Zero waste DIY: Calendula oil

My favorite thing so far about this project has been the excuse it’s given me to attempt to recreate products I use in a zero waste format. I like trying new things, especially if they seem a little weird, and it also makes me happy that I’m cutting out a lot of the crap that’s added to XYZ when purchased at the store.

My handwritten notes! I actually have a journal to keep track of the project.

My handwritten notes! Irony: I have since made a recycled notebook. Poor timing on my part, really.

Here’s one that I’m particularly excited to share: Calendula oil (source). Basically you just need dried calendula petals and a carrier oil, like olive or sunflower, and a clean jar and lid. There’s a cold infusion and a hot infusion method — I chose cold — and that involves placing the petals into your container, filling it with oil to cover the petals plus an inch, and then leaving it in a sunny spot for four weeks. (I forgot to check the calendar, so mine soaked for five. Eh, what could happen?) Then it’s just a matter of draining the petals and storing the oil.

I’m only a recent convert to calendula oil. About a year ago, Johanna was complaining about itchy skin, and a talk with the natural foods lady led me to a bottle of the stuff, which is a powerhouse of awesome: It moisturizes, can be used to help heal cuts and burns, removes makeup, can be used for shaving … and the bottle also lists tattoo care, post-wax care and baby care. So basically anything you have going on, you can use this oil. And as far as expiration dates go, you’ve got an entire year. I like those odds.

It also is fairly expensive at almost $17 for 3.5 ounces. Not to mention the plastic bottle, the spritz nozzle, and the outer cap that protects an inner cap that it’s packaged in.

My little grocery might not have the most extensive bulk aisle ever, but it does have some pretty odd stuff. I was able to find calendula flowers without any trouble, and a quick search through the bowels of the internet gave hope that this was one project I could do on my own with some level of success.

This stuff is expensive, yet light.

This stuff is expensive, yet light.

So it turns out that these little petals ring in at almost $23 a pound. It also turns out that they are incredibly light. I filled up one of my small glass jars, and wasn’t necessarily shocked when the clerk rang me up at $10 and change. Until I got home and started thinking about it — there was no way I’d gotten a half a pound of those things, so what she really charged me for was the weight of the jar.

I HATE going back to the store and challenging stuff, but I did it. This checker noted that, once you take off the tare, the petals were so light they weren’t ringing up at all. We tried putting them in the cap, too. No weight was registering. I told her I was perfectly OK with paying for an ounce — that’s a mere $1.29 — but she ended up just refunding my money and giving me the petals for free.

Huh. I was not expecting that outcome.

Yadda yadda yadda, followed the cold infusion process using sunflower oil as my base, and then set it on the windowsill to do its thing. That was May 1. On May 30, I cracked open the jar, drained the petals, and found I had not only enough to refill my old container with bonus spritz feature, but extra besides. So we’re going crazy with the calendula oil in this household because why not, really. I’m using it as a makeup remover and facial moisturizer mainly, but I’m not above spritzing it on my legs and arms, too. It seems to absorb more quickly than lotion, so that’s a big plus in my book.

The oil at the start of its soak.

The oil at the start of its soak.

Now it's part of the decor.

Now it’s part of the decor.

Ready to drain!

Ready to drain!

Wow, that was a long explanation for a short little recipe. Words, you guys, they do what they want.

Next up: Stories! Probably.

10 Responses to Zero waste DIY: Calendula oil

    • I’m an English major and have no idea what I’m talking about, so I asked Abby, who is finishing up a year of AP Chem and is easily the smartest person in our household. She says that she feels like you could reuse them because you can reuse tea bags, for example, but the second soak wouldn’t be as strong.


      I assume you could also chop the petals in your food processor and add them to, like, a facial scrub or something similar … but it would have to be something where petals soaked in oil for a month wouldn’t ruin whatever it is you’re adding them to.

  1. I love this! Must try. I make my own “magic potion”, as my daughter calls it – just coconut oil, beeswax and a few drops of essential orange oil. I use it for everything and she was astonished at how quickly it heals the grandkids’ wounds. It’s the “magic mum” factor that is the key there .

    • Ooooh, magic potion! That’s a great story, actually — never underestimate the power of a mother who has an answer! 🙂 Any particular ratio of beeswax to coconut oil?

      • Wish I could tell you. I never follow a recipe for anything so I just wing it. Depends on how hard/soft you want it. The more coconut oil the softer it will be. I might suggest 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1/2 -1 Tbsp beeswax to start. If you don’t like the consistency then re-melt and add more of one or t’other.

        Going to try adding shea butter and different essential oils etc. to experiment.

        BTW – also an English/French (double major) with a graduate degree in theology. Have worked as a reporter/editor/chaplain/spiritual director with a host of other quirky jobs.

        • Hey, fist bump for the fellow English major! Except you’re way more legit than I am … I just have my bachelors, English major, history minor, it’s like I was daring myself to be employable after college. 😉 I LOVE being a reporter — it’s super fun to read / edit and write all day.

          I’m totally going to try this. It actually sounds similar to the deodorant I just made (had to go back and add some beeswax because it was so hot here it was melting) minus the soda and arrowroot. The consistency is lovely now. Plus I really want something in my house called magic potion. That’s just awesome.

  2. Depending on where you live, you can grow your own and harvest for use at a very small price. Trisha, I make an awesome wound salve and use 3 parts oil to 1 part bees wax. You may have to play around with it to give it the consistency you like.

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