From underwear to underarms

This week, whilst we are addressing delicate issues, let’s talk about deodorant. As regular readers will know, I’m trying to move away from items that come packaged in plastic and to use products that don’t include petrochemicals as ingredients. I do think that there is a place for plastic, but its indiscriminate use does annoy me. Over the past few years I’ve managed to reduce the amount of stuff in the bathroom that comes wrapped in plastic and to make some of my own toiletries so I know what’s in them:

  • my manual toothbrush is made of bamboo (although I also use an electric toothbrush that is plastic)
  • my shampoo is bought in bulk to minimise the packaging, and when the current lot is used up I plan to start using a solid shampoo bar (less water transported around the country and, hopefully, no plastic in the packaging and all-natural ingredients with no palm oil)
  • I make my own moisturiser and although some of the ingredients come in plastic, there’s a lot less packaging overall than when buying jars of fancy lotions and creams
  • I stopped using shower gel/liquid hand wash and now only use soap, from  either It’s Baaath Time or The All Natural Soap Company. The latter use no plastic at all in their packaging, whilst the former is under new ownership (by a friend of mine) and I’m not sure what the packaging will be like from now on, but I know it won’t be excessive. Neither company use artificial additives or palm oil.

a lot less plastic than before

Thus, most of my basic needs are now being covered in a plastic-reduced, ethical ingredients way apart from toothpaste and deodorant. I can’t bear to give up toothpaste and I’m not even going to try to make my own… it’s just one step too far for me. I do, however, buy an ‘ethical’ brand. Deodorant, though, seemed easily doable after reading this blog post by Jen Gale. Best of all, I had all the ingredients – coconut oil, bicarbonate of soda, cornflour and essential oils – already in the house. Basically, you mash everything up together (6-8 tbsps coconut oil, ¼-½ cup bicarb, ¼ cup cornflour, a few drops of essential oils), put it in a pot and then rub it in as required (the coconut oil melts with the heat from your skin and is absorbed very quickly). I made the whole job easy by using my Kenwood mixer to do the combining of ingredients, but you can just use a fork. The choice of essential oils is personal, but I used six drops each of orange, tea tree and mint.

I made mine a couple of weeks ago, so I have had chance to test it out before writing, and I can report that it seems to work. I guess that, like all deodorants, if you were  exercising vigorously, it wouldn’t stand a chance, but for everyday wear it seems good. Of course, if you are looking for an antiperspirant, this will not do the job, but I’m not convinced that it’s healthy to block your sweat glands – there are good reasons to sweat! The choice of essential oils is up to you, which means that you can use a mix of perfumes to suit your nose and that these can be as strong or subtle as you like. I especially like peppermint, as it makes the skin tingle a little.

This seems to be a relatively easy win for me – the mixture is quick to make, I didn’t have to buy any special ingredients and I just use it as normal as part of my regular morning routine. And so far no one has complained about the way I smell… but if I start spending more time with my on-line friends than my face-to-face ones, you’ll know why!

Leave a comment


  1. Tea tree’s a good choice, as it’s antibacterial as well. I applaud your dedication, but living where I do, a modicum of antiperspirant is important for the sake of not being antisocial. Are you averse to using alum? It does have astringent and drying qualities, and alum powder is a traditional form of deodorant/antiperspirant.

    • I decided that I wouldn’t use alum, as there seem to be conflicting reports about aluminium’s potential risk… although now evidence does seem to be stacking up to suggest it’s ok.

  2. I should start using bicarb, coconut oil and essential oils again… And washing my hair with bicarb and citric acid, which I found works a lot better than shampoo bars.

    • I’ve just ordered a couple of goats milk shampoo bars which I have heard very good things about. I go swimming a couple of times a week and so I think I need the soapiness to get rid of all the chemicals (I hate the smell hanging around), but I haven’t actually tried alternatives to date.

  3. I’ve been making my own deodorant for quite a long while now – pretty much as you have done it and had no-one take a sudden backward step [that I have seen] yet. 🙂 I also made my own toothpaste for a while but returned to using a commercially made natural ingredients product as it was just too messy! Maybe I just don’t have your dedication! I am so lucky to have Wendy here. She makes the most wonderful products from natural ingredients and no plastic packaging and soon I won’t have to make my own deodorant as she has just added that to her list of products 🙂

    • Glad to hear the deodorant works! I too am sticking to commercial toothpaste. I have a friend who uses coconut oil and just lets it melt in her mouth and round here teeth, but I like a minty brushing!

  4. A friend of mine with a sensitive mouth uses the following recipe. I think if you like mint, you could substitute mint oil for the clove.
    1/2 c Baking Soda
    1/4 c Coconut Oil
    1/4 c Vegetable Glycerin
    4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
    1 tsp Hydrogen Peroxide
    1/2-3/4 tsp Mint Essential Oil (according to taste)
    10 drops Clove Essential Oil
    12-24 drops of Stevia (according to taste)
    Melt coconut oil and vegetable glycerin together. Mix in remaining ingredients. Consistency and texture are going to differ depending on your room temperature and air moisture level. Add a little more coconut oil if it is too crumbly. Add a little more baking soda if too runny. Store the toothpaste in an opaque container to ensure that the hydrogen peroxide does not break down.

  5. My deodorant is some form of a crystal stick. You wet it a little and rub on necessary areas. Apparently the crystal has little microbes that keep ugly smells away. It seems to work okay (no complaints from others) It lasts for ever, so I don’t feel too bad about the plastic cylinder it comes in.

  6. This is a great idea… I’ll have to give it a go! I use one of those crystal sticks too, and they really do last for years (provided you keep them clean), although I still feel like I need to use perfume if I’m going out somewhere, because they’re unscented. As for your toothpaste dilemma, Lush make a product called “Toothy Tabs”, which I think are tablet-like things that froth up when you chew them, then you scrub around with your toothbrush for a proper clean. I’m not sure about the packaging, but Lush do offer recycling for some of their plastic containers if that helps!

    • Yes, the nice thing about his deodorant is that you can add whatever essential oils that you fancy. I have one of those crystal thingies, but I have never been entirely sure how effective it is, so I go through phases of using it and then put it aside… I have to say, though, it’s great for travelling.
      I’ve heard of the toothy tabs… maybe I will give them a go…

      • Let me know how you get on… I’m more than a little curious about those toothy tabs! And I’ll road test your deodorant recipe next time I get a free minute… I actually love that orange and mint combination, those scents go so well together!

        • Bought some minty toothy tabs yesterday – slightly odd taste, but seemed to work ok. They would be great for travelling, but sadly they come in a plastic bottle… I understand they used to have plastic-free packaging, but alas no more 😦

          • Oh dear, shame about the packaging! Is it at least made from the black plastic that they take back and recycle? Thanks for the feedback, I might try one of the crazy non-mint flavours myself!

          • Apparently the bottle is made from recycled plastic, but it just seems sad they don’t sell them in a paper bag! I may give the lemon and lime ones a go… they sound promising. Also there are tooth powders, but I didn’t notice what their packaging was like because I can’t stay in a Lush shop for more than a few minutes before all the perfumes start to give me a headache!!

          • Yes, it can be a bit overwhelming! It’s a shame about the packaging… I have a vague memory of Lush doing refills on certain products if you brought your empty containers back in, but that must be a thing of the past.

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