For most of my life, clean meant synthetic fragrances like "Mountain Fresh" or "Spring Rain." Fragrances that lasted a long, long time and were pretty strong. I became sensitized to them. Two dryer sheets must be better than one!
Now, clean just smells like clean.
What is in a dryer sheet?
The synthetic fragrances in dryer sheets are overwhelming. And potentially toxic. A University of Washington study found that a total of 25 volatile organic compounds, two of which are highly carcinogenic, were released from a dryer vent in which synthetic dryer sheets were used. And what else are most dryer sheets coated in? Tallow, or animal fat. Why don't these ingredients have to be listed on the label? Because they are protected as "trade secrets" of the companies that make them.
So how can you make your clothes less static-y? Personally, I use wool dryer balls, and they're great! Not only do they cut down on static, they cut down on drying time. Etsy has many good options, but my favorite are the ones from Bog Berry. If you still miss the fragrance from the dryer sheets (but not the toxicity), then you can put a few drops of essential oil on your dryer balls before you thrown them in the dryer.
Another benefit to not using dryer sheets is less waste. Most dryer sheets are not biodegradable, and contribute to landfill waste and pollution in our environment.
What's wrong with my detergent?
Detergents also have a slew of synthetic fragrances, and even the "fragrance free" versions aren't innocent. See articles here, here and here. (Sidenote about fragrances: While going through old clothes, I found some that I haven't worn in over a year, and I wanted to wash them before donating. When they were in the wash, the whole laundry room stunk from the detergent I had washed them with MORE THAN A YEAR AND A HALF AGO).
My favorite detergent is not a detergent, it's a berry! Soap nuts (which are berries, not nuts) contain natural saponin, which works to break the surface tension of water and clean your clothes. (Here's where I get mine) There is no plastic packaging, which is another benefit.
How do you use them?
1. Throw 4-5 soap nuts in the little cloth bag that comes with your box of soap nuts.
2. Put it in with your laundry.
3. When you take your laundry out of the wash, take out the little bag (don't worry if you accidentally throw it in the dryer, it won't hurt anything!), and reuse the soap nuts up to 10 times. It's pretty easy to tell when the soap nuts are used up, they are dry looking, and shriveled, and no longer have the faint "fruity" smell that they do in the beginning.
4. When the soap nuts are used up, throw them in the compost.
Other laundry detergent options:
This detergent from Seventh Generation is pretty good. It gets an A from EWG's database of household cleaners, and the box is recyclable. It does include a small plastic scoop, so if you're trying to completely eliminate plastic, this might not be for you.
I hope everyone has had a wonderful, restful and happy holiday season! My husband and I have been spending time with family and friends, and trying to slow down a little (after all of the playing we've been doing for holiday concerts and such!).
Around this this season, we are all thinking about a new year of possibilities, and how we can make the year ahead a positive one. Are any of you looking to be a little greener this year? Are you not sure where to start, or how much you can do? Have you tried before, but not been able to stick with it? (Trust me, 'get organized' has been on my resolution list since I can remember. I get it :) Are you overwhelmed by all the changes you think you have to make in order to be "green"? Well, then this is for you! For 2014, each week we will focus on a single thing that we can do to be a little greener. It will be a step-by-step series, emphasizing small steps and building habits that stick.
The first post of the series will be next week, and will continue each Tuesday. Looking forward to a greener, cleaner year together! Come back to this post for a list of all posts in the series.
Why home-ec should be mandatory (There are a lot of kids out there, who will soon be adults, both girls and boys, who have no idea how to cook, or run a kitchen or a household. I think this kind of education can play a big part in a move away from overly processed "foods.")
So, in my last post, I talked about some reasons to green your cleaning routine. Maybe you've wanted to make some changes, but found the "green cleaners" at the grocery store to be too expensive. Maybe you've just been stuck in a routine, using the same products for for years because they seem to work.
But it really doesn't have to be expensive, or take more time, to clean without toxic chemicals. I use three things (besides water) to clean our house.
Vinegar, castile soap and baking soda.
That's it. Really.
Are you ready for some cleaning recipes? (I'm almost hesitant to say recipes, when you really only need one to two ingredients!) All purpose spray: One part vinegar to one part water. Optional: 5-10 drops tea tree and lavender essential oil. Tea tree is supposed to have some mild disinfectant properties, so I like to use it in the kitchen and bathroom. Toilet bowl cleaner: Baking soda with a squirt of liquid castile soap. This seriously works better than any commercial toilet cleaner I have ever purchased.
Soft scrub: Baking soda.
