If you would have told me five years ago that I would be a full-fledged DIY chick, I would have told you that you were crazier than a football bat — I’m a girl who’s easily distracted by flashy packaging. I also really appreciate the convenience of going to the grocery store and quickly grabbing whatever it is I need whenever I need it. I love(d) personal care products that smell like a summer breeze or a field of fresh lavender.
So how then, you may be wondering, did I begin to make the transition from pre-packaged, chemical-filled food-like items and personal care products to #LifeFromScratch? I’ll tell you.
My #LifeFromScratch journey began about six years ago.
I had just graduated from nursing school and began work as a registered nurse in the emergency room of a busy hospital. Talk about eye opener! People came in to the E.R. for all kinds of reasons ranging from stubbed toes (yes, seriously, stubbed toes) to dissecting aortic aneurysms, and everything in between. I dug the cool stuff like the fractures where I could see bone poking through skin, a good foreign body removal, or a juicy incision and drainage of a boil. That stuff always made my day a little brighter.
But eventually the sheer quantity of people that came into the emergency room presenting with chronic illnesses began to wear on me. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, liver failure…all of these diseases that are largely lifestyle and environmental diseases! Of course there is a genetic component, but for the most part, all of these maladies are a result of modifiable risk factors (i.e. smoking status, diet, activity level, etc.).
Although seeing how these diseases affected the patients and their families made me sad, it also piqued my curiosity. I’ve always been a person who was concerned with my health when it came to diet and exercise, but it pretty much stopped there. I never considered the impact that my environment, my personal care products, my cleaning products, and all of the other products I used on a daily basis that are considered “safe” might have had on my health. They might actually be making me (and others) sick!
So I did the only thing I knew to do; I began researching…and researching…and researching. What I learned (through lots and lots of digging) made me irate. It made me sad. It made me feel overwhelmed. And it made me determined. Determined NOT to blindly go about my life slathering rubbish all over my skin and inhaling toxic fumes just because someone who stood to profit from my misfortune said it was “safe.” It made me determined to opt out of contributing to the poisoning of my own body. And it made me determined to find (or create) safe, non-toxic alternatives to all of these every day products.
The more I looked, the more I realized how difficult it is to find safe products devoid of cancer-causing chemicals.
So I started on a journey to make my own products. I began with things like body lotions, and came up with a great recipe for a DIY Body Butter. I started to make my own Lip Balm. I even started making some of my own cleaning products, like this great all-purpose cleaner and a DIY wood cleaner/polish.
An area I’ve recently tackled is oral care! I started with a Whitening Peppermint Toothpaste, and then moved on to an awesome DIY Mouthwash for Fresh Breath and Healthy Gums, and that’s the recipe I’d like to share with you today!
On the surface, something like mouthwash might seem pretty harmless. After all, you don’t swallow it. Swish and spit right? But consider this: in the hospital, we give a lot of medications under the tongue. Why? Because medications are quickly and easily absorbed into the bloodstream that way. The same goes for the chemicals found in commercial mouthwashes. Whatever you put into your mouth is absorbed into your bloodstream to circulate around your entire body!
So let’s examine a few of the ingredients found in your average commercial mouthwash.
- Methylparaben and propylparaben: According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, parabens are concerning for “endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity” (source).
- Poloxamer 407: Per the Environmental Working Group, poloxamer 407 is used as an emulsifying agent, and has moderate concern for organ system toxicity (source).
- Then, of course, you have your run-of-the-mill artificial sweeteners and artificial food dyes, which vary depending on which brand you choose.
Pick your poison- literally!
You simply don’t need all of that mess to get fresh breath and keep your teeth and gums healthy! The recipe that I have for you just uses a few common ingredients, but it’s still very effective.
But first, let’s take a look at how these ingredients work in your mouth
Baking Soda a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate: Baking soda can help combat halitosis (i.e. dragon breath)! Halitosis can be caused by residue from acidic foods. Baking soda (since it’s a base) helps balance out the acid, thereby preventing the dragon breath! Baking soda can also help prevent gum disease by inhibiting buildup of nasty plaque (source)! And finally, baking soda can also help keep those pearly whites extra white by removing stains from the teeth!
Sea Salt: Due to the high mineral content in unrefined sea salt, it can actually help remineralize your teeth and keep them strong! In addition, if you have any sores or ulcers in your mouth, sea salt is great for taking away the inflammation. It can also aid in reducing inflammation in the gum tissue, such as that seen with gingivitis.
Liquid Stevia: Purely for taste. I don’t know about you, but I like my mouthwash a little sweet.
Essential Oils: Here is where you can get a little creative. If you really love a nice minty fresh mouthwash, then stick with peppermint or spearmint. Or perhaps you’re a bit of a rebel and you love cinnamon. That’s cool too. But if you’re feeling like you want to get really wild and crazy, go for a Thieves blend! The essential oils in Thieves (cinnamon, lemon, clove, eucalyptus and rosemary) are a serious germ-fighting powerhouse to add to your mouthwash.
Some homemade mouthwash recipes call for things like calcium bicarbonate crystals or diatomaceous earth, and you certainly *can add those things if you like. But I think something that’s really important where DIY is concerned is that you use everyday ingredients that you can usually find right in your kitchen cabinet, or at least at the supermarket.
- 2 cups distilled water
- 1 Tbsp baking soda (like this)
- 1 tsp unrefined sea salt (our favorite affordable brand)
- liquid Stevia to taste, about 15 drops (this Stevia contains no thickeners)
- your choice of essential oils (we love these organic, sustainably sourced essential oils)
- a glass bottle (this one is cute)
- Mix everything together in your glass bottle and give it a good shake.
- After brushing, swish around a tablespoon or so for 30 seconds, then spit. Do this twice daily.
- You might need to give it a shake before each time you use it, as the baking soda will settle to the bottom.