Borax occurs naturally in evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The most commercially important deposits are found in Turkey; Boron, California; and Searles Lake, California. Also, borax has been found at many other locations in the Southwestern United States, the Atacama desert in Chile, newly discovered deposits in Bolivia, and in Tibet and Romania. Borax can also be produced synthetically from other boron compounds.

Proper borax is No longer sold on the shelves in the UK. You have to make do with a borax substitute from Dripak.

“Borax Substitute is sodium sesquicarbonate – a mineral compound, with similar pH to borax, making it ideal for cleaning and laundry. It is gentler than Soda Crystals yet stronger than Bicarbonate of Soda.

Using Borax Substitute around the house
Uses Borax Substitute as a:

Multi-purpose cleaner – Mix it with some water to form a paste. This makes it an excellent scouring agent that offers more cleaning power than Bicarbonate of Soda.
A water softener to help keep your washing machine clear of limescale.
To make your own bath salts, simply add some perfume or essential oils and a drop of food colouring to some Borax Substitute.”

That said you can still buy borax from Ebay


You can use real borax for the above and
Can be used to make a fire retardant spray
To deter moths


Borax, washing soda, bicarbonate or all three. What should you use for your cleaning needs? A comparison HERE
See all out #plasticfree cleaning aids HERE


Fatty Acids – Oils, Butters & Waxes

Welcome to the slippery pole

Fatty Acids Or Fossil Fuel?

Fossil fuel oil is slippery is very versatile. As well being the base for most plastics and driving our cars it can be found in less obvious places. It is sold as a moisturizer (think Vaseline and even E45), petroleum-derived, synthetic fragrances are added to many commercial cosmetic products and hexane (another petroleum derivative), is used to extract some vegetable oils.

While I don’t mind oil on my pistons I draw the line at rubbing it on my skin or using it to fry my eggs.

So what to use instead? Renewable Fatty Acids of course

What Are Fatty Acids?

So let’s talk fatty acids. For the purposes of this post, fatty acids are the oily greasy stuff you use to cook with, cut off your bacon, burn in your beeswax candles or rub on as your Shea Butter Body Moisturiser.

They are the oil that is formed in a plant or the fat stored by an animal. There is of course a lot more to them then that and Meanwhile here is a beginners guide.

Fatty acids are fatty, oily, greasy or buttery. They can be harvested from plants and animals.
Vegetable Derived These are obtained from the seeds, nuts and even flesh of plants.There are many kinds of vegetable oils, butters and waxes. Mains uses are cooking & cosmetics.
Animal Derived  This is the fat stored by an animal. These are mostly solid ranging from hard and waxy like lard to the softer butterExamples would be butter & lard

Essential Oils Are not an oil at all as they don’t contain any fatty acids.

Main uses of fatty acids are cooking, cosmetics, lubricating and soap making.
Some like Jojoba should only be used for cosmetic purposes. Coconut oil on the other hand can be used for just about everything. Find out about using oils to make creams and cosmetics here.

Types Of Oil, Wax Or Butter
They come in a variety of forms under the following headings – but it is a rough guide only.
Liquid Oil – never solidifies
Solid Oil – firm when cool but has very low melting point so sometimes it may be counted as an oil i.e. Coconut oil
Butters – a solid oil. Has a high melting point. Rather confusing. Milk butter for example acts more like a solid oil, while Cocoa butter is more like a wax.
Waxes – very hard-of a candle (wax), like consistency. Bees wax for example.

Next you might want to know how your fats and oils they have been obtained and processed – especially if you plan to eat your oil.
Animal fats are collected after slaughter. Concerns here are rather about how the animal was treated before it was slaughtered.
Extracting vegetable oils and processing them is a more complex process. Most commercially produced oils are solvent extracted. This involves a chemical solvent like the petroleum-derived hexane. This technique is used for most of the “newer” oils such as soybean and canola oils.
Mechanical methods where the oil is squeezed or pressed out of the vegetable matter in a variety of ways involves less in the way of petroleum derivatives but depending on the method used can affect the oil. Cold pressed oil is considered the least invasive method of extraction though it also less efficient.
Read more abouts oil extraction here.

Hydrogenated Oil
Both animal and vegetable fats can be hydrogenated.
Hydrogenated oil is made by forcing reactive hydrogen gas gas into oil at high pressure in the presence of a palladium catalyst.
Hydrogenated oil is more stable, does not go rancid as quickly
It has a higher melting point, so can be used for frying.
It is used to make liquid oils more solid. Margarine is an example of a hydrogenated oil.
Oils have been hydrogenated since the 1930s.
Hydrogenating oil modifies the chemistry significantly.
The fatty acids in oils are unsaturated fats. They are unstable.
Hydrogenating oil turns these unstable fatty acids into new more stable fats known as trans fats acids.
There are concerns that trans fatty acids may increase LDL, or bad cholesterol, and decrease HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol.
Because they are not natural the digestive system does not know what to do with them. They may actually bioaccumulate in the body.
Read more here



Most oils and waxes last for ages. Some like butter will go off.

