Is it REALLY necessary to use a natural dishwasher detergent? This is a question we get a lot during our natural babyproofing workshops, and the short answer is: yes.
Expert guest post by Jeff Voorhies, IICRC Certified Carpet Technician
I know my wife's all about reducing toxic chemicals in the home – and so am I. But as a carpet cleaner, I don't recommend using harsh commercial stain and odor removers for another reason too: they're the worst possible choice for the care of your carpet.
So let's talk about what to do when you climb out of bed in the morning and can't even make it to your coffeemaker before soaking your sock in a puddle. It's super important to take care of urine spots to prevent confusion during potty training and to maintain your carpet – one of the biggest investments in your home. It can be a big job, but the good news is that staying on top of those spots doesn't have to be costly – or toxic.
Now keep in mind that my favorite odor removal method isn't for the weak-of-heart; we're talking DEFCON 5 here! I'm pulling out the whole arsenal, so let's get to it.
Light It Up
Okay no. I didn't mean for you to toss a match on the carpet and be done with it! But you do need to locate any and all urine stains so you can be sure to treat every single area. If you have darker carpet and can't quite see them, try using a black light to make the spots more obvious. You can get an LED blacklight for about $15, and it's worth the investment when potty training.
Soak It Up
Blot the puddles up with a dry, absorbent cloth, but be sure NOT to rub at all so the urine doesn't end up getting pressed deeper into the carpet and pad beneath. Just keep blotting with additional dry towels until you can’t see any more yellow.
Mix 50:50 white vinegar + lukewarm water, then test the mixture in an inconspicuous area. The vinegar neutralizes the ammonia salts in the carpet fibers that cause the long-lasting odor. If no discoloration occurred, go ahead and pour a good amount on the affected area. Let it sit for 30 minutes then begin the cycle of blotting again until all of the liquid is soaked up.
Spray It and Vacuum
Although this is a natural formula, keep in mind that you're mixing together items that could have a reaction if left to sit for too long.
As with any product or DIY solution, ALWAYS test a small section of the carpet, hardwood floors or furniture to make sure that this formula doesn’t react negatively with your items.
Gather the following ingredients from your kitchen for a high-powered DIY solution:
- 4oz hydrogen peroxide (no stronger than 3% so you don't bleach your carpet fibers)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp castile soap
- 3-5 drops orange essential oil (Earth Mama Angel Baby‘s castile soap already has this essential oil in it)
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake gently to mix. Test a small area of the carpet again and watch for discoloration, then spray the area liberally and let it dry completely. When it turns to a powder, vacuum it up. You may need to repeat this process if you're dealing with a tough urine spot. Then be sure to properly dispose the leftovers.
If you're not up for making your own spray, I recommend trying Nature's Miracle (probably not the least toxic option in the world, but skipping the scented versions will help). It works well using digestive enzymes and alcohol for disinfecting. It's important to let Nature’s Miracle dry naturally (which can sometimes a couple of days) so that it reaches all of the stain, including carpet pads and subfloors where the stain and odor can spread far beyond what is visible.
The Dreaded Feline
I hate to say it, but sometimes even your best effort isn't enough to take care of the problem, especially with more potent feline urine. If the smell still lingers after a couple of attempts to clean it, you'll need to hire a professional to deep clean and deodorize the carpet.
About the Author
Jeff has been cleaning carpet in Kansas City since 2002 and enjoys being an expert in his trade. He works hard with his son, Kyle, to offer a truly deep, healthy clean and is one of the few carpet cleaners in the area to offer a green solution. Voorhies Cleaning has been an Angie's List Super Service Award winner for 4 years and running. You can learn more about his team and the services they provide at voorhiescleaning.com.
Parents can't help but experience an overwhelming sense of helplessness when searching for safer options in a store full of unlabeled products. Current regulation doesn’t provide an effective way to manage the 2,000 new chemicals brought to market each year. Our biggest hope for the near future is truth in labeling so Americans can make truly informed decisions.
We've been hearing from busy parents who just don't know where to start, so here are a few simple things you can change right away to create a healthy home for your family.
Avoid Products with “Fragrance” Listed on the Label
The problem: The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. And here's the kicker: manufacturers can legally hide over 3,000 chemicals under “fragrance.” A new report from Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) found that millions of people suffer from skin and respiratory allergies caused by hidden chemicals in fragrance. These unknown chemicals are commonly found in skincare, cleaning products and air fresheners.
Skip Dryer Sheets, Even the Fragrance-free Sheets
The problem: Conventional dryer sheets often contain quaternary ammonium compounds, which are known to cause asthma, along with 1,4 dioxane which is known to cause cancer. Unscented products can still be made with fragrances added to mask the natural odor of other ingredients, instead of giving off a detectable scent.
Choose Safer Skin Care, Certified Organic When Possible
The problem: Our bathrooms are a literal minefield of toxic chemicals. Doctors have been prescribing medication to be administered through the skin for years, so we know that our bodies can absolutely absorb what it comes in contact with. The problem is that our outdated federal law allows cancer-causing chemicals in baby shampoo and lead in lipstick. That means it's up to us to find safer products to protect or children, but this is no easy task when there are so many “natural” and “organic” claims that are less than truthful.
