Tag Archives: essential oils

Why a Clean Kitchen Isn’t Always a Safe Kitchen: A Case for Natural Kitchen Cleaner

(Article written by guest contributor Amy Wynn)

As a kid, I always knew when my mom had been scrubbing the kitchen. Not just by how the sink sparkled and the floor shined, but by the pervasive smell of bleach and noxious blue window cleaner.

Like many of us, I grew up thinking that it’s not a clean kitchen unless it “smells clean.” But that particular “smell of clean” can also be the scent of damage to your body.

Toxic Clean

The American Lung Association warns of the dangers of many commercial household cleaners. The risks are plenty:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), bleach, and ammonia are known lung irritants that worsen the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • When products containing household bleach and ammonia are mixed, they emit dangerous toxic gases into the air that have adverse effects on the body when inhaled.
  • New research shows that fragrances used in household cleaners, when mixed with ozone (O3), can create carcinogenic formaldehyde particles in the air.

Because of all of the risks associated with the use of harsh chemicals in our house, don’t you think it’s high time we reconsider the old “tried and true” cleaners as the benchmark of cleanliness?

Natural Clean

In all honesty, I never liked the smell of bleach or any other industrial cleaner when I was growing up.  As I’ve grown up and taken on the responsibility of managing the care of my own home, I’ve come to love the fresh and light aromas of pure plant extracts and essential oils found in natural kitchen cleaning products.

Products made with safe, natural ingredients instead of artificial chemicals can be just as effective at cleaning and sanitizing your home. And, you don’t have to give up “the smell of clean” just so you can get a product that’s safe enough for even the smallest hands and feet (or paws) in the house.

If you’ve ever caught your toddler (or pooch) eating food off the kitchen floor, you can appreciate the overall safety of a natural kitchen cleaner like Better Life’s All Purpose Cleaner.

Anti-Bacterial or Anti-Effective

When considering the effectiveness of natural ingredients, take for example the recent attention on the overuse of anti-bacterial soaps.

Once lauded as an aid in preventing illness and increasing safety, Triclosan, which is found in many anti-bacterial soaps and sanitizers, has been shown to have no demonstrable benefit in preventing everyday illnesses. In addition, triclosan may pose additional health risks, like the contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and causing adverse hormonal effects, when used long-term.

Top to Bottom

Even though my mom may not have had it entirely right with the “smell clean, is clean” mantra, she taught me that when we know better, we do better. It’s time to do better with our kitchen cleaners.

So when it’s time to clean your kitchen again (When is the kitchen really ever clean?), avoid the temptation of the “old smell test” and instead, opt for the refreshing aromas of natural ingredients that won’t overwhelm the olfactory receptors of your family. They will thank you, and your kitchen will thank you as well.

Here are a few of our favorite natural kitchen cleaners at Soap Hope.

You Must Mist!

Since this week at Soap Hope we’re featuring free mists, we thought you might like to know how other Soap Hopers tell us they use their mists. Do try this at home!

  • Spray in your shoes. Mint, Sea Salt, and Tea Tree are especially good – they keep your shoes fresh inside.
  • Put your favorite mist it in your suitcase when you travel. Makes your hotel room smell great.
  • Spray lavender mist on your bedsheets and pillows. Lavender is calming and will help you rest.
  • Spray in your closet to keep it fresh and wonderful. Worried about moths? Spray tea tree in the closet to help keep  moths away.
  • Use essential oil mists as a substitute for perfume. Spray on freely – it’s all natural.
  • Spray some mist in your dryer – your clothes will pick up the aroma.
  • Keep a mist in your drawer at work, to freshen up if you feel hot.
  • Spray on the treadmill, workout bench, and exercise or yoga mat.
  • And a mist in every bathroom, of course.

Share your favorite mist uses in the comments below. And pick some up for yourself and for gifts, at Soap Hope. One mist empowers a woman in her business for four days!

No Thanks To Paraben

Last week, Environmental Science and Technology published the results of a study by researchers from Arizona State University and State University of New York’s Downstate School of Public Health.

