Sunday, 19 September 2010

Ditching the Bathroom Chemicals - Update

Since I posted about this last month, I've made some changes and discoveries, so here is an update.

First and foremost, I am still 'with the program'.

My medicine cabinet still contains just a handful of items, none of which have lists of ingredients I don't understand.

I don't smell or look a mess; and I continue to gain satisfaction from knowing I am dodging another of modern life's bullets.

The Miswak Toothbrush

I am now mostly using Miswak (also known as Peelu), after it was mentioned by a number of commenters. This is the traditional method of cleaning teeth used in parts of Asia and the Middle East. The process, is as follows:

1. Take a piece of miswak and remove the bark.
2. Chew the remaining stick until it's soft and brush-like
3. Use it to brush your teeth
4. When you are done, clean it and store hygienically
5. When needed, snip off the old brush part with scissors and repeat the process
6. When the stick is too small, start a fresh one

I first bought some very rough 'red miswak' (aka Dandasa) from a local Asian store, but it was quite difficult to use.

As you can see from the photos, the red miswak is not always uniform. I've imagined this is used by older guys who've been doing this for years, and are expert. Perhaps when they were young this was all you could get. Perhaps they have also grown accustomed to the quite bitter taste.

I then found some miswak sticks online that seemed more specially geared for the purpose of teeth cleaning. These are much easier to use.

Miswak leaves your teeth feeling clean. The packed sticks taste different, less bitter; but I am undecided as to whether, and if so, how, they have been treated. Could there be nasty ingredients involved? I don't know. I chose 'natural' flavour, but they were also available in peppermint.

For now I am enjoying this. I tend to do it in front of the television when I am relaxing rather than in the bathroom. Every now and again I brush with my electric toothbrush using water or sodium bicarbonate, as described in the first post. This is usually when I am in a rush.

Vodka as Mouthwash

In the last post, James commented that I should try vodka and cinnamon as a mouthwash. Some mouthwash has alcohol as an ingredient, so this would make sense.

I don't normally use mouthwash, but in the interest of science, and since we have a bottle in the house, I tried it. Unfortunately, I had no cinnamon.

Yowser. This was not a pleasant experience. My mouth did not feel refreshed, but violated. It's difficult to imagine how some cinnamon could mitigate all of that. However, a load of additives like sorbitol could perhaps sweeten the pill, which is, I guess, what they do with the stuff you buy.

I will continue to pass on the mouthwash for now.

Upgrading to Dr Bronner's Soap

In the first post Bob Garon commented that the olive oil soap I was using might contain aluminium, under the ingredients item 'mineral salts'.

Why is aluminium bad? This (more or less randomly selected) article summarises the supposed dangers. Ideally, I would seek evidence and studies; but since I lack the time, and since there is an alternative that does not inconvenience me, I am happy to exercise avoidance.

Thus, I bought some Dr Bronner soap, which had been mentioned by a few people. The ingredients were more numerous, but none are as vague as 'mineral salts.' Just oils, citric acid, vitamin E and salt. It's not cheap, but the bar is twice the size of the olive oil soap, and it smells nicer, which makes getting buy-in from Mrs M easier!

Aluminium-Free Sodium Bicarbonate

There was also some debate in the comments of the first post about whether sodium bicarbonate contains aluminium.

Yes, according to Bob. No, according to Mudbeard, who was able to supply the molecular definition to illustrate his point. Anya pointed out that aluminium is added to baking powder. Mudbeard then explained that baking powder can be a mixture of things, and is not the same as sodium bicarbonate.

Interestingly, you can buy 'aluminium-free' bicarbonate of soda. Is this a marketing gimmick? Surely bicarbonate of soda is, by definition, aluminium-free because as Mudbeard says, it describes a single-molecule substance.

Either way, since you can buy a kilo of the aluminium-free bicarbonate of soda for a few pounds (less than $5) and this will last me for months, I care not. So I bought some.

Deodorant Itchiness

Naturally, I am now using the aluminium-free sodium bicarbonate.

The article I mentioned in the first post talked about itching from using sodium bicarbonate under the arms. The author added corn starch to make it less abrasive.

I must admit, I have since noticed a little irritation myself, but only mild. I think it depends on how you apply it. I have been trying to get the job done with one or two 'pats', rather than trying to force it into every nook and cranny under my arm. So far the effectiveness does not seem to have been affected this.

Coconut Oil vs. Almond Oil as Moisturiser

I am still using almond oil, but did try coconut oil a few times, as recommended by a few commenters on the first post. It was also good - and indeed slightly less greasy, as people said it would be.

I may make the switch at some point. Coconut oil might also be easier to use, since at room temperature, most of the time in the UK, it is butter-like. Almond oil is always a runny liquid and it's easy to over-dispense and end up using toilet tissue to de-grease.

Shampoo and Conditioner - Frequency Adjustment

I am still using the bicarbs and vinegar solutions, but less frequently than before - I have realised I only need to occasionally clean off the dirt that washing with water cannot remove.

I think this dirt builds up more slowly than the oiliness regular shampoo users irritate their hair into producing.

Dream_Puppy asked in the comments of the first post whether I knew any 'chicks' who use this approach and I suggested Mrs M, who has long-ish hair, was threatening to give it a whirl. So far, she has not.

See also:

How I Ditched the Chemicals in my Bathroom Cabinet
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