Friday, February 18, 2011

small changes for a healthier home

We've all been there. It's that moment when you've finally become convinced that for the sake of yourself, your family, and the environment, something's gotta give. If future generations are to enjoy even a smidgen of good health we must change the way we live, and change it quickly. Sometimes, and especially early on in the process of trying to educate ourselves on what some of the biggest dangers are we end up more overwhelmed than ever, wondering what on earth to start with. Here is a short list of some of my favorite changes that you can easily make in the quest for a healthier home:

  1. Go "all-natural" with your laundry detergent. You may be surprised to see this on a "Top 5" list but think logically about it for a minute. Our freshly laundered clothes are something that stays in contact with our bodies nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do we really want those clothes to be laundered in chemicals that may be harmful to us, our families, and the environment? No thank you! Choosing all-natural laundry detergent really isn't very expensive, but if cost is a concern there are plenty of recipes floating around the internet for making your own detergent some of which claim to cost only pennies per load! I have yet to try making my own laundry detergent, but plan on it in the future once my Earth Friendly detergent is gone.
  2.  Make your own cleaners for wiping down counter-tops, cleaning toilets and showers, etc., Our culture is obsessed with cleanliness. Many common household cleaning products are far more dangerous to our health and the environment than the germs they were created to destroy. One of the simplest and most effective household cleaners can be made by taking a spray bottle, filling it with clean water, and adding a few drops of grapefruit seed extract (studies have shown that 10-15 drops per gallon of water is effective for killing many pathogens), along with a few drops of essential oils. GFSE has been shown in studies to be more effective than chlorine bleach at killing bacteria in hospital settings. And the neatest part? It keeps on killing! When researchers tested hospital bedsheets they found that when they were washed in a solution containing relatively minuscule amounts of GFSE, bacteria was essentially nonexistent on those sheets hours after a patient lay in them versus the sheets washed in the traditional cleaners. I like to add essential oils such as tea tree and clove which have their own antibacterial properties. These cleaners are so safe, I even use them on my produce to remove bacteria and pesticides.
  3. Toss the plastic! Many plastics contain Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a dangerous toxin which has estrogenic effects on the body. BPA is linked to reproductive problems in men and women, and is linked to various cancers and other health problems. Consider eliminating use of plastic dishes (especially for infants), and water bottles, and also reducing the number of plastic toys your children play with, opting instead for glass, ceramic, or wood dishes, and cloth or wooden toys for your children. If you "must" keep using plastic for any reason, look for plastics marked "1", "2", and "4" on the recycling label. These still contain other potential toxins, but at least are free of BPA! Also avoid using plastic in the microwave, or washing them with harsh detergents as this can increase the leeching of chemicals into your food.
  4. Buy a plant. Live houseplants can help to purify the air in your home, removing dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, as well as being aesthetically pleasing, especially during the winter months when living green things are hard to find. Repurposing old containers can make this even more fun. Just don't forget to water from time to time!
  5. Purify your water. You can find fairly inexpensive under-the-sink purifiers, or just get a pitcher that you can fill directly from your faucet. Our bodies are mostly water, so it only makes sense that the cleaner our water, the healthier we will be. A whole house purifying system is ideal, but if all you can manage is to purify your drinking water, it's a good move in the right direction! 


  1. I've been making my own laundry soap for several years now. It works for us, it's cheap, cheap, cheap to make and I know what's in it!

  2. A lot of dishes made for children these days claim to be BPA free. I still worry about other potential problems with plastic though...and there's a tendency to go with plastic containers and bags to keep kids' snacks in, because it's not breakable. And that just made me wonder: is there BPA in plastic bags (freezer bags, storage bags, sacks from the grocery store)? Probably! Anybody know?

  3. BPA definitely wouldn't be my only concern with plastics; there are other concerns like phthalates such to think of. A lot of manufacturers are becoming aware of the fact that consumers don't want BPA's in their plastics though and are removing them.

    I doubt plastic bags of any kind contain BPA; BPA is used as a hardening agent, which is why it's a concern mostly for plastic containers and such.

    I know Ziploc bags and containers and Saran brand wrap is BPA free. SC Johnson claims to be health and environmentally conscious, and actually do appear to take steps to make their products safer than is usually required by law. They were one of the first companies to stop using CFC's in aerosol products back in the 70's, before they were officially banned by the FDA.

    GLAD brand also claims to be BPA and phthalate free.

  4. Christine, would you care to share your detergent recipe here? I'd love to try one that's "tried and true"!

  5. I've been enjoying your posts...and it helps me as I slowly make some of these transitions to be reminded of places I am needing to look at.

  6. Meg what a great post! It's nice to have a simple list of things to do. This was so helpful and not overwhelming (which happens too easily for me!)! I look forward to implementing some of detergent says "natural" but I know that doesn't necessarily mean safe or good.

    Esp. for Rachel's comment I wanted add that Pyrex dishes are a great alternative for storing snacks, leftovers and freezing. The ones I use do have a plastic lid BUT the rest is glass AND they are SUPER hardy. I dropped my large container down a paved hill and it didn't even chip and the lid didn't come off! I know, I sound like a commercial...but for a clumsy lady such as myself I love the products. I find myself throwing snacks for the road into them frequently.

  7. I have a couple small Pyrex containers for storing leftovers and things in; I love them! I definitely want to add to my collection and do away with the last few plastic containers I do have. It is extremely hard to find glass storage containers that also have glass lids, but even with plastic lids it's still a great improvement over completely plastic containers. That's good to know that they're so hardy though. I melted part of the lid to one of my glass storage containers (oops!) and on the other two the lids don't fit well even though they were designed to go together so I cracked the side of one of the lids the other day just trying to get it to stay on the container. One thing to consider though for storage if it's not going to be handled by the kiddos is mason jars, or emptied jam jars and such.

  8. Meg, I keep getting BPA and phthalates confused. I kept thinking that phthalates (I feel like I am never spelling that word correctly) and BPA are basically the same thing...but uh, that's dumb, now that I think about it, 'cause they're in a lot of cosmetics, whereas BPA isn't.

    Thanks, biblechik! I will have to check those out.

    I am working on switching from plastic to glass and other less nasty things. I just bought a big box of wide mouth mason jars for storing milk and leftover foods. I love them. And they're also nicer to look at than most of the plastic what's not to love?

    Down with a disposable world!

  9. Phthalate is hard to spell. I always have to look at it a couple times before I feel fairly sure it's correct. LOL

    I want to get some mason jars for storing leftovers and such! We have some, but not enough, and I still have to put leftovers in plastic from time to time (at least they're GLAD brand though). Glass jars are always more pleasant to look at than plastic. We just spent half of our weeks grocery budget on a huge jug of wine, just so we can have the glass jar after its empty to get clean water from David's parents. We've been drinking straight from the tap, but realized there's no reason to keep doing that since they have a filter on their sink upstairs.

    One set of plastic I refuse to do away with though is my Tupperware that used to belong to granny! That stuff is amazing, and since I'm not putting hot foods in it, I figure most of the leaching that was going to occur probably has by now, since they're as old as the hills. That is probably erroneous thinking, but I like them too much to throw them away. They're sort of family heirlooms, like my utensil holder (remember that one mom used to have in the kitchen with the fruit on it?! It's actually a pitcher, but I love it as utensil holder).