Author – Sahana Rajan
Every item that comes in contact with our body impacts it albeit in different ways. When we began manufacturing artificial/synthetic products to cater to our daily needs of body hygiene, home cleaning, garden care, etc., we did not realize the repercussions until recently when the bubble of safety was broken to let out the air of toxicity.
Chemicals are omnipresent in our daily life starting from the floor cleaning material to the packaged food we consume. These toxic chemicals can cumulatively produce an array of negative health effects including asthma, cancer, dermatitis and infertility. Fortunately, safe alternatives are easily available and can be made at home using household remedies. Here is a list of four categories of household products that can be used as easy-to-prepare, toxic-free, eco-friendly alternatives to toxic chemicals at home.
Possessing antibacterial and antifungal properties, vinegar (siraka) is a disinfectant that can remove dirt, stains and build-up of wax. Mix half a cup of vinegar and two spoons of baking soda to two liters of water and use for cleaning kitchen panels, windows, mirrors and tables. You can also add two to three drops of essential oil (lavender or rosemary) to get a mild scent. Lemon (nimbu) and eucalyptus (nilgiri) are also considered to be highly effective for disinfecting surfaces. Add 30-35 drops of eucalyptus essential oil to 3 cups of water for a strong disinfectant mix.
Create your own laundry detergent powder by fusing grated and powdered bar of nirol soap (soap derived from non-edible vegetable oil), with half a cup of washing soda and half a cup of borax (suhaga). This is a simple and effective eco-friendly alternative to harmful detergents that are harsh on your skin.
Body Care and Cosmetics
Baking soda (meetha soda or paak-churna) is the common ingredient in any homemade toothpaste, which has been scientifically proven to be less abrasive than toothpaste. Blend a teaspoon of baking soda with half a spoon of sea salt to produce a powder turned into paste with addition of a few drops of tap water and two drops of powdered clove (lavang)/peppermint juice (pudina).
Gather three bundles of tulsi leaves (about 30-40) and grind them into three teaspoons of paste. Pitch in half a cup of coconut oil to the paste and heat the mixture in medium. Add five fenugreek grains (methi) and stop heating once the grains crack. After it has cooled down, strain the mixture through a thin cotton handkerchief and seal the liquid in an airtight container. Make sure you heat the oil lightly before use. Massage your scalp and let the oil stay for about 25 to 30 minutes prior to rinsing.
Add shea butter to one-third cup of coconut oil (nariyal), and begin heating on low. Transfer the melted butter-oil to a glass container and add a quarter cup of olive oil (zaitun). It is very important that you stir the blend for at least 2 minutes. Let the mix cool in the fridge. Once it solidifies, whip it into a cream.
Collect the following ingredients – 500gm of shikakai (Acacia concinna), 100gm of reetha, 250gm of fenugreek seeds, 250gm of green gram (moong dal), two twigs of tulsi (basil) (20-25 leaves) and a bunch of curry leaves (kadi patta) (15-20 leaves). Dry these into crispy form for six hours daily on two sunny days. Grind the mixture into powder and store it in an air-tight container. Before washing hair, prepare the powder into a paste by adding a few drops of water.
Add half a cup of coconut oil to a teaspoon of liquid Vitamin E and 6 drops of essential oil (ideal ones being lavender/ ustakhadus and tea tree). In case you have highly dry skin, add in a tablespoon of avocado oil. This mix is usable for a year when stored in a refrigerator.
Prepare the face scrub by blending half a cup of oats (jaoo) with a quarter cup of honey to make a thick paste. Add to the paste a quarter cup of baby oil with one cup of sugar. This readies your homemade oatmeal scrub.
Light a lamp with castor oil and place it in between two bricks so that you can place a steel plate above the lamp. The flame from the diya should be forming soot on the plate. After about an hour, there will be enough soot collected that can be scraped off into a glass bowl. Add clarified butter (homemade ghee) to the soot for forming a semi-solid paste, the kajal. Put the kajal in an air-tight container and let it cool in the fridge for about 3 to 4 hours before you begin its application.
Soy-Cream Lip Balm – Collect a cup of cream from milk and stir it gradually to produce a syrupy consistency. Add four drops of lavender oil in it and stir. Grate soy-based wax and melt it. Add the mixture of cream and oil when the wax is still liquid. Mix the blend thoroughly and put into a small glass bottle immediately. Let it set down before use.
Prepare two cups of strong chamomile tea (babunphul). Mix it with half a cup of calendula tea (genda/marigold) and half a cup of freshly prepared lemon juice. Use the calendula color for golden-shades. Store this blend in a glass bottle and shake it well before you use. The ideal time for use is before you go out in the sun and rinse it after two hours of application. You can apply the mix multiple times in a week until you feel that your hair has reached the preferred color.
- Grass Spray: Arrange a small-tank (with capacity for 18-20 liters of water) and fill it with freshly clipped grasses up to two-thirds of the space. Fill it with water up to 5 inches from below. Keep it at room temperature and let it stay for 3 days. Stir the mix every 12-14 hours. After 3 days, remove the water and use the grass on the soil.
- Vinegar: Acid-loving plants (like rhododendrons/burans ka phul, magnolias/heem champa and camellias/tea) can be treated with a vinegar fertilizer mix containing one tablespoon of white vinegar in a liter of water. This should be used to water the plants and continued every four months.
Lemongrass (nimbu ghaas) and Basil are the most effective eco-friendly alternatives for mosquito repellents. Dill (sowa) is ideal for keeping away squash bugs, spider mites and aphids. You can also grow oregano (mirzanjosh, sathra) throughout the year as a common pest repellent.
Grate and turn one small-sized onion (pyaaz) with one bulb of garlic (lassan) into a paste. Mix one spoon of unrefined red chili pepper (laal mirch) and 950ml of water. Let it stay for an hour before you strain it through a cotton handkerchief. Follow this by adding one tablespoon of liquid dish wash soap. Pour the concoction into a spraying bottle and shake well. Spray the mix to the plants carefully covering the under-sides of the leaves as well. You can store the mix for a week in an air-tight glass bottle.