REVIEW: Beauty Kubes (Plastic Free Shampoo)

I have used shampoo bars for nearly two years now, and finally found a routine that worked with my hair. So when I was asked to trial Beauty Kubes, I was a little wary about changing products, especially as using ‘normal’ bottled shampoo on holiday last month left my hair tangled and feeling ‘producty’

But I need not have worried

KUBES Nice

Firstly, the smell is divine; even without opening the box, the scent is really inviting. The packaging itself is compact and minimal; the cardboard box measures just 5cm in all directions and there is also an extra paper layer inside the box for further protection against moisture

Kube Outside

One tip given to me was to store a few Kubes in a small glass jam jar in the bath or shower (like the single serve ones you get with a teacake or scone) to avoid moisture getting to them between uses and to protect them from the condensation in the bathroom

There are 27 Kubes in the box, which I’ll admit was a slight concern at first, as that is less than a month’s worth of washes if you use one Kube each time and wash your hair every day. But I discovered after my first wash that I didn’t need to use a whole Kube and that half was more than enough for my thick, shoulder length hair (I won’t inflict a selfie on you to show you though!) The Kubes are soft enough to halve easily using your nail

Kube Scale

A single box has lasted me nearly two months, which is a much more realistic time frame for me, though my husband has pointed out that his 500ml of supermarket bottled shampoo only lasts him six weeks maximum (he has short hair) so maybe I’m setting the bar very high!

In terms of actually using the Beauty Kubes, simply crush half a Kube to powder in the palm of your hand, add a little water to make a paste and then rub into your hair and lather. My top tip is NOT to add too much water when making the paste otherwise the result is too watery to lather up well; what works well for me is to crush in the palm of my left hand, wet the first finger of my right hand and work up gradually to a thick paste. Once the paste is spread over both hands, rubbing onto the hair is easy

Kubes Paste

I was really surprised at how much lather even half a Kube produced, which could be because I am used to shampoo bars which don’t really lather much at all, and the suds were easy to wash out

Kubes Lather

One massive plus point of Beauty Kubes over shampoo bars was that I do not need to do an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse afterwards; the benefits of this to me are two-fold:

  1. No need to buy apple cider vinegar, or make my own as often
  2. Less water used when showering; I would mix a capful of ACV with half a jug of water, pour over my head, then leave for at least two minutes before swilling. No ACV rinse means a quicker shower, and less wasted water each day

My final point to make is how soft and manageable my hair is after using the Beauty Kubes; my hair is notorious for tangling (probably my own fault as I am not very good at regular brushing)

I also love how beautiful my hair now smells; even the husband noticed!

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Fancy a Plastic Free Cuppa?

Did you know that most tea bags actually contain plastic? I didn’t until a few months ago, and as I drink a LOT of tea, I was keen to find a plastic-free alternative; below are my views on three plastic-free options

Tea All

Teapot

We already had a ceramic tea pot with built in infuser lurking in the cupboard, so I dug that out. It is fab for making a pot for at least four people, but the infuser doesn’t reach to the bottom of the pot, so it cannot be used for smaller numbers. As I work from home as a registered childminder, I do make a lot of single cups of tea just for me (there are worse addictions!) and my mother-in-law is the only family member who drinks decaf, so I need a solution for individual cups too

Tea Pot Inside

You can, of course, just buy a simple tea strainer to put over the cups if your tea pot doesn’t have a built-in infuser, and I’m still looking for a two-cup tea pot with built-in infuser – if you find one, let me know. Preferably one with spots…!

