I love coffee. In fact I’m drinking coffee right now, at almost 11 pm. Safe to say I accumulate a lot of coffee grounds. I separate all my trash in the house, to recycle it – so if I’m not in the mood to put my grounds to better use, I compost it using Smart Bin Composter. Though, I have found a number of other more creative uses, that I would like to share.
Coconut/Coffee scrubby cubes
Coffee is known to be a great exfoliant, and can be used all over the body to scrub off dead skin cells. Many even say it can help lessen the appearance of cellulite, because it stimulates blood flow and tightens the skin. I will not commit to that outcome, since I don’t have any experience with it, but I still thought I should include it. Now, mixed with coconut oil, coffee grounds makes for the most skin loving body scrub – with the added bonus of being anti-microbial, because of the coconut oil.
How to make it:
Take a ice cube tray
Fill the bottom with your grounds, filling approximately 1/3 of the tray
Pour coconut oil over the grounds
Freeze, or leave out – depending on the temperature
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge
How to use it:
When showering take a cube out, and use it to scrub your body. It has to be used after using soap, since the coconut oil will be left on your body. The coconut oils will melt in your hand while scrubbing. It will leave your skin baby smooth and soft.
Wash your hair in it
Now this might sound a little odd, but stay with me. Coffee exfoliates the scalp, stimulating hair growth and keeping it healthy. The grounds also softens the hair, and leaves it shiny. Trust me, I’ve tried it.
How to use it:
Take a small handful and scrub it into your scalp, after wetting your hair. Keep at it until you covered the whole scalp. Wash with shampoo, and rinse until all the grounds have been washed out. That simple!
Mix it in your soap
If you’re into making soap, be it melt and pour or cold process, adding coffee grounds can make for a great scrubby soap. Use it like any other soap additive. If you are new to soap making, you can start here. I love making one side scrubby and the other smooth like the picture underneath.
Boost plant health
Coffee grounds make for a great plant health booster, because it releases Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and other minerals. It also helps in keeping pest like ants, snails, and slugs away from your plants.
I keep an airtight jar in my kitchen where I put my remaining coffee grounds. When it’s full, I sprinkle them on my house plants, and leave it to mix with the soil. When my compost has turned to soil, I also mix it with coffee grounds for the perfect plant loving mixture.
I hope you found this useful, and do comment if you have some great uses for coffee grounds.
There are tons and tons of information online on how to make soap, but I still thought I would make a guide of my own, to add what I’ve learned from my years of soap making. The perspective I can add is how to make soap without using Olive Oil and Palm Oil – two of the most commonly used oils in soap making. In this post, I will go through the basics of making soap from scratch using the example of the last soap I made. In the end, I will add a discount code for 25% to shop the ingredients.
What is soap?
Soap consist of liquid, fats and sodium hydroxide (lye), mixed together causing a process called saponification. If done in the right measurements there is only soap left once completely saponified.
The Fats in soap can consist of vegetable or animal fats (including milk fats). Most soaps consist of at least three and often as many as 7 different fats, that add to different properties of the soap. These are properties such as cleansing, moisturizing, hardness and lather just to mention a few.
The liquid in soap is typically distilled water, but can also include juices from fruits and vegetables, spirits such as beer or wine, vinegar, milk – and the list goes on. Adding another liquid than water can serve to color the soap, or to add different properties. Beer, for example, adds lather and moisture, vinegar adds cleansing properties, and carrot juice both add an orange color and other skin loving properties.
Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, makes solid soap. It’s not to be mistaken for Potassium hydroxide that is used to make liquid soap.
These three in combination will make you a simple bar of soap, though the possibilities of added elements are (almost) only limited by your imagination. I also add Essential Oils for scent and different additives such as Clays, Gels and Herbs for coloring and added properties.
How To Make Soap
For the sake of keeping this simple, I won’t go into how to make a recipe, but simply give an example of one I used recently. If you want to learn how to formulate your own soap recipe, start by reading this post: How to Formulate Your Own Soap Recipe. I will be making this soap:
What you need to make this soap:
Fats – I used Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Sesame Oil, Sunflower Oil, Neem Oil and Kokum Butter
Liquid – I used Water (note: I just use normal clean water, but some swear by distilled water)
Scent additives– I used Pine Essential Oil, Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Other additives – I used Multani Mitti Clay, Activated Charcoal, Aloe Vera Gel
Rubber gloves (Thick)
Safety glasses (covering your eyes completely)
Bowls (plastic or stainless steel)
Pot (not aluminum)
Measuring spoons (best with milliliters)
Soap mold of choice
Note: even though I have heard of soapers that use kitchen utensils for soap making, I prefer to keep them separate. You don’t know if lye is left when you’re cooking in them, so don’t take the chance.
