If there’s one lesson this pandemic has taught us all, it’s that we can get by with a lot less than we’d ever imagined. Taking this mantra a step further are a new generation of self-sufficient individuals — those who have completely eschewed commercially manufactured products during the lockdown and are getting by with nature-made substitutes. In addition to being wholly self-reliant, driving them in a keener sense of responsibility about the human and environmental impact of commercial cleaners and cosmetics.
“Most chemical cleaners emit toxic fumes and leave behind residue that can cause lasting damage when ingested. The impact is much higher on young children and pets. Ingredients such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), ammonia and bleach can cause chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches,” explains Anuradha Kedia, founder of The Better Home.
Deepika Das, founder of Sutra Essentials, says that everyday products from your kitchen work just as well (if not better) than their store-bought counterparts.
• Cleansing: Use a combination of turmeric and powdered oats, mixed into a paste with honey (oily skin) or milk (dry skin). Use this once a day. At night, dab your face with honey to cleanse. In addition to being antibacterial, honey is also an effective cleanser. “Since we are not stepping out as often during the lockdown, we don’t have to worry about dust or dirt accumulating on the facial skin. These mild cleansers are more than enough,” Das says. For your body, she recommends blending oats into powder and using this instead of soaps and bodywashes.
• Toning: Dilute apple cider vinegar with rosewater in a 20:80 ratio. Infuse water with slices of cucumber, ginger, and mint. Freeze in cubes and rub on your face to tighten your pores. Cucumber also reduces blemishes and the appearance of dark circles. Additionally, if you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can use the pulp as an undereye gel.
• Hair: While most natural beauty-lovers are familiar with swapping out shampoos with shikakai powder, Das advises also replacing serums with almond oil. “Dab almond oil on your wet hair. A little goes a long way,” she says.
• Surface cleaning: For glass surfaces, Kedia recommends mixing white vinegar and water in equal parts and spraying this on the surface. Wipe off with a plain cotton cloth. “White vinegar is a weak acetic acid that has strong antibacterial properties. When diluted further, you can also use it to get rid of stubborn stains on fabric,” she explains. To clean rust, mix baking soda with water in a thick paste. Apply this to the affected area.
• Kitchen disinfecting: Lemons have a high acidic content, which makes them excellent natural deodorisers. You can dilute lemon juice in water and spray this on surfaces. For greasy stains, rub a slice of lemon directly on the affected area. Kedia also advises rubbing lemons on your chopping boards to disinfect them or on dull copper pans to restore their shine.
• Laundry: Swap out your laundry detergent with baking soda, says Kedia. Wipe down surfaces with a solution of baking soda and water.
• Floor cleaning: Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji swears by a simple solution of salt and water, which she believes is an excellent cleaner and leaves behind no stickiness or residue. Neem water, made by boiling neem leaves in water, is also a great alternative to store-bought disinfectants, says nutritionist Honey Thaker.
Roshni Sen, a software professional, has taken to making her own bio-enzyme cleaner from kitchen wastes (fruit and vegetable peels). To make your own bio-enzyme cleaner, start by freezing peels until you have enough to create a batch. “For the first batch, follow the ratio of 1:3:10 by volume for jaggery: peels (citrus fruits such as orange, lemon and pineapple work best): water. Mix these and store in a container with a lid that is not airtight. Don’t use glass as the mixture will release gas and this could cause glass to break. Make sure that at least a quarter of the container is empty. For the first week, open the lid every day, air the solution and stir. In the second and third weeks, open the lid every alternate day, air and stir. From the fourth week onwards, open the lid once every week and air. Continue this process until all the peels have settled to the bottom of the container. This process takes about three months,” she explains. Strain out the liquid and use the pulp instead of jaggery for the next batch (which takes only 45 days).
• Produce: Instead of washing fruits and vegetables with soap, clean them with warm water to which a little sea salt has been added, says Thaker.
• Supplements: Strengthening your immune system is one of our biggest concerns during the pandemic. Instead of relying on commercially manufactured supplements, Thaker suggests making simple super-drinks with everyday kitchen ingredients. “Mash a spoon of ajwain so that it releases it flavour. Boil this in water with some black pepper and turmeric until the liquid reduces to half its volume. Filter and add some sea salt and half a lemon. This drink is rich in antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory benefits. To keep yourself hydrated and boost immunity, mix a tablespoon of jeera with half a teaspoon of saunf. Boil in water until the solution reduces to half its volume. Add some black pepper. This drink is a little bitter and can be had diluted with water – mix one cup with a litre of water,” she says.