Tea Seed Powder, Again

I am a guest author this week at Secondguru, one of my favorite local eco-lifestyle website for green and sustainable living ideas.  Pop by and read me wax lyrical about the amazing tea seed powder.

I mentioned that I am always looking for more ways to use tea seed powder, sometimes also known as Camellia seed powder.  The multi-use eco-cleaning product that I originally sourced from Taiwan to replace commercial dish detergent (no more dry hands from daily dishwashing chore!) has since become a must-have item around my house.

This is one of those days when the sun is bright and laundry dry so fast that I start looking around the house for more things to wash, with tea seed powder of course.

And this is how I hang my makeup brushes to dry, clutched along my window grilles with stainless steel laundry pegs.

If you have not discovered this wonderful natural cleaning product, it is worth a try considering its affordability at SGD4.90/kg (UPDATE 27 May 2020: The price has since increased to $6.20 for a 1kg pack),  I have shared more tips on tea seed powder uses and where to buy on Secondsguru!

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I wrote here how I started looking for tea seed powder to replace chemical dishwashing detergent and ended up loving it even more in my bathroom here as my shampoo and facial scrub.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

When mixed with water, it can produce just the right amount of bubbles to look like a detergent.  In fact, it degreases effectively without that slippery feel of commercial soaps that requires lots of water to rinse clean.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

I have since found the perfect container to upcycle into a handy shaker bottle that dispense just the right amount of powder for dishwashing.  The raisin tub I was using previously is dispensing baking soda now.

One of my main concern when switching to tea seed powder is its short shelf life.  It is best to use up within three months after the bag is opened, according to the packaging instructions.  Going by how little is required to wash my hair and the dishes, I need to have more uses for it to use up 1 kg packet every 3 months.

Here are some uses I have found so far :

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Makeup Brush Cleaner. Since tea seed powder has anti-bacterial properties, I started using it to replace diluted liquid castile soap to clean my makeup brushes.  I simply mix 1 heap teaspoon of powder with water in a small glass and run the makeup brush back and forth in the glass to release the makeup, grease etc.  Rinse the brush and repeat to ensure that it is completely clean of makeup.  Wrap the brush with a clean cotton towel and squeeze to dry the bristles slightly.  Hang brush with hair facing downwards to air dry.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Fruit and vegetable cleaner.  I got this idea when I saw commercially produced fruit and vegetable cleaner made with tea seed powder.  I have only used it on fruit and vegetables with peels like apples, grapes (still attached to stalks,) zucchini, carrots, etc. I soak them in tea seed powder and water solution for 10 minutes before rinsing clean.  Tea seed powder is not edible, so it is important to rinse the fruit and vegetables clean after soaking.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Cooking oil plastic bottle cleaner.  If you have tried washing plastic containers stained with oily food, you will know how difficult it is to degrease them for recycling.  The oil somehow finds a way to cling really well onto the plastic surface and I often find myself running it with soapy water at least 3 to 4 times before getting them squeaky clean for recycling.  Imagine the amount of water required to wash and rinse the cooking oil bottle.  I end up discarding these plastic bottles instead of recycling them.

Not anymore.  I mix tea seed powder with a small amount of water to form a thick paste and rub it all over the bottle. I cut open the container to washing the inner wall.  Then I add more water to rinse and degrease at the same time.  The above photo shows how much water I used in total to degrease the bottle, less than 300ml, not bad for such an oily plastic container.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pastry brush cleaner.  Again, tea seed powder shows its powerful degreasing properties with just one wash and one rinse.  I simply run the powder all over the greasy silicone bristles and add some water to form a thick paste, rub clean the silicone bristles and rinse.  Squeaky clean once again.

Tea Seed/ Camellia Seed Powder, 5 More Ways // Mono + Co

// Pesticide for plants.  I found this use stated here, here, here, so far only use once and the plants are still surviving.

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products // Mono + Co

Through the course of switching to more eco-friendly body and skin care products with less packaging, I discovered a few gems in my kitchen.  Here are 5 that have become my must-haves in both the kitchen and bathroom.

++ Baking soda : This has so many uses around the house that I have been buying the larger 1.81kg box from Arms and Hammer in paper packaging instead of getting those 100g plastic bottles from the baking supplies aisle.  Occasionally, discount stores offer the 454g pack at $1.  I will add a teaspoon here and there for its clarifying and exfoliating properties.  It makes a great foot soak too, for removing feet odours especially from after wearing not so well ventilated covered shoes.  Brownie points for its paper packaging that can be recycled.