Tea Sticks

These are made from food-grade stainless steel and are designed to sit inside the cup allowing the tea to infuse into the hot water. The used tea leaves can then be emptied into the composter and the tea stick itself swilled and reused

Tea Stick (2)

They are a bit of a faff to fill and tend to make a weaker cup of tea than I would choose, despite having lots of space inside the cylinder, and I found that you need a pointy stick to get the tea leaves out of the corners for cleaning – I use a metal skewer I use for stabbing cakes to see if they are cooked all the way through

It took a bit of experimentation to work out how to get more tea leaves into them for a stronger cup. My top tip is to turn the tea stick upside down (bear with me, it will make sense!) and push the moveable cylinder up nearly to the top, then spoon the tea leaves carefully in through the small gap at the top in several batches. If you hold the tea stick on its side to fill it, then some of the leaves will fall out

You can prepare these in advance, but make sure you store upright so the movable cylinder doesn’t get nudged and the tea leaves then fall out; this is especially disheartening if you have taken a couple of minutes carefully filling them!

The metal will heat up whilst the tea is brewing so be careful when removing from the cup, but hopefully that is common sense

Tea Stick

The lip at the end hooks over the rim and does stop the tea stick falling into even the largest and deepest of mugs, so you should never have to fish it out using your fingers

Over time, the metal has discoloured but a blitz in the dishwasher helps to remove the majority of the tea staining, and the staining is merely cosmetic anyway

Tea Bags

These are made from unbleached organic cotton and are designed to sit inside the cup or teapot allowing the tea to infuse into the hot water. I then turn the tea bag inside out to empty the leaves into the composter in the kitchen, swill and reuse inside out. I leave mine drying on the draining board rack though sometimes I don’t even wait for the bags to dry out between uses, I just refill straight away when needed

Tea Bag

As I add milk after the tea bag has been removed, I use and reuse the same tea bags for a few days and then wash more thoroughly. If you add milk before removing the tea bag (why?!) then you do need to wash the tea bag properly between uses

Since the opening is a generous 9cm across, the bags are quick to fill, and can easily be prepared in advance; once the drawstring has been tightened then the leaves don’t fall out readily. It is also simple to prepare different strengths of tea to taste by spooning more tea leaves to the bag

You do have to make sure you hold onto the string when pouring the water into the mug, as the movement of the water will drag it down; if your bag does disappear into the mug, simply fish it back out with a spoon like a traditional teabag

Tea Bag Cup

The tea bags are ridiculously easy to wash; simply hand wash with a little washing up liquid, rinse and leave to dry. I’ve not felt the need to do a deeper clean with apple cider vinegar (1 part) and water (2 parts) yet, and we’re four months down the line of using them, though I’ll be honest and admit that my tea bags are no longer a pristine off-white colour but the brown tea colour is merely cosmetic, and shows how popular they are in my house!

Tea Bags

Now comes the really fun bit, trialing different loose leaf teas! My local zero waste shop has a few different blends, so I am looking forward to experimenting with those…

 

Reusable Nappies & Swimming

Baby swimming is a great way to bond with your baby, and can be done from birth. Both of our children were enrolled in swimming lessons from just a couple of weeks old, and they have both developed in confidence and skill over the years they have been swimming

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You need very little to take your baby swimming, but the most vital piece of clothing is the swim nappy. Most swim schools and swimming pool require a double nappy system, which consists of a swim nappy (disposable or reusable) with a neoprene ‘happy nappy’ over the top. The double layer is important, as you don’t want your child to be the one that causes the pool to be closed if the nappy leaks!

The first thing to note is that no swim nappy is designed to be absorbent; its sole purpose is to contain any solids. Anything absorbent in a swim nappy would just absorb water from the swimming pool in seconds, and will weigh down your baby

Reusable swim nappies are simple to use and can be used on multiple children. They are generally sized (small/medium/large or size 1/size 2) so they provide a snug fit for your child; a swim nappy that is too small will dig into the skin and may cause discomfort, and a swim nappy that is too big will gape and leak

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One thing to be aware of, especially if you are not familiar with reusable nappies in general is that they are designed to fit more snugly than disposable nappies, so will sit more like a pair of traditional pants, so don’t be alarmed if it looks like the swim nappy is too small, it isn’t!