The solution: We recommend choosing certified organic skincare when possible and products made by trustworthy companies who use safe ingredients and actually list them on the label voluntarily. Earth Mama Organics is an all-time favorite organic skin care line of ours.
NOTE: In India, Johnson & Johnson's license was suspended due to unacceptable levels of carcinogens still found in their products. As more cases like this unfold around the world, it becomes ever more important to safeguard our children.
FDA joint commissioner Kamlesh B Shende said, “There were unacceptable levels of ethylene oxide, which is a trigger for cancer. Ethylene oxide was being used to bring down microbial load in the powder by sterilisation. But it was found that there was ethylene oxide residue in the talcum powder, which is primarily used on infants. In light of this, we have suspended the licence.”
Ditch Poisonous Cleaning Products
The problem: Cleaning products are among the most toxic products found in the home, consistently remaining in the top five causes of poisoning in children and contributing to indoor air pollution. For example, The Environmental Working Group found that Comet contains over 100 undisclosed chemicals. In fact, most powdered scrubbing cleaners contain many toxic ingredients including formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform that can cause cancer, asthma and reproductive disorders.
P.S. Once you've conquered this list of priority changes, you can take the next step on your journey to a healthy home with our Getting Started Guide.
When our household budget began to feel the squeeze, I wasn't exactly looking for the silver lining. But what felt like a loss at first, ended up being a blessing in disguise. Who knew that actively looking for ways to save money could end up delivering an even better benefit by reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals in every day products?
Here are a few of my favorite ways to trim the budget while living a more natural lifestyle:
- Buy in bulk: Fresh or frozen organic foods without the chemical-laden packaging usually costs about the same as pre-packaged, convenience foods. During Earth Month, Mindful Momma and the Bulk is Green Council (BIG) are challenging to you to take the pledge to Love Bulk Foods. I save an average of 30-40% on organic gluten-free flours when buying in bulk at Whole Foods.
- Ditch disposables: Bottled water, polystyrene cutlery and styrofoam food containers are more expensive in the long run and leach toxic chemicals more readily. You can find all kinds of non-toxic food storage containers in our shopping guide.
- Skip over-priced skincare claiming to be organic without the proof of certification: Let the DIY ninja inside you take over with simple homemade recipes from your kitchen instead! Did you know that baking soda makes a great exfoliation and coconut oil works wonders on scars?
- Make your own green cleaners by substituting natural ingredients in place of hazardous ones: Vinegar is one of my all-around staples for cleaning along with castile soap and hydrogen peroxide. Learn more about which cleaners you should switch out first in our green cleaning guide.
- Reuse and repurpose glass jars and non-toxic plastic containers for organizing household items, storing DIY cleaning recipes, taking home left overs and decorating your home.
Guest Post by Cassidy Randall, Women’s Voices for the Earth
Have you ever wondered why, when you look at the back of your favorite laundry detergent or all-purpose cleaner, you only find a few ingredients on the label? That’s because cleaning product companies are legally allowed to keep chemicals a secret from you, even the toxic ones—and they do.
At Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), we believe you have a right to know what chemicals you’re being exposed to when you clean your home, which is why we tested 20 top brand-name cleaners for undercover ingredients. Guess what? We found secret toxic chemicals in every product we tested.
Here’s the dirt:
- Tide Free & Gentle® and Bounce Free & Sensitive® contained 1,4-dioxane, a known cancer-causing chemical. These products are marketed to moms for their infants’ laundry!
- Simple Green Naturals® also contained 1,4-dioxane as well as phthalates, linked to reproductive harm. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner® contained toluene, linked to pregnancy complications. Simple Green advertises their products as “non-toxic,” by the way.
- Glade Tough Odor Solutions® contained phthalates, even though the company said they removed them a couple years ago, and galaxolide, linked to hormone disruption.
- Clorox Clean-Up® contained chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, both linked to cancer. Clorox advertises that you should use this cleaner on multiple surfaces throughout the day – so you can get an even bigger dose of these chemicals!
- High levels of allergens appeared in fragranced air fresheners, but there were no warning labels. Allergens were also found in products marketed as “fragrance-free.”
- None of these chemicals are listed on the product’s label, so you have no way of knowing they’re in there, let alone avoiding them.
You’ll be shocked at what else we found. Read the report Dirty Secrets to find out.
Here’s the good news. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act has been introduced in Congress and will require companies to list all ingredients on the product label – right where they should be, so that you can make your own decisions about which chemicals you want to avoid. Ask your Representative to support this bill so that companies can’t keep toxic chemicals a secret from you!
So, you’re asking, what am I supposed to use to clean my home? Until you know what’s in products you buy off the shelf, you can mix your own cleaners with safe ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. This is a non-toxic, economical (and fun!) way to make sure you’re not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals hiding out in cleaners.
But the bottom line is that companies should be telling you what’s in their products, and cleaning products shouldn’t contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. Join me in demanding no more dirty secrets from cleaning product companies.
WVE seeks to reduce and ultimately eliminate environmental pollutants that cause health problems for women, their families and communities. To this end, WVE creates opportunities for women to influence environmental decision-making.
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