Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cleaning Step 5: Laundry

There are many great appliances in my house but one of my favorites is my washer and dryer. I can not imagine what it was like doing laundry for a houseful of people with out them. I do worry though about the impact my easy to use washer and dryer have on the environment. With a little investigation I have discovered a few easy ways to lessen my laundry footprint but still enjoy my favorite appliances.

First how much laundry do you really need to do? Most of us, me included, wash items that are not really dirty. Think about it how many times do you wear a shirt for only an hour or so and then throw it in to the hamper. Before throwing something into the hamper think is this item really dirty or could you wear it again? This thought alone has lessened my laundry especially when it comes to jeans and sweaters.

Just like dish detergent your laundry detergent also goes directly into the water system and can cause havoc on the environment. Along with being in the water detergents linger in the clothes and do not rinse out. Think about all those scented detergents the only way they can continue to scent your clothes is if they stay in your clothes and do not wash out. So the next step in greening your laundry is using less detergent. Over the last few years I have cut the recommended amount of laundry detergent I use by half and I am still getting clean clothes every week.

Also just like dish detergent and soaps be sure you are using one that is gentle on the environment. We like Seventh Generation but there are many other green options out there. The number one thing to know is the ingredients but since ingredients are not required to be listed it can be hard to find them. My personal rule of thumb is if the company is not straight forward with all of their ingredients I do not use the products. Your dollar is one of the most important ways you can make change so spend it wisely.
On my list of things to try is Soap Nuts. I think they could be great for the environment but finding them in the store is hard and they can be a bit expensive. Therefore they are on my someday list when I am in the right mood and have the time to try something new. For now I will stick with natural detergents.

Now that your load is lessened and you know what your laundry detergent is made of it is time to place your clothes in the washer. First unless it is something really germy (like cloth tissues, diapers, or cleaning rags) do not wash them on anything other then cold water. Washing in cold is better for the environment and your pocket book because you are not heating the water so you are using less electricity to wash your clothes. Washing in cold is also easier on you because when you are washing in cold you do not have to worry much about separating your colors and whites. At our house we wash everything together on cold making my job quite a bit easier. I do take out the jeans and other tougher fabric items to wash in their own load.

Always try to wash a full load which is easier to do when you are not separating everything into different piles. Washing a full load is the best use of the electricity and water used in the washing machine. If you can not wash a full load be sure to change the water level in the washer to reflect the load you are washing. You will still be using the same amount of electricity but you will be at least saving water. On the other hand do not stuff the washer overfull. The clothes need some space to move around when the washer is filled with water in order for them to be cleaned thoroughly. Open the top of your washer while it is cycling and check to see how the clothes fill the water. If it seems to crammed next time put in less clothes or if there seems to be excess water next time choose a lower water level of place more clothes in the wash. 

Now that you have washed your dirty clothes in a natural laundry detergent it is time to dry them. The best way by far is to line dry. Line drying is great for the environment, your pocket book, and your clothes. All of the lint that accumulates in your dryer is actually fibers from your clothes, which causes them to wear out much quicker. Hanging your clothes in the sun outside kills bacteria, whitens, and will fade stains. Just remember to hang non whites inside out and/or in the shade so that you do not fade the colored fabric. 

If you do not want to line dry your clothes or the weather outside makes it impossible then it is time to learn to use your dryer effectively. First if you are drying your clothes correctly there will be no need for those dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are filled with chemicals, can clog the dryer filter, and can create hazardous conditions leading to fires. We use dryer balls which help to not only keep away static but also separate the clothes so they dry quicker. Another way to prevent static is not to over dry your clothes. This also prevents wrinkles. You want to remove your clothes and hang them while they are still barely damp and not bone dry. The best way to do this if you are washing all your clothes together is to take out and immediately hang all of your shirts, pants, skirts, and dresses. Having a bar for hanging clothes in the laundry room is a good way to do this. Then place your socks, underwear, and other items back in the dryer for a few more minutes to finish drying. Or hang all of your clothes to finish drying (I just do not have the space to hang every sock and pair of underwear in my laundry room).

