DIY isn’t Always “Natural”

When Earth Day comes it seems a slew of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects come with it. The common misconception that DIY projects are natural and eco-friendly comes along with it, too. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE DIY projects! I think they’re awesome! They most definitely save money! But are they better for you, your family, or the environment? They surely can be! The problem is, although we are raising more eco-awareness this time of year not everybody catches on immediately. We all know “going green” is a journey! So I wanted to share this common misconception and how to make sure your DIY projects ARE eco-friendly (and better for your family)!

DIY isn't Natural

The common misconception is this: if I make it at home it is eco-friendly, free of chemicals, good for my family, etc. Again this CAN be true, but I see many that are NOT! I cringe when I see “I feel good about making it at home because I know exactly what is in it and know it’s free of nasty chemicals.” Yet one (or more) of the INGREDIENTS they use to make it contain, you guessed it, synthetic ingredients and/or nasty chemicals!

So, the ultimate question is: Do you REALLY know what’s in it? You can say it contains x, y, and z, but can you tell me what’s IN x, y, and z? This is where the problem lies. People don’t know what’s in their ingredients! Many don’t even question it because they feel “safe” seeing the recipes for it everywhere and assume it must be “good.” I encourage you to ALWAYS CHECK EVERY INGREDIENT.

I want to share 2 common DIY projects that I’ve seen COULD be eco-friendly and good for your family that “go bad” because synthetic ingredients are used instead of natural ingredients.

Homemade laundry detergent
This is, by far, the most common one I see. Making your own laundry detergent is awesome! It saves money and can potentially be better for the environment and your family if you carefully consider the ingredients. The most common recipe I see floating around online and on Pinterest uses Fels Naptha. Even being ingredient conscious myself I still picked some up without reading the label.

Well, I got quite the shock to read the label and not only see it has synthetic ingredients (artificial colors and fragrance), but it also carries a warning as a skin irritant! Some of the other ingredients are also rated as a “moderate hazard” by the Environmental Working Group. Would you still feel “good” about using it on your clothes? I surely didn’t!

It was also recently discovered that Borax isn’t healthy, either! This was a big shock to me because up until now I thought it was considered a “safe, eco-friendly” ingredient. It now gets an “F” by EWG! I found an article written on Mother Earth News with more details. I was still using Borax until I read this a couple of days ago but had already counted Fels Naptha out.

My recipe was: 2 cups of Borax, 2 cups of Wash Soda, and a finely grated natural bar of soap. I use Dr. Bronner’s, but you can use any natural soap. Now I will be trying the same recipe minus the Borax – so just the Wash Soda and Dr. Bronner’s soap. I can’t attest to how it works yet, but I will share when I’ve used it!

*Update 9/10/2013: I have been using the recipe of just the Wash Soda and Dr. Bronner’s Soap, and that has been working well for us!*

Homemade bath and body products
Again, this is something that has the potential to be amazing, but again you MUST KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS. I purchased a lovely sugar scrub at a flea market after verifying it was natural. She assured me it was, and I was SO impressed at the scent that I spent a lot of time pondering how she got the right mix of essential oils to make a “popular” scent. Then it dawned on me – it was probably made with “fragrance oils,” NOT essential oils. So, I verified my suspicion and was disappointed to find out I was right.

Fragrance oils are synthetic. They’re so commonly confused with being “natural” because they’re an oil. They’re NOT natural. Any time you see the word “fragrance” you should exercise caution. If you want to be very cautious you should just avoid “fragrance.” Not only are fragrance oils synthetic many times multiple chemicals can be packed into the word “fragrance” as it doesn’t require full disclosure what makes up the “fragrance” here in the US. So, if you’re making bath and body products at home be sure to avoid fragrance oils and use essential oils instead – which also have other added benefits!

To Sum it Up
DIY projects can be absolutely amazing and save you money. They can also be good for the environment as well as your family – if you’re careful what you are using. When you see a DIY recipe you want to try CHECK THE INGREDIENTS FIRST! If after research you find there is an ingredient that isn’t eco-friendly or natural do some MORE research for a suitable, eco-friendly alternative!

As you may know, my husband had cancer twice, I have medical issues, and all three of our kids have special needs. That is what started our eco-friendly journey, and there has been A LOT to learn along the way! I’m still learning every day (hence I need a new laundry detergent recipe!), but there ARE eco-friendly options out there, and it’s worth it to protect the health of your family (and the environment)! So, I encourage you to question DIY recipes that may be mistaken for being eco-friendly or good for your family and make sure you know all ingredients. Then you can say “I know exactly what’s going into it” with confidence!


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  1. Thank you for this article! I have so many people I will share this with – everyone always assumes that if they make it themselves “it must be good for you’ – they think that with food, cleaning products – everything!

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