Feathering My Nest the Clean Green Way

The concept of re-using things is certainly a “green” idea. But it’s not always a “clean” idea, as in non-toxic. Some old pieces of furniture carry an ugly past —mildew, lead paint— that can pollute your home if you bring them in unawares.

Recently I’ve been enjoying a number of DIY decorator blogs (like theinspiredroom.net and funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com), and with 6 weeks until my baby’s due date (and nesting instinct in full gear!) the inspiration has been enough for me to take action, scour craigslist.com for cool vintage items, break out the sand paper, and start feathering my nest. So how to balance a love for vintage items with a determination not to bring toxic stuff into my home? Here’s my go-to list:

  • Check items for signs of mildew (black spotting on wood) and odors. No smoke, mold, or animal smells welcome!
  • Check for peeling paint/other finishes, and be aware of work involved to restore pieces. There’s a real design trend for “chippy white paint” and “weathered finishes” but these are just asking for home contamination as they continue to wear.
  • When attempting a restoration project, be aware of the risks involved with both dust and chemical inhalation. Choose low or zero VOC products (paint), apply in a ventilated area, and wear protective gear.
  • Vacuum and wash/scrub all items with a rag and water, vinegar if needed, before bring into your home.
  • Clean up your mess as you go, so paint chips from old furniture, etc. don’t spread around your work area/home.

Want to see some of the things I’ve been working on?

Drawers

Old drawer used as a kitchen table tray

These drawers (3 of them) came inside this cute old cabinet which I snagged free off of craigslist. (Yes, free!)

Old cabinet

OK, so it isn’t so cute in this picture, but wait until you see my after photo (coming later…). The lady I got it from had scraped half of the paint off, and was done with the project, so I took over. I love the scraped look of the drawers, so with a thorough inspection and washing I brought them inside.

The first drawer is used as a tray on my kitchen table with a basket of napkins and glass bowl of flowers in it. It keeps things a little neater and gives the whole group presence.

Here is another drawer, which I’ve used to hold books in the living room. Love how it again gives presence to the grouping, as well as allowing them to be displayed upright on a trunk.

Drawer used to tidy coffe table books

(By the way, how do you like the architectural paper book covers? I’ve seen this treatment in Pottery Barn to simplify the random colors of a stack of books. My husband thought I was crazy to “cover up all the color.” Hmm, I’ll have to live with it awhile and see if I miss the color. )

Old Mirror

Here is another project that I got for free off craigslist (gotta love free stuff). I actually drove over to get this old mirror, and left because it was too decrepit, then thought, hey, free is free, turned around and went back for it. The lady said it had been hanging on the side of the barn. Oh my. Do you see where the mirror backing is peeling from the frame mirror pieces?

Peeling old mirror

It sat in my garage for 2 months before I figured out a brilliant solution: scrape away what’s coming off, and paint those areas of the mirror black. So, with dust mask and rubber gloves, and a vacuum to clean my mess and not allow it to spread, I scraped the backing off those side pieces. Then I carefully masked up the other areas, and sprayed it with black satin spray paint. It was not a low VOC spray paint (I don’t know of one, do you?), but I did this job outside, in a full breeze, while wearing gloves, a mask, and holding my breath for spurts, then walking away to catch my breath again. (A pain, but I think this is about the only way to do spray painting with a chemical awareness.)

Here is the finished product in my living room.

Old mirror new

Amazing, eh? I think so! This was a completely blank corner, so it’s really added a lot to the space.

Oh, and here are the books before being covered with paper. Thoughts on the difference?

Do you have some fun before and afters from feathering your nest?

I’m linking to a blog party on uses for old drawers at FunkyJunkInteriors and a linky party for inspiration at TheInspiredRoom.

Kid Water Bottles

Wanting to switch from plastic cups in the car to a stainless option for your kids? I was too, until sticker shock hit: retail on Kleen Kanteen’s 12 oz. canteen for kids is $14. 95. That would be for each kid. And you just know one of your kids is going to leave his at the park.

