Remember, we are on a journey to reduce the number of toxins we’re exposing ourselves to. My main aim is to provide you with simple recipes to help you create a life that is less toxic. My intention is not to provide you with scientific formulations for products that can be mass-produced and distributed, and that includes markets and fetes. The idea is to make enough for yourself (and maybe a little extra to share) to use within a reasonable period of time.
Many of us (in general) have become accustomed to mainstream products with what seems like indefinite shelf lives, right? Preservatives are usually what make that a possibility. We all want a long shelf life, it just means less effort in the long run, however, a decision needs to be made on whether we prefer the simplicity of DIY (and knowing exactly what is in our bottle or jar), over the potential that these preservatives could be causing other issues within our bodies.
When we DIY, we need to be cautious, we need to remain vigilant, we need to exercise common sense as much as possible. Because the reality is, we don’t create in sterile environments, and we don’t know exactly how our completed recipes will behave. So, this post will help you ensure you get the maximum possible lifespan from your DIY, and to also decide when it might be time to remake and replace.
Because there are so many variables with every single recipe, I can’t accurately predict shelf life. Even the testing I have done at home would be considered amateur and again, it varies each time. What I can do is give you a guide, which will help you get the most out of your products, and the longest possible lifespan.
A guide to shelf life
- Products that don’t contain preservatives can start spoiling even before they are visible to the naked eye. Water is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mould to grow and I am mindful to be extra conservative with washes, toners and other water-based recipes. These are best used within a few weeks, even though I personally have my batches for four to six weeks at a time. Storing water-based recipes in the fridge will naturally extend the shelf life further. If you’re ever in doubt, make smaller batches and keep them for one to two weeks tops, just to be safe.
- Body and face scrubs with only salt/sugar and oil should last several months, some even one year onwards, providing they’re not contaminated with water (or bacteria from fingers). Scrubs with fresh ingredients such as citrus peels, coffee grounds, lavender and rosemary (that aren’t fully dehydrated) may only last a week or two.
- Dry botanical and powder-based products usually hold a shelf life upwards of one year.
- As a rule of thumb, your oil-based products will usually hold a shelf life that is equal to the shortest expiry date of your individual raw ingredients.
- You might choose to keep cleaning recipes around for longer due to the fact you aren’t applying them directly to your body. That’s up to you.
Some useful notes
- Sterilising utensils and packaging before use will remove unwanted dust and bugs from the get-go. I like to wash in hot soapy water, rinse with clean water, then swirl a little vodka in bottles (with narrow openings), thoroughly drying before use.
- Choosing amber or cobalt blue packaging is better than clear as it helps prevent sunlight penetrating (and this can cause your products to degrade or spoil faster).
- Storing your products in airtight jars, bottles or containers in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight, dust and excess moisture/humidity is imperative for most recipes. Storing water-based products in the fridge is even better.
- You can preserve the integrity of your products by using clean, dry implements to scoop, rather than wet or dirty fingers.
- Most essential oils contain antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. This may help extend the shelf life of your creations.
- Adding vitamin e to your oil based recipes will slow down the rate at which oils will go rancid. It won’t extend the shelf life of water-based recipes.
- In water-based recipes, use distilled, filtered or boiled and cooled water without exception.
- Always, always, always, always be vigilant and exercise common sense. If your product smells or looks unusual, it is best to discard it. It’s just not worth taking that chance.
Exercise caution in the kitchen, especially with your appliances, tools – knives, glass bowls etc. Basically, apply the same rules for cooking food in the kitchen. However, there are a few extra considerations when DIY-ing natural body care and cleaning, and I’ve listed them below, in no particular order.
- Regardless of how natural something might be, always treat ingredients with respect, care and caution.
- Take care not to inhale any dust matter. Wear a mask when working with loose, powdered ingredients.
- To avoid reactions and irritation, I always advise that you test ingredients (especially essential oils and those you haven’t used before) on a small area of skin, being mindful of any irritation or sensitivities that may arise.
- If you’re concerned about the quantities of essential oils used in any of the recipes, reduce them or leave them out – make sure you’re comfortable with every step in the process.
- Stick to the suggested melting temperatures to avoid overheating balms and essential oils. This will help protect the beautiful properties of these ingredients.
- Be mindful that some of my recipes may not be suitable for everyone, particularly pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants, children, the elderly and those with compromised immunity or medical conditions.
- If you decide to gift any of these completed recipes, keep in mind that some essential oils, and the quantities suggested, may not be suitable for everyone. Exercise caution and do your own independent research. Also make sure you list every ingredient used for the recipient’s benefit – this is especially important when it comes to allergies.
- Surfaces get oily easily and that makes them incredibly slippery. Move slowly around your workspace and keep it clean and organised.
- Be careful when using body scrubs, salts, melts etc. in the bath and shower as they may leave the tub and floor quite slippery.
- Always supervise children when DIY-ing, but also around ingredients and finished products.
Once you get the hang of it, and maybe adjust your expectations a little, DIY can be incredibly rewarding, uncomplicated and beautifully sustainable.