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!

Clean Floors: Bliss to My Feet

I love it when my carpets are freshly vacuumed, and my hard floors are freshly mopped (as they are right now!). Bliss to my feet!

Clean floors are an important part of home health, especially if there are babies in the home who spend a good portion of their time on the floor. Those sweet little hands that crawl on the floor. . . they go right into the mouth, don’t they?

Shoe Removal

In addition to keeping floors much cleaner through the week, shoe removal contributes to a healthy home. Most parents are aware of the hazard of lead from paint, and its toxic effect to children. Since I’ve only lived in homes built after 1978 since becoming a parent, I did not pay much attention to these warnings. Then I learned that children can still be exposed to lead through roadside dirt that has been tracked into the home (roadside dirt generally has a high concentration of lead from exhaust residue which came before lead was banned from gasoline).

Of course, I don’t do a lot of walking along major roadsides. But it did get me thinking about what else might be coming in on my shoes. From the grocery store, and occasional public restroom, to the library and local farm for eggs and milk, my shoes go many places and must have an entire mini ecosystem of bacteria and filth living on them.

And so I began removing my shoes when I enter my home, and requiring my children to do the same. It did help that we moved to a home with new carpet around that time, and the No-Shoes-on-Carpet rule became so ingrained into my children that they are now self-appointed Shoe Police, ordering all to drop their dirty duds.

Large metal bins, placed both near the front and back doors, help contain the pile of little shoes and boots that now reside near the doors.

Cleaning Floors

  • Carpets: vacuum with a strong vacuum. For spots, first blot or scrub with plain water and a terry cloth rag (old wash cloth). If it doesn’t release, use a soap-based non-aerosol carpet/upholstery shampoo. I have had good results on both carpet and upholstery with Howard Naturals Upholstery Cleaner. Equal parts vinegar and water can neutralize urine odors.
  • Hard Floors: Sweep all loose debris from floors, then mop and wipe dry.

    • For vinyl, tile, and varnished wood floors, use 2 gallons warm water and 1 cup of vinegar.
    • For Linoleum floors, use 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap in 2 gallons warm water.

    I put the solution in a bucket, and wash the floor with a rag while on my hands and knees. I use an old bath towel to dry behind as I go. More difficult than a mop? Absolutely, but a mop is really just a filthy sponge that gets used and reused on floors without cleanings in between. If you have a mop where the cleaning rag can be removed and laundered between use, awesome! Since mine was the old sponge type, I chucked it in favor of a truly clean floor. I always have a laundry load of rags to launder together in hot water and oxygen bleach at the end of cleaning day.

Healthy Habit Challenge, February 2010

One of my goals in 2010  is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.

Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.

  • Household Chemical Avoidance: Remove the most dangerous plasticware from your kitchen; water bottles should be either glass or stainless inside. Learn which plastics are less of a concern, and how to treat them properly in my article Plastics: the Numbers Game.
    Next level: begin to collect better containers for food storage, such as glass. Canning jars are easily obtained, and fit well on pantry shelves and in the fridge.
  • Diet: Boost your immune system, heal your gut, and build your blood and bones with homemade bone broth. Read about my easy crock pot method for poultry and beef stocks in Bone Broth: Body Builder and related articles. Then treat your family with steaming bowls of French Onion Soup.
    Next level: research a local source for grass-fed beef; you will probably need to get in touch directly with the farmer, and coordinate the splitting of a half or quarter beef with several friends. The webite localharvest.org is a great place to search for a local farm, or contact your local chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.
  • Body Care: Replace your deodorant with a non-toxic version. Read all my product reviews, and why this is one of the most important products for you to replace in Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship.
    Next level: replace shower soap with a natural bar, check to see if your razor has a “lotion strip” with questionable ingredients, and suggest a better deodorant for your spouse. You can check ingredient lists against chemicals to avoid listed in my Consumer Wallet Guides (print, clip, and keep in your wallet for easy reference).
  • Environment: Rethink “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in the article Thinking Like Grandma. Then make kitchen recycling a habit by Creating a Recycle Center like I did this month.
    Next level: in addition to recycling rather than throwing away, think of ways to Reduce and Reuse in your home. Leave a comment on the Thinking Like Grandma article with your ideas!