So I went shopping, online that is. I ended up purchasing the Green Sprouts Stainless Steel Water Bottle (12 oz.) from Lucky Vitamin for $8.20 (actually, it was 2 years ago and I think I paid less). The cap is a (safer) plastic, but the water sits in the stainless steel, so it’s hopefully not leaching anything we don’t want in there. (And I don’t recommend putting anything in it except water.)

The advantage of the Kleen Kanteen is that you can buy their sippy lid to use with the bottle when the child is small. However, we’ve found no problem with having our little guy drink from the Green Sprouts sports top when he was 1 year old. Both brands have the same non-toxic credentials:

  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride) free
  • BPA (bisphenol-A) free
  • Lead free
  • Phthalate free

I’ve been quite happy with the Green Sprouts bottle. They aren’t indestructible (my 2 year old flipped his top back and forth enough to recently break it from the strap) but still going strong after 2 years is good in my book!

Dish Detergent: Eat It and Breathe It

OK, so I don’t really think you should eat or breathe your dish detergent, but you could be doing so already.

Dishwasher Detergent

It is common for some residue to be left on dishes coming from the dishwasher, and while the dishwasher is running, a great deal of steam is being put out into your home environment. If there are toxic ingredients in your detergent, guess what you’re ingesting and inhaling?

I switched from “standard” Costco brand dishwasher detergent to a natural one a few years ago when I read that cancer patients should have their dishes run through the cycle without detergent to avoid the tax on the immune system. Well, I didn’t think taxing the immune system was a good idea for the rest of us either. So I tried a dish powder from BioKleen. It worked OK. I switched to the Trader Joe’s brand for a better price, and I think that it may be the exact same product (TJ’s uses other manufacturers in some of their private label goods).

After months of using these cleaners, I noted a few things:

  • Pro: there was no bleach odor coming from the dishwasher while it ran.
  • Con: the glasses began to have a white residue build up on the outsides (bottoms), and sometimes had small granules of white powder on the inside.

I could scrub that white film off by hand (totally planning to do this when the kids leave for college . . .) but the granules inside? We might be eating that if I don’t wipe each time. So recently I switched to liquid dishwasher soap.

A friend who had just switched to the BioKleen liquid dishwasher soap warned me that it wasn’t getting her dishes clean, so I bought the Seventh Generation product which smells like grapefruit.

I think it is working well, although I noticed that I have to rinse and brush my silverware clean of stuck-on food, as there are no granules to act as an abrasive for scrubbing them off.

It also looks to me like this detergent may be slowly removing some of the white film from my glasses, but I may just be imagining it.

When you look for a detergent, make sure it is free of chlorine bleach, phosphates, and EDTA. All are toxic, both to your home environment/family and to everything living downstream from you.

Dish Liquid (for washing by hand)

Here’s some good news: of all the soaps and cleansers in our homes, the liquid dish detergent we use for washing up by hand is likely the least toxic if it does not have Triclosan in it (the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system). Otherwise, this can happily wait for replacement until you’ve run out of your current soap.

I have been quite happy with the BioKleen Dish Liquid. Lovely fragrance, cuts grease but doesn’t strip my hands, and foams up well. Get it at 15% off from iherb.com; I get mine through my local food co-op/drop for greater savings.

Tip: In addition to washing up dishes and other kitchen surfaces, dish soap works well to get oil stains out of clothing (think butter and peanut butter stains on kid clothes). Dawn detergent is the BEST for this, as it is an awesome grease cutter, but it’s not a natural product, so if you use it avoid touching it to your skin. Use your dish liquid full strength on the stain, let set for half an hour, rinse in the sink, then launder. Dish liquid is far too foamy for washing machines, so never add it to your load or you may have a huge mess on your hands!

Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic

My 5 year old brushing his pearly whites.

Toothpaste always seems to be a top concern for people desiring non-toxic personal care products. It is the one product which we actually put into our mouths, and although we spit, we intuitively know some is getting into us. (Of course, the things we rub on our skin are in us too, but this doesn’t ameliorate the need to find a really great, non-toxic tooth cleaner.)

