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"How did you come to know such things? Ada Asked. Ruby said she had learned what little she knew in the usual way. A lot of it was grandmother knowledge. Partly, though, she claimed she had just puzzled out in her own mind. It was mostly a matter of being attentive."
--Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Avoid Household Toxins!

Save Money and Create a Healthy Home

From my maternal grandmother I learned to love the smell of roses around her porch, that the most relaxing activity is to help a child fall asleep by singing to them on your lap in a rocking chair, how to tie my shoes, tie yarn on a kite tail, sew on a button, and spend some time every day in prayer. My paternal Grandma was a Pennsylvania horse trader. She counseled me never to pay retail and to always be willing to walk away from a deal, because "likely you don't really need what most folks are selling."

If I want something I save up until I can afford it.

I learned how to clean my home with natural ingredients from books, especially Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berhold-Bond, where I also found the quote at the beginning of this section. I also found a number of interesting tips in Haley's Hints by Rosemary and Graham Haley.

I began doing research into non toxic products for my home because one day I noticed how much smoke a Yankee Candle® gave off. Not only was there black smoke on the sides of the candle jar, it was also staining the white wall on my lab desk. Looking closer, I could see little puffs of black smoke coughed up from the candle and travel up to the ceiling. I took apart the ceiling central air vent in the ceiling and it too was covered with black soot. I began working with our candle make at Aloha Bay to make the perfect burning all natural Palm Wax Candle.

I started to look around my home at other synthetic influences. First on the list of toxic killers were pesticides, followed by a number of nasty household synthetic cleaning chemicals.

I learned online that all our household cleansers contained chemicals that the Environmental Protection Area (EPA) designated as suspected or known carcinogens. The majority of them contained extremely dangerous substances (like ammonia, chlorine, phenol, hexane, ethanol, and formaldehyde) and can damage the liver, lungs, kidneys, and central nervous system. The saddest thing I read was that the greatest number of poisonings are from cleaning substances and 65% of the victims are under the age of six.

White paper towels and tissue contain dioxin, a chemical byproduct that is formed when chlorine is used to bleach natural wood pulp. Dioxin can cause immune suppression, miscarriage, and birth defects.

This inspired me to look for safer products. Now, some of my favorites are showing up in the better supermarkets, health food stores and online sources. In the beginning, as a result of switching over to cleaner, more environmental friendly cleaning products, I was spending more money. By using newer products and in some cases mixing up my own, I'm now saving half of what I used to spend. In Sustainable Savings* and Essential Prosperity* you'll understand why I'm thrifty. Some people call me cheap, but I've found one of the best ways to increase essential prosperity is to shop smarter and and spend less on the basics.

Cleaning with natural materials adds simplicity to my life. I use fewer products that clean more efficiently and take less time to get the job done. If a product takes me more than a minute to blend up myself, then I go to Whole Foods* and look for a natural commercial alternative. The 5 principles I use to decide whether to switch to a new cleaning product:

Switch a Cleaning Product, or Not?
  1. Save me money
  2. Save me time
  3. Not be an "eye irritant" or caustic so you need to wear gloves
  4. And not read in bold letters KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN--and I add, PETS
  5. Hopefully, be unscented and organic

As a result I've reduced the types of cleansers in my home by half and spend 50% less.

I prefer unscented cleaning products because for cleaning you don't really need the added scent. The 'natural fragrance' is just more marketing sizzle and I can't afford to throw essential oils down the drain. Also, you are paying top dollar for the essential oils in your products and you don't even know their quality or volume.

I've been in product research, development and marketing for 30 years and one thing I know for sure is that the big-business establishments operate based on profit motive. These include:

1) the corporate scientific medical industry (that currently publicly dismisses aromatherapy as a nonsensical fad); 2) the household cleaning products industry estimated at more than $100 billion annually in the US alone; 3) the natural food industry where green cleaning products totaled $50 million this year; or 4) the scented bath and beauty products industry which also makes billions of dollars and is developing, renaming, and repackaging aroma therapy products;

These companies are testing to determine one essential outcome: what is the most money consumers are willing to pay for a product? Corporate America is always devising new promotions to get you to want what they want to sell you and they don't care if they are healthy for you or not.

And just because it is a 'green product' does not mean it's better, or that you need it, or that the company that is trying to get you to buy it is any less mercenary than the mainstream suppliers.

