall out of the sky you know.  It either needs to be mined or produced in a lab type setting if you don't happen to have just the right type of mineral spring nearby.  Remember that part of my goal was to find a shampoo that was sustainable as well as non-toxic. So I did some more internet research and came up with the idea of taking:
The yolks of two eggs (a product I will soon be growing here on Groundwell Farm) and mixing two teaspoons of vinegar into them.  After that you proceed exactly as you would with the baking soda wash, making sure the water you rinse your hair with is not warm enough to set the egg yolks.  

My first thought was "No way is that going to work".  But to my surprise, it did!  Again my hair felt different than either washing with shampoo or with baking soda, but once it was dry it felt just fine.  There are still other methods to explore (some folks use whole egg, while others say the whites set up too easily and dry out your hair) But for now I am satisfied.  (If any of you wonderful folks out there have other ideas though I will be glad to be a guinea pig for them.)

I can wash my hair with the full confidence that I am doing no harm to myself or to my environment, and that alone makes me feel much cleaner! 


  1. Right arm. But I thought apple cider was more eco-friendly? Cos white isn't safe for consumption, right?

    1. Apple cider vinegar is almost certainly more eco-friendly and can more realistically be made at home. However since I'm not making my own quite yet, white vinegar wins out for me fiscally, especially for cleaning uses. As far as consumption goes, white vinegar is the most common vinegar used in all manner of pickles and other condiments and eatables, even the ones I make here at home.

  2. I wrote a big long response to this the other day and it got deleted before it got published, errr! Anyway I think it went something like this....
    I've tried this method of washing my hair once and it seemed that I was needing more and more baking soda to cover my long, thick hair. Do I need to worry about all of my hair or just my scalp. It just didn't FEEL like it was getting clean. I think I need a coach!
    I also love that you love the Green Herbs Soap! It's one of my favs!

    1. I only worry about my scalp, figuring that the rest of my hair isn't that dirty to begin with. I admit it does feel very different than when you use detergent shampoos. I am thus far attributing the difference to my hair not being stripped of all of its life, and it does feel thicker and healthier. I'm still not 100% satisfied and will be continuing to experiment. I'll post findings as they come!

    2. I know that you're shooting for completely natural and sustainable so this might not be of use to you, but I've been trying to get to a point where I can make all my cleansing/beauty products. I found an easy shampoo recipe that included coconut milk, Castile soap, and vitamin E oil. I tried it for the first time last night. It didn't work as well as I had hoped. It left my hair brassy, heavy, flat, and maybe oily? I'm not quit sure what it did, but it's not at all bouncy, fluffy, and soft like usual. I will be doing more research to adapt the recipe.

    3. Hi Amanda, it's great to hear from you! So far all of the natural or sustainable shampoos have made my hair feel distinctly different than it does with detergent shampoos. When you say "Maybe oily?" I'd say that that is what I am feeling. But, because I can feel that my scalp is indeed clean after my shower I trust that the difference is related to the presence of the natural oils that protect our hair. When we use detergent we often feel the need to try to replace those oils by using conditioner. The commercial conditioners, however, are equally full of undesirable ingredients.

      Definitely keep working with recipes until you find one that satisfies you better. I've been going pretty steady with the egg recipe since January, but as summer comes on I plan on doing some more experimenting. The one I really can't wait to try is Dirt. I figure that if I work a thinnish slurry of clay into my scalp, then walk down to the creek (drying time) and rinse it out in the flowing water of the creek, it will absorb excess oils and leave my hair 'feeling' even cleaner than it does now.