 Want to read more check out the links below
Scented Laundry Products Emit Hazardous Chemicals Through Dryer Vents

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cleaning Step 4: The Dishes

I am not the regular evening dish washer in our home. I leave this job to my husband mostly because I love to cook but I hate doing the dishes. So after dinner while my husband does the dishes I put everything away and pack up leftovers (in glass reusable containers). Unfortunately since my husband is usually working during the day after breakfast, lunch, and snack I am the dish washer.

As a daily chore all the water and soap used for dish washing can be very hazardous not only to the environment but also to your health. When you are constantly putting soap on your dish rag and hands you skin is absorbing that soap and all the chemicals in it. Which is why antibacterial should not be a part of your dish soap. Read why here. Cleaning the dishes can easily be taken from a hazardous activity to a green one and you may find it much easier to complete this step then any of the previous ones.

First off look at your dish soap, dish washing detergents, and rinse agent. Read through the ingredients do not be surprised if all of the ingredients are not listed. Companies do not have to list ingredients on anything non edible. If there are no ingredients listed do a quick search to see if you can find them online. If you are like me you may be wondering why ingredients are not listed and what do the companies have to hide.

The best thing you can do for your health and the health of your family is to know what you are bringing in to your house and putting on your hands and dishes. Check out the Green Cleaner Buying Guide for more information on what should or should not be in your detergents.

In our house we use Seventh Generation dish soap and either Trader Joe's or Seventh Generation dish detergent. We do not use any rinse agents besides being an extra chemical and extra expense they are mostly unneeded. I have found that the best rinse agent out there is vinegar. Just pour vinegar into your dish washing rinse agent compartment. Refill as needed about every 5th time you run the dish washer.

Here are the most important things to remember when using your dishwasher.

  • Use chlorine free dish washing detergent
  • Ventilate your kitchen during and after dishwasher operation
  • Filter your homes water supply with a carbon water filter, if your public water system uses chlorine to treat drinking water.
  • Test your water for radon and treat it accordingly
  • Keep your dishwasher closed for at least an hour after a completed cleaning cycle.
  • Use the no heat dry option
  • Only run your dishwasher when it is completely full
  • Use phosphate free dish washing detergent
For more information on any of these points please read Naturally Clean by Jeffrey Hollender/

Some more sites to check out

Now that you have cleaned your house cleaning and your dish washing. Check out the last cleaning step 5 to see how you can now clean your laundry greener and safer.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cleaning and our water supply

Ever see the signs on the street drains that say flows to stream? We see these everyday near my son’s school and the kids always comment about them and the little fish picture on it. We have spoken many times about the meaning of the signs and how we can make sure the fish in the stream are happy and safe.

This gets me thinking about my home drains which will eventually get into the streams as well, although they get a bit of processing first. When water is processed though it is not completely cleaned of everything, in fact a lot of the yucky stuff gets though. The pollutants in the water do not only affect the stream, rivers, lakes, and oceans, but also us. This water pollution guide has some good information. More information on how your actions can affect water can be seen here. This is the basis of the water bottle companies arguments we are polluting our own water so buy their water, which seems absolutely crazy to me. Wouldn’t it be much easier to stop using all the nasty things that are polluting our water?

This article on detergent pollutions is a great start to learn about what is in your laundry and dish detergents. One major concern of dishwashing detergents is phosphates. You can read more about phosphates why they are bad and what is currently being done to ban them from detergents here and here. Many states have started a ban on phosphates but since that is not the only concerning chemical in detergents looking at the label closely is important, unfortunately companies are not required to include ingredients on their label.

Take a moment now and google your favorite laundry detergent and/or dish detergent ingredients. If you can find them look up a few of them and see what you find. There is no reason not to know what you are putting on your clothes and dishes, especially if you think about your kids who tend to suck on their clothes or lick the dishes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cleaning Step 3: Cleaning the House

Cleaning naturally is no harder then cleaning with chemicals. It is a very simple process and quite quick once you get the hang of it. Plus because you are not using any harsh chemicals you can let any member of your family help out. Since my kids could walk they have been given an area to clean and a wash cloth with a vinegar solution on it. I know they can put the cloth in their mouth or on any surface and I do not worry about harmful effect. Peace of mind could be the best reason to switch to natural cleaning. 