These Small Things Add Up

Here's something to try to help you rid your home (and body-mind) of synthetic products and experiment with healthier alternatives and save money at the same time. We're going to look for places in your home to introduce safer, less expensive and more efficient products.

The first thing to do is to go out and buy a case of 12 Delta Industries Safe Spray Professional spray bottles. Usually you can get them at a hardware store. Ask for a 10% discount because you're buying a whole case or check Aroma Essentials. They have permanent measurements on the bottle and even a place to mark down what's in it. I use them for household cleaning, spraying my plants, freshening my dog and spritzing myself in my sauna and when I'm exercising. The cheap ones just don't last and the essential oils clog them up.

When you're just getting started don't throw out your commercial cleansers. Test them against your new or homemade cleaners. Most commercial all-purpose cleansers contain bleach, which is sodium hypochlorite (a moderately toxic chlorine salt) and ammonia, or butyl cellulose (a known neurotoxin solvent).

Bi-O-Kleen Oxygen Bleach Plus uses clays, vegetable fibers, and grapefruit seed extract. Oxo Brite Natural Oxygen Seventh Heaven, found in health food stores and many supermarkets, offers an effective alternative to bleach. Instead of ammonia I've found white distilled vinegar to be a better alternative. A good, all purpose vegetable-based alternative cleanser is either Dr. Bronners castile soap or my favorite, Cal Ben's Sea Foam Dish Glow Soap.

All Purpose Spot Removers

Spot removers are very popular with consumers. Consumer Reports* recently did a study that showed "most spot removers are not much better than ordinary dish detergent and water or 3 hydrogen peroxide, " and "aren't any better than inexpensive homemade cleaners." I have found this statement to be as true of just about every commercial cleanser.

Spot Removing Tips: ? General stains: use a dabbing motion rather than rubbing. For non-greasy stains, use cold water because heat tends to set the stain. Try club soda onto the spot and dab off with a damp sponge. If that doesn't work try 1 part rubbing alcohol to 2 parts water. ? Coffee stain: Dab club soda on the spot, sprinkle on some salt, let dry a minute and dab off with a damp sponge. ? Blood stain: Dab with soda water and sprinkle with enough cornstarch to cover the stain. ? Perspiration: Place garment in a bucket with warm water and 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. ? Red wine: Treat immediately by sprinkling salt over the area to absorb the stain and then wash with cold water and detergent.

Laundry Detergents

Now here is a very interesting commodity. I roughly calculated in the US alone 250 million Americans dump 40 pounds per year of detergent into our sewage systems. A recent study done in Canada demonstrated that at the end of the day the most prevalent scent left on a woman's skin they tested was not from her perfumes, makeup, bath soap, shampoo, skin conditioner, lip stick, not even her deodorant. It was from her laundry detergent!! It makes sense because you're wrapped up in your clothing all day.

There are new laundry detergents being launched by the big guys that are "hypo-allergic, formulated without perfumes and dyes, remove stubborn dirt and stains, two of the top allergens, dust mite matter and cat dander as well as certain fragrances, contains no phosphorous, are biodegradable and safe for septic tanks, in a bottle containing 25% or more post-consumer biodegradable plastic. #1 recommended by Dermatologists and Allergists." As a marketer, I admire all the language about the unique selling points of their product, but what I want to know is--is it good for me and our world or not?

At home I'm using Ecco Bella unscented laundry detergent. I prefer the liquid because our septic technician says its better for the system, and it works better than the commercial brand. All laundry detergents are oil-based products but the eco-friendly choices use surfactants or cleaners from vegetable, not petroleum oil.

Toilet Bowl and Bathroom

I have wood floors through out our house and use white vinegar in the toilet bowl overnight and to clean up around the toilet. Vinegar neutralizes stains and odors and dissolves the scales that make the ring around the toilet. It helps to draw the dirt out and fight mildew and the mineral buildup in a shower. Fill the bottle up to the top ring add 1½ teaspoon of liquid detergent and 3 teaspoonfuls of white distilled vinegar. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil or 6 drops of grape fruit seed extract to kill bacteria and mold. Then once a week I throw a cup of borax in the toilet bowl and leave it overnight. It also helps to remove any hard water mineral stains.