Find out more basic information about ingredients and alternative products here
Using oils to make creams and cosmetics
Read about the fatty acids we eat here

Oils Butters & Fatty Acids  I Use
For Cosmetics
You can use a lot of waxes and oils neat to moisturise and cleanse or as as ingredients in creams.
Coconut oil– a hard oil which has a very low melting point. Use neat as for everything from hair care to make up removal or add to creams and balms. Can also be used for cooking. Read more 
Cocoa butter – a hard wax which has a high melting point. Use neat as a lip balm or add to creams and balms.
Bees wax – a hard oil wax has a very high melting point add to creams and balms to make them firmer.
Shea butter – a creamy butter with a surprisingly low melting point. Good for making cream and lotions. There’s an  introduction to shea butter here
Castor oil – a very thick oil – add it to lip balm. Can often be bought in chemists.
Almond oil a lighter oil. Can be bought in big supermarkets, Asian shops and online

Cosmetics & Eating
I love a multi tasking product and you cant do better than a moisturiser you cook chips in.
Rapeseed oil – a lighter oil with quite a strong scent but U.K. sourced. Read More
Olive oil – a richer oil can sometimes be bought on tap in the U.K. Used for cooking and more
Rice Bran Oil less “oily” than olive oil and rapeseed oil and not as malodorous as the latter. I used it to make suntan lotion and mosquito repellent.

Only Eating
While I love to get my monies worth I draw the line at lard as a beauty regime.
Butter – eating only. Read more
Lard – a plastic free substitute for cooking oil.

Using oils to make creams and cosmetics
Read about the fatty acids we eat here

Essential Oils Are not an oil at all as they don’t contain any fatty acids.

Oils I try To avoid
Palm Oil because it is often badly farmed read more here
Margarine because it is a hydrogenated oil.
And oils derived from petrol. Don’t want to eat them donut want to moisturise with them


Essential Oils

Essential oils have gone from being an obscure aspect of botany to an all round marketing  ‘good thing’.  Almost every product you buy from washing powder to shampoo trumpets that they contain essential oils. So much better, so much greener. As such they have been embraced by the environmental movement as the fragrance for your home made products, a staple in  your medicine chest and the relaxant in your bath.

I have been using them for years thinkin that they are a so eco friendly. But are they really? And are they even oils?

What Are Essential Oils?

They are not actually oils because they do not contain fatty acids.
They are in fact terpenes
Terpenes organic compounds produced by plants (and occasionally insects).
Terpenes are made up of isoprene units, each consisting of five carbon atoms attached to eight hydrogen atoms (C5H8)
They are often strong-smelling.
So essential oils are the strong smelling terepenes found in plants and insects.


Terepenes (along with phenolics nitrogen-containing compounds ) are called secondary metabolites.
Secondary metabolites are chemicals produced by plants for which no role has yet been found in growth, photosynthesis, reproduction, or other “primary” functions. These chemicals are extremely diverse; many thousands have been identified in several major classes. Each plant family, genus, and species produces a characteristic mix of these chemicals, and they can sometimes be used as taxonomic characters in classifying plants. Humans use some of these compounds as medicines, flavorings, or recreational drugs. 

Just so you know – search for terepenes and you get a lot of information about marijuana

They are often characteristic of particular species, are sometimes only produced under particular environmental conditions and for different reasons. The lemon tree for examples produces a pungent oil to repel insects while the rose creates pungent oil to attract them.

N.B. Fragrance oil and essential oil are NOT the same thing. Fragrance” or “fragrance oil” or “perfume” often refers to synthetic scents.

 Medical Qualities

Some essential oils appear to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Others may help speed up healing. However while many claims are made about the potency of essentail oils there is not enough scientific evidence to back them up. Generally it seems to be accepted that they do some limited good though should not be relied on to cure any serious complaints or used to swab down an operating theatre.

While they might not be hugely effective they dont do much harm either. Secondary metabolites are broken down relatively easily so are unlikely to accumulate in large quantities in the environment.

Growing the Oil

Though figures vary you can safely say it takes a lot of plants to produce a small amount of oil..