There are two main styles of reusable swim nappies, and it is personal preference which you go for. Pull-up style are easier for older children to put on independently, but swim nappies with poppers or Velcro are easier to remove without making lots of mess if your little one does have an accident. Our personal preference is poppers as we find that Velcro can get brittle over time with repeated exposure to chlorine

Neoprene happy nappies are used over the top of a swim nappy and provide extra security in the event of an accident. The legs and waist are designed to form a seal in case any solids do escape the swim nappy underneath, and they must completely cover the underneath layer. Again, these are sized, and they must fit snugly to perform their job effectively

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If you are already using reusable nappies, you can use an empty pocket nappy (make sure you remove the inserts first!) or wrap instead of a ‘proper’ swim nappy; an AIO can also be used if you cut out the absorbent tongue first. This is a great way to utilise nappies where the PUL has gone so they cannot be used in the traditional sense. make sure you pop a neoprene happy nappy over the top still!

Taking care of swim nappies is really simple; we just pop ours into the washing machine with the rest of the swimwear. They dry very quickly, so if you are going on holiday, you should only need two or three to use in rotation; if not soiled, they can be hand-washed and dried in a couple of hours

So, what are you waiting for?! Ditch the disposables and try reusables today!

ZERO WASTE REVIEW: Products to make washing up less of a chore!

As a family of four, plus being a childminder who works from home, we do a lot of washing up (well, I say ‘we’ when I actually mean my mother mainly!) Up until recently we would buy multipacks of cheap sponges, which were used for a week or so before throwing away, but as these are made from plastic and will never fully degrade, I was keen to find alternatives; below are my thoughts on two products designed to replace these plastic washing up sponges

Safix Scrub Pad from Hereford Eco Products

Made from coconut fibres held together with natural latex, this pad is fully compostable and biodegradable at the end of its serviceable life, as it contains no plastic whatsoever

Because of the rough texture, it is especially useful for the heavy duty washing up, such as frying pans and saucepans where the food has baked on. I will admit that I did worry for the surface of my frying pan before I used this; initially it feels quite rough to the touch, but three months down the line, and my frying pans are as smooth as ever, and the pad has softened up a little too

We are still using our original scrub pad, where we would have used and thrown away at least six sponges in the same time span. A few of the coconut fibres have worked loose over that time, but the product is still perfectly usable, and will be for some time

I tend to soak the pad once a month in diluted apple cider vinegar for an extra deep clean, but as long as you rinse the pad after use and leave to dry, it will still last a long time

Another added bonus is that it is good for scrubbing potatoes from the garden before peeling them; that brought back fond memories of my childhood cleaning the spuds for Sunday lunch in my nan’s kitchen!

Washing Up Pad

Washing Up Brush from Boobalou

Another blast from the past with this one, as I remember my mum using a washing up brush when I was a child, but that was plastic with plastics bristles. This washing up brush has a beech wood handle and bristles made of Tampico fibres; Tampico is derived from the yellow leaf of the agave cactus and is useful for this purpose because it retains water, is robust and hard-wearing and keeps its shape. Because the bristles are plant-based, they are 100% biodegradable

The brush is perfect for general cleaning of plates, bowls and cups; the bristles aren’t so hard that they scratch the surfaces of the crockery, while the small head means that the brush can get into the hard to reach corners of mugs with ease

The brush does take a while to dry out in between uses; ours doesn’t dry out in the day but does overnight. The metal loop at the end of the handle is useful to hang up the brush to dry in between uses

Replacement heads are available; there is a knack to removing the old head (lots of wiggling involved to loosen the metal holding the head on!) but once you know what you’re doing, it’s simple enough to do a second time. It’s also good to know that the head isn’t just going to fall off randomly too! The video here is useful to watch to help you too

Washing Up Brush

Summary

We are very pleased with our replacements for washing up sponges; each product fulfils a slightly different use, and therefore we will continue to use both. The key test for anything related to washing up in our house is whether they pass my mother’s seal of approval… and they do; she is will be replacing her washing up sponges with these products, so there is no higher praise than that in my eyes!