Here is a rundown on how we clean.
General- for most surfaces a simple wipe down with the vinegar solution works great. For any spots that do not easily come up sprinkle with baking soda and scrub then wipe with a cloth and vinegar solution.
Sink and Tubs -For tough stains use a baking soda and water paste and the scrub brush.
Glass and mirrors - spray water on the glass them wipe with the glass cloth. A little extra scrubbing might be needed for tough spots. If you see a streak re-wipe with the cloth.
Toilets - sprinkle baking soda then spray with the vinegar solution let sit for 5-10 min than scrub and flush
Drains -pour in some baking soda and then some of the vinegar solution let sit for a few minutes then run some hot water. To deodorize cut a lemon in to slices and run through the disposal. 
Oven- sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the oven, spray it with water until very damp, re-wet occasionally, let it sit overnight. Wipe clean in the morning.
Tile Floors -sweep or vacuum then wet the microfiber mop head with the vinegar solution. For tough spots sprinkle with baking soda and scrub with the mop head or a brush.
Carpets -use warm water and a rag right away on spills then use baking soda to pull up any left over liquid and then vacuum when it dries.
To Sanitize Surfaces-  wipe surfaces clean with vinegar then spray with hydrogen peroxide. After a 1-2 minutes wipe away any remaining moisture with a dry cloth.

Soap Scum- soak the affected area in vinegar then wash clean. For tough scum mix 1 tablespoon borax with ½ teaspoon of liquid soap and 2 cups hot water. Spray and wipe clean.
Hard Water Scale- mix ¼ cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice, ½ teaspoon liquid soap, and ¾ cap of hot water. Spray the area and let sit for a few minutes the rinse. Wash shower curtains as normal plus add a cup of vinegar with the detergent.
Rust Stains- mix 1 tablespoon cream of tarter and enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Cover the stain and let sit for several hours.
Mold and Mildew- mix 2 tablespoons tea tree oil with 2 cups of water, spray on affected area and let sit for half and hour then wipe clean. Or spray the area with vinegar then immediately spray with hydrogen peroxide.

For store bought products I am very happy with the seventh generation line. These products are good for the environment and work well. If you are interested in learning more about not only cleaning but all things green sign up for the weekly Seventh Generation Newsletter here.

For more information and tips on how to clean naturally follow the links below

If you are still in doubt about how to clean a certain area of your home do a web search for “natural cleaning” and whatever it is you want to clean. You are guaranteed to find a wealth of knowledge and information.
 If you are still unsure about weather natural cleaning is the right way to go look it up for yourself. I can not say it enough you are your best advocate. Don’t just sit there believing all those adds and high priced commercials do a bit of research yourself. No one is going to take care of you better then yourself, and if you are raising a family like I am, absolutely no one is going to look out for the health and safety of you precious little ones like you.

Next we will discuss cleaning the dishes in Step 4.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Antibacterial: Why you should always say NO!

I can not say it enough Antibacterial stuff is so unnecessary and becoming a toxic problem. The amount of antibacterial products is overwhelming and unfortunately producing many problems. A great source for information on the growing problems of antibacterial products can be seen here. It is a bit scientific but the basics are that by using the large amount of antibacterial products that are almost everywhere we are increasing the amount of mutant bacteria that is resistant to the antibacterial. Also by allowing our children to use these products we not giving their immune system the chance to develop properly. This lack of development is linked to a large rise in allergies and illness in children. In an effort to protect our children we are actually causing more harm. Another article I suggest reading is here.

Antibacterial has its place in the hospitals but not in our homes. Washing with plain soap and water is just as good as antibacterial soaps when you use them correctly. Wet, lather, scrub front, back, wrists, and fingers, rinse, and dry with a clean towel. A good short read on how soap works and why antibacterial is not needed can be read here. Want to know more about the correct way to wash your hands visit this page from the Mayo Clinic.

Your job this week is to take a few minutes and Google antibacterial and triclosan. Do your own research let me know what you find. If you find like I did that antibacterial is not worth the potential risk then make the switch. Gather all of the antibacterial items in your home place them in a box and take them to the appropriate facility to be disposed of properly (yes they can be considered toxic substances).