For one pound of essential oil you will need
50-60 pounds of eucalyptus
200 -250 lbs of lavender Sources include Bulgaria, England, France, USSR, Yugoslavia, Australia, USA, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, Italy and Spain2 2,000 lbs of cypress
5,000 to 10,000 pounds of rose blossoms to produce one pound of essential oil. Primary cultivation sites for one company include: France, Tasmania, Spain, Italy, England, and China.

Extracting the Oil

Terpenes are usually extracted from plants by steam distillation or chemical extraction.

Environmental Concerns

No matter how they are grown essential oils take up a lot of agricultural land
Growing single species for harvest results in a monoculture style of farming.
Plus all the other demands of farming, – water, fuel, fertilisers organic or not.
It is a lot of input for a very small harvest of what is basically a luxury product.
Add to that the fuel needed to extract the oils “If steam distillation is used temperatures above two hundred degrees applied anywhere from 2-24 hours to extract various oils. ”
If chemical solvents are used which are more effective and so require less plant material, but in turn pose issues of toxicity for people and the environment. 
Some oils are harvested from the wild from threatened species.
Cropwatch, a non-profit that keeps tabs on the natural aromatics industry, maintains a list of wild species threatened including rosewood, sandalwood, amyris, thyme, cedarwood, jatamansi, gentian, wormwood and cinnamon,

Should You Use Them…

Personally all of which makes me wary of using essentail oils. I do love the smell but I don’t like the idea that so many resources go into making one tiny bottle of luxury scent.
If you are going to use essentail oils please use them sparingly and buy from a company that is clear about how they grow and harvest their oils.

Take a look at Pravera or Yorkshire Lavender

How To Use Them…

Read more about the oils we use and what for, HERE.


See a full range of homemade #plasticfree personal care products here 
And find out how to make lots more stuff HERE
Find all plastic free personal care products here…


An introduction to some of the stuff you need to make the above


Eucaplyptus Oil

Replace plastic inhalers with a bottle of eucalyptus oil – but be careful, very careful how you sniff!

Using Essential OIls
Essential oils are concentrated and so should be used with some care.
Do not apply neat to the skin.
It is good practice to do an allergy test
Do some further research into the oil you plan to use

Be aware of the risks of listening to someone who
a) doesn’t have any training in this field,
b) most of what they know comes from Google,
That’s me I mean.

Essential oils are resource hungry, have a large environmental footprint and should only be used on special occasions.

You can read more about essentials oils, what they are and how they are obtained here

I am telling you of my own experiences for your information only. You should do a lot more research before proceeding. None of the following have been tested on anyone other than me. All I can say Is that I have used essential oils for a long time with no ill effects…..

Welcome aboard but please, proceed with caution….

So thanks to the beastly cold I was waking every hour of the night unable to breath and feeling like an anvil had been rammed up my nose with a sledge hammer. The day was spent choking on my own thick, green, glue-like secretions and panting heavily through my mouth. Thankfully being in Thailand meant being close to chemists that sold medicines I could work with. By which I mean stuff I knew what to do with and recognized as medical aids not bats in a cage or some kind of incomprehensible mushroom. I love China but it can be hard to find a normal looking medicine.

The Big C supermarket has a chemist shop called Pure. It sells Eucalyptus oil which is made (extracted?) from the leaves and twigs of eucalyptus trees. It comes in a cute little glass bottle with a metal screw top lid. I have never tried it before but I had vague memories of it being used to clear noses. And, whoa, it sure does. It has a powerful strong smell  and after only a few whiffs  I could feel the mucas retreating and my nasal passages drying out. It was wonderful.

In no time at all I had developed a  full blown dependency and was acting like a badly-stressed, over-laced Victorian with her smelling salts. Every few minutes I would rummage desperately in by bag,  pull out the small, decorative bottle and sniff away.

While extremely effective, this method of application is not without its disadvantages. First the hotel staff looked a more than little startled as I snuffled past, pasty-faced and watery-eyed, a bottle jammed firmly up one nostril. Secondly I would occasionally miscalculate and get oil on my sensitive nose red and tender from days of vigorous blowing. It stings. a lot! Do not apply this oil neat to the skin.

So at night rather than rub it one my chest (winces at the thought), I liberally spattered my jim jams with dollops of the stuff. Phwoar!  I slept peacefully enfolded in a nostril-clearing, buzzing haze of fumes. Sure I smelt like an old folks home and woke up with a dry and scratchy throat but it was a small price to pay for an almost undisturbed night.

