Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cutting Back On Chemicals

It's becoming increasingly obvious to many people that there are an insane amount of chemicals in all of the beauty/cleaning/household products we use on our bodies and in our homes on a daily basis. Harmful, carcinogenic chemicals. When we breathe them or absorb them through our skin, they're going directly into our bloodstream. Yikes!

When I started to realize this, I decided to take it one step at a time and eliminate what I could as I went along. Below is a list of what we've done so far and the next steps I plan to take. I have a long way to go, but I hope some of these things inspire you to make a healthier home for yourself and your children. And I'd love your feedback as well, cause I'm just a beginner at this.

* Laundry Detergent: this has been one of my favorite changes. So easy, so inexpensive. Mix 1 cup Borax (Borax is not the toxic Boric Acid), 1 cup Washing Soda, and 1 bar of grated soap (I use Dove; others use Ivory, Dr. Bronner's, whatever). Stir it all together, then put 1 heaping tablespoon in your laundry load.
* Fabric Softener: even easier than the laundry detergent. Just put 1/2 cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser, plus a few drops of essential oil (I use lemongrass) if you'd like. Don't worry, your clothes won't smell like vinegar (once vinegar evaporates it doesn't smell).
* Dishwasher Detergent: this one is a work in progress. My dishes are coming out filmy, so I'm troubleshooting and trying some different recipes. But I'm determined to get this one right because the smells that used to come from my dishwasher when I used store-bought detergent were so chemically. Right now I'm doing 1 cup Borax, 1 cup Washing Soda, 1/4 cup Citric Acid, and 1/4 cup Salt. Plus vinegar in the rinsing agent compartment.
* Dishwashing soap (for hand-washed dishes): 1 cup castile soap mixed with 3T water and a few drops of essential oil (I use orange).
* Future Project: bathroom cleaners. It's going to be hard to give up my Lysol wipes, but once my Costco pack of those is gone I'll be looking for an alternative.

My overall practice now for beauty products is to look up what I'm currently using on EWG's Skin Deep database. It tells me if the product has toxic ingredients in it. If it does, I look for a better alternative. Although I'm nowhere close to phasing out all of the toxic products I use, these are the ones I've switched so far.
* Body Lotion, Face Lotion, Acne Cleansing Pads, Sunscreen, Self Tanner (Yes, a natural version does exist! The color doesn't last as long, but the tradeoff is worth it to me.).
* Shampoo and Conditioner: this is another work in progress. I haven't found a homemade version that works well on my huge mane, so I'll continue to look into that.
* Toothpaste: we're opting for fluoride-free and sodium-laurel-sulfate-free from Trader Joe's. I've heard that even that is is not ideal due to the glycerin, but it's a good step for us at this point.
* Future Projects: makeup, mouthwash

* Air Freshener: commercial air fresheners put carcinogens straight into your lungs. Not good. I've started putting essential oil and distilled water in a spray bottle and spritzing it around. For a more concentrated smell, use an oil warmer with a mix of essential oil and a base oil.
* Candles: most candles are made from paraffin (a petroleum product) or soy. I've thrown out all of those and will opt for beeswax whenever I purchase them.
* Plastic: I know, it's impossible to eliminate plastic from our lives. But we have cut back, namely on plastic dishes. I got little glass cups for the kids too, at a garage sale. They're so cute.
* Future Project: Sheets, Pillows, and Clothing. I had no idea there were so many chemicals in fabric, especially flame-retardant fabrics. And if you think about how much of the day and night fabric rests on our skin, the toxicity can definitely add up.

Escaping from chemicals, preservatives, carcinogens, etc. in today's society is pretty much impossible. But knowing a little bit about it and making the changes that are doable for your family is a great start. Living naturally -- it's not just for tree huggers anymore.


Jackieoindc said...

April, I've been using homemade green cleaners since Jackson was born (3 1/2 years now) and I love them. Clorox is terrible for you... especially the fumes which are linked to brain cancer. I take a spray bottle, fill it up 3/4 with vinegar, a large dollop of dishwashing soap (I buy either Second Generation or the Costco biodegradable one), about a teaspoon of Tea Tree Oil and the rest purified water. I use this for everything: sinks, counters, tubs, toilets, dusting... it is a natural disinfectant and I LOVE the smell... so fresh and so clean! I also have a serious scrub for the bottom of bathtubs.. .basically you add dishwashing soap to baking soda until it resembles frosting and add a bit of tea tree oil to add a disinfectant. Scrub away! :) Love all the changes you are making! We went to all glass stuff (besides a few plastic tumblers Ben loves), and don't even use paper products because it saves so much money not to. Costco has some great glass tupperware if you are interested in upgrading to that. Love all your suggestions! Going to use lots of them! - Elizabeth Claybaker

April said...

Oooohhh! Thanks so much. I love your cleaner mixes. And yes, I'll totally need to upgrade to the glass tupperware soon.

WendyO said...

Wow April, that's amazing! Love to hear how your progress is going as you tackle more items! (curious to see how you're going to eliminate fabric from your life... hee hee hee. i'm guessing some organic material is in the works...)