Tag Archives | toxin

Clean Your House With Only 5 Ingredients


 Clean Your Entire House with 5 Ingredients {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

5 simple natural cleaners! That is all you will need to clean 93.3492% of the surfaces in your home.  OK, so clearly I made up that statistic, but seriously  most of your home can be cleaned with 5 simple, cheap, safe, readily available ingredients.  It’s probably what your grandma used.  And grandma is always right!

I could go on and on about how toxic the air inside your home can be, or how commercial cleaners are potentially dangerous.  Instead, I’m going to appeal to your cheap, eh I mean, frugal  side.  If you could get away with spending like $5 a year on cleaning solutions, wouldn’t you! ?  Again, pulling that $5 out of the air, but it’s not far off.

Ingredient – Natural Cleaners

1) White Distilled Vinegar – disinfects and deodorizes

2) Baking Soda – mild, scrubs without scratching

3) Hydrogen Peroxide – disinfects (recognized by EPA as a disinfectant)

4) Rubbing Alcohol – disinfects

5) Castile soap (or other liquid soap of your choosing, NOT anti-bacterial) – you need some sort of soap

I bet you already have these in your house.  

You will also need some empty spray bottle and labels!  You can find bottles at dollar stores, Home Depot, hardware stores, Walmart,Target among other places.   Do yourself a favor and label the bottles with the recipe and directions if needed so when they run out, they can easily be refilled. 


All-purpose cleaner (Cost $0.75, without essential oils $0.15)

This can be used on any hard non porous surface.  NOT FOR GRANITE OR MARBLE.

2 cups water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
Optional (10 drops lavender, 10 drops lemongrass, 10 drops lemon)

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle.

If you don’t like the smell of the white vinegar, try infusing it with citrus peels first.


Granite Cleaner (Cost: $0.10)

¼ cup rubbing alcohol
3 drops liquid soap
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle


Disinfectant (Cost: $1)

Put a spray top on that bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  Make sure to keep the hydrogen peroxide in the brown bottle.  Light will break it down.

Spray the surface – counter, doorknobs, faucet, lunch box, water bottle, .. .– with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit.  For lunch boxes and water bottles, I rinse after at least 10 minutes, then let dry. 


For extra disinfecting

Spray some  pure vinegar on the surface, then spray the hydrogen peroxide.

The mixture of the 2 creates a super disinfectant. Some sources claim this combination will kill Salmonella and E. Coli. Never combine the 2 into one bottle and store. This can create a bad combination to leave around your house. I use this on my counters on occasion, cutting boards, kids’ reusable bottles, anything I feel needs a little extra attention.


Inside Refrigerator

Baking soda mixed with a  bit of water to form a paste.



Sprinkle with baking soda
Spray with water to moisten
Let sit over night, might need to re-moisten
Scrub off in the morning



Into the bowl – 1 TBSP of castile soap, 1/3 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup vinegar
Let it fizz for a few minutes
Scrub toilet


Windows (Cost: $0.30)

¼ cup rubbing alcohol
¼ cup white vinegar
1 TBSP cornstarch
2 cups  hot water

OK, so cornstarch wasn’t on the original list.  You caught me!  (good for you for making it this far!)  It can be left out, but I’m guessing you have some.

Combine everything into a spray bottle and shake well, each time before using.

May need to clean a few times to remove the ammonia residue from old cleaners. 



For Hardwood or other sealed wood floors – mostly just pick up the dust with a soft dry mop or vacuum with a gentle vacuum – ie. No beater brush as you would use on a carpet. 

When you mop – use some white vinegar with warm water.  


Ceramic tile 

Same vinegar and water solution as above.



Mix baking soda and soap into a paste. 
Scrub with an old toothbrush.  


Foaming Hand Soap (Cost: $0.50)

¼ cup (2oz) castile soap
2 cups Water

Place this mixture into any foaming hand pump.  You can do this with any liquid soap.  Some people melt a bar of soap in water.  You can also get fancy and add essential oils for scent or glycerin for moisture.

