Natural Products I Loathe (and what we use instead)

When I graduated college a year ago, I decided that the time had come to eat more whole foods, toss out our chemical cleaners, and do everything in my power to build a home on natural items, nutrition-rich foods, and high-quality products. I took a swan dive into the world of crunchy living. I read all the natural living blogs, immersed myself in researching everything we ingested, and began making tough choices. We swapped out Wal-Mart chicken breast for grass-fed beef. Gatorade for kombucha. Doritos for plantain chips and guacamole (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!), and cheesy popcorn for popcorn seasoned with nutritional yeast.

A year later, our home is far from perfect, but so much healthier than it was in the past!

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I have gained so many skills in the process, and I feel like the more we invest in nourishing food, and a chemical-free home the better we’ll be. But I cannot deny that there have been products that have not worked for us.  There have been some natural remedies, products, and philosophies that worked for so many bloggers I followed, but unequivocally did not work for our home. Here are a few natural products that did not work, and what we use instead!

Soap Nuts: A natural laundry choice

I so badly wanted to like these soap nuts. I had done a ton of research on them, read more blogs singing their praises then I could count, and read through a ton of positive reviews on Amazon. With our continuing battle against my hubby’s psoriasis I figured that switching from my detergent of choice (which was already dye, and fragrance-free) to the only waste-free laundry cleaning option (soap nuts can be composted after using) would be a great choice. I ordered them, and waited with bated breath. Once I received them I place six soap nuts into the muslin bag, and tossed it into the washer with a load of soiled clothing. When I pulled out the clothes afterward they were, in a word, stinky. Not fresh, not pleasant smelling: yucky. The soap nuts had done nothing. I pulled up all the blogs that had sung their praises, and this time tried soaking the soap nuts in warm water, and then dumping the water and soap nuts into our washer: the result was the same, dingy, yucky clothing. We pay a dollar a load for our laundry so it made me a little mad to waste a handful of quarters on a few loads of dirty laundry. After about three tries I decided that for whatever reason they did not clean our clothes, and back to Amazon they went.

What we use instead: For a long time I was using Arm and Hammer’s Sensitive Skin Detergent which is not the best natural choice, but better than a lot of other choices. Then my Mom bought us some Norwex detergent which is paraben-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free. This detergent has been AWESOME. You use just a little per load, and our clothes come out of the wash brighter and cleaner than they have in a while! I feel really, really good about this detergent and I am hoping that we might see some improvements in my hubby’s psoriasis once I launder all our clothes.

Earth Paste: natural toothpaste

The more I read about natural dental care the more I realized we needed to stop using toothpaste with fluoride. Most of Europe has abandoned fluoride from their water because they have seen the ill effects of people consuming too much. I even read articles stating that fluoride weakens teeth and does not strengthen them. We finished our conventional toothpaste (bye-bye Crest!) and ordered a natural one: Earth paste.

I have seen so many bloggers rave about this tooth paste. I so badly wanted to like it! For one thing, the ingredients are all super easy to understand (Redmond clay, and essential oils). Many bloggers write about how it had even healed (re-mineralized) their cavities! I ordered the cinnamon flavor to give it a try. I tried to be sold on it, I even think I might have continued, but hubs loathed it. He didn’t feel like it cleaned his teeth at all. It really is just like brushing your teeth with sweet-smelling mud. I would get annoyed because I would squeeze it on my toothbrush and it would fall off on the sink. It isn’t very sticky so it is hard to get it from the toothbrush to my mouth. I felt like it did an okay job of cleaning my teeth, but since hubs did not like it at all I let it go. I wanted a natural toothpaste that we both could use.

What we use instead: we fell in love with a type of natural toothpaste that looks and feels like the conventional toothpaste we’ve been used to: Xyliwhite: Refreshment (get it here). This is the perfect toothpaste for anyone who wants to make the switch, but also wants a toothpaste that isn’t too different. This toothpaste foams like toothpaste, tastes like toothpaste, and sticks to your toothbrush like toothpaste. Xylitol is a sugar that actually strengthens teeth. We have happily used this toothpaste for the last six months, and I passed my last dental check up with flying colors. I also use OraWellness HealThy Mouth oil (check that out here) to floss with.

Thrive Market: a natural grocery website

When hubs and I started eating AIP, I had to buy a whole new pantry full of coconut milk, kelp noodles, cassava flour, and more. I did a ton of research to figure out how to afford this on a newlywed budget, and I kept coming across bloggers mentioning Thrive Market. Thrive is basically a Sam’s Club for natural foodies. They offered free coconut oil, and a thirty-day trial so I placed my first order. Everything went great until I tried to close my account before the thirty days were up. There is no where on the website that allows you to deactivate your account. You have to personally email Thrive and ask to be removed, and I exchanged about two emails with a Thrive employee who did everything in her power to keep me a member before she finally deactivated my account. I don’t usually get super frustrated at companies, but this experience made me mad. I finally got my account deactivated, but a quick search in the Better Business Bureau revealed that a lot of people have logged complaints against Thrive: “Consumers also allege having difficulty cancelling before their free trial is up in order to avoid being billed, but their requests go unanswered and are charged regardless” (read the full report against Thrive here).

I really, really wanted to like Thrive, but the prices are honestly not worth dealing with a company I don’t trust. Sure, kelp noodles are a little cheaper than other places, but not radically less than others.

What I use instead: Vitacost has become my go-to for specialty grocery items. Vitacost offers a lot of things way cheaper than Amazon (Coconut Aminos, for one), offer free shipping if your order is over $49, and do not require a membership fee.