The study tracked 180 pregnant women in Brooklyn, New York. The study found triclosan – a commonly used chemical in antibacterial soaps – in 100% of the women’s urine. Every one!

The same researchers also found parabens in 100% of the cord blood samples they tested, with triclosan in half of them.

Endocrine-disrupting parabens like triclosan affect the body’s hormone system. It has been clearly shown that there is a relationship in humans between triclosan levels in the body and allergies. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that the more triclosan you have in your system, the more likely you are to develop allergic reactions to a variety of foods, for example.

The irony is that other studies reveal that simply washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective at eliminating bacteria as using a soap with triclosan in it.

Triclosan does act as a preservative in consumer products – but so does vitamin E, which is what many of our makers use in their products. Why do big manufacturers use triclosan? It’s cheaper. They don’t appear to be concerned about the side effects on people or the environment. They also know there’s nothing especially “antibacterial” for the user of their product, but they market it that way anyway.

We have strict standards about what may be used in products at Soap Hope. Triclosan, and every other paraben, is banned from the products we carry at Soap Hope. Our carefully selected products simply will never have parabens, period.

Essential oils? Definitely. Vitamin E? Yes, please. Parabens? No thanks.

Our goal is to free you from reading labels – we read them for you. If you find it at Soap Hope, it has passed our research test. And when you buy it here, the entire profit for your purchase goes to empower women. Soap Hope means “Everything Good for Body and Home.”

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here It Comes: Sun Protection Products

We know that the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be harmful to skin, so it’s important to take precautions for yourself and your family – especially during the summertime when they sun’s rays are at their peak, and when our clothing covers less skin. It’s also important to know which sun protection products you should look for, and which to avoid.

Eat Right!

As usual, Soap Hope’s first advice is to pay attention to your diet. Your body uses vitamin C and several B vitamins in its own natural process of protecting your skin from the sun’s rays, so it is especially important to replenish these vitamins during the summer.

Luckily, many of the fruits and vegetables that are abundant in summer are the very foods that can help you. One easy rule of thumb: eat green and red. Up your intake of spinach, broccoli, collard greens, peas, green and red peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes during the summer.

Everything but the Kitchen Zinc

It’s important to use sunscreen on skin that’s exposed to the sun.

There are two main ways to protect skin.  Nonabsorbent sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for scientifically proven sun protection. They are not absorbed into the skin or bloodstream. These are minerals that are found abundantly in nature and are very safe for use in body care products.

Zinc oxide sits on the outer dead layer of skin – any free radicals generated will not affect living cells below. Responsible companies like Badger Balm blend powerful natural antioxidants like organic oils and vitamin E to absorb free radicals created by exposure to the sun.

Chemical sunscreens use chemicals like oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, or octisalate. We do not ever recommend using products with these chemicals in them! They are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. They disrupt normal hormone functions in humans and should especially never be used on children.

In 2008, a peer reviewed scientific study showed that these dangerous chemicals are also washing off swimmers in the ocean and poisoning our world’s coral reefs. Unfortunately, more than half of the sunscreens in the U.S. have these highly suspect chemicals in them. You won’t find them anywhere near Soap Hope’s lineup!

Nano No-No

There is some controversy about whether it is wise to pulverize zinc oxide into fine “nanoparticles,” or even what size particle should be considered “nano.” But many people who care about natural living currently avoid nanoparticle sunscreens.

For that reason, Soap Hope carries only sunscreens that are tested as non-nano by our makers. Our sun protection lineup consists of the products that people looking for a natural, healthy lifestyle prefer.

Right On Time

Depending on the way a sunscreen is formulated, it can become less effective after a long period of time. For that reason, Soap Hope only carries sunscreens that are stamped with an expiration date. You should replace any expired sunscreen products to ensure you are getting maximum sun protection.

Here Comes the Sun

While we’re on the topic, we thought we would share a little something with you – this rendition of Here Comes the Sun from way back when in 1976 – an acoustic version performed by George Harrison and Paul Simon. Enjoy, and stay protected this summer!

Oh Won’t You Stay Just a Little Bit Longer?

Wish your wonderful natural products would last a little longer? Here are some tips to get more from the natural products you love.

