Natural Air Freshener – A Bowl of Hyacinths

sweet smelling hyancinthsAir fresheners were one of my pet hates even before I had any idea of green living. Now I’ve read about what goes into creating the artificial fragrances used for air fresheners I am even more against them.

They are very bad for respiratory health especially for young children, often aggravating allergies or triggering asthma attacks. Even worse some of the ingredients are cancer-causing in the long term, so all those chemicals can seriously damage the health of your family. This article has more on the dangers of air fresheners if you want to scare yourself!

I’ve written before about using natural scented candles instead of bathroom air fresheners. But what other ways are there of making your home smell nice?

Ours often smells of baking bread, but just as often of wet dog, so I was over the moon when my sister-in-law reminded me of a winter tradition from my childhood. She gave us a bowl of hyacinth bulbs. They have flowered quickly and their scent perfumes the air all around. It would be almost overpowering in a small room, but in a large space wafts appealingly as you pass.

There is no need for any artificial fragrances with that rich floral scent filling the air, and better still the flowers last for ages. In fact the bulbs are coming out in stages so they should be giving us sweet scents for a couple of months at least. Then we’ll put away the bulbs till next winter, re-pot them and they will grow and flower all over again. How about that for renewable, sustainable, sweet-smelling living!

A bowl of hyacinth bulbs also makes a great green gift for kids to give parents and grandparents – they can plant them up and decorate the bowl to make it even more special.

Shampoo-Free Living With Bicarb and Vinegar

bicarb and vinegar for hairMuch of green living is about the small choices we make. Giving up shampoo and going ‘poo-free’ is hardly going to save the world, but it is one small positive step.

If we ever read the ingredients label on a shampoo or conditioner bottle most of us probably understood less than two words in the list – who can even pronounce most of those ingredients? Not all those things are harmful to us or to the environment, but most of them are less than beneficial. Most shampoos use petrochemical based mineral oils among their ingredients as well as artificial fragrances. If you are working on reducing the chemicals in your home and moving over to natural alternatives, then it is quite easy to drop the hair care items from your shopping list.

We’re not talking greasy unwashed hair here. Two simple, cheap and natural ingredients are all you need to wash and condition your hair: bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and apple cider vinegar. The bicarb washes and gently gets rid of any build up of oils and dirt; the vinegar neutralises the bicarb and conditions the hair, balancing the ph and leaving it smooth and tangle free. My family was sceptical when I tried going shampoo-free but very soon we were all changed over and have never been tempted to buy shampoo again.

Here’s how to do it.

In an old, clean shampoo bottle (or any shower-safe bottle) mix one tablespoon of bicarb with one cup of warm water. Shake till it dissolves.
In another bottle mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water.

Use the bicarb mix instead of shampoo, using just enough to  cover your hair and massage in. It takes a while to get used to the feel of latherless hair-washing, and the slight squeakiness as you rub it into your scalp, but the results will convince you. Rinse well.

Splash on  a few tablespoons of the vinegar mix and distribute well into your hair, smooth out any tangles, then rinse away.

This amount usually lasts my family of five a whole week or more.

Our main worry was that the smell of vinegar would linger and we’d smell like a fish and chip shop… it doesn’t at all, much to our relief. And the smooth shiny hair that results is a great testimony to how well this system works. You can also use herb teas as a final rinse after the vinegar – try camomile, rosemary or lavender.

I’m reading more and more blogs about the transition to shampoo free living all of which are enthusiastic, so I’m sharing a few here in case you need more convincing!

The basics of shampoo free hair washing

An in depth look at going shampoo free, with trouble shooting of problems and suggestions for herb rinses.

A family account after a year of being shampoo free.