++ Organic raw honey : With the 1kg tub going slightly above $20, this is even cheaper than my gentle facial cream cleanser which isn’t even organic.  Do honey’s natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties sound like a good idea for a cleanser?  While commercial brands of facial cleanser add honey as one of the many ingredients on the list, I am going for the 100%-honey-and-nothing-else method to clean my face when I don’t wear makeup.  I first learned about plain raw honey as cleanser from a local skincare entrepreneur at an eco-event.  Nothing to mix or cook, simply smear a thin layer of raw honey over damp face, leave it for 10 minutes and rinse off.  The first few attempts left a long trail of ants on my bathroom basin and counter, I now know better to rinse using more gentle action with less messy splashes.  I use only about half a teaspoon each time so the 1 kg tub would have last me really long if I hadn’t used it as food in the kitchen.

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products // Mono + Co

Until I can find a bee farm here, I will definitely end up with a plastic container after I finish up the honey.  I am starting a habit to reuse plastic type with recycling symbol #5 (Polypropylene or PP) instead of throwing them into the recycling bins since they are of stronger nature, able withstand higher temperature and thus has more potential for reuse.  As opposed to #1 (PET) from bottled water and disposable food containers which should not be reused and can be easily avoided by bringing own water bottles and lunch boxes.

The tub from honey happens to be a PP5, so off with ideas to reuse the nice looking translucent container.  The handle makes it a convenient non-hot-food storage container, like this honey lemonade I made with “ugly” lemons I bought off the shelves on discount.

++ Apple Cider Vinegar : I religiously start my mornings with a warm mug of water mixed with a tablespoon of ACV.  ACV is also my go-to ingredient for homemade facial toner after diluted with either plain filtered water or brewed green tea.

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products // Mono + Co

The ACV comes in 2 sizes and I buy whichever is on sale.  The larger empty glass bottle is reused as a water pitcher at home, reminding me to keep myself hydrated throughout the day.  I have kept aside 2 of the smaller size version, waiting for a perfect aha moment to reuse them.  Glass recycling is not as lucrative anymore anyway, so I might as well reuse these glass bottles instead.

++ Coconut oil : I bought coconut oil a few years back to make granola with a sweet smelling whiff of coconut, but the oil has since doubled up as a makeup remover.  I used to buy makeup remover with mineral oil to take off water-proof mascara, though I no longer wear mascara, this oil-in-make up remover thing got stuck with me.  While harboring thoughts of making my own makeup remover to save some moolah sent me to the kitchen pantry where my huge jar of coconut oil sat.  An earlier oil cleansing method attempt which I tried with coconut oil was brushed off as too troublesome since I ended up with the chore of preparing a pail of hot water and a greasy washcloth in the laundry.  However, the attempt taught me that coconut oil is indeed a very effective natural makeup remover.  So now, instead of going through the whole oil cleansing ritual, hot towel and all, I only rub the oil over my face to dissolve the makeup and wash away the grease and makeup with diluted liquid castile soap.  I did not come up castile soap + coconut oil recipe on my own, though I think the method of separate application is.  It actually came from a few sources (here and here) that gave instructions on how to diy makeup remove pads, I simply remove the need to buy (and discard) cotton pads and come up with my own 2-step cleansing process, talking about adapting for zero waste.

++ Tea seed/ Camellia seed powder : This year, I am adding tea seed/ Camellia seed powder to my growing list of natural body and skin care ingredients.  The powder was first acquired, after a long search, as a dishwashing detergent alternative that I have written earlier.  I am not sure why I had to have a hard time looking for this product here in Singapore, given its effective cleansing properties, affordable pricing and its popularity in Taiwan and Hongkong.  Camellia oil, on the other hand, is easily available in health shops here, marketed as a cooking oil that has an even higher oleic acid than olive oil.  The Japanese and Koreans also add the oil to their skincare regime.

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products // Mono + Co

As for the powder with natural saponin, it is simply the residue which would otherwise be discarded from the process of camellia oil extraction.  The factories grind these seed residues into a very fine powder that can be dissolved in water, forming a paste or mixture for cleaning purposes.  Camellia seed powder, unfortunately, has a very short shelf life; one year if the packaging is unopened and 3 months after opening.  And after mixing with water to form a paste, it must be used up by end of the day as the process of decomposition starts to take place.  Given our humid weather here, I have been storing the powder in an airtight container with its past life as the ubiquitous Chinese new year goodies container.

5 Pantry Items As Natural Bath And Beauty Products // Mono + Co

I also reuse dessicants found in Japanese seaweed packets to keep the powder dry.  On the right is an older packet I have been placing inside the powder for past few months and the newer one is on the left.  I find it wasteful to discard these palm-size packets that come with my Daiso seaweed sheets (and they weigh more than all the sheets added up!) so I reuse them in my cookie tins, tea leaves and anything that would thank a dry storage place.  They should be food safe since they come in direct contact with the seaweed sheets anyway.