Before I dive into reviews on toothpaste ingredients and specific brands, let me mention that the dental products used, and even our “dental health habits”, have far less to do with dental health than does our state of nutritional health. A person deficient in the components needed to make and keep strong teeth (particularly minerals and the essential fats needed to absorb them) will have poor dental health, regardless of how often they brush and floss. Read Dental Health and Nutrition where I review Ramiel Nagel’s amazing work on nutrition and dental health. I thought I was educated on this topic, but this book was a real eye opener for me.

Toothpaste

My 5 criteria for a great toothpaste are:

  1. Non-toxic to overall health
    Ever wonder why toothpaste packaging warns not to swallow toothpaste? (Ha! tell that to your 2 year old!) Conventional toothpastes are filled with toxic ingredients, including Sodium Laurel Sulfate, paraben preservatives, sugars (why would we want to put our teeth to bed with sugar?!?), and synthetic flavors and colors. However, I consider fluoride (Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Monofluorophosphate) to be the most toxic ingredient in toothpaste; if this is a shock to you, read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  2. Works (get’s our teeth clean/is good for our teeth)
    So you’re wondering: if there isn’t fluoride in your toothpaste, how is it going to fight cavities? Xylitol, a natural sugar derived from birch trees, has shown to be even more effective and preventing and reversing cavities than fluoride, without toxic effects. Read more in Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  3. Leaves mouth “feeling” clean and breath fresh
    This is really an aesthetic, but still very important to our family! Fresh breath is a delight; and we want our toothpaste to be “all in one” with this included.
  4. Tastes good while brushing
    We’ve tried some nasty tasting pastes, and regardless of how great they may perform, we won’t be repeat customers. And our kids are keeping their lips sealed on this one.
  5. Not exorbitantly priced
    Is it too much to ask that the perfect toothpaste be under $7 a tube? Seriously, I have 3 children!

It has been a long road to find a toothpaste I feel confident in for its benefits while making our mouths smile for its flavor. My favorite, Spry by Xlear, is reviewed at the bottom page; others are options you might be considering.

Tom’s of Maine: this extensive line of toothpastes is widely available, and although most of the toothpastes have fluoride in them, here is one that doesn’t: Tom’s of Maine, Natural Antiplaque Toothpaste with Propolis and Myrrh, Spearmint, 6 oz (170 g). Unfortunately this does have Sodium Laurel Sulfate in it, which since it is derived from coconut may not be toxic but it is still harsh to skin/tissue/gums.  I used several of their toothpaste flavors before I began to avoid fluoride, and they all tasted fine, fresh but not very sweet, and somewhat chalky in consistency compared to “regular” toothpaste. Price: $6.73 retail, $4.85 iherb.com.

Jason has two reasonably good choices of toothpaste, Powersmile, All-Natural Whitening Toothpaste, Peppermint and Sea Fresh Spearmint Toothpaste; non-toxic ingredients, pretty decent flavor, but I consider it a drawback that there is not Xylitol in the formulas. Still has that slightly chalky texture from the calcium/baking soda polishers. Price: $6.99 retail, $4.71 iherb.com.

Young Living, a company that manufactures and distributes their own high quality essential oils, has 3 toothpastes available for adults, and a kids line as well.  The Dentarome Plus Toothpaste I have on hand for deodorant (see my post Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship). As a toothpaste, it tastes like you’d expect from the list of ingredients: slightly sweetened baking soda with some essential oils added. It does not lather. Price: $8.88, must purchase through a distributor.

Tooth Soap is the brand name for a line of dental care products based on a literal soap for teeth. The idea is that natural soap, like a natural olive oil bar soap, will thoroughly clean teeth. The company claims that glycerine, which is added to most toothpastes out there, is a negative for teeth, as it leaves a sticky residue. I researched glycerine, and it is a byproduct of the soap making process, and is present in natural soap. Although the amount of glycerine is likely less in tooth soap than in toothpaste where it may be one of the first few ingredients, I view the whole claim as a scare tactic, since their product must have small amounts in it as well. I have not used tooth soap, but a close friend has, and notes that it just tastes like soap (no fresh breath after brushing), and that the shavings can get stuck in ones molars. I have decided against trying this method, but this is for convenience/aesthetic/price reasons rather than toxicity. Natural soap is pretty non-toxic. Price: $25.95 per jar of shavings, which should last a person 2-3 months.