Google claims Eucalyptus oil is good for pain and swelling (inflammation) of respiratory tract mucous membranes, coughs, bronchitis, sinus pain and inflammation, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and respiratory infections. It works as an expectorant to loosen coughs, antiseptic, fever reducer, and in vaporizer fluids. Other uses include treatment of wounds, burns, ulcers, cancer, genital herpes, and nasal stuffiness, as an insect repellent, a fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics, a mouthwash, antiseptic, liniment and ointment, and in toothpaste, cough drops, and lozenges.

Web MD states that “Though eucalyptus is used medicinally for many purposes, there isn’t enough scientific evidence so far to rate it as effective for any of them.” It also states quite firmly that “eucalyptus oil should not be taken by mouth or applied to the skin full-strength. (!)

I don’t advise you use it for treating serious medical conditions. If I had cancer or gential herpes I would be looking  for something with a better proven medical track record. But I can certainly suggest Big C Eucalyptus oil as a plastic free way to alleviate nasal stuffiness.

You can buy refillable inhalers which would be a more discrete and safer way to self medicate.

Cold gone and  I still have almost all a full bottle of oil left so  I will be looking for other uses.


Shea Butter Leeds

This is a quick introduction to Shea Butter

Semi soft buttery oil. Read more about butter oils and waxes here.
Imported usually from Africa.
Has a soft velvety texture.
Can be used neat as a very rich moisturiser.
Mix with coconut oil to make a lighter body butter. Recipe here.
I love it added to home made creams and lotions.

Which Shea Butter?

Unrefined shea butter is going beige or ivory or ‘off white’
Bright white refined shea butter
Pale yellow may be shea from Nilotica (Viterallia Nilotica) and it’s natural
Deep yellow Shea Butter has been dyed originally with a natural dye from the Borututu tree or more likely now a synthetic dye.

Raw Shea Butter
In it’s natural form.
Unrefined Shea Butter
Some filtering allowed so remove larger particles.
Refined Shea Butter
Some form of processing which also removes its smell.

Read more about shea butter in Wikipedia


It can of course be bought online but here in Yorkshire we have a local supplier. Maya’s stall in Leeds Market. They specialise in black hair and beauty so if you don’t live near Leeds check to see if there is a similar store or even hairdressers near you.It does come in a plastic tub though.

Wether bought on line or locally there will be some plastic packaging either a bag or a tub. As I get huge amounts of product from one tub or bag I consider it a worthwhile compromise as it still represents a huge decrease in plastic consumption.

We Made

Body butter


See a full range of homemade #plasticfree personal care products here 



Vinegar is great. You can use it for all kinds of things and is almost plastic free to buy.

Vinegar is made by converting ethanol (alcohol) into acetic acid – the main ingredient in vinegar.

Vinegar is typically a 4-8% solution of acetic acid; the rest is water.This makes it a moderately strong acid.

Read about pH of acids and alkaline here.

It can be made from any any alcohol – wine vinegar is made from wine (!), apple vinegar from cider, malt vinegar from beer and white vinegar from moonshine as far as I can tell!

Vinegars can be made at home.

Live Vinegar 

Most vinegars are sold processed and filtered but you can buy live vinegar.

  • This still contains the mother Mother of vinegar a cloudy monstrous swamp  of acetic acid bacteria and cellulose. This is created during the fermentation process of alcohol into vinegar
  • The ‘mother’ is alive and is made up from bacteria, enzymes and living nutrients.
  • The presence of the mother shows that the vinegar has not been processed or filtered.
  • It is the mother that gives vinegar all its claimed health benefits.
  • You can also use it to make more vinegar

Apple Vinegar

  • is good as a  hair conditioner and skin toner
  • It can also be used for cleaning
  • And almost everything else.
  • It can be  made at home!
  • Tescos do an apple vinegar in a glass bottle with a metal screwtop lid. Apart from the little plasticised disc in the lid they are as plastic free as you can get.

Find out more about apple vinegar here including where to buy the good stuff

White vinegar

White vinegar is made 

  • can be used for cleaning and pickling
  • It is  made from either acetic acid produced in a laboratory or from grain-based ethanol (alcohol)
  • It is clear
  • It can be bought cheaply in large glass bottles at most supermarkets. However they will have  either a plastic lid or a metal lid lined with plastic.  It is a plastic price worth paying for this versatile product.

Malt Vinegar

  • is for pickles, chutneys and chips.
  • Malt vinegar is made from beer which is allowed to ferment until bacteria turn it into vinegar.
  • It has has a deep brown colour.
  • It can be bought cheaply in large glass bottles at most supermarkets. However they will have  either a plastic lid or a metal lid lined with plastic.  It is a plastic price worth paying for this versatile product.



Vinegar is a mild disinfectant. It will kill some microbes but not all. You can read more here.