Wood Floor Cleaner and Conditioner

I replaced almost all wall-to-wall carpet with wood floors and a few throw rugs. I also switched over to radiant heat floors, which after my sauna, and soaking tub was the best health home investment. First I vacuum, then I sweep the floors dipping the broom in a diluted mixture of plain old soap and water. I make a lot of tea and save the used grinds and tea bags in a container and toss it into the refrigerator. I heard once that the fuller you keep the fridge the more efficient it is. I throw 4 gallons of hot water onto the leftover tea. Herbal or green tea spray is a popular and certainly the least invasive insect spray for organic gardens. So two gallons goes into my all purpose outdoor sprayer and two gallons into a bucket that I mix in a tablespoon of Cal Ben soap, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of vinegar and it picks up any left over dust, dog hair, or dirt the vacuum missed. I rinse the dirty sponge mop in a second bucket of hot water. After a very quick once I grab a second mop and add (2 tablespoons) food-grade linseed oil, and a little more hot water and give the wood floor a quick polish. I throw the left over tea grounds into my compost pile.

Wooden Dressers or Cupboards

Use the same formula as above for cleaning and maintenance, but include tea tree oil and 1 tablespoon of almond oil. Shake the bottle frequently to keep the oil dispersed in the water.

Wood Cutting Boards

>p>Vinegar wash is great because it pulls dirt out of the wood. Add 20 drops of citrus seed extract because it is odorless and gets rid of molds and mildew, to 1 cup of vinegar and then fills the rest 'Safe Spray' bottle with water.

Cast Iron Skillets

On my glass top cooking range I've switched to Teflon coated induction pans and glass skillets but since I still also have a gas powered outdoor oven/barbacque I still have the skillets my mother left me. I care for these antiques by spreading a thin layer of palm oil all over the inside of the pan. Place in an oven at 350 degress for two hours, carefully because it gets hot, every 30 minutes use an old fabric cooking mitten to apply more oil. From then on only use hot water without soap to clean the skillet. If you burn the pan, you have to scour with steel wool and re-season it.

Wool Carpet

Most commonly available carpets and rubber padding out-gas noxious fumes. The one room where I still have wall-to-wall carpet is my meditation hall. Its wool with the old style felt pad. We take our shoes off when we enter the house. I got into the habit when visiting martial art friends in Japan. However, Oz has snuck in there. He likes the vibes and tracked mud onto the almost white carpet. I rubbed some salt on the mud and let it stand for an hour while I meditated. Then I vacuumed it up and presto! no stain. Once a year I hire some help and do a spring-cleaning. I go out and rent a steam cleaner but instead of using their overly priced and toxic smelling industrial cleanser I use a cleanser by Infinity Herbal products called "Heavingly Horsetail All purpose cleanser". The guy who did the steam cleaning said it works better than the stuff he uses.

Window and Glass cleaner

After trying a number of products I asked a few professional window cleaners what to do.Fill the 'Safe Spray' bottle up to the ring at the neck which equals 24 ounces and add 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar. Use a squeegee to wipe. Using paper always leaves some residue on the window.

Do you know what kills more birds than airplanes, hunters, oil spills, cell phone towers, power lines, or environmental toxins? Glass is the biggest killer of birds. "Glass is ubiquitous and it's indiscriminate, killing the fit and the unfit," said Daniel Klem Jr., a Muhlenberg College ornithologist who estimates that collisions with glass kill up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone. "Buildings that we have created to be aesthetically pleasing are slaughtering birds. Klem estimates that only habitat destruction kills more birds.

When glass is clear, birds see only what's on the other side; when it is reflective, birds see only reflected sky and trees. Either way, they have little chance of survival. There are things that will help to reduce bird attraction and collision there are things we can still do around our homes and work-places to help our winged friends.

  • Observe your windows in the morning, mid-day and evening to determine "problem"times
  • Illuminate dark rooms at times when reflections are most prominent.
  • Use shades and curtains to stop reflections
  • Consider installing skylights
  • Don't hang bird feeders directly in front of large glass windows
  • Consider plant foliage in locations that would reduce window collisions
  • Maybe Ruby would suggest we all just let our windows stay a little dustier.

For tips on reducing window danger to birds you can go here: A Bird's Home. or here.

Top of the Range Cleanser

I finally got tired of cleaning the burners and every once in a while I would not turn the flame all the way off and walk away from the kitchen. I then began to worry about fires. Finally, I switched to an electrical glass top range. It has two induction burners that cooks everything in about half the time and an alarm goes off when I remove the pot to remind me to turn it off. I love it and just wipe it off with my general window cleaner.