What I’m Working on Consistency In:

  • all of last month’s habits! (still need to locate a houseplant; I guess it’s best I didn’t get one before leaving town for 2.5 weeks!)
  • need to look through all my plastics again, and then organize my over-abundance of glass jars
  • replenishing my freezer-supply of bone broth
  • using my new recycle bin

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).

Healthy Habit Challenge, January 2010

A fresh start is always so motivating. That must be why so many people make New Years Resolutions. One of my resolutions is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.

Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.

Healthy Habit Challenge, January 2010

  • Household Chemical Avoidance: Switch out a bathroom cleanser for a non-toxic alternative. Read my post Bathroom Product Change-Out.
    Next level: update your whole bathroom cleaning regime. Read my post How to get a Really Clean Bathroom and my series on Washing the Bathroom.
  • Diet: Get off to a good start each morning by making breakfast nutritionally sound. Read my post Breakfast: Off to a Great Start.
    Next level: focus on the quality of the foods you buy and prepare. Is your oatmeal organic,  your eggs free range (organic if available), your protein powder low temp whey or hemp, your bread sprouted, your honey raw? Do you soak your oatmeal, can you make your own kefir from raw milk, do you put butter on your oat meal?
  • Body Care: Choose hand and body lotion wisely. Read my post Body Lotion: Quench without Consequenses.
    Next level: go through your entire lotion cabinet and pull the ones with risky ingredients. Include all sunscreens and face lotions in your detective work. (Face skin care will be discussed in a future article.)
  • Environment: Improve your personal environment by letting some fresh air into your home. Read my post Indoor Air Quality: Home Smog.
    Next level: in addition to the open-window habit, tackle the other suggestions in the article: clean up your chemicals, install a CO2 detector, clean up problematic mold spots, leave your shoes at the door and wet-mop the floors weekly, and grow house plants.

What I’m Working on Consistency In:

  • presoaking, and putting butter on, my children’s oatmeal, and having sausage for them
  • making my own kefir from raw milk (only pasteurized milk kefir is commercially available . . . this is what we’ve been using until now. Great start, but I know I can do better.)
  • opening all three bedroom windows briefly each morning
  • adding some live plants to my home (I gave up 7 years ago after killing two for lack of sun . . . now I’m ready to attempt it again, and this time I’m armed with a kitchen windowsill. To all my local friends: does anyone have a prolific indoor plant they are wanting to divide and give to me?) 🙂

Bathroom Product Change-Out

This month, make it your goal to change over at least one of your bathroom chemicals to a non-toxic cleanser. This can be as easy as putting a “green” spray in your cart at the grocery store, or as resourceful as making your own.

When shopping for a pre-made cleaner, look for one with safe ingredients – and you’ll need to look up that product at the ewg database to kno. Although cleaning products labeled nontoxic, bio-based, chlorine-free, organic, phosphate-free, natural fragrance, and/or biodegradable sound great, they still may have nasty chemicals lurking in them.

Which product to begin with? I suggest changing the one you spray most often (and therefore are inhaling most). For me, this is my all-purpose spray. I used to be the Lysol Queen . . . no longer; now I clean with vinegar water or with fresh smelling All Purpose Cleaner from BioKleen. Read my series on How To Get a Really Clean Bathroom.

Alternately, you could assess which is your most toxic chemical by looking for Danger, or Caution warnings on the bottle. Of course, over time you’ll want to replace all your chemicals with non-toxic products, but if you replace just one spray cleaner or bottle marked Danger, you’re off to a great start!

