Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Softly, softly

We have hard water. White chalky deposits cover every stainless steel surface. If we didn’t descale it our kettle would grow enough fur inside that it would look like magic rocks. FACT.
remember growing these crystals in a jar as a child?

 We also don’t have a tumble drier. Which means that most things--especially towels--are more than a wee bit on the scratchy side. Most fabric softeners contain a whole host of chemicals--including beef tallow in the case of Downey and some brands of drier sheets. YUK. You can buy eco ones but they cost a packet. I tried just using vinegar in combination with washing soda (soda crystals) as a water softener and there was a bit of improvement. But the towels were still quite sandpaper-y.

I found several recipes online about making your own from water, vinegar and hair conditioner. Most websites talked about buying the cheapest hair conditioner you could get. The problem is many beauty products--cheap and expensive--can contain some pretty nasty ingredients.


Petroleum in the form of paraffinium liquidum  which is mineral oil.

Propylene glycol which is a form of anti-freeze.

Paraben preservatives which can disrupt hormone function and have been found in breast tissue of women with breast cancer.

MEA, DEA or TEA which mix with other ingredients to form formaldehyde in the body.

Cheap foaming agent sodium lauryl sulphate which is an industrial degreaser and can cause serious, burn like skin irritation.

I wanted to try this so I hunted around for an inexpensive conditioner that didn’t contain any nasties or animal excretions. It also could not be owned by a parent company like Proctor and Gamble who we boycott because they do horrible things with animal testing.

I found this conditioner at Wilkinsons. It was Wilko brand and was called Fruity Citrus Conditioner. It contained lots of more gentle ingredients I was familiar with and none of the nasties on the above list. It also had citrus aurantifolia fruit extract which seemed more natural that fake smelling stuff. It smelled faintly of oranges and I thought it would go well with the orange vinegar I was brewing. Plus it was on special 2 bottles for £2.

So I made it. The original recipe made a huge amount and I’ve not got a container big enough nor the place to store it so I halved the recipe.

Original recipe--makes 11 cups

6 cups water

3 cups vinegar

2 cups hair conditioner

My recipe--makes 5.5 cups

3 cups water

1.5  cups (orange) vinegar

1 cup conditioner

I put it in this 1 litre jug and gave it a good old shake for the whole length of Tom and Olly’s Love at the Disco that I was jamming to on my I-pod. That was it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. It had a faint pleasant scent--like an orange creamsicle. But not overpowering like a French whorehouse the way so many fabric softeners do. Smelling heavily perfumed fabric softener makes me reach for my asthma inhaler.  Plus with this recipe you can’t smell it on the final product when it comes out of the washing machine—it just smells fresh and clean. Perfect for us.

I’ll let you know how it goes--but I’m pretty pleased so far. Now go and make it yourself. 


  1. love it. I shall look around for hair conditioner w/o nasty ingredients and if I find some then I'll make it. Otherwise, I'll just keep using my "Ology" brand. If I do find what I need, then I'll just re-use the Ology fabric softener bottle to store it in.