July 17th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Confession time: When I was in college, I used to buy off-the-shelf carpet deodorizers with artificial lavender or tropical scents.
Before becoming eco-savvy, I never suspected these carpet “fresheners” were hazardous—or that I was breathing in a nasty dose of their residues as I vacuumed.
Read their labels today, and you’ll find unhealthful ingredients you don’t want to inhale. And newer versions, available as quick-dry foams, have propellants that contain propane and n-butane.
To avoid chemical exposure, go the do-it-yourself natural/organic route, which also turns out to be less expensive. Today’s DIY carpet deodorizer recipe calls for only two nontoxic ingredients:
- Baking soda, which absorbs odors
- 100% pure natural/organic essential oils for customizable fragrances
As with Wednesday’s recipe for DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Cleaner, the aromatherapy experts at Aura Cacia recommend using deodorizing essential oils like bergamot (a refreshing citrus), coriander seed (like bergamot, with a woody nuance) or lavandin (a cross between true lavender and spike lavender).
DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Deodorizer
- 1 cup baking soda
- 18 drops essential oil
- Mix ingredients.
- Sprinkle on carpet, and allow powder to sit for 10 minutes.
- Vacuum normally.
Read More:DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Deodorizer
July 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Household cleaners are notoriously loaded with caustic and toxic chemicals, so trading them in for green cleaning products is one of the first steps organic consumers take.
After a while, however, we tend to figure out that we can use common household ingredients like vinegar and fresh lemon juice to create do-it-yourself versions that get the job done effectively and less expensively. Add your favorite natural/organic essential oils, and you can customize your cleaners’ scents—an added bonus.
Today’s DIY carpet cleaner recipe contains only three nontoxic ingredients:
- Baking soda, which gently scours surfaces while absorbing odors
- Natural liquid soap (made from vegetable or nut oils)
- 100% pure natural/organic aromatherapy essential oils
Aura Cacia, a manufacturer of natural and certified organic essential oils, recommends using deodorizing oils like bergamot (a refreshing citrus), coriander seed (like bergamot, with a woody nuance) or lavandin (a cross between true lavender and spike lavender) in today’s homemade carpet cleaner.
DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Cleaner
- 1 cup baking soda
- 18 drops natural/organic essential oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid soap
- Mix baking soda and essential oil.
- Add liquid soap and mix, until a creamy paste forms.
- Apply to spots on carpet. Scrub and blot dry.
Read More:DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Cleaner
May 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Pick up a juicy lemon at your local natural and organic food store, and you’ll have a powerful green cleaner.
Lemon can be used to remove soap scum and clean/shine brass.
Here’s why it works: A lemon’s acidity breaks through soap scum and hard-water deposits, while providing a fresh and natural smell.
- Using a spray bottle, spray fresh lemon juice on tile surfaces to get rid of soap scum or hard-water deposits.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice on a cloth, and polish brass around the home.
Read More:Green Your Cleaning with a Fresh Lemon
May 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If you live close to your mom, show gratitude for all she has done over the years by tackling her laundry today—and consider giving her an eco-friendly cleaning makeover.
When doing loads of laundry (or stacks of dishes), remember to use less detergent. Appliance experts say many of the repairs they make can be traced to detergent overuse. Today’s appliances have been created to use less water in their cleaning cycles, so less soap is generally required.
Far too often, people equate “clean” with tons of suds, but too much soap can make dishes filmy and streaky and leave clothing stiff. Many environmentally friendly detergents are concentrated, which means less is required for thorough cleaning.
New laundry technologies and ENERGY STAR ratings also cut energy and environmental costs.
“Today’s clothes washers are much more energy-efficient than older models, and manufacturers are introducing new features like LG’s 6Motion technology, which cleans clothes while using less water and energy,” says Betsy Poczkalski, a home economist for LG Electronics USA.