Tooth Powders are not actually toothpastes, although some are marketed for daily use, such as Christopher’s Original Formula, Herbal Tooth and Gum Powder, 2 oz. If you go with a Tooth Soap option, you will want to use tooth powder as an abrasive for whitening every few days.

Trader Joes has a wonderful Fennel Toothpaste, with Xylitol. It tastes like mild black licorice. It seems that the world is made of people who either hate black licorice, or love it. My family loves it, but we still prefer a mintier toothpaste experience, so this is not our favorite toothpaste. (My 2 year old actually does prefer this one as mint is a little too spicy for him still.) And what a great price: $1.99.

Tropical Traditions, a family owned company which has developed a fair trade business in Organic Coconut Oil for the native people of the Philippines, makes a toothpaste called Organic Teeth Cleaner with Organic Virgin Coconut Oil as its base. The other main ingredients are baking soda and essential oils. I have used this in the past, and it does seem to work to clean the teeth, however, it feels quite different from “regular” toothpaste with no lather and doesn’t leave a minty-fresh feeling after brushing (taste is very similar to the Young Living pastes, with baking soda being dominant). I believe it is a good option; we discontinued using it after bloodwork revealed a coconut allergy for me. Price: $6.50 plus shipping.

Xlear has a great toothpaste, my family’s favorite in fact, Spry, Toothpaste with Xylitol and Aloe, Cool Mint, 4 oz. It has a very high level of enamel-building Xylitol, and it tastes great, with a lovely, normal lather. There is not a chalky texture, and after brushing there is no feeling of dry-mouth that is common with “regular” toothpaste and most baking soda toothpastes. Price: $4.95 retail, $4.30 iherb.com.

(Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 offIherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off if you haven’t already discovered this great place for good prices on natural products.)

Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride

Though the average consumer may not know this, there is a significant debate about whether fluoride is good for teeth, and particularly whether it is good for the bodies attached to those teeth. There are highly educated, sincere individuals on both sides of this argument.

The American Dental Association is firmly on the side that fluoride is good for teeth, and harmless to people. On their website fluoridedebate.com, they state that at current water fluoridation levels, fluoride “is not toxic according to generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They further state that numerous studies have been done and “No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge.” Most dentists, trained and certified by the ADA, agree with this “generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They will point out to you that fluoride can re-calcify tooth enamel, even when applied to teeth that are beginning to soften/decay. Fluoride is the daily armor, and the last defense, for ADA dentists.

On the other side of the debate, scientists point to studies which link fluoride consumption (whether from water, foods, toothpaste, supplements, and increasing levels in irrigated farmlands) to many illnesses, including alergies, arthritis, low IQ, cancer, and diseases of the brain, bones, thyroid, pineal gland, immune system, kidneys, and reproductive system. Check the Health Effects page of the Fluoride Action Network’s site to read more in depth about the studies which link these illnesses to fluoride. If you check back on the fluoridedebate.com site, you can find that some scientists find that the data is open to other conclusions, or find problems with the data itself, such as lack of controls.

This is all pretty technical, and I won’t try to recount for you the many studies or facts related to this debate; you would to better to read this at the source. I am convinced that fluoride is toxic by the following:

Fluoride in Drinking Water came as Hazardous Waste

Only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in water; however, that type of fluoride has never been used for fluoridation. Instead what is used over 90 percent of the time are silicofluorides, which are 85 times more toxic than calcium fluoride. They are non-biodegradable, hazardous waste products that come straight from the pollution scrubbers of big industries. If not dumped in the public water supplies, these silicofluorides would have to be neutralized at the highest rated hazardous waste facility at a cost of $1.40 per gallon (or more depending on how much cadmium, lead, uranium and arsenic are also present). Cities buy these unrefined pollutants and dump them–lead, arsenic and all–into our water systems. Silicofluorides are almost as toxic as arsenic, and more toxic than lead. (From Fluoridation: The Fraud of the Century.)

