Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clean, Green - and Cheap?!?

I've been using non-toxic cleaning products since long before it was the "in" thing to do, but for some reason it wasn't until much more recently that I became aware of all the nasty things that might be lurking in my personal care products. Over the last couple of years, I've gradually been phasing out products that are less than friendly and replacing them with safer choices. I've found this to be a somewhat daunting task for a variety of reasons.  Many of these safer products are astronomically expensive compared to "mainstream" products, making it a bit difficult to wiggle them into a modest budget. To make matters even more confusing, a lot of those more expensive products that are labeled "natural" and/or "organic" are not any safer than the mainstream stuff - they still have many of the same harmful chemicals in them! And finally, some of the natural products leave a lot to be desired in the performance department - and if they're not effective, I'm certainly not paying a premium price for them!

I eventually came up with a set of criteria for my "ideal" products:

 -rated between 0 and 2 on the Skin Deep Database. This is an excellent, free online resource which allows you to look up over 69,000 personal care products and get a rating from 0-10 of their safety (0-2 is their "low risk" rating).

-Canadian made

-not tested on animals

-manufacturer has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics

-product performs well for its intended use

-it's affordable enough for my family to use on a regular basis

Ultimately, I would love the product to meet ALL of the criteria, but that hasn't always been possible so far! The Skin Deep rating, price and performance are my biggest priorities, and after that I try to find a product that will fulfill as many of the remaining criteria as possible.

Before I share the specifics of the products I'm currently using, I'll share my 3 main strategies for keeping costs down:

1. Eliminate as many products as possible from your regimen: Because my personal care routines are pretty simple, I use only a small number of products, which helps keep expenses (and bathroom clutter) to a minimum.

2. Look for homemade options first: I have been successful in making several of my own products, all of which are extremely inexpensive compared to commercial products. They all work great, and I can customized them to exactly meet my own needs and preferences.

3. Buy in bulk where possible. Once you've found a product you love, buying it in the largest size available will often yield substantial savings (sometimes reducing the cost by 50% or more).

I also have a little opportunity for my readers to save some money at You'll notice I've linked to them a few times further on in the post (those are NOT affiliate links). They are a great online Canadian company, and have a HUGE selection of natural products, as well as offering free shipping anywhere in Canada with no minimum purchase. I have a coupon code I can offer you for $10 off a $40 purchase if you're a new customer. It's not supposed to be posted on public sites, so if you'd like the code just email me at abundanceonadime AT gmail DOT com and I'll happily send it to you!

So, without further ado, here are my current favourite all-natural personal care products:

Liquid hand soap: Nature Clean Citrus Liquid Soap. I totally love this stuff! Not only does it have a great clean citrusy scent, it meets every single one of my criteria, making it about as perfect as a product can get. It's also supposed to be available in a 3 litre refill jug, which would help reduce the cost and packaging, but so far I've yet to track it down anywhere I shop.

Bar Soap: Guelph Soap Company Eucalyptus and Mint Bar Soap. This soap is made less than an hour away from me and it's a great bargain for a natural soap! I've seen many natural bar soaps priced from $5-7 a bar, which is just not realistic for my family's budget. I purchased this soap for $1.59 a bar (you have to buy a pack of six to get it at this price, but it's worth it!). My husband and I both use it for shaving. It has a rich, creamy lather and doesn't dry out my skin. It's also a nice solid bar which doesn't melt away to nothing like a lot of other soaps do.

Body wash: I've been using Nature Clean Body Wash which I received as a gift. It's a pretty good product as far as meeting my criteria, but I've been underwhelmed by the scent. I'm planning to switch to Dr. Bronner's Organic Citrus Liquid Soap when I run out of my current body wash. As an added bonus, it's an extremely versatile product; I've been using their peppermint liquid soap in my homemade cleaning products as well as for handwashing and pretreating laundry.

Facial cleanser: I make my own "cleansing grains" (pictured in the glass dish above) using my adaptation of Crunchy Betty's winter face scrub. I make it with just the rice flour, oats and coconut with whatever essential oils I feel like adding (my current favourite is grapefruit) and I'll add calendula and/or chamomile if I happen to have some around. I've been using this for about a year now, and my skin has been wonderfully soft ever since (I gave it to my sisters-in-law for Christmas last year, and they all raved about it!)

Moisturizer: I use coconut oil on my face and body. People with less mature skin than I might find it a bit heavy, in which case grapeseed oil might be a better option. I've been looking in vain for a good affordable heavy-duty hand moisturizer for the winter months and I'm planning to try my hand at making some hard lotion any time now (I'll report back on how it goes!)

Deodorant: My husband and I have been using this homemade deodorant for about a year and a half now and we both love it. I like to add some essential oils to give it a pleasing scent - equal parts lavender and grapefruit for me, tea tree and peppermint for hubby. Our two boys have started using it too, now that they're old enough to need it!

My two remaining holdouts are toothpaste and shampoo/conditioner. I have really sensitive teeth and haven't found anything that works as good as the toothpaste I've been using since I was a kid. And I have a hard time finding hair care products that work well for my thick, curly, frizz-prone hair (I've tried the no 'poo thing with little success). I have my eye on the Yes to Carrots line as a possibility when I've used up my current shampoo stash.

Do you have some favourite personal care products or recipes to recommend? Please share in the comments!


  1. I say yes to Yes to Carrots. I have curly, frizz-prone hair, too, and I love the nourishing shampoo and conditioner that you link to here.

    Also, I really like the Alaffia curly hair line. They are a bit pricier but they are very concentrated so last longer.

  2. Great post, Karen. I am so using these tips. I was just wondering where you buy your coconut oil? I know it can be quite expensive.

  3. Regarding the toothpaste: My husband and I wanted to try the toothsoap..yuck..didn't like it. Still wanted to get away from toothpaste (I have/had sensitive teeth) so I...not sure why... bought a bar of Dr. Bronners bar soap. I just wet my brush, rub it on the bar..and brush away. My "sensitive" teeth are no longer sensitive. My dental checkups have never been better. I am completely convinced that toothpaste is not good for us to use. I have been using the same bar of soap for the last two years and have not even gotten through 1/3 of the bar yet. You do have to get used to the soap. Once you do..try toothpaste again...yuck. I will never go back.

  4. @ Anonymous - thanks for the hair care product recommendations. Good to know they are likely to work well on my curly hair!

    @ Tracy S. - I buy the coconut oil a variety of places. Around here Fortinos (grocery store) seems to have slightly lower prices overall, but sometimes the health food stores will have it on sale for a better deal (especially if you buy the larger sizes).

    @the other Tracy - thanks for sharing your oral care experience. I may start experimenting with a few things and see how my teeth react. I know a lot of people make a homemade toothpaste with coconut oil and baking soda - not sure I'm brave enough to try the Dr. Bronners just yet :)

  5. I make my own facial cleanser from honey, rose water, lavender essential oil, and a bit of lavender scented Castile soap, diluted with a bit of water. Heavenly! Thanks for the other tips. I've got to try that facial scrub...


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