With this new technology, a cold-wash option penetrates deep into fabrics, while providing the same performance as warm-water washing and using up to 51% less energy.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning
Read More:Give Mom a Green Laundry Break
March 23rd, 2010 - Laura Klein
Who says green cleaning is expensive?! Not when you follow my tips and use one of my easy do-it-yourself recipes. Any time you want to freshen up your eco-friendly home and give it a fresh, spring feel, follow these tips.
Because budgets are tight, why not start using the ingredient that doubles as a natural antibacterial cleaning product? If you are concerned about going green with your cleaning products and feel you need a product with the “antibacterial” label, think again. Michael Mullen, a Heinz company representative, references numerous studies that show straight 5 percent vinegar kills 99% of all bacteria, 82% of all molds, and 80% of germs and viruses. The only reason vinegar manufacturers cannot put the antibacterial label on their product is that it is not registered with the EPA as a pesticide.
Why buy pesticide-laden, triclosan-filled antibacterial products when this super inexpensive cleaner awaits your use? Make my Green Goodness All Purpose Cleaner with simple, affordable ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen cabinet.
Green Goodness All Purpose Green Home Cleaner
1 spray bottle
1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups of water
10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil, i.e. lavender, eucalyptus, jasmine (optional)
Fill your spray bottle with all ingredients. Shake to combine (and give a little shake before each use). Use to clean surfaces in and around the house like kitchen counter tops, refrigerator handles and appliances, to keep porcelain and fixtures shining bright. Follow with a clean cloth for a bright shine!
You can use the above recipe for some of the following household duties. Tougher jobs may call for straight vinegar:
- Clean and wipe down kitchen countertops, cutting boards and refrigerator and freezer handles.
- Clean bathroom surfaces (If you need some scrubbing action, put some baking soda in a bowl and pour some of the above mixture in, stir to combine and scrub away!)
- For stubborn hard water deposits on faucets/shower heads, fill a plastic bag with enough distilled white vinegar to completely cover the fixture and let it soak overnight or eight hours.
- Vinegar is a natural weed killer. Get rid of unwanted grass and weeds with vinegar. Simply spray straight vinegar (with a high percentage of acetic acid) on grass or weeds and watch them die! If you use culinary vinegar it may not work as fast and may need repeat applications.
- Freshen air and remove odors. When you cook fish put out a small bowl of vinegar and it will devour the smell by the next day!
Bonus Eco Tip: Do you want your home to smell like a spa? Dump the conventional air fresheners and grab your essential oil burner and burn your favorite oil like lavender or eucalyptus.
Eco Friendly Vinegar Shopping Tip
When shopping for vinegar, look for distilled white vinegar brands made from grain (there are several organic versions on the market). Some white vinegar comes from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource, so be sure to avoid those.
Read More:5 Easy Green Cleaning Tips That Use Vinegar
February 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Martha Stewart has introduced a new line of green cleaning products, which will be sold in partnership with The Home Depot and Giant Eagle supermarkets.
Martha Stewart Clean includes 10 environmentally friendly products:
- Dish and hand soap
- Dishwasher detergent
- All-purpose cleaner
- Glass and mirror cleaner
- Carpet cleaner
- Laundry detergent
- Fabric softener
- Bathroom cleaner
- Toilet cleaner
- Wood cleaner
The products are 99+% plant- and mineral-based, and they’re certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program.
Each product also carries the Eco Options label, a Home Depot certification for products that meet specific environmental performance criteria.
The products provide “safe and effective cleaning solutions for those who are concerned about the environment in their home and in the wider world beyond it,” Stewart says.
Read More:Martha Stewart Cleans Green
January 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Skin irritations caused by chemicals found in toilet-seat cleaners appear to be making a comeback in pediatricians’ offices, according to a prominent Baltimore researcher.
“Toilet-seat dermatitis is one of those legendary conditions described in medical textbooks and seen in underdeveloped countries, but one that younger pediatricians have not come across in their daily practice,” says Bernard A. Cohen, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
“If our small analysis is any indication of what’s happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every pediatrician’s radar,” he says.