Step 1: Calculate your recipe
When you calculate a Soap recipe, you start by calculating the Fats. I will give the percentage for the recipe since the final calculation basically depends on the size of the mold you want to use.
The percentages are as follows:
Coconut – 25%
Castor – 10%
Sesame – 10%
Neem – 10%
Wheat gem 15%
Kokum butter 15%
Now my mold fits 900 grams of oil so the oils would be as follows:
Coconut Oil – 225 grams
Castor Oil – 90 grams
Sesame Oil – 90 grams
Neem Oil- 90 grams
Wheat Gem Oil – 135 grams
Sunflower Oil – 135 grams
Kokum Butter – 135 grams
This is the base of your recipe. Now you need to calculate your lye and water amount. Instead of getting into the technical stuff of how this is calculated, I’ll recommend you to use any of the many saponification calculators available. I use the mobile app called Saponify, which also saves your recipes with dates and notes, so you can keep track of your experiments.
Here is a snapshot of the app:
Picture 1: Name you recipe something that you remember. When you start making a lot of batches using the same recipe, I recommend you start a soap diary with the details of each batch, but we can get to that later.
NAOH is Sodium hydroxide, so don’t change that unless you want to make liquid soap which is KOH (Potassium hydroxide).
Liquid % of oils is 38, which is standard for beginners but can be modified when you’re more experienced. Soapers put more or less water to control how fast or slow the soap saponifies, giving more time or less time to finish it.
Super Fat % of oils is how much of the oil is kept in the soap without being saponified. Usually, soapers don’t go beyond 7 %, unless you are making pure Coconut Soap where the soap can be superfatted as much as 30%. Read more here: Two Coconut Soaps – for Beauty and Cleaning.
Picture 2: The next picture is where you add the oils. Simply press the plus sign and choose the oils you want in your recipe. You will be putting the oils in grams, which we calculated above.
Picture 3: On the last picture the final recipe has been calculated. Water and NaOH have been calculated for you, and you are good to go.
Step 2: Prepare your work area
Making soap is a chemical process, and that needs to be respected. Cover your work area with newspaper, unless you have a stainless steel surface to work on. Note that lye can ruin soft surfaces, so make sure you got it well covered. If you have kids or pets, make sure that they don’t have access to your area. Sodium hydroxide is very dangerous if ingested or if it gets in contact with eyes etc. so I cannot emphasize this enough.
Step 3: Mix up your lye water
I like to start with mixing the Liquid and lye, since it takes some time to react, leaving me time to prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Now there are a few important things to keep in mind when you deal with lye:
First of all, protect yourself! Lye can make you blind if you get it in the eyes, so wear your safety glasses and gloves.
Second, never pour water on lye, pour lye on water. I once read that you should just remember ‘the snow falls on the lake, not the lake on the snow’, and it really helped me in the start to remember.
When you have measured out the lye and water, add a spoonful of Aloe Vera into the water, and then pour the lye and stir until its dissolved. Now set it aside.
Step 4: Mix your oils
I tend to mix the oils in the pot I’m going to blend them in, to save on the dishwashing. If using any Butters, or coconut oil that hardens in winters, you will need to heat these to make them fluid.
Simply measure all your oils on your scale (in grams), and gather them in your pot. Put your pot in a water bath to melt the butter, or melt it separately in a double boiler and add. When all oils are mixed and melted set it aside.
Note: if you are mixing several oils put them on one side on the scale, and move each to the other side once added to your pot. I have several times forgotten which I have already added, having to start over!
Step 5: Prepare the rest of your ingredients
Essential oils are the only thing I don’t measure in grams, but in milliliters instead. Now there are ‘fragrance calculators’ online, but I rely only on my personal experience. I have tried these calculators, but feel like they recommend very small amounts, ending up in a scentless soap.
My rule of Thumb for essential oils is 15 ml per 100 grams of oils for ‘weak’ essential oils, and 10 ml per 100 grams for ‘strong’ essential oils. How exactly to say if its weak or strong is a bit on the personal experience too, but basically if the smell is fleeting it’s weak and if it stays in the nose for a long time it’s strong.
Clays and other additivesI very rarely measure out. I just prepare them so they are easily accessible for me to use until it has the color I want. Though it should be noted that some additives will ‘bleed’ color if added in access, and others can make the soap ‘scratchy’. Still, the color depends so much on which other oils are in the bar, so I prefer to have plenty and add as I feel. You can find lots of information online with recommended amounts if you want to be 100% sure.
