Since starting the blog I regularly get people asking me questions about natural alternatives to products they use, or about something they have read in the news that has worried them. I have had these stored up in my mind but have been side-tracked by slugs, plastic and the allotment. But now it is time to stop being self indulgent and I have created a regular blog slot called ‘Ask Kirk’ where I attempt to answer your questions.
Today I will be tackling the following conundrums: how to get rid of ants without resorting to chemicals; what is the deal with arsenic in rice; and is there a natural way to deal with oily hair.
So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for the first ‘Ask Kirk’ blog post.
Natural Deterrents for Ants
When I started researching this one I realised that I had accidentally stumbled across the solution myself. We have had a population of flying ants living in the cracks around our front door for a few years now. When they all ‘hatched’ in 2017 I remember blitzing them all with bleach spray which certainly did the trick. This year when we started to see them I had already committed to using natural cleaning products so my wonder bleach spray had been banished from the house. Instead I grabbed the multipurpose cleaning spray that I make (white vinegar infused with citrus peel) and gave the area a spray and the kids spent a good couple of hours messing around trying to ‘block up their hole’ outside the house with leaves and twigs.
I remember thinking recently that it was strange that they seemed to have gone and I put it down to the kids actually managing to block up the hole, as unlikely as that seemed. However, it all now makes sense as apparently they can’t stand the smell of white vinegar and as an added bonus it doesn’t only deter them but it also covers up their scent trails.
All you have to do is mix equal parts of white vinegar and water, put it into a spray bottle and spray the solution around any entry points. Leave it there and wipe it up after an hour, repeating daily until they have gone.
If you are like ants and also can’t stand the smell of white vinegar, luckily there is another natural alternative. Cinnamon works in the same way with the smell acting as a deterrent for ants. Simply add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon essential oil to a cup of water, soak a cotton wool ball in it and wipe down any entry points.
Arsenic in Rice
A good friend of mine asked me to research this months ago and I have put it off for purely selfish reasons; I didn’t want to find out that rice had loads of arsenic in it and be forced to stop eating it. But like all these things it has been niggling at me so I finally got my act together and did some research.
So what’s the deal and why has someone been adding arsenic to our rice…? Well, it turns out that no one has as arsenic occurs naturally in soil. Luckily in most foods this isn’t a problem because the arsenic occurs at such low levels it isn’t considered harmful but this all changes when it comes to rice. This is because rice is grown in standing water which makes the arsenic more readily available allowing it to be taken up by the plant. This results in rice containing 10-20 times more arsenic than other cereal crops which isn’t ideal as arsenic is a poison and inorganic arsenic (the form found in rice) is a known carcinogen.
From what I can decipher, you only need to worry if you eat a lot of rice or if you have young children as low levels of arsenic may impact a child’s immune development, growth development and IQ development. ‘Luckily’ for me I have a completely unreasonable 4 year old who makes herself vomit if we attempt to feed her rice which means that no one in our house gets to eat it more then once a month.
If you do get the opportunity to eat more rice, from what I have read there seems to be a fairly simple solution but it requires that word which I dread; organisation… The most effective way according to some research supported by the BBC is to soak the rice the night before in a 5:1 water to rice ratio. This is said to reduce the arsenic levels by 80%. If you are unorganised like me and forget to do this, boiling the rice in lots of water when you cook it is also thought to help.
If you want to read more check out these articles from the Food Standards Agency and the British Nutrition Foundation. One of the things that jumped out at me from the FSA is that you should avoid giving rice milk to young children as an alternative to dairy due to the quantities of milk that they consume at that age.
Natural Solutions for Oily Hair
This is a bit of a tricky one for me to write as I have the opposite of oily hair. My hair is so dry that I could probably not wash it for two weeks and it still wouldn’t look greasy; instead it resembles a haystack most of the time. But we aren’t here for me to self indulge (again…) so, if I did have oily hair, this is what I would try.
The recipe comes courtesy of All Natural Beauty.
Balancing Kaolin Powder Mix
Kaolin powder is a soft, white, cosmetic clay which helps to maintain a healthy balance of oils on the scalp and skin by attaching itself to oily and dirty compounds which can then be rinsed off.
All you need is 5 tablespoons kaolin powder and 150ml warm water. Mix the powder with warm water to form a thick, smooth paste and massage it into your scalp and hair, as you would a normal shampoo. Leave in for a few minutes and then rinse off with warm water.
Now, if this is like any of the other natural alternatives that I have tried it will take a while to ‘bed in’ so you need to be prepared to try it for a couple of weeks. I certainly found this when I switched to a natural deodorant and when I changed my skincare routine but it was well worth it.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
I would also recommend rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar as it helps to restore the natural pH of your hair and is a great treatment for your scalp.
You simply shampoo as usual and then slowly pour a cider vinegar/water mix over your hair, massage it into your scalp and then rinse it out.
I use 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar to a cup of water. I also recommend using warm water to make your mix else it is pretty chilly when you pour it over your hair.