When I was first exploring zero waste, the few alternatives to conventional-heavily-packaged-cleaning-products (for both body and home) were often only available to those lucky few who lived in one of those avant-garde cities with packaging-free-indie-groceries lined up. One of the alternatives was Dr. Bronner’s all in one soap. The other option was shopping bulk (good luck with finding those!). The third option was products sold in solid form. I tried all of those to some extent. Some where good, some were heavily laden with fragrance and flavors, some where hard to find. Also, what do I do when I’m in Bangladesh, or somewhere remote? Hence, the search continued.
So imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon the fact that gram flour (or chickpea flour, and beshon in Bangla) is an excellent all-purpose-cleanser, and an extremely effective de-greaser. I have absolutely no recollection how I came upon this, but I’m certain it was on one of those quiet, slow moments. As a Bangladeshi, I knew beyshon could be used as face scrubber, and was delicious for fritters, but nothing about its cleansing property. Internet did not have much information either (gasp! I did not know that was even possible).
Gram flour is inexpensive (therefore egalitarian), it’s easily available, it’s edible, it’s non-toxic, and it’s TSA approved (backpackers rejoice!). Here, a $5 bag of 3.5 lb comes in a single paper bag (although interior lined with thin plastic). In Bangladesh, you can buy (80/= per KG) it packaging free if you provide your own bag!
I mix in a little bit of baking soda to keep it free flowing (around 1:4) and gently abrasive. I use it -and be sure to count- for toothpaste, body wash, hair cleansing/ shampoo, sink scrubbing, tub cleaning, tile cleaning, toilet bowl cleaning, chrome cleaning and polishing, stove cleaning, counter-top cleaning, and laptop/tablet/phone screen cleaning (sparingly), glass cleaning (the best when paired with vinegar), small-hand-washing-laundry (I’m fairly certain I can do full laundry, but have not tried and worked out the system yet.) hand-washing in the kitchen and dish-washing! Basically, anything and everything that requires some sort of cleansing agent. In terms of improving the quality of life through zero-waste, gram flour would be right there with Diva cup!
Appropriate dispenser(s) makes the job much easier. For tooth-powder or face scrubber, I use the smaller dispenser. For any other ones, the bigger shaker. The scrubbing gloves above are about 3 years old. It developed a dirty tint over time, but has completely ‘brightened’ up ever since I made the switch. For dish-washing, the setup is as below (read about it on this post).
I’ve been using the same 3.5 lb bag for the last 2.5 months for all of these needs. For our two-people-household (although the housemate still uses regular shampoo,soap and toothpaste), I’m only halfway through!
The main reasons behind my switch/experiment were all the packaging, the untested chemicals (and the micro-beads), the water pollution, the high transportation cost (which is often the case for anything liquid) inevitably transferred down to the consumer. Not to mention the pretentiousness of such engineered products that make up a billion-dollar industry. These ‘antibacterials’ and ‘disinfectants’ (what do they even mean!) are proven to exacerbate chronic conditions like asthma,eczema,allergy, and compromise the natural immune system in general. A large portion of the household grey water can be detoxed when these everyday commercial toxins are eliminated. This non-toxic grey water can then be utilized in irrigation, for local food growing and soil enhancement. A loop/ cycle/ system the wise have known and maintained all along.
(I always find it amusing that ‘simplify’ appears twice in a quote about simplification!)
Just imagine, how many bottles/packages replaced? How much shelf/cabinet space emptied? How many errand trips eliminated? How many trash/recycling loads cut out? How much visual-noise-through-packaging quieted? How many decision-making-fatigue avoided? How much money saved? How much time reclaimed? How much head-space regained? Does any of it seem appealing to you?