Thursday, 5 April 2012


Just try it …
As you may know from previous entries, I enjoyed the cd recording of the book No Impact Man very much. 
Sometimes when you read a book you pick up just one tip that makes it worth buying the whole book, even if you learn nothing else. 
In this case, the tip was to use bicarbonate of soda as a deodorant.

No Impact Man was using bicarb as a deodorant in an attempt to reduce his impact on the planet and therefore cut down on his use of chemicals.  He just happened to mention that bicarb is the ‘world’s most effective deodorant so I decided to try it. 

Well it is.  Bicarbonate of soda is more effective than any deodorant I have ever used.  Two friends tried it and found the same.  Totally smell free all day, except when it was really hot and I was on a train or something. WOW!  Just carry a little pot and top it up in really sweaty conditions, or do what I do and carry a little Weleda pump action deodorant just for such a purpose.  These are the next best deodorant I have ever tried by the way.  They do a hand bag size but it works out more expensive so I bought it once and now refill it from the larger size.  (I used to get through a lot more of them before discovering bicarb!)

Well the bicarb thing got me thinking.  What is happening here?   How come we spend all that money and put a cocktail of chemicals and perfume onto our skin when bicarb works better?   (At least for some people - I wouldn’t like to say this was universal on the basis of the three of us plus No Impact Man.)

How to use bicarb deodorant
Just tip a bit onto your fingers and rub onto a freshly washed arm pit.  Voila.  Do not use too much though, or you will get a tide mark on black clothes.  It will wash (or even rub) out if you do.  Use just a little and it is as effective as a larger quantity and there is no tide mark.  As a side benefit there is no staining on white clothes under the arms either.  Turns out it is the deodorant that causes that not the sweat.
So no worries about aluminium or any chemicals in the deodorant any more and more money in my pocket. 
Just a wee note here.  The solid crystal deodorants I looked at in the health shop are crystallised alum.  In other words aluminium.  They didn’t work for me at all, along with every other deodorant I have ever bought in a health shop apart from the Weleda one which is alcohol based.  I am quite a sweaty person and always have been, so was amazed when the bicarb actually worked. 

It made me think about the nature of marketing – which is after all designed to make us want to buy things, and not necessarily about finding out what works best. 
If there is little profit in it who is going to market it to us?  A 250g packet of bicarb cost me £1/$1.50 and lasts for over a year. I bought it in the local Pound Shop (discount store).  It is increasingly available in this larger quantity as opposed to the wee tubs for baking which are also good value but more expensive if you are going to use it long term. 
 One year on I am not even half way through the packet and have been using it in baking as well. 
Other uses for Bicarb
Bicarb was what my Mum used to get rid of the smell in things like thermos flasks, and hopefully some of you already know about that. 
But just in case…Bicarb gets rid of the coffee smell out of a thermos flask, plastic smell out of your lunch box and just about any other smell.  Just half fill with warm or hot water, add a teaspoon of bicarb and top up with some more water.  Leave it for a couple of hours and the smell is gone. 

Why didn’t I try this before?. 
Marketing is such a subtle art and I believe it affects us all, often without us even registering that it is happening.  Just remember that ANY product is on the market simply because the folks selling it WANT TO MAKE MONEY.  So how do you make money when the world’s most effective deodorant costs no more than 50p/75c per person per year?  Maybe you make a new product.

It made me wonder if we forget what we once knew was good, just because something else has a higher profile.

Well, washing powder/laundry detergent. I have to make an admission here.  I have never really believed those things about vinegar and lemon juice etc being better cleaners. 
But I am carrying out my own experiments and finding that I am wrong. 
Mainly the things our great grannies used to use but have now been superseded by so-called better ones.  The thing is that for us, quite a few are not better - not even as good, cost more money and are full of chemicals that we would rather not have in our bodies, food chain and water supply.  (Yeah if you flush them down the loo that is where they may end up.)  You may disagree of course, we are all different.

Washing soda.
I always wondered what this was for and had a vague notion it would help unblock drains.  (That is caustic soda actually and is a different thing).
Turns out it is for doing laundry – hence the name, huh.  There is nothing in it except washing soda.  No additives, colours or other chemicals.  Great if you have babies or sensitive skin and better for the environment. 
It costs £1/$1.50 per packet and is easy to buy.  It works better than many laundry products we had tried and does not bring hubby’s sensitive skin out in a rash.  We had been using an eco friendly laundry detergent – washing soda is much cheaper and has no additives - and even the eco friendly ones have some.  It is fine for our automatic washing machine as it does not froth up.  If you are unsure about your machine be sensible and try a small quantity first to make sure but we have had no problems at all.
An added bonus?  All our whites got whiter.