Thyroid

Up until the 1970s, European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medication for patients with HYPER-thyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilized because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland – even at doses as low as 2 mg/day (a common total consumption level for those drinking fluoridated water). There is concern that current fluoride exposures may be playing a role in the widespread incidence of HYPO-thyroidism (under-active thyroid) in the U.S. (From http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/) Since Hypothyroidism runs in my family, and I am currently being treated for this condition, I have decided to avoid fluoride completely for myself and my family.

Liability Cover Up

In reading through arguments on both sides of the debate, I find that the best the ADA can come up with is to question the methods of study, point to studies which were funded by those making a profit from the sale of silicofluorides, and to state that fluoride safety is just “accepted scientific fact.” I look at this as a grand cover up . . . after all, what kind of liability would the ADA have for so many health problems, potentially even thousands of deaths, were they to face the facts in regards to the health effects of fluoride?

Xylitol to the Rescue

OK, so at this depressing point, I’m pretty ready for some good news. And we do have it. Xylitol, a natural sugar, even produced by our own bodies, can do that same amazing thing that fluoride can do: re-calcify tooth enamel. It tastes great (it’s a natural sugar, for crying out loud), and it’s easy to get into our diets: toothpaste, mints, gum.

Speaking of gum, studies consistently find that school children who are given Xylitol gum to chew reduce their incidence of cavaties, even if their other dental health habits are poor or non-existent.

Even if you aren’t as convinced as I am that fluoride should be avoided completely, the great facts on Xylitol should convince you to make sure this IS in your toothpaste on a daily basis! (Read Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic for my reviews on several natural toothpastes.)

While you’re at it, start chewing Xylitol gum: our favorite is the Spry gum, which comes in a tub of 100 pieces. Cinnamon and Peppermint are both yummy. (Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 offIherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off if you haven’t already discovered this great place for good prices on natural products.)

Natural Egg Dyes

I’ve been intrigued by the idea making your own egg dyes from foods. Artificial dye isn’t a great thing for anyone to be eating, and although we don’t eat the egg shells, in years past some dye has soaked through the shells onto the hardboiled eggs. So this year I decided to try making my own dye.

First I hardboiled 9 white duck* eggs (I have a chicken egg allergy) and placed the boiled eggs into glass jars. Then I made these dyes:

  • yellow: orange peel boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • pink: the juice from a can of pickled beets
  • purple (blue?): several large purple cabbage leaves boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • orange: dried outer skins from several yellow onions boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • brown: leftover strong coffee, with the grounds thrown in with the egg as well (I put some vinegar in with this for good measure, although some people don’t as the coffee should already be acidic enough to set the color)

We had several blue and green chicken eggs, as well as brown, which came ready-dyed from the hens. 🙂 So I decided not to attempt more blue and green colors. If you are wanting to add these colors then the following could be used:

  • blue: 1 cup frozen blueberries boiled in water, with 1 tsp. vinegar added for each cup water
  • green: spinach boiled in water, with 1 tsp. vinegar added for each cup water

You can see in my picture the array of colors in the jars. They are so jewel-like; the picture doesn’t do it justice. For several colors I did not have enough dye water to cover the eggs completely, so I stuffed some of the oranges, beets, and cabbage down around the eggs to raise the water level. Boiled orange peel smells heavenly . . . can’t say the same for the cabbage! 🙂

The eggs should be left in until you are happy with the amount of color, and then removed from the dye and dried with paper towels. It looks to me like the beet colored ones may be done tonight (after only 1-2 hours), but the rest will be going in the fridge in their dye overnight.

I will post a picture of the final product tomorrow!

My children thought the whole process was amazing, especially which kind of food we were using for each color. Of course, the event wasn’t the same as the dipping procedure we’ve done in the past . . . it’s more watch and wait, and less hands-on for the kids. (But it’s also less mess for mom to clean up!) They will get to help me pull the eggs out in the morning and dry them. If we had started earlier in the evening, we would have had time to use a white crayon to make designs on the eggs before their dye bath; maybe next year!