Soap Bars

We love soap bars made from goat’s milk, olive oil, and other natural nourishing ingredients – that wonderful aroma and big creamy lather. But sometimes they can seem to “melt away.” These simple practices will make them last longer.

Keep your soap away from water. This might sound obvious, but many people don’t realize that they are holding their soap bar under the water for much longer than they need to. Just get the bar wet and lather, keeping the bar away from the stream of water under the shower or sink. Kids are especially guilty of this – teach them to lather and put the soap away.

The elegant Spire from Spire Home Products keeps your soap lasting longer and your counter dry.
The elegant Spire from Spire Home Products keeps your soap lasting longer and your counter dry.

Soap bars can “melt” when you aren’t using them, if they are wet. Use a soap stand to help your soap bar air dry as fast as possible, and to keep your counters clean. (Try a Spire from Spire Home Products. They are stylish and will lengthen the life of any bar).

If you buy bars on sale in quantity, keep them in a zip-top bag until you are ready to use them. The essential oils in natural products will escape into the air. In a sealed bag, soap bars will last as much as four times longer than out in the open.

Liquids

The one natural ingredient that big commercial manufacturers use in their products isn’t very useful to the product: it’s water. Body wash, laundry detergent, shampoo – those commercial varieties try to make consumers think they are getting more product, when they are just getting more water.

Natural product makers don’t work that way. They infuse their products liberally with essential extracts of a variety of natural elements. A little goes a long way. So always use a small amount of product first, and see how much you really need. You may have to “untrain” yourself after years of using commercial products that were mostly water.

For instance, just a small amount of Acure Organics facial cleanser is enough to thoroughly cleanse your face and impart its nourishing ingredients. If you double the amount, that’s just washed off!

Same with Indigo Wild’s laundry detergent – just one ounce is plenty in a high efficiency washer to thoroughly clean all your clothes. You should be getting 64 full laundry loads from that 64-ounce bottle!

Light

Light is great for people, but not for essential oils. Keep your products in the cabinet or drawer, or at least out direct sunlight. They will retain their powerful properties as long as possible that way.

Shake It Up

Natural product makers also refrain from putting unnecessary binders in their products – so they should be shaken. Give your natural shampoo, spray mist, and facial toner a shake to ensure all the oils are mixed evenly before use. That way you’ll get the full benefit of your product throughout its use.

If you found these tips useful, your friends will too. Share with others using the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the page. See you next week!

What’s In A Neem

If you read ingredient lists as fervently as we do at Soap Hope, you’ve seen the words Neem Oil – in body soaps, cleansers, hair care and anti-aging products. You may even have noticed that neem oil seems always to be present when a natural product is focused on helping with dry skin, psoriasis, scalp problems, or anything related to inflammation. Let’s see why.

Neem oil comes from – you guessed it – the fruit of the neem tree, also known by the more elegant name Indian Lilac. Neem has powerful healing and protecting properties: it has been used as an antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial, a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory.

Medical science is just now catching up to centuries of traditional wisdom (in India, the neem tree is called “the village pharmacy”), with studies of the use of neem for conditions from psoriasis to HIV. It seems that the key may be the special form of vitamin E found in neem.

By the way, neem fits right in with our focus on sustainability at Soap Hope: this tree can live for over 100 years, and the oil is harvested sustainably from the seeds of its fruit.

If you smell the wonderful aroma of its flowers, and with all of neem’s amazing properties, you might think every skin and hair care product would use it – but there’s a challenge for makers: raw neem oil has a medicinal aroma. It takes a master maker like The Seaweed Bath Co. or Nourish Organic to get the perfect blend of neem into their formulations: just the right amount and in combination with the ideal complementary natural ingredients.

So how do makers incorporate neem into their products? Let’s look at a few key uses of this wonder oil at Soap Hope:

  • Seaweed Bath Co., with their focus on protecting and healing scalp and skin, uses neem oil in their body washes, hand, foot and body butters.
  • Nourish Organic blends neem into its Moisturizing Face Cleanser – not surprising, since neem oil is known to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and is a natural antimicrobial.
  • A Wild Soap Bar’s intensely therapeutic Pine Tar Neem Oil Organic Soap Bar is a daily requirement for those who have scalp or skin irritation, itching or redness.
  • KIND Soap Company understands the cleansing and anti-aging properties of neem for skin – that’s why it’s in their Honey Hand Spa.