Incidentally if I had a dishwasher I would try it in that too.  I don’t though.  So if you have one and want to try it do give feed back.

And the smell…
You get used to the smell of your own laundry detergent.  What we have come to realise now we use the washing soda is that to us, laundry detergent now has a strong  smell and i a highly scented product.

Fabric conditioner?
Turns out that if you do not use a commercial washing powder, there is no need for fabric conditioner.  The clothes just do not feel stiff and rough any more. 
20 years ago hardly anyone used it. 

If you do use laundry detergent and fabric conditioner or dishwasher detergent get the cheapest ‘form’ of it.
Loose laundry and dishwasher powder works out the cheapest.  Cheaper than the liquid, the tablet and most of all cheaper than the little sachets.  it is all the same stuff, why pay more for fancy packaging?  Try the cheaper version and see if you can tell the difference…

Liquid fabric conditioner added to the wash tends to work out less expensive than tumble dryer fabric conditioner sheets. And anyway you can dry the laundry outside or on a clothes horse or pulley most of the time…

What about wipes?  There seems to be a wipe for everything.  Maybe marketing geniuses had sessions to think of how many different wipes could be marketed so that we all buy lots of them.  They do not break down, being polypropylene or something like that and many get washed up on the beach or swallowed by sea life because people flush them down the toilet.
When our kids were small we just used tissues or paper towel when we were out if they got sticky.  It worked fine and at least it was biodegradable.  My mum used to carry a damp flannel (face cloth) in a plastic bag.  Now you have a packet of wipes. 
So the humble duster is now a disposable wipe. The mop has a wipe to attach to it.  The dog no longer has an old towel to dry its feet with but has special doggy wipes.
The thing is the paper towel just had water on it.   The wipes have all sorts of things on them.  Just look at the ingredients.  Then decide whether some paper towel or cotton wool and water would do the job.

And so to Borax
This comes as a powder and yes, you guessed it, costs £1/$1.50 a packet. It is anti bacterial and is amazing at getting marks off things.  We make it up with water in a spray bottle and use it as we used to use commercially available anti bacterial spray.  
 If we had a highly infectious disease in the house I may buy the other kind as a one off – but there is probably no need. And anyway, household bleach is the most effective thing against bacteria like the Noro virus and ordinary, thin household bleach costs about 30p/50c a litre so I would probably dilute that and use it instead. 
NB bleach can be damaging to the waterways.  If you want to use it, use it sparingly.  There is, for instance no point in bleaching a floor which does not need to be sterile and will not stay so for more than a minute anyway.  And do not mix it with detergent as it can cause a chemical reaction that gives off chlorine gas. Just stick to a simple floor soap - or of course washing soda.

Want to get the stains or stuck-on crud off the inside of the toilet?  Leave vinegar in it overnight.  Works a treat.  And then use the borax solution to clean it in future. We bought a commercial eco friendly toilet cleaner but it rusted the bolts that held the loo seat on.  Guess it was vinegar based, but it was a lot more expensive than vinegar. 
Do not use the vinegar to clean the seat or outside of the toilet though for the same reason.


  1. what a fab post!

    i 'discovered' vinegar, bicarb and essential oils last year and now clean the whole house using only these ingredients.

    i must admit that i was sceptical but they really do work! and, as an added bonus, we have both felt better for having less chemicals in the house :)

  2. I am trying to downshift my life. I'm from Chile and I speak spanish, but I found your blog that it looks amazing. I am going to read it slowly in order to understand evertything.

    Thank you a lot for your advices and tips.

    1. taking your time is always a good idea. change only one thing at a time and it works better. there is no need to take financial risks to downshift and get a better life.

  3. Hi there,
    thanks for a very informative article- i am definately going to try bicarb deodorant now, as well as washing soda for clothes.

    I started using apricot kernal oil instead of moisturiser a long time ago, and found it does wonders for my skin, as well as being a lot cheaper than buying moisturiser. (i get a refill from an essential oil shop) Normally i just wash my face with water, but sometimes I make my own face scrub out of ground whole almonds, apricot kernal oil and whitchazel, (copy of dr hauschka face scrub which costs £18 for a small tube!!)it lasts a while in the fridge and is pure luxury for peanuts!


    caroline :-)

  4. thanks for the tips. here's a really simple scrub recipe: mix salt with olive oil and use. another alternative is suggested by the tightwad gazzette, use a flannel apparently research showed soap and a flannel was just as effective.