With one more ingredient, you can make the BEST stain remover for clothing EVER!

What other cleaners do you use?


This post is part of Green Sisterhood’s Earth Month Blog Party.   For more great ideas from my sisters, check out the following blogs:

Almost All The Truth
Green 4 U
Green Talk
The Greening Of Westford
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually

 Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs



Walmart and P&G are Phasing Out Harmful Chemicals

 Walmart and P&G phasing Out Harmful Chemicals


This week, Walmart announced they will be attempting to minimize the harmful chemicals in their household cleaning, personal care and beauty and cosmetic products.  Beginning in January 2015, Walmart will require their suppliers to disclose, online, ingredients contained in products sold on Walmart shelves.  This is a HUGE step as none of these products currently are required to disclose their ingredient lists anywhere.  Walmart will also work to reduce the use of 10 “high priority” chemical ingredients.  The list of 10 has not yet been disclosed but Walmart assures Safer Chemicals Healthy Families that the 10 are on its list of the “Hazardous 100+”.  Another distinction is that Walmart will be working with suppliers to ensure the replacement chemicals aren’t just as bad.

Proctor &Gamble announced earlier in the week that it will eliminate triclosan and dibutyl phthalate from all of its products by 2014.  Triclosan and phthalates are believed to be hormone disruptors.

I am VERY happy with these announcements!  It shows that companies are listening to consumer concerns.  I constantly feel like I have to be a scientist to go shopping – is this made of PVC, what are the ingredients, is that one a safe one?  It has this certification, but does it really mean anything?  It is enough to make your head spin.  Fix it from the top!  If manufacturers and retailers can rid our shelves of dangerous chemicals, then I don’t need to worry, as much.  There are still plenty of other decisions I will need to make.  But trying to pick the hand soap that DOESN’T have an ingredient possibly adding to antibiotic resistant bacteria – yeah I don’t think anyone wants that.

This also covers the other shoppers who may not even be aware that their cleaning product or tube of lipstick could be harming them.  I was one of these consumers once, and probably still am in other areas.  I remember years ago, my children were small and I was just beginning to go green.  I started seeing “no growth hormone” stickers on milk.  I remember, clear as day, standing in the aisle of the grocery store with my 4 year old and 2 year old twins, just trying to get some milk and thinking “Did I need to worry about that?”  I had no clue what it meant at the time.

Say what you want about Walmart, but you can’t deny their reach.  According to Forbes magazine, they are the largest retailer in sales and the #24 “World’s Most Powerful Brand”.  If they rid their shelves of 10 dangerous chemicals, that is a significant drop overall. 

One thing that bothers me though is that I had a difficult time finding these announcements in Walmart or P&G press releases. Nor could I find it easily in main stream media.  If I missed it, please tell me.  I wish the companies and media saw this as more news worthy.

Let’s just hope they follow through and continue to do more!

What do you think about these announcements?


Photo used under Creative Commons by Walmart/Flickr


Tomatoes, Trader Joe’s and BPA

trader joes tomatoes

Recently I posted an article titled 7 Foods Even Food Safety Experts Won’t Eat.  Item #1 is canned tomatoes.  The linings of cans contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) which has received a lot of attention in recent years.  It sparked a discussion on the Facebook page about which tomato cans were now BPA-free.  Tomatoes are especially concerning because the acidic nature of the tomatoes can increase the likelihood of toxins leaching from the can.  

