Hemp oil soap – not just for cleaning skin!
The biggest part of my ‘green’ journey began when I was pregnant. I realised that as well as what I put IN to my body, I needed to look at what I put ON to my body; as up to 60% of what you put on your skin ends up in your bloodstream.
It was then I discovered the joys of completely rethinking my ‘beauty routine’. I ditched the harmful chemicals and sought natural and safe alternatives such as clay and natural alum deodorant.
I’m delighted to welcome Sally to the site today. Sally runs Natural Spa Suppliesand draws on archaeology and anthropology to research, source and supply prehistoric, low tech and green washing and cleaning resources such as clay, alum, soapnuts and now the 100% British hemp oil soap
She’s sent me a jar of the soap to try and it seems it’s not limited to using on the skin! Check out her inspirational uses for this multi purpose household wonder product …
Hemp oil soap, is a natural soap which was made in Britain from the 12-19th century, just from hemp oil and lye water. In the past, most large households bought a barrel of it every year and used it for countless tasks. With the ‘archaeologist’ in me constantly whirring away and by reading about the diverse uses in historical texts, I was inspired to recreate this British soap from the unwritten recipe. It wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it because two weeks ago we were commended for the Norwich Eco Small Business Award for this project.
I’m still having the most tremendous fun testing this soap out for cleaning tasks at home. I have also developed a rather ad hoc outreach testing program for this soap such as for udder wash, for bathing dogs and horses, and wet shaving. I haven’t convinced anyone to recreate the Titanic launch yet, where a staggering 39 tonnes of soap, grease and oil was used. I think that champagne provides the only bubbles at launches now. Maybe I should attend one just to check.
On the cleaning front, the hemp oil soap has become the companion or rather the best friend of my soapnuts and there isn’t much the two of them won’t clean between them. Now I can keep my house chemical free and use something which biodegrades in the soil in just one day. Plus you will not see a rubber glove in sight.
One of my earliest trials with the hemp oil soap was to rescue several woollen jumpers which had very grubby cuffs and collars plus the odd stain. It is easy. Just wet the stained area, rub in the neat soap with your fingers so you don’t felt the fibres, followed by my favourite cleaning technique – ignoring it for an hour or so. On your return, rub it again, adding more soap if needed, then put it in the washing machine on a wool wash with 3-5 soapnuts. Wash it, dry it flat, debobble and wear your pristine jumper, cardi, bobble hat or Doctor Who scarf with pride!
The other morning, I left a burnt saucepan in the kitchen. When I returned it had been cleaned. No, I do not have a team of elves – my husband had bravely tackled it. After much torture, sorry, flattery, I managed to extract his patented technique for cleaning a saucepan which is not too badly burnt with hemp oil soap. He had just scraped out what would come out easily, added a teaspoon of soap, and some hot water and stirred it with a wooden spoon over the heat. He said the burn matter started slipping off within about 10 seconds, and within a minute or two, it was all off and the pan could be washed. I confirmed his experiment, or as they say in the Medieval texts, ‘It is proven!’ I also have easy methods for seriously burn saucepans and roasting pans.
Cleaning the oven
I am always amazed that this soap can be used for both washing the body, shaving AND cleaning the most resistant grime. Perhaps it was better understood in the past, when they just knew that one soap did everything. Take the oven with its seemingly welded on super heated fat, and the chrome grills now a dark oily brown. How can a blackened oven be transformed into its spanking new, clean and shining former-shop-floor-self without toxic chemicals? Hmmm, with real soap, the effort is minimal.
The chrome grill goes in the sink. Have a small bowl of hot water. Smooth a coating of soap all over the grill cloth with a cloth which has been dipped and wrung in the hot water. Leave the grill for now and tackle the oven. Turn the oven off at the socket, if it has an electrical feed. Wet and wring the cloth again and apply soap to the washable parts of the oven. Put the soapy grill in it. Close the door, switch the oven back on at the socket and heat it for one minute. Turn the oven off and switch it off at the socket. Leave it.
Return in a few hours or when you are starting to get hungry. Now you will need to scrub a bit and then rinse. Tackle the grill in the sink using a bowl of hot water on the draining board and the scrubbiest scrubber which you can find. You might find yourself hollowing over the house, ‘Hey come here, look at this, I can’t believe this!’ as the grime gives up its hold.
Then turn to the oven. Place a fresh bowl or bucket of hot water on the floor near the oven to make it easier. As before scrub and rinse. Once you think you have finished, rinse the oven with a vinegar water rinse as this will make the oven easier to clean next time, and dry the interior. You can turn the electrical feed on again at the socket, and cook in it again without toxic fumes! Cleaning the oven is a heroic task, so be assured that once you have cleaned and rinsed the oven you deserve a great feast. Just don’t overfill the pies and or try to bake the very biggest Victoria sponge for the Jubilee or you will be undoing all your good work.
Another task which was surprisingly easy with the hemp soap was cleaning the tops of my kitchen cupboards. Although you won’t get a complement, well, unless you know a person who is tall enough to notice, it is very satisfying removing that sticky greasy grime. Dissolve some hemp oil soap in hot water, dip a cloth in the solution and wring it fairly well. Wipe over all the cupboard tops, there is no need to rub or scrub. You are simply bringing hot soapy water into contact with the dirt. Allow a little while for the soap to work. Rinse your cloth. Now go over it a second time bringing a knob of hemp oil soap into play. The sticky grime will lift now, so you will need to rinse the cloth often and add more knobs or soap as you go.
Again, like the oven, rinse with vinegar water to make the task easier next time round. As this was a long overdue task, I used a rag rather than one of my hand knitted cotton cloths and I donated the rag to my compost heap at the end. I should point out, that you might want to clean the cupboards doors and even the insides next! You can get a bit carried away and end up cleaning more things that you had envisaged at the outset! Also chemical-free cleaning products, make cleaning much more spontaneous! That’s just as well. I still have many uses to test. Those I have tested so far are on the website and so there will be lots of ideas to keep you busy.
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