by Roger Harris
Feel overwhelmed by cleaning tasks? There's one way to actually take
control over the toxins that may be stressing out your nervous system and
your detox systems stop using chemicals on your body and in your house.
You'll also be doing your family and friends a favor by not putting
chemical fumes in the air.
Smelly chemical cleaners leave behind a film which can make a person ill,
even if they're not the one using them. Second-hand cleaning chemicals,
perfumed detergents and fabric softeners can be compared to second-hand
smoke they affect others too.
Most modern cleaning formulas are concoctions of chemicals, many of which
are toxic. Furthermore, almost all of them have added synthetic fragrances
derived from petroleum, including known toxins capable of causing cancer,
birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions,
according to a report by the Committee on Science & Technology.
These cleaners have been banned from my house by my chemically-sensitive
partner, and replaced with non-toxic cleaning supplies, some which were
our grandmothers' favorites and others new to the market, such as
Enviro-One Green Cleaner which can be used for everything from brushing
your teeth to doing your laundry.
When our neighbors use fabric softener sheets in their dryer, which then
exhausts into the neighborhood air, my partner reacts with a headache and
dizziness. You just have to look at the ingredients in fabric softener to
What's In Those Dryer Sheets?
Benzyl Acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste
list and can cause central nervous system disorders
A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and
central nervous system damage
Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list
Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
Since our neighbors are used to dryer sheets, we've ordered them an
amazing new alternative Static Eliminator woven sheets, which
take static cling out, and soften fabric without any toxic chemicals. Since
we line dry our clothes, we reach for the baking soda and vinegar instead.
Let's start with laundry. If you're concerned with static cling, you don't
need to use dryer sheets that clog up your lint filter and your neighbor's
lungs. Just add about one-fourth cup of plain vinegar to your rinse cycle and
static cling will be a thing of the past.
If you want your natural fiber clothing to be softer, just add some baking
soda to your wash. It's also a great deodorizer in the laundry, as well as
in the refrigerator. A little on a sponge makes a gentle, non-abrasive
cleanser to wash dishes, the surface of your stove and the inside of your
oven. For baked-on goo, just sprinkle some baking soda and hot water on
the mess, leave overnight, and wipe off with a scrub sponge in the morning.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health's "Alternatives to Household
Hazardous Products," the problem is that "detergents are derived from
scarce petroleum, are non-biodegradable and usually contain chemical
additives such as fragrances and colors. Detergents cause more child
poisonings than any other household product. Automatic dishwashing powders
contain high concentrations of phosphates which, when released into
streams and storm drains, kill fish and other aquatic life."
For a non-toxic, biodegradable, fragrance-free dish soap, Seventh
Generation now makes a Free & Clear version for the sink and automatic
dishwasher. Or you can use the old favorites, Borax or baking soda, which
work especially well in hard water because of their alkalinity.
There are now many fragrance-free, chemical-free laundry detergents
available. Borax works great as a laundry soap on its own as well as to
boost brands such as Country Save and Seventh Generation. They're now
available in more and more supermarkets as well as health food stores. Or
opt out of laundry soap altogether by using Laundry Disks or natural "Soap
Nuts." Don't be fooled by national detergent brands that say they are
"unscented." They usually contain masking fragrance that can be just as
irritating to your skin, lungs and nervous system.
To kill mold, our favorites are vinegar, Borax, Bon Ami cleanser, or the
strong hydrogen peroxide solution in Ecover Bleach, available at our local
health food store.
To clean windows, just a small amount of vinegar and a squeeze of dish
soap in a bucket of water lets you replace those blue, ammonia-based
Opt For Fresh Air
We're lucky we live in Hawaii when we have a stinky mess. We don't need
air fresheners when we have tradewinds blowing in our open windows
24-hours a day. But for those of you who can't always leave the windows
open, turn on the exhaust fan, put out a bowl of baking soda, vinegar or
organically grown flowers - but think twice before reaching for commercial
Last fall, a group of environmental organizations -- the Natural Resources
Defense Council, Sierra Club, Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National
Center for Healthy Housing -- asked the federal government to start
regulating air fresheners. Scientific studies show they contain harmful
chemicals linked to asthma, developmental problems in babies, and cancer
in laboratory animals, according to the petition sent to two federal agencies.
The environmental groups complained that in houses, offices and restrooms,
Americans suffer significant exposure "to a veritable cocktail of
dangerous and potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. In cases
of mold and damp indoor environments, air fresheners may hide an indicator
of potentially serious health threats to the respiratory system."
One inventive alternative developed by a chemically sensitive individual
to freshen the air and reduce mold is the Hygenairer device, which fans
out a small amount of citrus seed extract into the room. Since mold can be
a huge problem in humid areas, we put one in our bathroom as well as our closet.
When in doubt for any cleaning task, use those non-toxic standbys of your
grandmother or experiment with the latest and greatest "green"
alternatives that we're lucky to see enter the marketplace.