Soap making stuff - eco-friendly?

Want to share some knowledge of eco products. Or have you heard about any new eco projects that you want to share with the world?
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Nikki
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Soap making stuff - eco-friendly?

Post: #60146 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:50 am

I'm not really interested in getting into using lye and such. But I was wondering about other ingredients used to make natural soaps and cleaning products.

Ok, of course these are better than the chemicals we normally throw down our sinks, but how eco-friendly is borax, baking soda, castille soap, etc? I refer to their production, manufacture, export, and so on.

For example, whilst I love essential oils, and most people inetrested in natural products go mad for them, most of us don't realise just how much land space is required to grow copious amounts of plants, to make these tiny amounts of oil. Not all are organic or come from well-maintained land.

I was wondering about those ingredients above and if there were hidden sides to their use.

I like to be properly informed and use true eco-friendly stuff. I mean, baking soda is a miracle product, but if they have to ship it from India for me to clean my sinks, then it's eco appeal is quickly lost.

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Post: #60169 Clara
Mon Jun 04, 2007 12:31 pm

In defence of essential oils :wink:

I think you´re right to have concerns, however you can do your bit by avioding the more tropical oils (shipped further) if this concerns you. Also avoid rosewood as it is a very dubious trade. Sandalwood is regulated by the government in India.

However, EOs are VERY concentrated therefore a little goes a long way, and in terms of shipping, the very fact that they are so concentrated gives them a far better carbon footprint than shipping the raw materials.

As far as yield goes, some oils are VERY labour and land intensive, others much less so. Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme are good bets, you could easily make your own, with a little equipment.

To be effective though, soap does not necessarily need scent, but it is ALWAYS better to use EOs rather than synthetics.

Clara x.
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Post: #60190 the.fee.fairy
Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:28 pm

You can get Melt and Pour soap.
I got a block of organic soap on Ebay. You just melt it, add whatever colours/scents you want, pour it into moulds, and leave it. When its completely set and cold, its ready to use.

I'm a bit scared of Lye, so i use M&P if i want to make some soap.

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Post: #60218 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:14 pm

I agree with you about EOs Clara. Some are always better than other materials, whilst some are labour and resource intensive. You really have to check. I always buy organic and check where it's come from. But prefer home made herbal infusions and tinctures anyway.
As you say yourself, there are dubious ones, so we need to do our homework.

It can take over a 100 lbs (45 kg) of lavender flowers to make 1lb of lavender EO. It takes over 1000 lbs (450 kg) of jasmine to make 1lb of jasmine EO. That's serious stuff.

Well friend, you know by now I'm not a fan of the word 'always'. :lol:
If an EO has been shipped by air from thousands of miles away, has used tons of natural resources, pesticides and other chemicals, and the labour was akin to slavery, the word 'always' becomes inaccurate.

But I know tons about EOs, so they're fine.

Thanks Fee.
Not really interested in pour and make soaps, am interested in base ingredients and their eco-friendliness.

My interest is borax, baking soda, castille soap, vinegar even. I don't know how they're manufactured, where they usually come from and so on.

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Post: #60221 Annpan
Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:28 pm

according to wikipedia borax is naturally occuring as for vinegar (technically it is soured wine but obviously depending on where it is sourced it could have a range of manufacturing processes.

All these natural ingredients are infinaetly better than using the alternative manufactured cleaning products, also I simply don't have the funds to source organic or fairtrade ALL the time. I have a septic tank so the cleaning products I use go directly into the soil outside my home and I have found that since useing more natural products I have less of a stink around the access hatch - that tells me that these things are more naturally breaking down in the tank than the chemical cr*p.

Incidentally has anyone elso noticed that loads of products now carry slogans on them about "The power of nature" etc? Why don't people just use the actual power of nature?
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Post: #60235 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:11 pm

Annpan wrote:according to wikipedia borax is naturally occuring...


Do you know where the borax you use is sourced from? 'Natural' does'nt automatically equal sustainable nor eco-friendly.

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Post: #60262 Clara
Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:39 pm

This is an interesting thread, will go googling and see what I come up with...
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Post: #60265 Clara
Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:54 pm

Borax.....

From wikipedia...

Borax occurs naturally in evaporite deposits produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes (see playa). The most commercially important deposits are found in Turkey and near Boron, California and other locations in the Southwestern United States, the Atacama desert in Chile, and in Tibet. Borax can also be produced synthetically from other boron compounds.

I also found some passing reference on an Australian site to Borax mining being the cleanest form of mining there is...though mining is still mining and leaves its impact.

So looks like the answer is yes and no. You´d have to check your source and decide whether it lives up to your ethics. For instance, I´d have a problem with anything that came from Tibet, as it (probably) would be state-owed by the occupying Chinese government. Besides that, it seems that the nearest Borax that occurs naturally is probably Turkey, is this too far?
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Post: #60271 Clara
Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:30 pm

Castille soap seems to be a generic name for any soap made of vegetable rather than animal fats.

The basic ingredients are vegetable oil, water and lye. So again it would seem to come down to looking at these ingredients. For example, I live in the main olive oil producing area in Europe, so I could quite easily obtain a castille soap made with local olive oil, water and lye. However many castille soaps will be made with palm or coconut oil.

And another thing, lye....

It´s another name for caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), a rough form of which is traditionally made from wood ash. However it is more commercially produced these days...


From wikipedia...

Methods of production
Sodium hydroxide is produced (along with chlorine and hydrogen) via the chloralkali process. This involves the electrolysis of an aqueous solution of sodium chloride. The sodium hydroxide builds up at the cathode, where water is reduced to hydrogen gas and hydroxide ion:

2Na+ + 2H2O + 2e− → H2 + 2NaOH
To produce NaOH it is necessary to prevent reaction of the NaOH with the chlorine. This is typically done in one of three ways, of which the membrane cell process is economically the most viable.

