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Prevent These Common Mistakes When Making and Using Natural Ingredients
Finding healthier and eco-friendly alternatives to anything from personal care to cleaning my home has not been easy. I’ve spent hours and hours figuring out which ingredients make better substitutes while also being effective at their task without crappy side-effects.
Unfortunately, quite quickly into my quest, I started noticing loads of pinnable recipes that were clearly unsafe. Most are created with really good intentions but are based on the belief that natural is always safe.
To make sure you’re making and using natural products safely, I’ve compiled a basic list of safety precautions to really think about when making your own products.
Is Natural Really Better?
I often have to bite my tongue when I hear, ‘well A is better than B because it’s’:
- not full of chemicals
- not artificial/synthetic
and the absolute winner
Most people define natural as untouched by us humans. You know what is also 100% natural? Bacteria, cancer, and botulinum toxin.
That escalated quickly…
Without coming across too cynical, let me try to explain this with an example.
Botulinum toxin, commonly known as botox, is produced by bacteria and is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. It also happens to be 100% natural.
Many people seem to have developed a phobia for chemicals. Most are not aware of the fact that everything is a chemical, including the water you drink and the air you breathe.
The point is there are lots of things found in nature that are good for you and lots of things that are horrible for you.
I’m not saying you should stop buying and using natural products, but I want you to become aware that just because it’s marketed as ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s safe or good for you to use.
With that being said, there are plenty of reasons to use products that truly carry healthy, eco-friendly ingredients including for your health and that of our planet. Just make sure you do your research.
Safety Tips for Natural Products
Know that these tips are the most basic things that I keep in mind when making and using homemade products. If you have any additions do share!
Natural Product Safety Tip#1
Prevent Microscopic Critters!
Most of us start with homemade natural products because we want eco-friendly and healthier choices to use in and around our home. There is just one teeny tiny microscopic problem. Microbes!
Making your own products that include food ingredients or water can create the perfect environment for microbes to grow quickly and furiously. Although there are plenty of other times when bacteria can be healthy (think of fermented veggies), they are not welcome in green cleaners or personal care products and can make you very sick.
To prevent a zoo of teeny tiny bacteria from growing inside your products you have to keep a couple things in mind.
- Products that include water (or food) have a MUCH shorter shelf life than you think.
- Do not rely on your senses to tell you if your product is still safe to use. Most often, you won’t be able to tell.
- Consider using a natural-derived preservative.
- Our hands are covered in bacteria, so avoid dipping your fingers in the products or containers as much as possible.
- Keep products in an airtight container and do not allow for any moisture from getting in.
Natural Product Safety Tip#2
Shelf Life & Preservatives
Homemade products that include water have a very short shelf life (up to a week max). This isn’t too cool, especially if you’re making personal care products that you’d like to use for a month or two. In this case, please seriously consider using a naturally-derived preservative. I’ve heard great things about Leucidal Liquid SF and Phytocide Aspen Bark (powder).
You don’t need a preservative when:
- your homemade products are made without water (anhydrous). Just adhere to the expiration date of the ingredients you use.
- you plan on only using your water-based product for no more than a week.
Natural Product Safety Tip#3
Make Small Batches
Try making amounts that you know you will use before your product expires. If you use a lot of dish soap, make a little more, if you don’t make a little less. This way you’ll prevent wasting time, ingredients and money while keeping yourself and your family safe.
Natural Product Safety Tip#4
Use Clean Tools & Containers
To prevent contaminating your products before you even start making them, start with clean hands, a disinfected work surface, and clean tools and containers. I use my dishwasher to sanitize and disinfect my tools with heat and detergent. It also helps to use eco-friendly tools that are effective at getting rid of bacteria.
Natural Product Safety Tip#5
Always Use Labels
Labelling your homemade products isn’t just convenient but important for safety too. You don’t want to mistake one product for another, nor do you want to use a product that has long been expired! Yuk!
A simple label made with a marker, a chalkboard sticker or a simply piece of tape is a good place to write the product name and expiration date.
Natural Product Safety Tip#6
Research, research, research!
Research ingredients and what tasks call for. As great as natural ingredients sound, they are not always better for the task you have in mind.
Examples of great sounding recipes that don’t do what it’s intended for:
- baking soda or castile soap to wash hair, and wreaks havoc on your hair as it completely messes with the pH value of your scalp.
- baking soda and vinegar to try to unclog drains, which is ineffective because these two ingredients react together (bubbles!) and neutralize each other’s cleaning properties.
- homemade natural face scrub (with ingredients like sugar) may cause irritation or micro-tears in your skin which can lead to impurities, infections and premature aging.
Natural Product Safety Tip#7
Test Slowly First
For any type of (homemade) product, whether it’s for your skin or your laundry, always test a little bit of product on a small area. If you do get an adverse reaction, you’ll be able to stop using it before you run into major issues.
Natural Product Safety Tip#8
Use Essential Oils Safely
I have come to love essential oils deeply and I’m not the only one. They are incredible to use in homemade personal care and cleaning products, while also being supportive in sucky things that come up once and a while like impurities, bruises, cramps, stress, or the sniffles.
You’ll find loads of recipes and essential oil tips on the internet that are almost too easy to follow along with. When you are using essential oils here are the tips I use:
- always do your own research!
- always patch-test a new oil first. If you have an adverse reaction, your skin is irritated and not detoxing. Stop using that oil immediately. You may try again heavily diluted after it has healed.
- diluting oils is always a good policy. They are very potent and a few drops diluted go a long way and won’t make them any less effective.
- stay out of the sun when using phototoxic oils (like most citrus oils) on your skin.
- do not use cheap or fragrance ‘essential oils’ but find a brand that you trust to sell you pure essential oil without any additives.
- when using on children, know that they are not tiny adults. Their skin is MUCH more sensitive, and you need to dilute heavily and use them sparingly. Our brand carries pre-diluted kid’s blends that are safe to use called the touchline.
- use dark colored glass containers to prevent the essential oils from getting damaged by the sun or the oils damaging the container itself.
You’ll notice that most of my cleaning recipes will call for essential oils. They are not crucial but they have beneficial cleaning properties while adding a natural fragrance to my home. If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, check out our beginner’s guide.
Don’t be afraid to use them, but do use common sense.
Natural Product Safety Tip#9
I’ve found this to be especially important in homemade cleaning products. Separately, the ingredients I use have been independently reviewed as safe by the Environmental Working Group, but when combined certain ingredients go through chemical reactions that lead to a completely different product.
If you want to know more, I’ve included the ingredient combinations you really must AVOID to stay safe while cleaning effectively in this green cleaning guide for busy beginners.
The Last Thing to Know about Making and Using Natural Products Safely
Using natural ingredients can be an incredible thing if you’re looking to take back control of the ingredients you use on your skin and in your home around your loved ones. These safety tips for making and using natural products should give you a great start in how to do so in a way that serves you, instead of accidentally hurt you.
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Did Any Of These Tips Surprise You? Do You Have Tips?
I am always learning and would love to hear from you. If you have any additions do share! Please share in the comments below!
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