Fabric Softeners Are Not Clean, Healthy or Green

Want your clothes to smell flower fresh? Please don't use fabric softeners! Instead, try adding a little vinegar to your rinse cycle and, if possible, dry outside.

Want your clothes to smell flower fresh? Please don’t use fabric softeners! Instead, try adding a little vinegar to your rinse cycle and, if possible, dry outside.

Before you use a fabric softener, please read this!

Most of us do our best to keep our homes and bodies free of toxic chemicals. We clean “green” and we try to eat as much organic as possible. But sometimes we don’t notice that products we use everyday might actually be very harmful to our health.

Take fabric softeners, for example. The mainstream fabric softeners on the market today contain nine known toxic chemicals ranging from Alpha-Terpineol to Pentane.

How do these chemicals get into our bodies? Most of our life is spent in clothes, right? Fabric softeners are designed to stay in the fibers of our clothes and “soften” them so they feel good next to our skin. Our skin is our largest organ and easily and freely absorbs whatever is in direct contact with it. Therefore it only makes sense that the toxic chemicals used to create fabric softeners end up in our clothes which then end up in our skin which then affects our entire body, including our central nervous system. The toxins present in mainstream fabric softeners have been linked to cancer, asthma, allergens, hormone disruption and more.

And no, it’s not just me who has made this connection.  The Environmental Working Group has been working on getting the word out, too. Here’s a great blog post they wrote abou the subject back in 2011: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2011/11/dont-get-slimed-skip-fabric-softener

What to do? Try pouring ½ cup of white vinegar into your laundry when it’s on the rinse cycle. No, you won’t smell the vinegar, but it will leave your clothes nice and soft.

Germs in Your Kitchen!

After you read this article, go immediately into your kitchen and clean your blender gaskets and veggie bins!

Thank you New York Times for another excellent piece of journalism.

Where Germs Hide in Your Kitchen

Beware of the blender: It may be a bacteria trap.

So says a new report that looked at the places and appliances in household kitchens that are most – and least – likely to harbor germs like E. coli and salmonella. The report found that some of the areas people considered most likely to be contaminated, like microwave keypads, were not, while some they had never thought of, like refrigerator water dispensers and the rubber gasket on most blenders, were among the worst.

The findings suggest that many people who try to keep a tidy kitchen may be overlooking some of the more problematic areas, said Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist with NSF International, a nonprofit public health group that published the report. The goal of the study, Ms. Yakas said, was not to frighten the public, but to provide some insight on the best ways to reduce the spread of food-borne illness in the kitchen.

“What we really wanted to do was to just make them more aware of these places that they might not have even thought of,” Ms. Yakas said.

Research suggests that the kitchen is a particularly important place to practice good hygiene. Nearly 10 million cases of food poisoning occur in the United States every year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five outbreaks of food-borne illness are caused by food that people eat in their homes. Leafy vegetables and other plants are responsible for more than half of all cases, and about a third of all the fatal cases are caused by contaminated poultry.

Most healthy adults can fight off such infections. But the elderly, the very young and people who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems have a higher risk of complications.

“Any one of these populations could be represented in your home at some time, so it’s important to protect them,” Ms. Yakas said. “As a mom with two little kids at home, it’s something that I worry about.”

For the new study, the researchers took swabs of a variety of common kitchen items in the homes of 20 families living in the suburbs of Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. They also asked people in the homes to rate the items that they thought were most likely to be contaminated and most in need of regular cleaning.

The microwave keypad was the area they considered the dirtiest. But it was not. Instead, the researchers found that refrigerator ice and water dispensers, spatulas, blender gaskets – the rubber seal at the base of the blender that helps prevent leaks – and refrigerator meat and vegetable compartments had the highest germ counts.

Water and ice dispensers, which provide moist environments that can breed micro-organisms, were often found to contain yeast and mold. That can be a particular hazard for people with allergies.

Refrigerator vegetable compartments were found to harbor salmonella and listeria, and spatulas were home to yeast and mold as well as E. coli. But perhaps the most surprising culprits were blender gaskets, Ms. Yakas said. They frequently harbored not just yeast and mold but E. coli and salmonella. The most likely reason is that people tend not to fully disassemble blenders before cleaning them or putting them in the dishwasher.

“A lot of people don’t follow the manufacturer instructions to take them apart and clean them after each use,” Ms. Yakas said. “People just take the lid off and put that whole jar with the base and everything into the dishwasher. So every time that you use it and it sees different food, it just gets more and more gunky.”

This may also be the reason some spatulas accumulate so many germs. Some are actually two pieces — a scraper and a handle — that can be separated. “If you put one hand on the scraper and one on the handle, there are two pieces that will come apart,” Ms. Yakas said. “That’s a place that can hold residue and old food, and we found people aren’t taking the time to pull those pieces apart and clean them separately.”

Can openers were another offender, probably because people tend to use them and then plop them back into silverware drawers without cleaning or even rinsing them.

Ms. Yakas said she did not expect people to be surprised that refrigerator meat compartments were on the list. But the compartments for vegetables are less obvious.

The report noted that it is not enough to wash produce. The findings suggest it is also a good idea to wash the areas where produce is stored. And generally, clean and unwashed produced should not be stored together. On its Web site, NSF provides some advice on ways to keep these areas and appliances sanitary.

Make Your Own Furniture Polish

Ok, I know what you’re thinking…who has time to even polish their furniture, much less make the polish. I get it. But like all the other nasty cleaning products on the market, furniture polish is made with petroleum distillates and solvents. And why would you want that on the gorgeous wood table you eat from every night or rubbed onto your favorite end-table or the legs of all of your chairs? Bleh!

Here’s the recipe: 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice.

Yup, that’s it. Just mix well, apply to a soft cotton rag and rub into your furniture. Your wood will glow and your house will be filled with a natural, non-toxic hint of lemon verus the toxic fumes from petroleum-based product.

Local Laundry Detergent

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 4.53.09 PMDid you know that one of the best non-toxic, chemical-free laundry detergents is made right here in Boulder, Colorado? Yup, the fine folks who started EcoProducts launched a fabulous cleaning product business a few years ago. They have all sorts of cleaning supplies, including a great laundry detergent. You can buy it at Costco at a discount or fill up your old bottle at the “filling station” at Alfalfa’s Market in downtown Boulder.

Here’s a link to their site:  http://boulderecocleaners.com/ 

I love that they also have big bulk sized containers of things like hand and dish soap. Check ’em out.