Is it really true that you can clean your home (and yourself) super-clean using eco-friendly ingredients like water, vinegar, baking powder, lemon juice and some other bits? Well yes, but the DIY gene skipped us entirely, and we’re embarrassed to say when the grot hits the fan (and that is not a metaphor), we tend to just reach for the super-strength stuff. Yep, that chemical-laden, awful-for-the-environment (and for you) stuff.

The dangers of the nasties that lurk in our everyday cleaning products isn’t news, and that’s before we even begin to grapple with the damage they’re doing to the environment. But when you live in a dusty bowl, how on earth is one to get by without them? Is there a way to clean, to stay green, and still keep your home (and self) gleaming?

The answer to our prayers came in the form of Common Oxen, a brand founded by Delara Damania, with a range of home and body cleaning products that are 100 percent natural and environment friendly. We caught up with Delara to discuss how Common Oxen was born, and to mine her for some DIY home recipes (for you, not us).

Tell us about Common Oxen:
The objects of our daily urban lives have become rather complex, our dwelling spaces increasingly alien, and we have a growing deficit of nature in our urban landscapes. This complexity of living coupled with our separation from nature has impaired our understanding of the cause and effect of our habits on ourselves and our environment.

Common Oxen was born from the belief that introducing simple and natural materials, with elemental processing, could begin to make our families and homes safer. We believe in offering honest and wide-ranging alternatives for reducing our dependance on mysterious, unsustainable, often dangerous chemicals that currently run most of our domestic lives. We don’t equate simplicity with austerity. We believe that there is delight and insight in effectively bringing the wealth of botanicals and minerals once again to our sphere of experience. We believe in proactively being transparent about our approach, ingredients and products.

How are the products developed and made?
Our raw materials are various botanical oils, butters, essential oils, highly biodegradable minerals, and many plant products – like oats, turmeric, ragi, neem leaf. After 5 years and more of formulating and constant feedback, we now have our own understanding of therapeutic proportion, aesthetic and experience that we believe in and would like to propagate.

For example, we will never make harder soap than we do – even though it is a common complaint from people who are used to synthetic soap. This is because in the cold process method the harder the soap, the more drying it is. In fact our softest soap is now our best seller! We realized that there was a dearth of a highly moisturizing and natural soap so we developed one from emollients like raw honey and milk.

The runoff water from all but two of our products can directly go to watering plants, and they take less water to rinse off. There are no synthetic foaming agents, emulsifiers, hardening agents, fragrance chemicals or colouring agents in any of our products.

Which products do you use in your home?
All of them. Synthetic cleaners haven’t made it through my door in many years. The deodorant is a year-round pleasure.

Does this eco-friendly lean influence your style?
Of course! I quite often sport the various-shades-of-earth look because I love natural dyed fabric. I love hand-spun, hand-woven fabric as well. I like imperfections, non-conformative cuts, often open seams – only handcraft can pull these off. I especially like how the clothes wear over time. Of course all three of Common Oxen’s laundry options are very gentle on such fabrics and help them last longer and softer.

At home, a lot of my furniture is secondhand, the artifacts are craft-based. The cookware is cast iron or stainless steel. Even the lighting is very much the one-person-one-light sort. And it is very soothing at night.

You come from a design background, tell us about how that influences the brand:
Product design drives our business. We take age-old ingredients and methodologies and design products to suit a wide range of contemporary urban Indians. This being a nascent field, we need to create our customers as we go along – so we design communication that brings attention to the lost art of being satisfied and delighted with natural ingredients and processes.

What brands do you follow?
Padmaja Krishnan, Daily Dump, Plantation House, Joe Ikareth, Navadarshanam, Dragonfly Organic Farms, Malkha, Women Weave, Ssaha, Metaphor Racha.

We know you are based in Bangalore, what is the city’s best kept secret for a first time traveller?
Early mornings in Cubbon Park. On a Sunday between 8 and 9am, head to the 2 enclosed acres of dog park (left of the Central Library).

Do you have any tips for cleaner living?
Eat organic, and eliminate the synthetics from entering the places you can control – your home and your body. You can’t complain about ill health if you earn well but grudge spending less than 5 percent of your income on organic food. You can’t call your home clean if you use dirty chemicals that are designed to be persistent. You can’t call your laundry fresh if it is reeking of synthetic perfume that disrupts your hormones, etc. You can’t call yourself an educated, responsible lover of nature while purchasing and dumping harsh chemicals into our waterways.

Any DIY home recipes for skincare?
Here’s a magical one for acne:
Take neem leaf powder, lime juice, and raw honey and make a tacky paste; apply it to the face for half an hour minimum. The paste should have enough honey so that it never fully dries out, and when done, you should be able to roll the mask into a ball off your face before throwing it into your compost bin. Apply thickly and religiously for 21 days –even if your acne disappears in the interim.

Discover more about Common Oxen’s products here.

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