There was some confusion about Trader Joe’s, so I emailed the company.  Here is their response to me on Feb. 19, 2013:

Dear Ms. Greene,
Thank you for contacting us.  Here is the deal with BPA.  First, regarding Tetra, all Tetra Pak is BPA-free.
Second, every glass jar item has a metal lid. All metal lids do have a layer of BPA coating. However, there is another coating put on after that. There is no direct contact of BPA to food. We have multiple supplier testing results showing there is no BPA detected from metal lids.
All our canned fish (and our canned chicken and beef too) are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Sardines, Crab, Cherrystone Clams & Oysters (our suppliers are working for a solution next year).
All our canned fruits, beans and vegetables (including tomatoes, and the Organic Canned Pumpkin) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Mandarins, Hatch Chilies, Artichokes, Organic Baked Beans (expecting transition this Fall).
All of our canned Soups and Stews (and including Joe’s Os) are in cans that DO have BPA. Some of our suppliers are expecting they will be able to make transition next year.
Lastly, Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream is in a BPA-free can.
I hope this helps!
Customer Relations 

While I am glad they are making strides to rid BPA from their cans, I wonder what it is being replaced with.  Some replacements may not be any safer than BPA.  And Consumer Reports recommends choosing fresh over canned when possible after finding BPA in many canned products.

Ideally, I avoid canned foods when possible, like cooking my own beans.  Tomatoes are difficult.  I want to can or freeze my own, but we’ll see how that goes this summer.  I have heard the Eden has tomatoes in amber glass jars, but I haven’t found them around here yet.  Anyone know where they can be purchased?

 Do you avoid  BPA where you can?  If so, how?

Top Photo by St0rmz used under Creative Commons license

This post has been shared at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Plastic Planet {Friday Film Fest}

Plastic Planet film review

Plastic Planet’s director and producer Werner Boote shows us his journey across the globe to discover answers to his plastics questions.  As a young boy, he was introduced to plastics earlier than most.  His grandfather was one of the early manufacturers of plastic in Germany.  Werner now wonders what exactly is in plastic and is it harmful.  These are questions he poses to many world experts and lay people around the world.

What is in plastic?  No one knows.  It’s proprietary.  I didn’t know that. Even the manufacturer of a beverage cannot know exactly what the bottle of their beverage contains.

In an eye-opening exercise, he asks several people to empty their houses of everything that contains plastic.  Although the amounts vary, every person is surprised at the amount of plastic in their homes.  Even the hut in India contains plastic.

Werner interviews several people from Europe.  It was interesting for me to see that Europe deals with the plastic problem just as America does.   It was very interesting and disturbing at the same time to see mostly non-US citizens, companies and the like talk about  (or deny as the case may be) the problems with plastics.  I am so used to seeing US companies driving the “you don’t need to know, it’s OK trust us” train.  I am not sure if I feel better or worse knowing it’s happening in Europe too.

Honestly, I found Bag It more interesting and relate-able.  And, I dislike admitting this, but the subtitles and heavy accents of some of the interviewees made it a little difficult for me to follow the film in certain spots.  I had to concentrate on understanding the words that I might have missed the meaning.  I sound like an entitled American.  Certainly not what I mean, but that is how I felt.

Have you seen Plastic Planet?


Coconut Oil Does Triple Beauty Duty

coconut oil beauty treatments

Coconut oil is quickly becoming my FAVORITE ingredient in my beauty routine!  Yes that’s right.  Not only can you cook with it, but it is great for soooo many other things.

I have also found Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil which smells incredible!  If you like the smell of coconuts.  Which I do.  It’s $5.99 for 16 oz.

If you are looking for more natural replacements for body lotion, eye makeup remover and eye cream, I have ONE Do-It-Yourself product that will do the trick.  Yes, ONE

Coconut Oil Triple Play

1/2 cup Coconut oil
1/2 tsp Vitamin E (optional)


1. Place the coconut oil and vitamin E in a bowl.  Vitamin E oil is used as a preservative.  however, if you don’t already have some, don’t bother to go buy some.  Coconut oil has a pretty long shelf-life as is.   

2. Whip it (Whip It Good!  I couldn’t resist!)  with an electric mixer.

3. Whip until it is like whipped cream or frosting (about 5-10 minutes).

Place in a pretty (free) jar and you are done!  Fancy up the jar with a cute label and this would make a great gift!  I have actually had friends ask for it.