Step 6: prepare to make your soap
Soap is all about timing, and once you start making your soap, everything should be ready so you can concentrate on it fully. Otherwise, you might risk the soap hardening in your bowl before you pour it in your mold.
I do the following:
Put your mold ready on the side
Essential oil measured out and put on the side
Additives ready with a spoon to add
Two bowls to divide the soap when adding Clay and Activated charcoal
Blender plugged in and a clean surface to rest it on between blending
A whisk ready to hand whisk if you need to slow down the process
A spatula to get the last soap out of your bowls
An extra mold – if the soap gets too hard to pour, I have an extra mold where I put the remaining, and then use these for hand wash at home. Could be little heart shapes for example. You can also intentionally make a little extra and use these to send out as samples if you want to make soap for business.
Step 7: Mix the lye water in your oils and mix
Now, this is what you came for. Disclaimer: many soapers say you should measure the temperature of the soap and lye water, and mix them when reaching a certain temperature. I have stopped doing that after reading a lot of soapers that didn’t. I simply wait until my lye water becomes clear (transparent). When it does – you’re ready to make your soap.
Pour you lye water into your oils while slowly stirring. When all the lye water is poured, emerge your stick blender fully and start blending. Make sure not to let it surface since it will splatter if you do.
Now you need to pay attention to the texture of the soap mass. The time to pour your soap into the mold is called Trace, which is when the soap mass has thickened enough for the stick blender to leave a little mark on the surface when you lift it.
Since you will be adding additives, stop blending at a thin trace. This is when the stick blender leave a mark when lifted, but the mark immediately disappears. When you reach this stage, go to the next step.
Step 8: Add your essential oils and additives
At this stage, you add your essential oils and whisk with your hand whisk. After it’s completely mixed with the soap mass, you divide the soap into two bowls.
Now add your clay to one bowl and activated charcoal to the other. When they have the color you desire, you’re ready to pour your soap.
Step 9: The bowl swirl
Swirling is when you mix different colors of soap masses into a pattern. It’s a fun way to get creative and keep developing your skills. The bowl swirl is one of the easiest I have come across. You simply pour one color into the bowl on the other, and then pour it into your mold, making it swirl in different patterns.
Note: the two colors have to be contrasting. Otherwise, it won’t be very visible in the soap.
Step 10: Pour your soap
Pour your soap carefully into the mold. You can use the whisk to make little shapes on the top of the soap. Set it aside to harden.
Another thing I don’t do is to pack my soap in a towel to get it into gel phase. Gel phase is when the soap turns gel-like as a part of the process. This happens when heat is added, hence many packs it in old towels to make it warmer. Some soapers like it better after gel-phase because the color changes a bit, but it doesn’t matter for the soap itself. I often experience the soap goes through gel-phase here in India without doing anything, because the temperature is naturally hot.
Step 11: Wait, cut and cure!
Cold process soap needs to cure for a minimum of 4 weeks. Depending on the oils and mold, the soap will be hard in everything from 1 day to 3 weeks. When completely hardened, you can un-mold and cut your soap – but you will still need to set it aside. The longer a soap cures, the harder and gentler it gets. For shampoo bars min. 6 weeks is recommended, for face and body bars 4 weeks minimum.
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Now, you have made your first soap. Do let me know if you have any questions, tips or experiences!
When I first started making cold process soap I was determined to make soap from Indian sourced oils, but I very fast realised that this would pose some challenges. Soap resources online are majorly American/European based, where Olive oil is a stable in soap recipes. That Olive oil is so common has a lot of good reasons – since it makes a hard, moisturising bar and can be used in high amounts of the total amount of oils. Though, this did pose me with a challenge, but hey, challenge excepted.
But I was determined! So I started learning how to form my own recipes, and after a lot (A LOT) of trial and error I have found some general principals to use when making a recipe. Whether you use Olive oil or not, you should be able to use my experiences to shape your own recipe. I will focus on the base recipe, meaning the Carrier oils, and not the additional additives (essential oils etc.). If you’re new to Soap making start by reading How to make natural soap to understand the basic content and process of making soap.
Choosing the purpose
There is a few things to decide when you want to make your soap recipe. Some basic questions you should ask yourself is:
What do you want to use the soap for? Hair and body bars are different in structure, but it’s also possible to make a ‘universal’ soap bar that can be used all over the body.
What kind of properties do you want your soap to have? Soaps can be customized to treat a certain skin issue such as acne prone skin, dry skin or sensitive skin, but also just to your own personal preferences.