Once you no longer are using antibacterial soap at home you may start to think about all that soap you use outside of the home. Well the only way you can be sure you are not using antibacterial soap outside of your home is to bring your own. There are many places where you can buy paper soap. Little sheets of soap perfect for one time use. Or you could so what I am trying take your favorite castile soap or other natural soap. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off small pieces. Keep the pieces in a small container in your purse. Always use dry hands to get the soap out or you risk wetting them all and ruining them.

A natural hand santizer is also a good way to keep clean away from home. Be sure it does not contain any antibacterial toxins in it. Use EWG's Skin Deep website to check if your hand sanitizer is safe. Click here for their list and ratings on hand sanitizer. We use Clean Well and Dr. Bronner's brands.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cleaning Step 2: Supplies for Cleaning the House

The truth is I hate to clean. I do like to have everything picked up and organized with little or no clutter around. I feel that if you put everything away it makes your house look much cleaner even if you have not scrubbed the floors or counters in a while. This is something I am always harassing my husband about because he is not one for putting things away. But to give him credit he usually will feel the need to dust or mop long before I deem it necessary. So I guess we even each other out. This is why I have a list and try to stick with it or else I might never clean!  Cleaning for me has to be simple, uncomplicated, and quick or I will not take the time to do it.

Before you start cleaning you must gather the supplies you need. Keeping your cleaning supplies in one place, such as a small basket you can carry around the house, makes cleaning so much easier. Here is what I have in my basket.

For all household cleaning
  • a squeezable plastic water bottle with a sports sip top filled with a 1 part vinegar 3 part water solution. I also add a teaspoon of tea tree oil.
  • lots of inexpensive wash clothes I probably have about 15-20 but you could easily clean with only 5
  • a small plastic container filled with baking soda
  • microfiber dusting clothes (I purchased mine at Target)
  • glass micro fiber cleaning clothes (another Target purchase)
  • a firm bristle toothbrush (Preserve makes great ones out of recycled plastic)
  • a large firm bristled brush
  • Hydrogen Peroxide in a spray bottle
  • A spray bottle of water
For floors I use
  • a broom and dust pan
  • a vacuum cleaner
  • microfiber mop with removable washable heads
Other nice to have but not essential cleaning items
  • steam cleaner one that uses nothing but hot water
  • toilet scrub brush
Now go gather your supplies and put them in one easy to get to space. How about under the sink? After you clear out all those individual toxic cleaners you should have plenty of room. Be sure to take those cleaners and dispose of them properly follow this link to find out more.

Gather your supplies this week and come back to learn how these item can be used to clean all areas of your home in Step 3.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What do you use to clean?

It is probably obviously from my previous post the convention cleaning products are not healthy. They not only smell horrible and put toxic fumes into your lungs, the ones that have actually been tested have been shown to cause cancer in animals and people. Wonder why the cancer rates continue to raise look no further then your cleaning products. Unfortunately cleaning products are big business and vinegar is not so which do you think you will see more ads for? EWG the wonderful group who puts together the Skin Deep website is working on another just for cleaners. I am very excited about it because although I use very few, actually only 3, store bought cleaning products I can not wait to see their results and have a trusted website for friends and family to search for safe cleaning products.

With a quick internet search you can find hundreds of homemade recipes for cleaning. I have tried a lot of them and over the years I have settled on what I think is the simplest and cheapest cleaning recipes. In my next post I will give you the specifics on our homemade recipes and how we clean the different surfaces in our home.

Today I can not imagine using any other cleaners. I am so thankful that I do not have to worry about my kids getting in to the cleaning supplies. I never have a fear that they will be poisoned by something I am using and I know my house is clean, healthy, and safe.