Vinegar is an acid so good at cleaning inorganic soils and alkaline stains and grime but NOT grease and fats.

 Examples of alkaline grime is hard water, mineral buildup, soaps scum (acid attacking an alkaline).

Vinegar can be used to clean all manner of things – you can find a big list here

Clear dirt off PCs and peripherals with equal parts white vinegar and water on a cloth damp not dripping

Other Stuff

  • Erase ballpoint-pen marks
  • Burnish your scissors
  • Clean your window blinds
  • Clean your piano keys
  • Get rid of water rings on furniture
  • Restore your rugs
  • Remove carpet stains
  • Brighten up brickwork
  • Revitalize wood paneling
  • Wipe off wax or polish buildup
  • Revitalize leather furniture
  • Conceal scratches in wood furniture
  • Remove candle wax

Bicarbonate Of Soda

This one product can replace hundreds of plastic bottles on your shelves. It does biodegrade. However there are issues about how it is obtained. I say it is a good product but use in moderation. Locally made soap  is a greener cleaning option to my mind.

What Is Bicarbonate Of Soda (Baking Soda)

Chemical formula NaHCO3.
Each molecule of sodium bicarbonate contains one sodium atom (Na), one hydrogen atom (H), and a carbonate ion (one carbon atom bonded to three oxygen atoms).
It is biodegradable
Bicarb is formed naturally as nahcolite  but most of the stuff sold is man made.
In 1846, John Dwight and his brother-in-law, Dr Austin Church, invented bicarbonate of soda. It was made from carbon dioxide and treated soda ash. 
There is more on soda ash here.
Most Bicarbonate of Soda is imported.
It is alkaline which is why it is so good at cleaning up grease and fats.


It can  mined directly from the ground  as Nahcolite.  This is a soft, colourless or white carbonate mineral with the composition of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). It may  also be called thermokalite.


Most Bicarbonate of soda is produced  by either of these heavily industrialized processes
The Solvay Process  Uses limestone, salt and ammonia to transform salt (sodium chloride). 
Mining –  Trona ore  is mined, then heated until it turns into soda ash also known as washing soda. Bicarbonate of soda is obtained along the way. Read more.

Baking Soda V Washing Soda

Baking Soda’s PH is not as alkaline as washing soda, so it doesn’t cause skin irritation and you don’t need gloves to handle them. It is not as harsh as washing soda but neither is it as effective a cleaner. It is also half as effective at softening water.
You can turn bicarb back into washing soda by baking it so that breaks back down into water steam, carbon dioxide and washing soda. I have never done this but by all acounts need to cook your bicarb in the oven for half an hour at 400 F (or 200 C). You can compare and contrast them here.

Bicarbonate As A Cleaner
Bicarbonate is alkaline. Alkaline cleaners work well because they emulsify grease.  Fatty acids are normally insoluble which is why they cannot be cleaned using water alone. The alkaline breaks down fat making them dispersable in water.
They also coat the dirt with negatively charged hydroxide ions which means the dirt particles repel each other. So rather than massing together in a big greasy clump they remain suspended in solution so again can be rinsed off. Read more HERE


Bicarb can be used to get rid of acid based nasty smells.
“Many carboxylic acids have unpleasant smells and tastes. They are responsible for:
the taste of vinegar
the smell of sweaty socks
the taste of rancid butter

Carboxylic acids are weak acids. This means that dilute solutions of carboxylic acids have higher pHs (ie are less acidic) than dilute solutions of strong acids such as hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and sulfuric acid.
Weak acids are less reactive than strong acids.” Read more HERE

Baking soda is an effective deodorant “because of its basicity. Many foul-smelling compounds are acidic. Neutralizing the compound gives it an ionic character which reduces the vapor pressure (meaning it is less available for the nose to smell it) and makes it much more water soluble (it can be washed away).” Source

Bicarbonate can be used to make baking soda “Baking soda, is also used to make cookies, cakes, biscuits, and similar pastries “rise” during baking. In the presence of an acid, it easily decomposes into carbon dioxide and a sodium salt of that acid, and the trapped bubbles provide the textures we enjoy in those foods. Note that “baking powder” is a simple mixture of baking soda and a dry acid such as cream of tartar,” often with a starch added to provide bulk.

We Use It For

Cleaning the house
Washing your hair


Bicarb is available fromk
Wing Yip Chinese Super Store in Manchester in bulk in paper bags
Wilco’s in a cardboard box
Dri Pac in cardboard boxes with plastic liners.
You can also get some great deals on ebay but it does come plastic wrapped. However when you think how much you can do with it, and how many plastic bottles it, replaces you might consider it a worthwhile trade off!