Update: Next Morning

Here is a picture of our eggs the next morning. (Left to right dyes: natural chicken blue eggs, orange peel, yellow onion skin, cabbage, beet juice, coffee -back, natural chicken brown -front.)

I was surprised that it wasn’t the beet juice that gave the strongest color, but the cabbage and onion dyes. I actually took the eggs out of the onion dye last night, leaving all the rest in overnight.

The yellow (orange peel) was a disapointment, with only a tinge of yellow staying on the eggs. Perhaps a naval orange isn’t the right kind of peel, but I think I’ll try paprika boiled in water next year.

We noticed that it was easy to make smudges on the eggs when blotting the eggs dry, so be careful, or rub with an intentional pattern in mind.

All in all, it was a colorful success!

 

Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship

I love deodorant, and wouldn’t want to be without it. However, it is the one body-care product that has been the most difficult for me to replace with a natural product. I have now landed on a GREAT product, and along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about sweat and stink:

Several things can make us stink:

  • foods we eat, especially onions, garlic, and fried food
  • toxins our bodies are trying to detox, especially medication
  • bacteria in the armpit area, grows well in the warm wet environment; a rash makes this even worse
  • hormones (I have not seen any studies to support this, but women I know of childbearing age -but not pregnant- seem to have the most difficult time getting deodorant to work, and it can vary through the month. I have also found that this kind of stink can stay in clothing, especially synthetic fabrics (petroleum based), leading me to believe that it is an odor expressed in oil, of which hormones are made.)

Ways to Reduce Body Odor

  • Shower and shave (women) daily, washing twice with a mild natural soap like the Tea Tree Mint soap at Trader Joes (2 bars for under $2).
  • Don’t wear a top twice between washes if there was any odor when you took it off.
  • Eat a healthful diet based on organic vegetables, organic grassfed meats, eggs, dairy, and wild fish/oil, and some organic fruits, beans, and whole grains. Avoid all foods fried in vegetable oils; eat only organic cold pressed vegetable oils without heating (salad dressing).
  • Onions and garlic provide important sulfur -a catalyst for heavy metal detoxification and joint health- in your diet, not to mention great flavor to foods. I would not avoid them for odor unless you know you will be stuck in the back seat on a hot day between two friends. 🙂
  • Your body detoxes all the time, and changing your diet to the above will greatly speed up this process. However, you may want to follow a specific cleansing/detox program to give yourself a greater jump start. I noticed when treating/cleansing/healing from candida that my sweat had a mildew-like smell (gross, I know). When I did chelation to remove systemic mercury, my sweat would change between smelling like sulfur and smelling like cigarette smoke. I can’t comment here on all the cleanses I’ve tried, but finding a good Naturopathic Doctor would be a great place to begin.
  • FAR Infrared Dry Heat Saunas are therapeutic for nearly any health condition except pregnancy, and the excessive sweating they induce is detoxifying and helps clear the sweat glands of odors.
  • Sweating through exercise is another way to detox through sweating.
  • Any kind of rash in the armpits can harbor bacteria growth. Treat your skin kindly, and avoid chafing.
  • Avoid all chemical exposures, specifically medications/pain killers.

I’ve also learned why deodorant is one of the most important body care products to change to non-toxic. Smeared onto freshly shaved (for women) armpits, where just below the skin lie the second largest grouping of lymph-nodes in the body, conventional deodorant is a toxic blend of glycols, petroleum products, parabens, aluminum (for antiperspirant), and synthetic fragrance. To pick on two of these bad boys: parabens have been found in 89% of breast tumors, and aluminum has been indicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Already in 2003 when I asked my traditional Ob-Gyn about antiperspirant, she said that the studies showed a strong link to breast cancer, and she did not recommend it’s use.