A letter to our friends and family: please no ‘stuff’ this Christmas

Firstly, I do want to say how grateful we are that people want to buy our kids (and us!) gifts at Christmas; we are lucky to have such generous friends and family! This post is not meant to sound ungrateful or like we’re preaching to you, but we would like to share with you some of the changes we have made this year, and how you, our friends and family, can help to support us with those changes

We have now reached a stage in our life where we have so much ‘stuff’ that we don’t actually need, and Christmas adds more to the pile. This year we have decluttered a LOT (even Paul has got involved with this one, and cleared the loft space a little!) got rid of excess furniture, knick-knacks, duplicate toys and household items which we used once years ago and then never again (who needs a salad spinner, really?!)

We are now reaching a stage where everything in our house falls into two categories; useful or sentimental. The rest is expendable

And this is where YOU come in, our friends and family. We don’t need more stuff to fill the gaps we have created in our home this year and will NOT be offended if you don’t get us anything at all! What we do want is time together as a family, so if you want to get us anything, could you consider popping a fiver in an envelope which we can put towards family days out throughout the year. For example, last July we took the kids on the train to London to see Uncle David, and would love to do the same again this year

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Due to the nature of my job, we have loads of toys already, so there are very few things we actually need; but if you REALLY feel that you want to buy the kids something to open, we have a list of a few select toys at Wise Owl Toys (ask behind the counter for the list) Some of these won’t be used immediately for our kids, but I plan ahead for the whole year. For instance, we have just cracked open the See & Spell that was bought for Thomas’s third birthday as he is just learning to read at preschool; so even if the items seem too advanced for our kids currently, they will get full use when the time comes!

We are also trying to reduce our waste this year, particularly plastic waste; we have introduced reusable straws, reusable cups and beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm into our household. We also utilise the new zero waste shop that has opened in Worcester, buying plastic-free deodorant, refilling containers instead of buying new and continuing to use reusable nappies, wipes and (me personally) CSP

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Christmas adds a lot of unnecessary waste to our house including foil wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. So, would you consider using brown paper to wrap? It is cheap to buy, and we will reuse it is possible, recycle if necessary. You can even get the kids to decorate it for a personal touch! Or could you reuse those gift bags from last year, make labels from old cards and consider homemade gifts for other people where they would be appreciated?

I understand that our lifestyle changes aren’t to everyone’s taste, but we would love it if you could join us in making our Christmas a sustainable one

Merry Christmas everyone!

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: Part 1

ShampooI use shampoo bars, which can sometimes leave my hair feeling waxy if not rinsed out thoroughly; this can make my hair feel heavy and look lacklustre. An apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse works wonders to remove any waxy residue left behind after rinsing, but I wanted to find a more sustainable source than buying glass bottles of the stuff every month from the supermarket

As my husband’s boss has a small orchard, we get given a LOT of windfall apples every autumn, and I make a lot of apple cake (Mary Berry’s Apple & Cinnamon Cake, if anyone wants to make their own) But the cores and peel generally go straight into the composter, which seems rather wasteful… Cue a spot of Googling and I found a very simple and easy-to-follow recipe from Tales of a Kitchen which you can find here

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As I use the windfall apples up in small batches, and only had a 2L Kilner jar to make the ACV in, I froze the cores and peel in a 2L tub until full. You might prefer to make smaller batches more often, so you have a more regular but smaller supply of ACV every couple of weeks, but as this is my first time, I’m going to put all of my eggs into one basket! Plus, you need a wide mouth jar, and I don’t have many of those lying around that aren’t already in use

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Anyway, onto the actual making… My first tip: cut the apple cores into smaller pieces BEFORE freezing, else they are very difficult to saw up. But once they are in smaller pieces, simply stuff into the jar, trying to fill all of the spaces. It would probably be easier to squish the apples down more if they have defrosted, but I was far too impatient to do that; or not organised enough to remove from the freezer earlier in the day… You decide which!