    So “what’s in a neem?” When you think neem oil, think healing, cleansing, and protective. It’s on Soap Hope’s list of favorite ingredients.

  • Let us know if neem oil is a part of your body care regimen – we would love to hear about your experience. Comments are open below.

    Hair’s Best Friend: Moroccan Argan Oil

    Miracle Oil

    By now you’ve certainly heard of argan oil. It’s been called “the miracle oil” and “liquid gold,” and while it’s a relatively new discovery in the beauty industry, the benefits of argan oil have been known for centuries in northern Africa. In the arid environment where it grows, argan has always been used to keep hair and skin soft and supple. Rich in nutrients, argan was also used topically for skin ailments and to fight infections.

    Argan oil is one of the rarest oils on the planet, because it comes from the fruit of the argania spinosa tree which grows in only a very small part of the world.

    Focus on Hair

    Argan oil has powerful applications for skin, face, eyes, and nails, and as you will learn today, for hair.

    Many people who try argan oil for the first time are amazed by its effects. It helps with both oily and dry scalp conditions because it regulates the activity of hair follicles. Argan is used to counteract the root causes of dry or damaged hair. For those with dull or rough hair, it can create shine and smoothness.

    Argan oil is rich in the nutrients that your body and hair need – antioxidants, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid to name a few. Hair absorbs and retains this oil to create shine and body – but argan is light and does not build up, so hair gets the benefit of these great properties without being weighed down.

    Argan oil penetrates the hair follicle and even protects from UV rays and environmental pollutants; it is definitely recommended for color treated hair and to strengthen styled hair.

    Everything Good

    At Soap Hope we always encourage practices that support our “Everything Good” motto. We love that most argan oil in the world is produced by fair trade women’s co-operatives. Environmentally, the argan forest in Morocco is a designated protected biosphere to ensure that argan fruit production remains sustainable.

    I Want It!

    Soap Hope’s brands recognize the importance of argan oil in their top of the line hair products. You’ll find it in over 70 products at Soap Hope. You’ll find argan-focused hair products from Seaweed Bath Company, Acure Organics, and Hugo Naturals. You can also get pure organic argan oil at Soap Hope from Acure Organics, and we carry a great argan oil blend with pomegranate seed and rosehip oils from Nourish Organic.

    Do you use argan oil as a part of your hair regimen? Share your experiences with us in the comments below – we want to hear from you.

    Vetiver and Valentine

    You may not know the name vetiver, but you’ve almost certainly noticed its intoxicating aroma if you have ever smelled cologne – vetiver is present as a base note in the majority of perfumes and cologne today. Its smoky, musky, exotic aroma is said to be an aphrodisiac.

    The vetiver plant (Vetiveria Zizanoides) is a grass that is grown widely in India and Haiti. The tall grass grows up to six feet tall. In India you’ll find thatch roofs, mattresses, and curtains made of this special plant, as it cools and scents rooms and keeps insects away.

    Vetiver’s essential oil is extracted from its roots by steam distillation. The oil has powerful benefits. Academic research has shown that vetiver essential oil is a potent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. Vetiver is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It is used to treat blemishes, blemish prone skin, scars, stretch marks and burns. Vetiver is also a natural aphrodisiac that is said to increase libido and desire.

    You wouldn’t know by looking that the roots of this tall grass contain such a special essential oil – but people have known for thousands of years about its valuable properties. It’s a perfect ingredient for this season of love and romance.

    If you’re curious about the seductive aroma of Vetiver, Soap Hope is featuring a line of Valentine’s Day products that highlight the exotic aroma of this wonderful natural essential oil. Indigo Wild has had some fun with this scent, blending vetiver and lavender for their limited run Ooh La Zum bar soap, candle, mist, candle, massage oil, and lip balm.