Armpits are designed to sweat. Sweat is a key process for eliminating toxins from the body. And if you notice, your skin that sweats easily also absorbs easily; think hands and feet. (I hear reports that people putting a slice of garlic between the toes can taste garlic in 5-10 minutes.) So skin that is an “outlet” for toxins can work the other way as an “inlet” for whatever is placed on it. Add to this the fact that the lymph nodes near breast tissue are an intrinsic part of the breast cleansing process (and often removed with mastectomies when cancer spreads to them), and we need to be very careful about what we are putting on our armpits. (Note: both men and women get breast cancer although men’s is less common, likely for more reasons than just deodorant. More men wear non-antiperspirant deodorant, and don’t shave, both factors that reduce their risk, but the other chemicals in deodorant are still a toxicity concern for them.)

I’ve tried a lot of “natural” products, and here are my ratings on them. Just to give you a picture of where I was starting from: I used Secret Antiperspirant for years, then became uneasy with the aluminum, and went to using my perfume as deodorant. I wasn’t aware that this was just as dangerous, as modern perfumes are synthetic chemical mixes. I felt that NEITHER the Secret nor the perfume lasted/worked well even on a normal (no stress/sweating) day (I’d rate them at a 6). Here’s what I’ve tried since then (scale of 1-10, 10 being works well):

Crystal/Salt Stick There are a couple brands for this type of deodorant.
Works:
6 for me, 8 for my husband (better than his old one)
Feels: different to wet it and put that in an armpit, but I got used to it. However, after it dried, there was a fine salt layer on my skin, similar to after swimming in salt water. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin, so this caused some chafing through the day.
Toxicity: I thought it wasn’t toxic when we tried it, but then found out that the “natural salt” used is Ammonium Alum, other names for which are ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE; ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE DODECAHYDRATE; and ALUMINUM AMMONIUM SULFATE; this shows as an extremely low hazard level on cosmeticsdatabase.com BUT with a 94% data gap: I think this means they don’t have evidence yet for this ingredient. But to me, aluminum of any form shouldn’t be on or in my body. So we don’t use this anymore.

Herbal Solid Stick Deodorants I’m grouping these together, as I can’t say that I found them to be much different than each other. Look for one without Propylene Glycol (antifreeze) and parabens, the other ingredients are usually herbs or essential oils that are mildly antibacterial or fragrant. The best of these that I’ve found is by Alba Botanica in lavender, it also comes in aloe unscented.
Works: 3-5 The Alba one shown here works about as a 5 for me, however, I’ve heard that others are very happy with this type of deodorant.
Feels: Somewhat sticky to me for the first hour or so, then no feeling, unless I sweat a good deal, then it feels slippery.
Toxicity: As long as these are made without Propylene Glycol, aluminum, and parabens, they are a very low toxicity concern.

Herbal Roll-On Deodorants I’ve tried several of these, as shown here. Avalon used to make one in lavender, which they have discontinued in favor of spray on deodorants (shown), and I thought that worked best of the roll-ons I’ve tried. I have not tried the spray, but it seems promising.
Works:
5-7 The lavender roll on worked about as a 7.
Feels:
Wet/slimy at first, dries to no feeling. Not as sticky as the solids if I sweat later in the day.
Toxicity:
Read the ingredients, but these are usually a very low toxicity concern, if made with essential oils, glycerin, and no parabens.

Baking Soda Some people have found this old fashioned remedy to work well for them. It is drying, anti-bacterial, and odor absorbing. Powder onto freshly showered/dried skin. If this seems to work well for you, but you would like an easier way to apply it, check out the recipe adding coconut oil on PassionateHomemaking.
Works: 7, however, a downside can be white rubbing onto dark clothing.
Feels: I have found, with my ultra sensitive skin, that soda causes chafing, initiating a rash. However, others do well with this.
Toxicity: Very low toxicity.

Essential Oil of Lavender Yes, just a few drops of the straight oil, rubbed with fingertips into the armpit. I came upon this solution when I needed something to use while I healed a chafing rash. It is mildly anti-bacterial, and I had noticed that many of the deodorants which worked better for me had this in them. Also, lavender is very soothing and healing to skin, so it helped with the rash healing. Of course, the fragrance is quite potent in the pure oil, so not everyone would desire to use this, and I don’t on a daily basis. Whether the oil is covering/blending with oil based odor, or just preventing it, I can not tell.
Works:
8
Feels:
Warm when applied, dries to no feeling.
Toxicity:
I am not aware of any health condition which is contraindicated in lavender oil use. In general, essential oils are quite strong, and should be used with caution. Toxicity concerns would be quite low for this product if you choose an organic pure essential oil which is not extracted or extended with chemicals.

