Eco friendly experiment to find an alternative to cotton wool balls

Eco alternative to cotton wool ballsOver the last few years there has been an enormous increase in ‘single use throwaway items’ that not just have an impact on the environment but also our purse.

I like the idea of more self sufficiency, of reducing costs and living more simply, it is the smallest things that make a difference. It also gives me a little satisfaction in believing that I can help the environment.  When I was removing my make-up the other day I noticed that the cotton wool balls I reach for, were getting low. I decided to seek out an alternative that could be reused time and time again.

Eco make up remover pads

I like the idea of something pretty and useful – sewing is my first love so I decided to investigate making little make up removers using Terry bowling and left over scraps and some pretty crochet cotton.

Cut a circle of scrap fabric and another circle a little bit smaller out of Terry towelling. It is more cost effective to use a face flannel as they are cheaper than purchasing towelling by the metre. I had this green towelling in my stash so I used it, but the quality was not as good as I would have liked.

Simply stitch the two circles together, turning a tiny seam allowance as you go. Then use blanket stitch all round the edge followed by a single crochet trim.

The pads were very effective –  it takes only a few minutes to wash them under the tap and leave to dry.

However, I did find the quality of my towelling meant the pads were a little scratchy, best for exfoliating rather than make up removal.

Fabric alternative to cotton wool balls

The second experiment was with a cotton wadding – it seemed to have a similar softness of cotton wool balls but when it was washed it began to bobble – so it wasn’t going to last through repeated washes.

Eco cotton ball alternatives

So I turned to a crochet version using lovely fluffy wool called ‘coats virtuoso’ – they look pretty similar to cotton wool balls and feel delightfully soft.

This one is made by creating a 6 chain, then inserting two double crochets in each space, to increase the second round, followed by two treble crochets in each stitch in the third round.

However, it does make your ‘cotton wool ball alternative’ have big gaps between stitches so the best method is to simply single crochet as it creates a denser group of stitches, and a better pad.  Pattern as follows:

Its round -6 chain,

2nd round 12 single crochet into ring.

3rd round 1 single crochet into first stitch, 2 single crochet into next stitch (repeat to end of round)

4th round, 2 single crochet into each stitch.

finish and weave in loose ends.

Eco cotton ball alternative

As you can see the ‘alternative cotton wool ball’ looks very similar, and is delightfully soft to the skin. I used coats Virtuoso – it is a chenille type of cotton – that has just the right amount of fluffiness and is not too expensive.  The downside is that it is so fluffy you can’t easily find your stitches, but it doesn’t really show in the finished ‘alternative cotton wool ball’.

As it is 100 percent cotton these alternative cotton wool balls can be washed at a high temperature. I would recommend giving them a good wash and then letting them sit in boiling water for about 10 – 20 minutes every now and then to keep them sterilised.

They are very soft, and unlike real cotton wool balls – they don’t push fibres into your face and they can be re-used time and time again.

They are so quick to do – you can have a whole pile made in less than an hour.

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Bees wax wraps – perfect to use up fabric scraps as well as reduce plastic wrap!

Bees wax food wrap

This project has been the most fun and it can be a little addictive! We are all seeking alternatives to plastic, not just to reduce the mountains of plastic waste – as well as making something more sustainable and cost effective. These wraps can be made from scraps of fabric left over from projects or you can purchase some plain cotton cloth. It works best on thin cotton, used for patchwork.

To make a cloth you will need,

wax stips ingredients

You lay the baking parchment on your tray (believe me you need a tray! I did it the first time and ended up with beeswax running all over my ironing board!)

Lay your fabric wrong side facing and sprinkle the beeswax over the fabric, lightly.

Lay the parchment over the top and using a medium to hot iron begin to slowly work from the centre outwards.

plastic free food wrap lesson

iron from the middle outwards you will see the fabric colour change and the wax oozes away

You will see the wax change to a runny consistency and you can see the fabric slowly change colour as it soaks up the wax.

Keep working until all the fabric is covered.

 

food wrap - sprinkle beeswax onto fabric

sprinkle beeswax on fabric

This is far too much beeswax, when you iron on it it will leak everywhere! Not only that the wax is quite difficult to press under the iron.

Bees wax food wrap

Too much wax on fabric

You end up with too much wax and the fabric looks messy. The great thing about this project is that there is no waste!

Simply place this fabric between the baking parchment and let your iron slowly work the wax into liquid form. Move the wax away from the fabric and keep going until the fabric looks soaked and there is no excess of wax around it.

bees wax food wrap

melting the wax with an iron

 

You can do longer pieces in sections, moving across the fabric slowly. As long as you keep your baking parchment between the iron and the wax it will be fine.

Bees wax wrap

Bees wax cloth will cool quickly

The wax cools very quickly, when you peel the fabric off the baking parchment it will feel like oil cloth – it is quite stiff.

This is why it is best to use lightweight fabrics, heavier cottons such as furnishing fabric – takes more wax and makes the fabric stiffer.

Trim edges after waxing to keep from fraying

Trim edges after melting wax to prevent fraying

I use some pinking shears to finish off the edges after the waxing, it makes a nice neat finish. You can see the texture of the fabric in this close up shot.

 

The advantage these beeswax cloths have over clingfilm is that there is no transference of chemicals. Cheese is particularly vulnerable to picking up the chemicals in plastic.

The beeswax wraps are also washable, just use warm soapy water, (not hot) and use again.

The wax cloths are also very mouldable – use the warmth of your hands to smooth the wax around the object. I found this large wrap kept bread fresh.

eco friendly frugal gift wrap

These wraps also make a wonderful wrapping for some trickier gifts, without the need for sellotape. Not only do you cut down on wasted paper but the recipient has a useful object to keep food well.

bees wax yellow on baking parchment

yellow beeswax on baking parchment

This is a very cost effective project, using scraps of fabric and off cuts and the beeswax goes a long way.

You can get soy candle wax if you prefer – this wax came yellow and it has given the fabric a creamy colour – maybe there are uncoloured wax suppliers out there.

Do try and make your own – how often do you get to have fun and save the planet all at once?

ttfn x