Faucet Cleaner

Use the same window spray and sprinkle a little salt on a clean, damp cloth, rinse and polish with a dry cloth.

Non-Abrasive soft Scrubber

I use essential oils in almost every bath, and sometimes add fango mud, which can leave a grey residue. When I had a white plastic tub I'd sometimes find a bath ring that looked like some of the worst toxic waste I investigated in rivers next to industrial factories in third world countries!The only product that would get it off was Soft Scrub® which on the back of the squeeze bottle in about 240 words describes all the "Hazards to Humans & Domestic Animals." It also smells toxic. The best alternative I found was mixing ½ cup of baking soda with enough liquid soap to make a frosting-like consistency with a little cream of tartar, adding 3% hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. The all natural cleaning paste has never failed me. If a stain is especially bad I put some vinegar on a sponge and give it a good rub. Sodium bicarbonate is recommended for a soft, smooth feeling skin, helps to remove shampoo and conditioner buildup, and a basic deodorizer. If you happen to swallow some it relieves acid indigestion.

Inside the Refrigerator

Baking soda is alkaline, edible, neutralizes stains and odors, cuts grease, and can even dissolves wax. I keep a 1-pound box in the back of the middle shelf, replacing the box every couple of months but using it for other cleaning products.

Inside the Oven

The best and effortless non odorous oven cleaner is to generously sprinkle some water on the oven bottom, then cover the grime with baking soda, sprinkle some more water over it and let it sit overnight. The next morning the grease just wipes off. When you have cleaned up the mess spray it with your vegetable-oil-based soap mixture to remove any baking soda residue.

Microwave Cleaner

I bought a smaller combination microwave, toaster and roasting oven. I love it because it's easier to clean at eye level, and does anything but broil. To clean I put one cup of water in a microwave safe cup and heat at high temp for 2 minutes (or until it boils). The steam softens any dried-on food. After the water cools for a couple of minutes, I add a cup of baking soda and use a sponge or clothe to clean and deodorize.

Garbage Cans

Again, just pour enough pure baking soda to cover the bottom before replacing the garbage bag.

Automatic and liquid Dish Soap

Numerous studies have been done to show why electric dishwashers conserve water and the heat kills bacteria,but Philip Dixey of the Washington Toxics Coalition discovered that almost all automatic dishwasher soap contains phosphates, which are contaminated with arsenic. I switched to Seventh Generation liquid detergent I get from a health food distributor. We have a heavy calcium content in our water that leaves a chalky white mineral deposit build up in my dishwasher. Once every six months I put 1 tablespoon of citric acid, a white crystalline power often used to preserve food color in home canning in the detergent dispenser and run the machine (empty) though a short wash and rinse cycle. It dissolves the mineral deposits, which can clog up the filtering mechanism.

General Kitchen and Appliance Cleaner

I use vinegar and water with a couple drops of citrus oil. I like to use food items to clean in food prep areas. The vinegar removes stains and neutralizes odors, and the citrus leaves everything smelling fresh.

Garbage Disposal

One recommendation was to just throw in some citrus grinds but it made the sound of a helicopter about to take off. Now every time I squeeze any fresh citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangerine,) I throw the grinds in my Breville Blender one of my best appliance investments, add water blend and stick it under the sink to throw into the disposal any time I use it. Then ever couple of weeks I throw some Borax into the garbage disposal as a disinfectant.

Car--Interior and Exterior

Again, just use soap and water. I dislike the smell of chrome polish so I use the same mixture on the chrome as I use on my wood floors. Since I work with waxes I had a lot of fun with this one. I heat up a mixture of 1 cup food grade linseed oil, 4 tablespoons carnauba wax, 2 tablespoons palm wax, and a few drops of cedar wood oil and let it cool down and harden. Then on a warm day I let the wax soften a little and apply it to the car a small area at a time. Using the cup of vinegar, I dip a soft cloth in a cup of vinegar and buff and polish the wax to a high shine.

Caste Iron Woodstove

I have a real fancy and ornate woodstove I inherited when I bought the house. I don't use it much--its there for when we lose power in the winter. I wash the inside and outside with soap and water and then vacuum inside (when there is no hot ash of course.) Sometimes the outside needs to be touched up and I've found that powdered graphite you can get at the hardware stores does the trick.

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