Once the apples are crammed into the jar, dissolve a couple of teaspoons of sugar in some water – as I was using more apples than the recipe above, I used heaped teaspoons of sugar – and pour over the apples; I recommend doing this SLOWLY otherwise the sugar water splashes out. Then top up with more water until the apples are covered. I boiled the water and then cooled it before adding to the jar as I do not have a water filter

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The final stage is to cover the mouth of the jar with a muslin and secure it before storing in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks. I also dated the jar with today’s date in case I do decide to make another batch before this one has finished fermenting, to differentiate them

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I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on my ACV over the coming week, stirring it occasionally, watching for the bubbles that show that fermentation is happening and searching for a white foam at the top – any other colour of ‘scum’ is not good, apparently!

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I will keep you updated with the progress of my ACV as the weeks go on; I’ll be honest, I’m expecting a few pitfalls along the way… Wish me luck!

Reusable Wipes: The Bottom Line

We started using reusable wipes when my eldest was around three months old; they have served us well for over 3.5 years, and two children. As a mum of two, and childminder of more than two, they have become an invaluable part of our household. Here are a few reasons why…

1. Fewer wipes used each nappy change

Because reusable wipes are made from materials such as cotton and bamboo, they are grippier than disposable wipes, which have a tendency to slide and smear.

As a childminder, I use both reusable and disposable wipes regularly, and while the maximum number of reusable wipes I have used in any single nappy change stands at three, I have needed over double that amount of disposable wipes on more than one occasion!

Reusable Wipes

2. Easy to use at home

Everyone has their nappy changing station set up slightly differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. Personally, we have them all stored in a tub already wet, so we can just grab and use; other parents store dry and wet under the tap at each change.

Once used, you can throw into the nappy bag or bucket if using reusable nappies too, or the Cheeky Wipes system includes a Mucky Box to store dirty wipes until wash day. Depending on whether your washing machine eats small items, a mesh bag can be useful to stop your wipes going AWOL during washing…

3. Easy to use when out and about

Again, everyone has their own system for this. We have a small wet bag into which we put a few damp reusable wipes; once used they go into the larger wet bag with dirty nappies.

If you prefer to keep your wipes dry until use, a small bottle of water can be carried with them and used to dampen them before use.

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4. Cheaper in the long run

Thirty reusable wipes can cost up to £30 if bought new, depending on where you buy; buying preloved brings the cost down further, and making your own out of items in your home will reduce the cost even more, perhaps even costing you nothing but the time to make them.

Compare this to even the cheapest disposable wipes. On a conservative estimate of a pack per week for 2.5 years, which is the average age of toilet training, Aldi wipes (0.49p per pack) will cost you £63.70 [I use Aldi as a comparison as they were the cheapest I could find online!]

5. Reducing landfill and fatbergs

Disposable wipes are made of a mixture of materials, including plastics; this means they will never break down fully. Disposable wipes should NEVER be flushed (even if labelled as such) though too many sadly are, becoming a massive contributor to fatbergs (read more here on these)

Reusable wipes are made of biodegradable materials which will break down over time. You can re-purpose your reusable wipes once your children no longer need them for general cleaning or even family cloth, or sell on to recoup some of your costs.

Fatberg

6. No chemicals (other than water, water is a chemical after all!)

Since reusable wipes are soaked in whatever you choose, water being the cheapest and easiest option. Some soak in chamomile tea, or melt coconut oil in hot water, but plain old-fashioned H2O is good enough for us!

Disposable wipes contain a lot more chemicals, including preservatives, alcohols and fragrances, some of which have been linked to eczema and allergies. You can read more in a Which report here.

Do you use reusable wipes already? What extra uses do you have for them?!
Or, perhaps you haven’t taken the plunge yet… Hopefully now you can see how easy it can be!
Share your experiences with me…