Dentarome Plus, from Young Living This is what I use on a daily basis, and feel that it works better than any natural or conventional deodorant I’ve tried. It is actually toothpaste, but the blend of essential oils, glycerin, and baking soda is a strong natural anti-bacterial and odor fighter. Young Living evidently sells deodorant, however the reports I’ve heard is that they don’t work so well (likely along the lines of the other reviews I have here). To apply: squeeze a small pea sized amount onto finger, distribute between fingertips of both hands, apply thin layer to freshly washed/dried armpit area.
Works: 9-10
Feels: minty, even hot when applied, dries to no feeling, and no residue rubbing onto clothing. At times when I have developed a chafing rash, I must discontinue using this as the soda gives enough friction to inhibit my rash from healing. One tube has lasted me almost 2 years, but next time I order, I plan to get the original Dentarome as well as this Plus version. The original doesn’t have the thymol and eugenol oils, which I think is what make it hot when applied; if it doesn’t work as well, I’ll just use it as toothpaste!
Toxicity: Young Living is a reputable company, so there is very low chemical/contamination concern for this product, however some of the essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy. I have used this successfully during my last and current pregnancies, as I don’t feel that I am taking this in therapeutic amounts. However, you must make this decision for yourself under the advice of your doctor.

Plastics, the Numbers Game

Plastics are really convenient, especially in the kitchen. However, there has recently been a lot of question about how safe it is for them to be in contact with so much of our food. The nation of Canada recently banned the use of PVC in baby bottles/cups, making it the first nation to officially acknowledge the growing body of evidence that shows plastics are making their way into our bodies.

Human hormones are nearly all manufactured (in our bodies) using fats, so it should come as no surprise that the addition of synthetic oils, such as plastic residues, can interfere with normal hormone processes. We would be wise to avoid these toxins much as possible.

Plastics of all types seem to leach into foods more when they are heated, subjected to harsh cleaning agents, and left in contact with wet or oily foods for extended periods. Some  safer ways to use plastics:

  • Never microwave. Ever.
  • Don’t place in the dishwasher, rather hand wash with warm water and mild dish soap.
  • Limit exposure to wet and greasy foods. Remember, plastic is made from oil (petroleum), so food grease becomes like a solvent for it, with the residue entering the food. Refrigerate/freeze wet or greasy foods in glass containers, rather than plastic bags.
  • When using plastic wrap over a dish, don’t allow the wrap to touch the food inside.
  • If you can “smell” plastic, you are actually smelling it off-gas. Avoid using actively off-gassing plastic with food, even dry foods.
  • Don’t store drinking water in a plastic bottle. Choose stainless steel or glass for your sports bottle.

Best Choices for Food Storage

The safest material for food storage is glass. Virtually non-leaching, it has stood the test of time. Fortunately, it is readily available, and inexpensive. Canning jars are an easy, flexible solution for pantry, fridge, or freezer. There are also several lines of glass products made specifically for food storage, some with snapping plastic lids (choose from the “safer” list on the lids, and avoid letting the food touch the lid).

Purchasing food canned in glass jars, rather than tin cans, is the best choice when available. Although tin is not considered toxic to humans (it’s a trace mineral we actually need in small amounts), most people in developed countries have elevated levels of this mineral, likely from tin cans. Of even greater concerns is the plastics used to line/seal tin cans; whether they are on the “safer” or “to avoid” lists below, it is likely that there was heat involved in the processing and the food has absorbed some amount of plastic.

Safer Plastic Choices:

Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated. Where do you find these numbers? Turn the item over and look for the symbol.

Plastics to Avoid:

Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.

What to do with these unsafe plastics? If the containers are useful for storage elsewhere (garden shed, etc.) consider reuse, otherwise recycle before they can be accidentally returned to use in the kitchen (baby cups).