What to do with the discarded cleanser? Contact the hotline of your waste management company; most have drop-off locations available for household toxic waste. Don’t be tempted to huck it in the trash or dump it in the toilet; both could cause toxic leaching into your drinking water for years to come.

How to get a Really Clean Bathroom (without asphyxiating yourself in the process)

Everyone knows how to clean a bathroom, right? Just grab your aerosol can of mega-disinfectant, spray everything in sight, wipe with a paper towel, swish the toilet with a brush, and shine the mirror with a fragranced blue liquid, and you’re done.

Perfectly clean. Or is it?

In addition to the sizable amount of grime left behind by this method, numerous toxic chemicals are left on the surfaces of your fixtures for hours or days. Not to mention all the dangerous vapors you had to inhale as you sprayed those products.

What if we cleaned our dishes this same way; some disinfectant spray and a paper towel for all the silverware and glasses after a party? Yuk, I’m not sticking that in my mouth. Although I never plan to put my mouth on my toilet, the same concept holds true: a soapy water wash is a cleaner clean.

It’s time for a new paradigm in bathroom clean.

A non-toxic clean:

  • Isn’t complicated, you’ll use items already in your kitchen
  • Can be much more affordable than using standard chemical products
  • Means you will remove the grime and odors, not cover them with disinfectants and fragrances

Read my post on Washing the Bathroom to get a blow-by-blow (albeit mundane) how-to on getting a really clean bathroom.

Step 5: Wash Toilet

  • With floor rag, wash the exterior of the toilet tank, continuing to rinse the rag in the bucket.
  • Pay attention to the area where the toilet is bolted to the floor. This make require multiple scrubbings to come clean. Wash as far as you can reach around the back of the bowl, and in all crevices.
  • The baking soda which you left in and on the toilet at the end of your precleaning will help to deodorize and scour away mineral deposits. Wash the entire inside of bowl, using the rag and soda to scrub under the lip where stains are not visible from overhead. Flush, holding tightly to rag to rinse it. Repeat soda scrubbing if necessary. For tough mineral deposits, a scouring stick will do the trick; removing the water from the bowl may be necessary to allow it to work effectively.
  • Once the cleaning rag has cleaned the toilet/toilet area, it is fully soiled, and should be laundered and disinfected before it is used again for cleaning. The solution in the bucket should be discarded and the bucket washed out.

Go to Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray.

Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray

For those of you who are worried about vinegar not being a strong enough disinfectant, a final spray of hydrogen peroxide should assure you that your bathroom is really, really clean. Or use my favorite: Thieves household cleaner from Young Living. Once diluted, it’s even cheaper per bottle than peroxide.

  • look for 3% hydrogen peroxide (easy to find at drugstores) and pour this at full strength into a clean new spray bottle.
  • purchase Thieves household cleaner wholesale from Young Living and mix with water as instructed on the bottle, to medium dilution.
  • after your bathroom fixtures have dried completely of the cleaning solutions you used, spray them with the hydrogen peroxide.
  • allow to dry without wiping it.

Go to Step 7: Natural Fragrance.

Step 7: Natural Fragrance

After using all these fragrance-free solutions, it is fun to leave a lovely fragrance in the bathroom as you leave it Really Clean. Read ingredient lists to find a room spray that contains naturally sourced ingredients, such as water, alcohol from corn, and essential oils.

Or better yet, make your own with high quality essential oils.

Spring Breeze Bathroom Spray
4oz water
pinch epsom salt
5 drops each: lavender, orange essential oils
3 drops each: Joy blend, peppermint essential oils

Mix in a small glass spray bottle. Shake before using.

Pumpkin Spice Bathroom Spray
4oz water
pinch epsom salt
5 drops each: cinnamon bark, clove essential oils
3 drops each: nutmeg, lemon essential oils

Mix in a small glass spray bottle. Shake before using.

Go to Step 8: Launder Rags.