Mopping solution: One part vinegar to one part water. I have really horrible porous ceramic tile in my kitchen that attracts a lot of dirt, but if you have hardwood or bamboo floors, you may want to use less vinegar and more water. With a cloth mop pad, this cleans a thousand times better than those disposable Swiffer pads.
Shower doors: Vinegar. And lemons.
Glass cleaner: One part vinegar to one part water.
I wish I had a picture of what the cabinet under our kitchen sink looked like before we started making different choices. It was overflowing with dozens of different cleaners, each for a very specific task. We need those, right? Because what works on the kitchen counters can't possibly work on the kitchen floors, or the shower. Off the top of my head, we had:
disinfecting wipes * counter spray * fluid for our swiffer * carpet cleaner * bleach * soft scrub * magic erasers * bathroom tile spray * foam cleaner for the bottom of the shower * wood polish * disposable pads for swiffer mop * disposable dusting cloths * glass cleaner * toilet bowl cleaner
I never really took time to think why we needed all of these different cleaners. We just did. I had them growing up. The commercials on TV promised quick, easy and painless cleaning (which was never true!). I was too busy to try anything different. They disinfected, they worked, so who cared?
But when I moved in with my husband, space became very tight. Our house is small, and was set up for one person. As I scoured the internet for organizing help, I stumbled on many bloggers who used "greener cleaners" available at the grocery store. After some research, I decided to start using different products. But they were expensive. (And we had already been spending plenty of money on those conventional cleaners, trust me).
So we moved on to vinegar, baking soda, water and castille soap. And you know what? They worked better than the conventional cleaners. And the expensive "green" cleaners. I repurposed old spray bottles, filled them with vinegar and water, and a few drops of essential oils, and that was it. The vinegar cut through grease on the kitchen counters and the stove. It did an equally good job in the bathroom. Using a reusable microfiber mop with the vinegar cleaned our floors so, so much better than what we had been using before. I thought some of those stains were permanently etched on our ugly white kitchen tile. Nope!
Some common concerns about eco-friendly cleaning (that we had too!):
1. What if they don't work as well as the cleaners I'm used to? I am going to share a before and after picture of our stove top. It was obviously horribly dirty. And all I used to clean it was baking soda, vinegar and water. That's it. I use baking soda and castille soap to clean our toilet, and it has never been so clean. If you don't believe me, grab some vinegar and baking soda you have around the house (which is part of the beauty of the whole thing--you don't really have to go out and buy much!) and try using them for a cleaning task you would usually use the disposable cleaning wipes for. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised!
2. What if they cost more? If you go out and buy all the bottles labeled "eco-friendly" at the store, then you will spend more money. But if you simplify, which is what this is really about, and use things you already have around the house, you will end up spending a fraction of what you used to. I will do a separate post on cost comparison. Vinegar and baking soda are both incredibly cheap. And while a bottle of castille soap is initially a little expensive, you will use so little, that it lasts forever. I'm still working on a 64 oz. bottle from January, and I've barely made a dent. When I have to repurchase, I will buy the gallon jug to save on plastic packaging.
3. But the don't disinfect! We have been conditioned to think that EVERYTHING in our homes needs to be disinfected. But, we are now producing stronger, antibiotic resistant bacteria due to our obsession with cleanliness. Here is a link to information about a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan that concluded antibacterial soaps containing triclosan (at concentrations used in common household soaps) are no more effective than plain soap and water at disinfecting. Use hot soap and water!!
Now, if you're going to use these healthier cleaning methods, you should also think about ditching the paper towels. Once they are used, paper towels are not recyclable. And they come in plastic wrapping, which also ends up in the landfill. These problems still exist even if you buy recycled paper towels. (Some paper towel facts)
I must admit, I still have a roll around in case the cat throws up. However, for 99% of the cleaning tasks around the house, reusable cloth works great. I replace the one in the kitchen daily, unless there was a particularly gross mess, and throw them in with the towels in the wash. I don't find myself really doing any additional laundry.
In my last post, I talked about how we avoided plastic while traveling on our honeymoon to Ireland, so I wanted to just share a few pictures and thoughts about our trip...
There were sheep and cows and horses everywhere...crossing the road, next to castles, fields of sheep!
The Cliffs of Moher were stunning.
We really appreciated all of the abundant natural beauty that Ireland had to offer, especially in the West, and the Wicklow Mountains. I also loved how the people seemed to have a connection to the land that is sometimes lost where I live. (Everybody gets fresh eggs, most people knew the farmers where their meat came from). We weren't overwhelmed by advertisements...just the beauty of the countryside and the wonderful people that lived there.