Mercury cell process (also called the Castner-Kellner process) – sodium metal forms as an amalgam at a mercury cathode; this sodium is then reacted with water to produce NaOH. There have been concerns about mercury releases, although modern plants claim to be safe in this regard. [1]
Diaphragm cell process – uses a steel cathode, and reaction of NaOH with Cl2 is prevented using a porous diaphragm. In the diaphragm cell process the anode area is separated from the cathode area by a permeable diaphragm. The brine is introduced into the anode compartment and flows through the diaphragm into the cathode compartment. A diluted caustic brine leaves the cell. The caustic soda must usually be concentrated to 50% and the salt removed. This is done using an evaporative process with about three tonnes of steam per tonne of caustic soda. The salt separated from the caustic brine can be used to saturate diluted brine. The chlorine contains oxygen and must often be purified by liquefaction and evaporation. [2] [3]
Membrane cell process – similar to the diaphragm cell process, with a Nafion membrane to separate the cathode and anode reactions. Only sodium ions and a little water pass through the membrane. It produces a higher quality of NaOH. Of the three processes, the membrane cell process requires the lowest consumption of electric energy and the amount of steam needed for concentration of the caustic is relatively small (less than one tonne per tonne of caustic soda). [4] [5]
An older method for sodium hydroxide production was the LeBlanc process, which produced sodium carbonate, followed by roasting to create carbon dioxide and sodium oxide. This method is still occasionally used. It helped to establish sodium hydroxide as an important commodity chemical.


Major producers
In the United States, the major producer of sodium hydroxide is the Dow Chemical Company, which has annual production around 3.7 million tonnes from sites at Freeport, Texas, and Plaquemine, Louisiana. Other major US producers include Oxychem, PPG, Olin, Pioneer Companies, Inc. (PIONA), and Formosa. All of these companies use the chloralkali process[6].

:? This seems to be throwing up more questions than answers doesn´t it.

Clara x.
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Post: #60279 Annpan
Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:50 pm

Nikki wrote:
Annpan wrote:according to wikipedia borax is naturally occuring...


Do you know where the borax you use is sourced from? 'Natural' does'nt automatically equal sustainable nor eco-friendly.

:dave:


I don't claim to know where any of the cleaning products I use are sourced, my point was more refering to the fact that it is naturally occuring therefore in my mind that is safer to use as a cleaning product than "Flash", "Cif" or "Dettol" which I know were all created in a laboratory, and which contain much more dangerous stuff than what is naturally occurring.

I would rather know where these things are from and that they are from within 10 miles of my house and mined/ refined by companies with outstanding environmental policy and working standards but I am afraid that I don't have the opportunity to do such in depth research and I just don't have suitable funds to afford the absolute greenest products available.

We all do our best :wink:
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Post: #60282 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:00 pm

Annpan wrote:
Nikki wrote:
Annpan wrote:according to wikipedia borax is naturally occuring...


Do you know where the borax you use is sourced from? 'Natural' does'nt automatically equal sustainable nor eco-friendly.

:dave:


I don't claim to know where any of the cleaning products I use are sourced, my point was more refering to the fact that it is naturally occuring therefore in my mind that is safer to use as a cleaning product than "Flash", "Cif" or "Dettol" which I know were all created in a laboratory, and which contain much more dangerous stuff than what is naturally occurring.


Ah, ok, no problem. Just wondered as that was the question starting this thread, so hence my interest.

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Post: #60283 Clara
Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:02 pm

That´s exactly it, because unless you decide to make your own from first principles (i.e. grow your own herbs for EOs and make lye from your wood ash etc.), then these alternatives have to be more ethical, just not perfectly ethical.

Why? Because the branded products are going to be made from raw ingredients that also require extraction or chemical production - only more so because they have more ingredients and therefore have bigger production processes. It´s no good if the Jif factory is down the road, because more than likely its starting materials have also come from far and wide.

The ethical brands are probably no better in terms of their starting materials either - or we´d know about it. Their ethical status is usually in their production values and the environmental impact of the finished product.

I have come across one thing that could be useful - Soapwort. I think I shall grow some next year.

Clara x.
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Post: #60289 Jack
Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:10 pm

Gidday

Very interesting thread.

But I make my soap out of waste mutton fat and just soak a heap on rosemary in the fat while it's still hot. Not fancy stuff but all made by me here on my own property. Caint get more natural and organic than that.
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Post: #60291 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:16 pm

Great research Clara.

So does it seem that borax is always mined? I got the impression it was taken from lake deposits.

Turkey, as far as distance is okay. Although I do like to aim for a locally sustained lifestyle. It's just whether it's serious environmental impact, such as mining.

Lye has never sounded okay to me, being caustic soda. But it seems it requires a lot of lab/factory work to get the end product. never mind the amount of water required for the steam process.

Whilst waiting for a SSish expert to pop along to this discussion, I'll take a look around for baking soda.

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Post: #60296 Nikki
Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:25 pm

Clara wrote:
I have come across one thing that could be useful - Soapwort. I think I shall grow some next year.


Yes! I highly recommend soapwort, it's brilliant. I'm currently researching its growing requirements and hoping really hard that I can grow it where we're headed.

I will also grow plenty of herbs and make infusions. Will probably do away with all essential oils then, although I love tea tree oil. I also really like baking soda, and that got me thinking about all these natural soap/detergents and just how eco-friendly they were.

Hi Jack.

I just started looking into that - animal fat would be easy to come by where I'm headed. I'm not yet sold on the idea of rubbing pig fat on myself to get clean. :lol: But I'm researching.

Could you point me in any direction? website, book, etc?

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