For the ones that sell soap for business, I would add – What do you want to emphasize about your soap? – when buyers look for soaps they tend to focus on a specific ingredient or abilities of the soap, with a certain ‘flair’ to it. This can also be a certain oil and it’s abilities you want to emphasize. It takes some understanding of your audience, and this mostly comes with experiences. An option is to seek out soapers groups on Facebook or other forums, to ask more experienced soapers for their evaluation of the market etc.
After some thought on these questions, you’re ready to go on choosing the oils you want to include in the recipe. Now, this takes some basic understanding of carrier oils, their structure, and abilities and how they behave in soap. I’ve included some of the most common soaping oils to the list (that are found in India).
Choosing your oils
Each oil has its own structure, and with that comes a set of abilities in soap. Certain oils like coconut make a super hard soap bar, with a thick lather that is very cleansing while other oils add moisturizing properties but also makes the soap soft. To keep this as simple as possible, I will not go into the specifics of the oil structure but go through the properties different oils add and what percentage is recommended to use it at out of your total amount of oils.
Hardness and cleanse
Coconut oil – use up 50% of oils: a stable in most soap recipes because of it’s incredible cleansing properties, as well as contributing to the hardness and lather of the soap. It’s possible to use coconut in higher percentages if the soap is superfatted accordingly. My rule of thumb is – used at 30%/superfat 7%, used at 50%/superfat 10-15% and used at 100%/superfat 20-30%. If you want to read more on making pure coconut soap read 2 coconut soaps – for face, body and clothes. Additional to hardness, cleanse and thick lather coconut soap is known to add antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to the soap.
Butters – use between 10-30% of oils: butters are mostly a luxury to add in higher quantities in soap because it’s on the pricy side. I use Kokum butter and Mango butter on a regular basis, but there is a long list of butter available today. Besides great moisturizing and healing properties, butters add to the hardness of the soap and give a creamy lather. One thing I’ve noticed is that by adding 15% of butters with 30% of coconut, I can un-mold much faster, and get a hard bar of soap. Because I tend to avoid Olive oil and Palm oil, which both contribute to the hardness of the soap, this has been one of my go-to methods to make my bars harder. Different butter has different recommended amounts – Mango Butter/up to 30%, Kokum Butter/up to 10% and Cocoa butter/up to 15%.
Other hard oils I choose not to use: Olive oil (up to 100%), Palm oil (up to 40%), Shea Butter (up to 25%)
Castor oil – use between 5-10%: castor is in a league for itself when it comes to adding moisturizing abilities to soap. It can’t be used in too high amounts because it will make the soap soft and sticky. Though in the right amount, it’s also a stable oil in all my recipes.
Cheap oils (filler oils)
Sunflower – use up to 15%: sunflower is relatively cheap oil, but also a very moisturizing oil. Prices of oils are mostly set according to the cost of extraction, not how healthy or good it is. Reasons for not using too much Sunflower is that it will take away from the hardness of the soap, but in combo with hard oils, it works great.
Safflower- used up to 20%: similarly to Sunflower, this oils is relatively cheap, and can, therefore, be used as a ‘filler’ oil to bring down the cost of the soap. This oil is also very conditioning.
Sesame – used up to 10%: I use this oil in almost every recipe since it a cheap and moisturizing oil.
Other Filler oils I choose not to use: Canola (up to 40%), Soya bean oil (up to 15%)
Neem – used at 10%: now it might just be me because I’ve heard of soapers that use it at higher quantities. What I’ve experienced is that it can cause the soap batch to expel oil when used in higher quantities. Also, it makes the soap trace very fast so be aware when using it. You barely need a stick blender. On the other hand, it is a strong medicinal oil, that can help treat and heal acne, eczema and other skin conditions. It also adds a yellow color to the soap. Now, the oil has a very strong smell, but my experience is that the smell goes out of the soap after curing a few days. I’ve used it as a colorant together with coconut oil soaps, to give a beautiful yellow color.
Sweet Almond – used up to 20%: a very light oil, that contributes rich lather. Because it is a humectant (it attracts moisture), it adds moisture to your soap. It also helps soothe dry and troubled skin such as rashes and eczema. It is on the more expensive side, so I tend to use it at around 5-10%.
Avocado – used up to 20%: a very nutritious oil, with great regenerative and moisturizing properties. It also helps treat dry and irritated skin, but because of it’s the price I also use it in amounts between 5-10%.