Borax, washing soda, bicarbonate or all three. What should you use for your cleaning needs? A comparison HERE
Information on PH balances and other cleaning products can be found HERE

See all out #plasticfree cleaning aids HERE


Rapeseed Oil

Rapeseed (Brassica Napus) or rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rappi, rapaseed is the bright yellow flowering plant grown in swathes all over the U.K. It is grown for its oil which is obtained from the tiny black seeds. It grows very well and is the only reliable vegetable oil crop we can produce in large quantities.

And yet it is new to our landscape and our diet. Before vegetable oils became popular and we bagan importing them in large quantities, most of our fat came from animal sources in the form of lard.

While rapeseed has long been grown as soil conditioning crop it was not harvested for oil because the older strains of plant contain around 40% of erucic acid. Euric acid is extremely toxic. Not suprisingly these strains were banned and some desperate genetic modifying went on. The old sort. Plants were cross bred with each other till the erucic acid was reduced to less than one per cent

“In 1977 a law was also brought in limiting the erucic acid content of foods to no more than 5 per cent of the total fatty acid content in products that contain more than 5 per cent fat. In truth however, most British produced cold pressed rapeseed oils contain less than 0.5 per cent.

Quick rapeseed facts…

The oil comes from the seed.
It is used in food and cosmetic products.
Also as lubricants, penetrating oils, fuel, soap, biofuel and paints
It has emollient and potential anti-oxidant properties for the skin (Source: British Journal of Nutrition, May 2002, pages 489–499).
it is found in facial moisturizer/treatment, bar soap, anti-aging products, body wash/cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, moisturizers, facial cleansers and baby soaps
It is generally classified as non-toxic or harmful. Even the EWG says so.
is also called ‘Canola’ which stands for Canadian Oil, Low Acid.

Extracting The Oil

Solvent extraction
Most commercially produced oils are solvent extracted. This involves a chemical solvent like the petroleum-derived hexane and heat up to 500 degrees. Once the oil is dissolved, the solvent is removed by distillation.
This technique is used for most of the “newer” oils such as soybean and cannola oils. Many of these products do not give up their oil easily, it has to be forced from them.
For this reason I would reccomend you go for a cold pressed oil. Read about the importance of cold pressing here

Buy Oil

Plastic Spoiler
It is available in supermarkets (certainly Tesco’s), in glass bottles with plastic lids and security seals. I have yet to find it plastic free but like the fact it is grown and processed in the U.K.

You can buy it in 5 liter cans online.


Go back to the oil index to find out about the plastic free oils and butters we use


Coconut Oil

Is a hard oil which has a very low melting point.
When the weather gets warm it will get liquid.

I use it….

to remove eye make up and clean crusty eyes.
as a conditioner. I have very oily hair so I rub it on my hair before showering, leave for 5 minutes then shampoo off. Afterwards my hair is lovely and silky. Village boy has very dry hair so he applies a little after showering. His hair is nice and smooth.
as a general moisturiser. Just slap it on, it is nice and light.
in my homemade creams
as an after sun treatment use it neat or with a few drops of lavender essential oil to help heal sun damage
as a lubricant with these biodegradable condoms


Other people use it to do rude things, for cooking and lots of other stuff.


I buy mine great big glass jar at Kadims, the Asian Supermarket on Blacker Road Huddersfield. You can also get it in a glass bottle from Tescos and of course on line. You can get organic coconut oil from the Half Moon Health shop in Huddersfield.

NB Not quite plastic free as the lid is plastic lined, but as close as you will get.

Buy Online

Biona Org Odourless Coconut Oil 610 ML x 1
Biona Org Odourless Coconut Oil 610 ML x 1
Amazon Products

Being committed to local shopping, I prefer to buy that way whenever possible. I would encourage you to do the same. One of the joys of living plastic free is mooching round the local shops seeing what you can source. But sometimes you can’t buy local so I have put together an Amazon catalogue.

Yes we do get an affiliation fee for this, and no we are not entirely happy with Amazons recent history. However, we have always found their service to be good and their packaging usually compostable.


Palm Oil

While I was in Malaysia I got to see some orangutangs. Most of them were in the rehabilitation center which is basically a safari park, a bit of preserved jungle.  I was also  lucky enough to see one in what was left of the  wild outside – along  with some big nose monkeys. When I say wild, I mean a tiny strip of jungle left straggling along the river bank. The rest of the area, that had once been wild and wonderful rain forest, was now covered with palm oil plantations. Acre upon bloody rolling acre of palm trees. The only reason we got to see so much wild life was that it had been pushed right up to the river by  farmers encroaching on their habitat. Those monkeys had no where to go and no where to hide.

Palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Both countries have cut down hundreds of acres of rainforest to make way for huge mono crop farms. While Malaysia appears to be finally taking a more considered approach Indonesia is still tearing down trees and destroying ancient peat land at a frightening rate.

“The average annual rate of forest loss in Indonesia was 498,000 hectare (ha)  (FAO, 2010) from 2000 to 2010 or the equivalent of over 55 rugby fields per hour.

The expanding palm oil industry has been a key driver of this deforestation.  In the decade to 2010, Indonesian plantation area nearly doubled to close to 8.0 million ha and is expected to near 13 million ha by 2020 (PWC, 2012).”

Indiginous people have  been expelled from their land and the loss of habitat has obviously resulted in a  reduction in wildlife some of which, like the orangutang,  is now endangered. This has caused international concern and calls by many for palm oil to be boycotted,  So much so that in  2004, an industry group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to work with the palm oil industry to help mitigate some of the worst impacts and rehabilitate the palm oil brand.

The World Wildlife Foundation has approved the  RSPO efforts  in “providing assurance that valuable tropical forests have not been cleared, and social safeguards have been met during the oil’s production” of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

What’s Palm Oil Used For?

Almost everything from food to cosmetics. You can see a big list here.

How Do I Know?

That’s not so easy. Many products that use palm oil don’t clearly label the fact. Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names.

The WWF lists includes the following:

INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat,  Palm Fruit Oil,  Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

And here are some more

  • PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
  • PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
  • PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
  • OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palmate
  • Palmolein
  • Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate (NOTE: Vitamin A Palmitate is a very common ingredient in breakfast cereals and we have confirmed 100% of the samples we’ve investigated to be derived from palm oil)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Chemicals which contain palm oil
  • Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  • Hydrated palm glycerides
  • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  • Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (names with palmitate at the end are usually derived from palm oil, but as in the case of Vitamin A Palmitate, very rarely a company will use a different vegetable oil)

*Disclaimer: Through research we’ve found that Vitamin A Palmitate can be derived from any combination of vegetable oil such as olive, coconut, canola and/or palm oil. Though in all the cases we’ve documented, companies use palm oil to make derivatives like Vitamin A Palmitate, it can be tricky to know for sure.

Join The Plastic Boycott & Go Palm Oil Free

Being plastic free means our palm oil consumption is cut to  a minimum because we

  • eat little processed food as processed food is usually plastic packed food.
  • cook from scratch and the only oil we use is olive oil or sunflower seed.
  • make most of our own cosmetic and cleaning products. We know what goes into them and that is the tiny amount of palm oil in a cosmetic emulsifier. Really we are talk maybe 25g And is certified sustainable.
  • clean using bicarb and palm oil free soap
  • using butter not margarine
  • don’t shampoo

When we do buy we try to buy palm oil free using this great data base of palm oil free products for guidance.

You can read why Lush stopped using palm oil in their cosmetics here.


The palm oil industry provides a lot of work. While a boycott might help some it will of course impact on others. A meaningful dialogue and alternative work opportunities need to be developed.


Hydrogen Peroxide

Bought a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from Big C Supermarket in Thailand. The bottle is glass the cap is metal. Plastic free you might think?  well, apart from the plastic lid liner and plasticised paper label. However it is  massively plastic reduced. You can also buy it Boots in a plastic bottle.

It is my choice of  antiseptic for my travel medical kit. I use it to clean cuts and grazes.

But, as I hardly ever cut myself I also use it as mouth wash to help whiten the teeth. But only occasionally because there are lots of conflicting reports on the healthiness of such activities. This is a useful read 

Mouthwash Mix: 1 part hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1 part water. Rinse mouth, then spit out. Discard and left over solution or use it as extra solution.

For another great mouthwash recipe try this blog

or this one for lots more

And don’t stop at the mouthwash, there are lots of wonderful sounding things in there.

Bleach Hair

Use a 3% solution to bleach your hair

Ear Wax

Soften and loosen the earwax with warm mineral oil or a mixture of hydrogen peroxide mixed with an equal amount of room-temperature water. Place 2 drops of the fluid, warmed to body temperature, in the ear twice a day for up to 5 days. Be sure to warm the fluid because cold fluid can cause pain and dizziness. Web MD

And there are lots more things you can with hydrogen peroxide here.


Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 3% - 500ml Care 200ml Hydrogen Peroxide 6 Percent Solution
Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 3% – 500ml
Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 3% – 500ml

You can buy Hydrogen Peroxide on line from Amazon and other places. You can find more online products and read our Amazon policy here,

NB may come in a plastic bottle – you will have to decide if this represents a plastic free saving. I think so  because I get to do so much with it.