Just for those still unsure vinegar kills bacteria, mold, and germs just as well as most any store bought household cleaner. Still worried that the germs are not gone wipe the surface with hydrogen peroxide, you probably already use it to kill the germs in an open wound and you know it works, why not use it on your cutting board as well, it will kill any germs you are worried about. Tea Tree Oil is also a disinfectant but please be careful with essential oils they are wonderful but are highly concentrated. Be sure to dilute them properly and even though they are natural they do need to be used with caution. A good site with information on essential oil safety can be found here
Some helpful links on cleaning naturally

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cleaning Step 1: Organized House Cleaning

The first step in cleaning naturally is to have an idea of what needs to be cleaned and a plan to get it all done.
First make a list of what needs to be cleaned in the house. You can break it down by what needs to be done every week, month, and year. From this point you can create your lists to match the way you want to clean. Maybe you want to list all the tasks room by room or upstairs and downstairs.
I wanted to put a mix of quick chores and longer chores together. I also thought I would organize my cleaning list to try to get everything in one month. I decided that a 4 week cleaning plan would work for me. I have my list on my phone so when I have a spare minute I can quickly see what my list for the week is and check off what I have done.
I find cleaning more often makes for much easier cleaning. For example although the baseboards do not need to be cleaned every month (more like once a year) I find that if I quickly wipe them down about every one to two months it is much faster then once a year cleaning. Although I have my schedule I do not freak out if during my week I do not get everything done. I figure it will all be there in 4 weeks when the list comes back around.
 Each week I clean a different part of the house, except floors and bathrooms which are cleaned every week. Currently my cleaning list is as follows

Week 1
Kitchen Counters/sink
Wash Bath and floor mats

Week 2
Baseboards Upstairs

Week 3

Week 4
Baseboards Downstairs

So pick up a pencil and paper take a walk around your home and start making your list. Organize it and come back to see how all these areas can be cleaned with little effort and no chemicals.
Finished with Step 1 then head on over to Step 2.

My go to reference on cleaning naturally

I couple of years ago I read the book Naturally Clean. It is my go to book on all things cleaning and I must say it is awesome! I am encouraging everyone to read it (I have a copy you can borrow). Not only is it an easy read but it gives some great information on cleaning products and our home. It makes me feel very good to have switched to natural cleaning methods. I think the one thing I was surprised about is even though the book is sponsored by Seventh Generation, it is not an endorsement for all their products. In fact it really is an endorsement for making your own products. There is a lot of research sited in the book for those non believers out there. For those who think I am crazy with all I do I would really encourage you to read this book before you judge me. You will find yourself throwing out (properly dispose of them since they are toxic substances) all your traditional, unregulated, untested, and unsafe cleaning products.
For those who do not have the book I thought I would share some of the main points through out my cleaning series of blogs. Let me first say that changing to anything new is often difficult and should be taken one step at a time. My posts will guide you through the changes I have made in our cleaning routine over the years moving room by room throughout the house.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Series on Cleaning

I am starting with a series of blogs on cleaning. Cleaning is one of the biggest ways you can change your health and the environment. Surprisingly the air in many homes is actually much more polluted then the air outside. There could be many reasons for unhealthy air in your home. To learn more read this article for the American Lung Association. The main reason our home air is unhealthy is because of off gassing from materials and furniture and toxic chemicals in the products you use. Both of these things are completely in your control. Over the next few posts you will see how easy it is to ditch those toxic products and have a clean and healthy home.

Are Cleaning Products MakingYour Family Ill? I read this great article on cleaning products at babyzone.com a long time ago. It really gives good information about what to avoid and what is good for cleaning. I would love to hear your opinion on the article. Please read it and post below about your thoughts.

I truly believe after all the research I have done that cleaning products are very dangerous. Even though it is sold at the grocery store does not make it safe. Just because the commercial says it is good and everyone should use it does not mean it is safe for you or your little ones. You really do not need to be buying household cleaners and disinfectants.

The only way you can make a difference is by being an educated consumer do your research or email me I would be glad to help out anyone. If you know there are better options then choose them. If you are reading this then you now know that there are better options. Do not be an uneducated consumer. EWG Skin Deep is a wonderful place to go for information on chemicals and the research that has or has not been done on them.

Would you knowingly put yourself or your family in danger? I know I have terrible guilt when I think (or worse know) my choices could be risking my childrens's health. There is so much I can not control but what goes on in my home I have complete control over and so do you. Sorry I usually am not preachy but I feel this is so very important and many people just shrug it off. No one is going to take care of you but you, so do what is right for yourself and make the changes you need to make.