Water Kefir: a probiotic-rich beverage

In my one ill-fated Thrive Market order, I selected a water kefir kit. I was so excited to get started on water kefir, and I placed the grains in some sugar-water to hydrate them for a few days. Unfortunately, life got away from me, and I let them hydrate two days too long. When I finally got around to straining the grains out of the water there were little flecks of mold on the top of the sugar water. So much for my water kefir kit. I dumped it out.

What I use instead: If you leave kombucha too long it doesn’t get moldy, it turns into vinegar which I just use in salad dressing: no harm, no foul! I still want to try water and/or coconut kefir at some point, but next time I will stick to the instruction and not let it go too long.

Raw African Black Soap: gentle body soap

I stumbled across this weird-looking soap when I was searching for some gentle soap for my hubby’s skin. I read so many great reviews (including people who said it helped clear up their eczema) that I ordered it right away. It came in a big block that looked sorta like moldy banana bread. It smelled…strange. There really is no smell to compare it to. It lathered, but the smell hung around. It didn’t really help hubby’s skin at all, and we still have half a block left somewhere (anyone want it?).

What I use instead: We’ve been using Kirk’s Castile soap which seems to be gentle enough for hubs to use.

Bamboo Charcoal Body Sponges: skin-clarifying sponges

These sponges boasted of clearing up some lucky soul’s psoriasis. They did not help us at all. They ended up being very light weight weird little sponges that hung by a piece of thread in our shower, and we both avoided like the plague. Give me an old-fashioned wash cloth any day.

What I use instead: An old-fashioned wash cloth.

It’s a Journey…

There have been many funny moments throughout our journey towards a healthy home. I am constantly trying new products, foods, and supplements so there are bound to be items that do not work as expected. And, no, if you come to visit us I won’t make you use banana bread soap in the shower, brush your teeth with clay or wash your laundry with nuts. I might, however, insist you take a sip of kombucha, because that stuff is tasty.

Have you tried any natural living products that didn’t work for you?

16 thoughts on “Natural Products I Loathe (and what we use instead)”

  1. I just love this post so much. I can’t stand it when so many people rave about certain items that you never hear any downsides to these items or get balanced reviews. And kombucha is so good! Eventually, if/when I’m able to keep up with caring for it, I’d love to get a scoby and make my own homemade kombucha.

  2. Bethany, I’ve used many of the various formulations/flavors of Tom’s of Maine toothpastes, and my current favorite is the Tom’s peppermint flavor sls-free fluoride-free Botanically Bright whitening toothpaste with bee propolis and xylitol. “Regular” toothpastes make my lips peel and Crest does that AND roughs up the inside of my mouth and makes it peel! It’s definitely worth it to me to use natural products. I’ve used Seventh Generation laundry liquid and dishwashing liquid for years, too. Great products.

  3. We try to be all chemical free as well–and as close to natural as possible! I agree with the soap nuts–I am not a fan! I do however love Charlie’s Soap. We use it for our cloth diapers. Have you heard of Norwex cleaning products? You might really like them. It is just cleaning with water!

    It is so frustrating trying to find natural products that are not only natural (as they claim) but actually work. My husband still insists on using Dawn and it drives me nuts! So glad I found your blog!

  4. Bethie,
    I just love this post. I really learned a lot, and you made your stories interesting and compelling. I’m sharing it and will be checking out some of these natural alternatives to the nasty chemical-laden stuff I take so for granted!

  5. Haha, great post! My worst experience in the crazy crunchy world was with an all natural 4 ingredient sunscreen bar sold at our local farmer’s market. On our family trip to the lake, I confidently rubbed the sunscreen bar on my body while my skeptical husband shook his head and sprayed himself with regular sunscreen. One of us got extremely sunburnt that day.

    And thanks for the heads up about Thrive. I’m a member and I’ve never had problems, but that makes me nervous for when I do want out. Yikes! I’ll be checking out Vitacost for sure.

    1. Oh, your poor skin! That sounds terrible, Katie! Good for you for trying, though. The only real way to discover if something will work or not is to just try it out. Some natural living things work great, and others don’t seem to work at all. I am glad you’ve had a good experience with Thrive, I had a decidedly negative one. Sigh. Hope you and your family has a wonderful Christmas!

  6. Ha ha love it! We have had some similar experiences. We are (sadly) not as committed as we once were. But we also still read labels and avoid many things. We both hated the natural toothpaste. While I was pregnant it made me throw up. Every time. So am excited to try your recommendation. Though I have friend who coupons and just gave us like 6 tubes of toothpaste… I love goat’s milk soap. And my friend here makes a great natural kind. I struck out on a lot of the deodorants I tried, but I love Crystal body roll-on ( scent less). It’s not always foolproof, but it works better than other kinds I’ve tried. Any suggestions for shampoo? I am now mostly following the curly girl method and love it. But I’ve always had a crazy irritated scalp. Head and shoulders is all that keeps the itch and scabs away. 🙁 I’ve tried a couple expensive natural scalp shampoos, but they often don’t help and have essential oils I need to avoid while pregnant.

    1. Do try the toothpaste! We love it. And it isn’t too pricy, which is a definite plus! We get slightly more crunchy all the time, ha ha, although we do some decidedly non-crunchy things too. I, too, love goat’s milk soap. Although with hubby’s skin we are currently going soap-free, and just using the Norwex body cloth. Which has worked really well, still waiting to see if it will help his poor psoriasis or not. We sell Crystal body deodorant at the chiropractic office where I work! It does work fairly well.

      I don’t currently have a good recommendation for shampoo. We try to buy the more natural ones, but it is so hard to find one that isn’t filled with chemicals. 🙁 I did the curly girl method for awhile, and loved it, and then fell off the bandwagon.

      I will let you know if we discover any natural shampoo that we love!

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