Other plastic free beauty products can be found right here.

Want to find more travel related plastic free tips? Check out the travel category



Washing Soda

Sodium carbonate (also known as washing sodasoda ash and soda crystals)
is the water-soluble sodium salt of carbonic acid.

Pure sodium carbonate is a white, doorless powder with a strongly alkaline taste.

Washing Soda or Sodium carbonate (also known as soda ash and soda crystals) has a chemical formula of Na2CO3.

Pure sodium carbonate is a white, doorless powder with a strongly alkaline taste.

It has been used for centuries.


Soda ash was called so because it was originally extracted from the ashes  of plants growing in sodium-rich soils, such as vegetation from the Middle East, kelp from Scotland and seaweed from Spain.

It also occurs naturally as a residue. “When seasonal lakes evaporate, they leave a huge chunk of mineral deposits behind. These deposits are good sources of sodium carbonate. Other dry lakes and wells are also good sources of the same. It is also believed to have been erupted from volcanoes. Large deposits of sodium carbonate are found in Africa and North America.”


While it can be made from the  ashes of  plants or  occur naturally as a residue most is now via one of these heavily industrialised processes:

The Solvay Process  Uses limestone, salt and ammonia to transform salt (sodium chloride). 

Mining –  Trona ore  is mined, then heated until it turns into soda ash also known as washing soda. Bicarbonate of soda is obtained along the way. Read more.

Baking Soda V Washing Soda

Baking Soda’s PH is not as alkaline as washing soda, so it doesn’t cause skin irritation and you don’t need gloves to handle them. It is not as harsh as washing soda but neither is it as effective a cleaner. It is also half as effective at softening water.

You can turn bicarb back into washing soda by baking it so that breaks back down into water steam, carbon dioxide and washing soda. I have never done this but by all acounts need to cook your bicarb in the oven for half an hour at 400 F (or 200 C).

You can read more about bicarb versus washing soda  here


Water Softener
Methods for softening hard water involve the removal of calcium ions and magnesium ions from the water.

This can be done by adding sodium carbonate to the water.
“The water is softened because it no longer contains dissolved calcium ions and magnesium ions. It will form lather more easily with soap.However, the calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate precipitates to form limescale. As well as being unsightly on your taps, it can also clog up pipes in heating systems (causing them to break down). This makes treatment with sodium carbonate suitable for softening water only in certain circumstances – such as softening water for hand washing clothes.
washing Soda is alkaline which means it will work well  with organic soils ( dirt). Alkaline emulsify grease.  Fatty acids are normally insoluble which is why they cannot be cleaned using water alone. The alkaline breaks down fat making them dispersable in water. Read more here

For the same reason it can help remove wax from floors
helps in better absorption of dye
reduces the acidic effects of chlorine in swimming pools.
an excellent descaling agent
A powdered form of dishwasher detergent can be made with washing soda and Borax
For more uses and a rather cheery info graphic visit Dripak.

Dripak sell washing soda – in plastic bags. Here’s some of their blurb

All-natural Dri-Pak Soda Crystals are bio-degradable and contain no phosphates, enzymes or bleach. Soda Crystals are an alkaline “washing soda”. The main uses of Soda Crystals are to dissolve grease, soften water, loosen dirt and reduce acidity. You can safely combine Soda Crystals with other natural ingredients like baking soda and soap flakes for even more cleaning power. Soda Crystals, along with Soap Flakes, have a long history. They were the primary cleaning products in use at the turn of the twentieth century.


Dripak sell washing soda – in plastic bags.


Borax, washing soda, bicarbonate or all three. What should you use for your cleaning needs? A comparison HERE
See all out #plasticfree cleaning aids HERE

Technical Data

Technical grade

Sodium carbonate, also known as soda ash, is a white, anhydrous and hygroscopic powder with a purity. There are two forms of sodium carbonate available, light soda and dense soda (granular). Sodium carbonate has a melting point of 851C, it decomposes when heated and therefore a boiling point can not be determined. Sodium carbonate is an inorganic salt and therefore the vapour pressure can be considered negligible. It is soluble in water and solubility increases with temperature. The average particle size diameter (d50) of light sodium carbonate is in the range of 90 to 150 µm and of dense sodium carbonate is in the range of 250 to 500 µm. Sodium carbonate is a strong alkaline compound. The pKa of CO3 2- is 10.33, which means that at a pH of 10.33 both carbonate and bicarbonate are present in equal amounts.

Click here to view MSDS