You could add essential oils if you like, but I like the smell of the coconut.  I have been told by the fabulous woman whom I go to for facials that coconut oil is excellent for your skin!

When I get out of the shower, I put this on my body as a moisturizer.

When I remove my eye makeup at night, I put a small amount on my eyes or on a small flannel cloth and wipe the make-up away.  A little remains which moisturizes that delicate skin around your eyes beautifully.

Not only is this better for your skin, but the price is unbeatable.  That $5.99 jar of coconut oil will last a year at least!

Now, the coconut oil may melt.  Mine did this summer.  But I don’t really mind using it in the liquid form.  It may harden in colder months and you’ll have to scrape at it a bit.  But it melts quickly with the warmth of your hands.  
Do You Use Coconut Oil for Anything?  What’s Your Favorite Use?

This post has been shared at Homesteading Link UpSimple Lives ThursdayYour Green ResourceHealthy 2day WednesdaysFrugal Days Sustainable WaysFrugal Tuesday Tip,  Works For Me WednesdayHome is Where the Heart isWhip It Up WednesdayTiny Tip Tuesday, Weekly Link Up Party, Natural Living Mondays, Wellness Wednesday


Making the Switch to Glass Storage

As you might know, as convenient as plastic is, it is harmful to us and the environment.  If you aren’t already convinced of this, take a look here.

Reduce Footprints current challenge is

This week refuse to use plastic wrap (aka cling film, cling wrap, glad wrap, etc). Instead, choose Eco-friendly, safe ways to store food. And, as always, we’d like to hear all about your efforts.
Or …

If you’ve already banned plastic wrap from your life, please review your food storage methods to see if there’s any room for improvement. For example, if you’re reusing plastic containers to store food consider glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers instead (old plastic containers may leach harmful toxins into your food). If you use aluminum foil to cover your food, consider covering food with an inverted plate, a lid from a casserole or pan, etc. And, please tell us about your efforts.

But replacing all the plastic storage items you have collected over the years could be daunting and expensive!  It doesn’t have to be!

I stopped buying plastic wrap a few years ago.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.  But as I think back, I took this step several years into my green journey.  I was LOOKING for things to reduce and change.  So, depending on where you are, this may be easy or difficult.

Before I made this step, I made sure to set myself up for success.  I stocked up on plenty of other storage containers (with lids) so I wouldn’t be looking for the plastic wrap.  At first I used my stand-by plastic containers.  Then I slowly converted to glass. I watched for sales and bought 2 sets of  Pyrex glass storage containers with lids (affiliate link).  I still kept foil in the house for those rare occasions.  Foil is expensive!  So I reached for it sparingly.

Inexpensive Glass Options

Reuse glass jars you buy food in!!!! My best discovery.  Total light bulb moment.  Like spaghetti sauce, salsa, pickles, applesauce.  They are free and come in so many shapes and sizes.  I figured I would do this until I stocked up enough on “real” containers from sales or yard sales.  After a while, I didn’t want to give up my free jars!  Why should I?  They worked great and they were “free”.  I learned from my trip to the recycling plant, that glass gets crushed and sits for a long time before it can be reused.  So, to reuse it at my home was a much better option.  I keep them all in the basement.  I save them ALL! At some point or another I am looking for a particular size and there is it.


Where to find cheap glass storage for food

Where Else To Find Them  Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to look.  I found these babies at our thrift store Savers for about $2 each.  Don’t pass them up because the rubber ring is dried out or missing.  You can buy replacement rubber rings at kitchen stores and hardware stores (during canning season) for about $3 for 4.  I even saw them 4 for $1 at The Christmas Tree Shop this past spring.