To view each cleaning step click the links below.
Step 1: Organized House Cleaning
Step 2: Supplies for Cleaning the House
Step 3: Cleaning the House
Step 4: The Dishes
Step 5: Laundry

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fabric Gift Wrap

I made a vow a a couple of years ago that I would no longer spend money on wrapping paper. I have always saved every gift bag and piece of tissue paper to reuse. Currently though I have a few Christmas bags and a whole lot of baby girl and baby boy bags. I use these when ever I can but I need to find another solution to gift giving. For this reason I have been looking into reusable gift wrap. Most of what you find out there is bags. I think the reusable bags are great for birthdays but under my tree I still like the look of wrapped boxes with pretty ribbon.

I found a tutorial here that had some good information on making gift wrap. I thought I would get different fabric for each child so there would be no need to label the gifts. I knew I needed to make gift wrap not only for Christmas but also for the kids birthdays. This is when I thought why not make it double sided so one side is Christmas and the other side is for birthday. For those not interested in making gift wrap try Etsy there are many sellers of reusable gift bags and gift wrap there.

Here is my double sided gift wrap tutorial:

Making at least 3 sizes of gift wrap small, medium, and large in order to be sure you can wrap a variety of things. I also have 4 very large fabric bags which I use for extra large items. My smallest wrap is 12"x18" and my largest is 3'x4'.

First choose 2 different fabrics. I used a strawberry fabric and a plain red.
Lay out the fabric with the right sides facing each other.

Decide how big you want your gift wrap and cut about 1/2 inch more on each side. I did not use any precise measuring. I just eyeballed it and cut out different size squares and rectangles from the fabric I had.

Fold the top layer of fabric in half. Place a ribbon about the length of the fabric across the bottom fabric where the top fabric is folded up. Pull a small amount of ribbon out beyond the fabric and fold the top fabric back down.

Pin the ribbon and the corners of the two fabrics together.
Sew around the fabrics leaving a small area not sewn in order to flip the fabric.

Flip the fabric so the right sides are out. Push out the corners as needed and then sew up the unsewn section.
You now have a completed fabric gift wrap.

How the wrap your gift.
Use the fabric gift wrap as you would paper. Lay it out and put the object you are wrapping in the middle. Fold up the sides without the ribbon.

Then fold in the corners and fold up the sides with the ribbon.

Depending on the size of the object you may be able to wrap the ribbon around to the front of the package or just tie the ribbon in the back.

This is the first tutorial I have ever written. If you have any question please post them below I will be happy to clarify anything confusing.

Here are a few pictures of our fabric wrap being used though the years at both Christmas and birthdays!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Please use reusable bags!

Why oh why do I still see so many people leaving the stores with plastic bags? Reusable bags are easy, convenient, and so much better for the world.

These are the best bags for grocery shopping I have the Pastel String bags and Stephen has the Neutral ones. 5 bags with a stuff sack to keep them all in they are perfect to keep in the car for all your shopping needs. I like the short handles best.

For produce I love my mesh bags I bought from here. They are the perfect size and they store in their own stuff sack which I have attached to my string bags stuff sack. They are see through and durable but could be considered on the small size. A couple of extra large ones would be a good idea to complete the set.

I also love to buy from the bulk section, no wasted packaging. For my bulk purchases I have these wonderful bags. They hold anything I need.

I have 2 of these that I love for throwing in my purse when I go into any store.

The bags above are just a few of the thousands of options you have in reusable bags. The trick is to really think about what you will use them for and buy accordingly. Here are 2 great places to start your search for reusable bags.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Revamp of Purely Natural

Purely Natural is going to be revamped! I have had a hard time deciding what to do with this blog I am hoping that starting fresh will motivate me to write more. I want Purely Natural to be an area where I can post about all the natural and organic things we do in our family. Hopefully by explaining what we do, how we do it, and why we do it I will be able to inspire others to do the same. Also for all my friends and family who know I am an eco-friendly nut but are not sure why this blog should help explain my reasoning behind my madness.

I love to learn about how others run their life and why they do the things they do, it is amazing what you can learn from someone else. So read, comment, and ask questions. The more you actually discuss the realities of day to day life the more you learn about yourself and those around you.