The causative culprits are harsh chemicals like phenol and formaldehyde, as well as exotic wooden toilet seats. Phenol has been associated with dermatitis and both second- and third-degree burns, while formaldehyde is a known health hazard and carcinogen.
Wooden seats—especially those covered with varnishes and paints—are a returning trend in bathroom décor, note Dr. Cohen and his colleagues in the February issue of Pediatrics.
Children can develop irritation after repeated use of a wooden seat or ongoing exposure to chemical residues. Dr. Cohen urges pediatricians to ask parents about home and school toilet seats and cleaners when treating a toddler or young child with irritated buttocks or upper thighs.
While dermatitis is relatively benign, many pediatricians may treat it incorrectly if they fail to pinpoint the source. This, in turn, can lead to persistent or worsening inflammation, with painful, itchy skin eruptions. Chronic skin irritation is also vulnerable to bacteria and may lead to more serious infections that require oral antibiotics.
“Some of the children in our study suffered for years before the correct diagnosis was made,” says lead investigator Ivan V. Litvinov, PhD, of McGill University in Montreal.
To prevent toilet-seat dermatitis, Dr. Cohen and his colleagues recommend:
- Use of paper toilet-seat covers in public restrooms, including hospital and school restrooms
- Replacing wooden toilet seats with plastic ones
- Cleaning toilet seats and bowls daily
- Avoiding harsh store-brand cleaners, which often contain skin irritants
Read More:Chemicals in Toilet-Seat Cleaners Linked to Skin Problems
January 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Eco-conscious editors at Woman’s Day magazine recently shared a new use for aluminum foil: Wad a sheet into a hand-sized ball, and toss it into the clothes dryer.
While the foil ball won’t scent or soften clothing, it does remove static cling—and it’s a great alternative to dryer sheets.
For an even greener solution, use Reynolds Wrap 100% Recycled Aluminum Foil. A 50¢ store coupon is available here.
Read More:A Great Way to Re-Use Aluminum Foil
November 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced The Household Product Labeling Act (S. 1697), which would require household cleaning products to carry labels that list all of their ingredients.
“Moms and dads have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in their kitchen cupboards,” Franken says. “When my wife, Franni, and I were raising our own kids, we were constantly concerned with what we used to wash their cribs, their pacifiers, the floors and surfaces they played on. This is just a commonsense measure to help parents keep their kids safe and healthy.”
Current law requires product labels to list immediately hazardous ingredients, but there is no labeling requirement for ingredients that may cause harm over time.
Toxic chemicals in household products produce harmful health effects—the main reason we recommend natural and organic options.
The bill would make information readily available to consumers. HR 3057, the House companion bill, was introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY).
From the Mind of Al Franken
Read More:Franken Introduces Household Product Labeling Act
September 22nd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
My dog-niece Charlie, now 4 months old, enjoyed several baths over the summer.
There have been only a few days of that familiar “stinky dog smell.” Luckily, Charlie enjoys a good shampoo and fluff, so there’s no battle in getting her into the sink or tub.
Many dog shampoos contain toxic chemicals, so it’s important to purchase green products.
Kimberly Delaney, author of Knack Clean Home, Green Home: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Eco-Friendly Homekeeping, offers these recommendations:
- Shampoo products should be made from plant-derived ingredients, with nontoxic preservatives.
- If the product is scented, make sure natural oils are used.
- Product labels should list all ingredients.
- Shampoos should be 100% biodegradable.
- Whenever possible, select a product with recyclable packaging.
If your dog has any acute or chronic skin conditions, consult with your veterinarian before selecting bath products.
5 Natural and Organic Dog Shampoos
- Aubrey Organimals
- Spot Organics No More Itch Shampoo
- Richard’s Organics Deodorizing Dog & Cat Shampoo
- Earthbath All Natural Mango Tango Shampoo and Conditioner in One
- TrueBlue Pure and Sure Puppy Shampoo
Read More:You Can Lead a Dog to Water…