 Glass storage for food - CHEAP! Mason jars are another inexpensive glass storage option.  A case of pint jars are about $11 – less than $1 a piece.  I use them in the fridge and the freezer.  They come in a wide variety of sizes and are plentiful during spring and summer.  You can find them at hardware stores, Target, Walmart, or online (affiliate).  I saw them sold singly at The Christmas Tree Shops this past spring as well.  Update 7/20/12:  I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond yesterday and they sell cases of mason jars at about the same price as elsewhere, BUT you will use your 20% off coupon to get them even cheaper!



I saw this HUGE beauty of a  pickle jar at the grocery store.  It stands about 14 inches tall.   We like pickles, but not enough to eat almost 2 lbs of them.  I keep thinking of when I would possibly use all those pickles JUST so I can have the jar!  Anyone know any pickle recipes?


So Many Uses

I like to store as much of my food in glass as possible.  So I use these glass options for both cold and pantry storage.  They look so cute too!

In the freezer for stock, soup, homemade baked beans and cooked dried beans are just a few ideas.  Make sure you leave plenty of head room – I usually leave at least an inch to be on the safe side.  Just like the plastic storage, make sure you label them.


how to reuse glass jars
For the pantry, I put all of my dried fruits, homemade granola, various chocolate chips, dried beans….
how to reuse glass storage

Now I certainly have not cast plastic out of my house for good.  I still have plastic baggies for certain uses.  We do have reusable cloth bags that we use a lot, but there are certain things I just can’t seem to get away from.  So there’s my plastic confession.

What is your favorite non-plastic storage?  Do you still have some plastic?



Head Lice: Give Me The Pesticides!

A recent Greene Westford Column reprinted here.

If you are faced with this predicament, you might want to make a beeline for the pesticides. Take a deep breath and read on for some facts and alternatives that may make more sense.

My head starts itching at the beginning of the school year when the lice information sheet comes home. Approximately 6 to 12 million cases of lice occur nationwide each year.  Westford is not immune.  I have already heard of a few cases this year.
This is probably one area where you think, “I am not taking any chances.  Give me whatever will kill those things!”  I was right there with you, until I started to do some research. 
Permethrin and pyrethrin are the most common chemicals used to treat lice currently.  They are pesticides.   They are meant to kill live insects by attacking their nervous systems.  Do you think they know the difference between humans and insects?  Not sure I want to take the chance.
If you are still itching your head and thinking, “I still want the pesticide!”  Think about this. 
  • More and more evidence is showing that some strains of lice are becoming resistant to these pesticides. 
  • The pesticides only kill the live lice.  If the eggs are not removed and hatch, a second application will be needed. 
This information is also conveyed by the Westford Board of Health in their information sheet.
As yucky as they are, lice are not a health hazard and not responsible for spreading any disease.  The itching accompanying a lice infestation is caused by a reaction to the louse’s saliva.  Lice need a host to survive and for their eggs to hatch.  They cannot fly or hop.  They cannot survive on pets.
To Prevent Lice:
  • Remind your children not to share hats, scarves, personal hair care items, coats, anything that can come into contact with your head or hair.
  • Keep your hat, coat, etc away from others.
  • There are some that believe that lice do not like hair products.  Adding gel or hair spray could deter lice.
  • Wear long hair in a ponytail or braid.
  • It is believed by many that tea tree oil is effective in preventing lice.  Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic properties.  There are several tea tree oil shampoos on the market.  If you choose one of these, make sure it uses pure essential oils and contains 5 drops per ounce of shampoo.   
NOTE: Tea tree oil should not be used in pure form on babies, young children or pregnant women.  Consult your Physician first.
Alternative Treatments:
I am not a doctor.  I am a mom who does not want lice in my home.  I also want to protect my children from pesticides as much as possible.  If your child gets lice, call your pediatrician for treatment options.  I called mine.  They recommend a non-toxic method called the Nuvo method for treating head lice. 
This method uses Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.  Large amounts of the cleansers are used to completely drench the head and scalp.  The excess is combed out and the hair and scalp is completely dried with a hair dryer.  Drying the cleanser on the hair essentially shrink wraps any live lice, suffocating them. 
I have also heard of people using olive oil in a similar manner as the Cetaphil.  Again, the head is covered in large amounts of olive oil and left on overnight.
Both of these methods only kill the live lice.  Any eggs will not be harmed.  For this reason, it is recommended that you repeat these treatments 1 or 2 more times, at one week intervals, to kill any eggs that hatch and/or remove the eggs (nits).  Westford Public Schools have a “no nit” policy, meaning that your child must be checked by the nurse when returning and must be nit free.
These alternative treatments rely on suffocating the live lice and interrupting their life cycle.  No chance they will become resistant to that!  

