Water. Life-sustaining water. Every living things requires it. Here in the West, a clean supply of drinking water is taken for granted. It's only when we don't have it (as happened recently in a North Island town) that we realise we have come to view clean water as a basic right.
So it seems rather petty to be complaining about the state of our town supply. A First World problem given that it is clean and free of most contaminants. It has not been used for bathing or laundering before reaching us. Animals have not laid dead it in for days. And we're not likely to contract cholera or typhoid fever from drinking it.
But it's also hard. And, at times, heavily chlorinated.
Recently my hair has appeared more dry and brittle than usual. When we first moved here over twenty-one years ago, I complained about the havoc wrecked on my hair and skin by the water. There didn't seem to be anything I could do about it, and so I learnt to live with it. Sure, I experimented but even the tried and true vinegar rinse at the end of hair washing made little improvement.
I toyed with the idea of a filter but DH wasn't convinced. A whole house system is expensive and there are so many other things we need to spend our money on when it comes to renovating our house.
But last week I was desperate. My hair was in terrible condition and no amount of oils or conditioner helped. I had some rainwater that I had collected a while back when we had heavy rain, and I took this precious water and used it to wash my hair. Oh the difference! My hair felt softer and cleaner, it looked so much shinier, and I had wurls (something between curls and waves) with absolutely no frizz. Not only did it look different, it felt different.
But my supply of rainwater is limited. And we do not have a rainwater tank. And the last time I put buckets out when it rained, our dog tipped them all over. Using rainwater regularly seemed an impossible proposition.
Until I had a brainwave. Or rather, I recalled reading a recipe a long time ago that was meant to soften and de-chlorinate ordinary tap water. All it took to make this "miracle water" was two simple ingredients: citric acid and ascorbic acid.
Citric acid I had in abundance. I use it to remove scale from our shower mixer, the glass shower walls, and our stainless steel sinks. It's cheap and readily available at the supermarket.
Ascorbic acid I had more difficulty locating. I considered buying Vitamin C tablets and grinding them up but the ones I looked at weren't straight ascorbic acid. Since their purpose was to de-chlorinate the water, I decided to go for another method - that of leaving the water to sit uncovered for 24 hours. I filled two brand new 10 litre buckets with water and left them to sit for a day. Then I stirred in 1/2 teaspoon citric acid into each bucket, added some hot water to take the chill off, and proceeded to wash my hair.
The results were the same as with the rainwater: soft, shiny, clean, tangle-free, and frizz-free. The downside with this method is bathing in tepid water (but that's a luxury compared to what we had to use when in Indonesia) and it's definitely not as convenient as turning on the shower mixer.
But the results speak for themselves and will, hopefully, compel me to keep this method going even after the initial excitement of experimenting has worn off. And if I can manage to buy ascorbic acid, I'll try adding it to my bath (once I've worked out how many litres it holds) and at least that way I can wash my hair in hot water.
For those interested, the recipe is 1/32 teaspoon ascorbic acid (apparently that is half a pinch) and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid to one gallon water. A gallon is approximately 3.785 litres, so for a 10 litre bucket which isn't filled to the brim, I used a heaping half teaspoon. Stir in and leave for four minutes (unnecessary if you've used another method to de-chlorinate the water) and then use.
I suspect this would also be great for skin that reacts to the chlorine in tap water. Okay, now I'm really going to have to get me some ascorbic acid to try this out on a grander scale.