Rule of thumb
Now, you can find endless info on the recommended usage of other oils, as well as their properties. What is important to understand is that any soap recipe needs to be balanced, between some basic properties most would find essential – hardness, lather, moisture, cleanse and price. I use some basic formula’s to ensure this, for body bars. For shampoo bars, I exclusively make pure coconut soap bars, so this is for body bars only. Rule of thumb: 40-50% hard oils or butter, 30% filler oils, 10% Castor & 10-20% Luxury, Healing, Other oils. Here are two examples:
15% Butter – Mango Butter, Kokum butter
30% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower
5% Luxury oil – Sweet Almond oil, Avocado
25% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame
5% Luxury oil
This was all I had for now. I really hoped it gave you enough to start making your own recipes. It gives a lot of freedom and Creativity to the soap making process. Let me know if there are some Indian oils I’ve missed (preferably available organic – Soya bean for examples is available in India, but not organically grown).
Well. Maybe I took some liberties in the headline, but it is somewhat fitting. Every year 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that will never biodegrade are dumped in landfills and Oceans worldwide. Not to mention the toothpaste tubes, mouthwashes, floss – the list could go on depending on how complicated your dental routine is. You might be thinking, but we don’t have a choice, do we? Teeth needs to be taken care of.
I used to think the same way, mostly because I had never heard of or seen any alternatives to plastic toothbrushes or toothpaste. What’s very interesting in India, is that that most natural alternatives are still used widely in the rural areas, but these traditions are slowly getting lost in urbanisation, globalisation and commercialisation. Recently I had a very interesting conversation with a man from the Delhi Organic Farmers Market. What he said was that this is the generation to revive these old traditions, because otherwise they will be lost. I could relate because whatever natural alternatives of indian origin I find, people respond to it saying ‘my grandmother used to do that’. Traditionally a Neem stick is used to clean teeth here, but for the sake of keeping the alternative a little closer to what you might be used to – I won’t get into that option. Also, I really don’t like the taste of neem.
So I’m gonna take a go, at an easy to use dental routine, that is biodegradable, cleans your teeth, is minty fresh and even helps whiten your teeth.
Brush with Bamboo
An California based Indian family, together with their family friend, have come up with the best option available on the market today when it comes to biodegradable toothbrushes – namely a bamboo toothbrush. The bristles of the brush are not biodegradable, being made of 82% Castor bean oil and 38% plastic. The reason for this is that the only alternative to these bristles is pig hair which the inventors feel was an appropriate option. I think this will ring true for a lot of people worldwide, and especially here in India where large amounts of the population are vegetarians and muslims. So the Neem stick would make for a completely biodegradable option, but I think the bamboo toothbrush is still a big step in the right direction. Additionally to being biodegradable, the bamboo is a sustainable resource. The write on their website:
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. Because it contains naturally-occurring antimicrobial agents, there is no need for using fertilizers or pesticides during its cultivation. Our bamboo is totally organic and wild. After we harvest a bamboo stalk to use it for toothbrushes, another stalk takes its place and grows to full size within just 2 years — a remarkable growth rate! – Brush with Bamboo
I’ve bamboo toothbrushes for about a year, and haven’t felt any major differences in quality of these and plastic toothbrushes. It is a ‘one size fits all’ option, since they only make one edition – in a adult and child size. So you won’t get all that fancy new bristle technology other toothbrush companies offer, but if you ask me, you don’t need it. The brush is available from their website where you can also buy a cool toothbrush case, countertop toothbrush holder, bamboo straws and tongue cleaner. Bonus: even the packaging is biodegradable. If you live in Delhi, they are sold in The Altitude Store (See Organic Delhi) guide).
When I started off making my own products, I used a different “toothpaste” than I do now. That one was made of coconut oil, baking soda, stevia and peppermint essential oil. Though it cleansed my teeth fine, I wasn’t a fan of the taste and feel. So about a year ago I shifted to toothpowder, and as of now I have no desire to use anything else. I cleans my teeth beautifully, gives a fresh feel and doesn’t get greasy like the other sometimes would.
1 tablespoon baking soda – mild abrasive polish that removes stains from teeth
1/2 teaspoon grinded cloves – – for flavour and gum health
1 teaspoon cinnamon – for flavour and gum health
1 1/2 teaspoon stevia – to sweeten the taste
3/4 teaspoon activated charcoal – to whiten the teeth
5-10 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oil – for minty fresh breath
Gather all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it. Keep in a glass jar, and simply wet your toothbrush and dip it in the powder when you want to brush your teeth.
There is a number of other methods to cleans your teeth and improve overall mouth, that I will be writing about and linking to this post. Until then there’s a lot of information online on several on them.
Oil pulling for detox and teeth whitening
Natural mouthwash with Aloe Vera
Flossing with silk
Tongue cleaner for fresh breath
I hope this gives a good start to a clean dental routine, in more than one sense 🙂