This post is part of Frugally SustainableYour Green Resource and Home is Where the Heart Is.


Sunscreens That Shine

Last week I featured sunscreens on Greene Westford.  Here is the article re-printed from Westford Patch.


Summer is here!  Fun in the sun also means staying safe from the sun’s rays. However, it’s not as simple as avoiding sunburns. 
The sun contains two major types of ultraviolet (UV) rays – UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburns while UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and cause more dangerous cell changes such as wrinkles and skin cancer.  A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) tells you how effectively the product blocks UVB rays.  Currently there is no such label for UVA rays.
Most skin damage is the result of years of cumulative sun exposure. That is why doctors say it’s important to use sunscreen year-round.  It is especially important to protect children. Many doctors believe that melanoma (the most dangerous skin cancer) can be caused by severe sunburns before the age of 18.
The safest thing to do is to limit your sun exposure:  staying in the shade, wearing clothing, hats and sunglasses.  Sun guard shirts have become much more popular recently and easier to find.  I recently bought some at Olympia Sports in Westford.  You can find several online as well. 
However, this is not always possible.  A good sunscreen is still a must.   Not all sunscreens are created equal. While some may be great at blocking the harmful rays of the sun, the chemicals they use can cause some damage on their own. What to do now?  This is where I turn to the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 sunscreen guide
The EWG is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting people from toxic contaminants.  The EWG’s guide rates 1700 sunscreens based on how well they protect you from UVB and UVA rays as well as the ingredients used.   Each product is given a value from 0 to 10, where 0 is the best (has the least harmful ingredients and protects against the sun) and 10 the worst.
When looking for sunscreen, there are several ingredients to avoid such as Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), added insect repellent and especially Oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is a synthetic estrogen which can interfere with our own hormones. There are studies that indicate Vitamin A absorbed into the skin may cause tumors to grow quicker, and if you need insect repellent, it’s better to add that as needed.  
Sprays, powders and SPFs above 50 should also be avoided.  Sprays and powders spread through the air and may not be safe to breathe.  SPF higher than 50 may tempt you to stay in the sun longer than you should.  Remember, UVA rays do not burn, but they are more dangerous overall than the burning UVB rays. 
Look for products that contain Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide or Avobenzone as their active ingredients.  Not only do these products better protect against the sun, but they won’t harm you in the process.
Most of the safest choices are only available online.  However, here is a list of some more commonly found sunscreens that still rate low on the danger scale.  The number is parentheses is the EWG rating.
  • Elemental Herbs (1) – Available at The Whole Body Spa
  • Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick SPF 50 (1)
  • Kiss My Face Kids SPF 30 Sun Stick (pink, blue, white) (1)
  • Aveeno Active Naturals Natural Protection Mineral Block Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 (3)
  • CVS Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 60+ (3)
  • Walgreens Baby Pure and Gentle Sunscreen Stick SPF 60+ (3)
  • Walgreens Sport Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 (3)
  • Walgreens Sunscreen SPF 45 (3)
  • Coppertone Kids Pure and Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (3)
I was able to find quite a few of these in Westford at CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens.  Just remember to apply sunscreen before you go outside (15 – 30 minutes) and reapply as directed.


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