Because tea seed powder needs to be used up quickly once opened, I have been finding ways to use them beyond cleaning my kitchen counter.  Like those pantry items above, camellia seed powder has crept into my bathroom as skin/hair care products.  Take note that when using tea seed powder as shampoo or facial cleanser, always be careful not to let it get in eyes.  Like any product with saponin, they sting and irritate the eyes when in contact.

Shampoo

1 teaspoon to 200ml water.  Shake to mix in a squeeze bottle.  Apply to scalp, massage gently to clean, rinse completely.

User note: The first time I shampooed with camellia seed powder, I was sorely disappointed that my scalp didn’t feel squeaky clean like my kitchen dishes after washing.  The real difference came the next day, when I noticed that my normally greasy scalp was not oily at all. This kind of prove that the shampoo was working in its own gentle way; cleaning my scalp and hair without stripping away all the natural oil, so the body will not produce even more oil to compensate.

Facial Wash + Scrub

Because the powder is really fine, it makes a gentle cleanser and an even more gentle exfoliant.
Mix 1 teaspoon of tea seed powder with 60ml of water to form a runny mixture.  Rub gently over face to clean.  Rinse completely.

Facial Mask

Mix 1 tablespoon of tea seed powder with just enough water to form a mud-like consistency, thick enough to apply on face.
Spread mask on face, avoiding delicate eye area.  Leave for 10 minutes.
Wash with water, remember to keep eyes shut until all residue has been rinsed clean.

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Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

(Update 27 May 2020:  I have stopped making tea seed cleaning detergent this way.   Instead, I reuse a sugar dispenser , fill it up with tea seed powder and sprinkle it directly on the greasy dishes like this.)

Tea seed powder is what remains after the edible oil, more commonly known as Camellia oil (苦茶油), has been extracted from the tea seeds.  The defatted seeds are then crushed and milled into fine powder which contains natural saponins.  This makes the powder an effective yet natural cleaner and degreaser, perfect replacement for my commercial dish washing detergent, less harsh on my hands too.  You see, I love cleaning, but I don’t want my hands to look the part.

Although packaging instructions says to mix powder with water to form a paste for scrubbing dirty dishes, I kind of miss the “slippery feel” of a lathering detergent.  I also feel that I am using more powder than required for my usual load since I am not sure if the dishes are cleaned properly by just rubbing the powder paste on them.  Therefore, I attempt to boil the tea seed powder plus water mixture into a thickened solution that is easier to dispense and apply.  Although the tea seed detergent does not lather up like the commercial ones, the greasy dishes feel squeaky clean after a quick rinse.  There is no soap residue: the kind that takes forever to wash away.  With the water price hike effective this month, water bill saving is a selling point for me to switch to this homemade detergent.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have already used up two-1kg pack bought from a local organic shop, not only as detergent, but also in lots of other body care uses as shown here and here.  One important thing to note is that once the bag is opened, the powder will turn rancid fast and must be used up in three months.

Since the opened bag must be kept in a cool dry place, I choose to store the balance from an opened bag in an airtight container.  Prettier than a pouch clip on a slouching bag.  Lest you think that I diy the label on the plastic container, it is actually a label from another brand that I first bought from Taiwan.  So I have in fact used up a total of 3 kg todate.  Yes, it’s that versatile and effective.

As the tea seed powder solution will turn bad overnight, I have to make a fresh batch everyday for daily use, and discard whatever I can’t finish up.  I have since learned a great tip to make the detergent last longer without spoilage.  Revelation came somewhere between the second and third bag, and after poring over the ingredient labels of a few commercially available tea seed powder detergents : adding sea salt as a natural preservative!

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I  don’t have the exact formula or scientific recipe to the proportion of ingredients, but this is the ratio I use : 100 ml water to 1 tablespoon tea seed powder to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  I came up with this as it is easy to remember and it also happens to produce a pretty thick consistency after boiling.  If you find it too thick, add lesser tea seed powder for a more runny detergent.  Mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.

Here are the steps I use to make the detergent : first, mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.  I use a pot that I cook with, since I wash my pot with the very detergent that I am making, so there is no reason for me to use a separate pot to boil the mixture.  The powder is inedible though, so keep it away from children.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, the solution will slowly thicken.  Turn off heat and allow detergent to cool down completely.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tranfer detergent to a squeeze bottle or a pump dispenser, shake each time before use.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have been filling up a 600ml (600ml water + 6 tablespoons tea seed powder + 3 teaspoons sea salt) squeeze bottle bought from Daiso with my homemade dishwashing detergent.  A bottle can last me for about 4-5 days of daily dishwashing.

Another chemical household product eliminated, another eco multi-purpose cleaner in my house.  More on its other usage soon, especially as a shampoo for my greasy scalp!

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