Non-toxic Living

Although many toxic substances are part of "modern" life, we can improve the home environment by changing our habits and what products we are exposed to at home.

The place to start is with cleaning out the places where cleaning and laundry products are stored. Throw away everything that is fragranced or carries a long list of chemicals or warnings on the label. That may be most of what you purchased at a grocery or discount store.

Why should we avoid fragrances if we are not sensitive to them? Fragrance is added to cleaning and laundry products cover the smell of toxic ingredients. Also, chemical fragrances are themselves toxic. A study was done in on what was in the air clothes dryers vented to the outside. Laundry done with fragranced detergents produced twenty one harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If both fragranced detergents and dryer sheets were used, the list was much longer. There were no VOCs emitted from the laundry washed with unscented detergent. [1]

Air fresheners don't actually freshen the air, they just cover unpleasant odors with chemical perfumes that are as toxic as those in laundry products. The use of air fresheners is linked to allergies and worsening asthma. [2] Remove whatever is causing offensive odors, like garbage in your kitchen wastebasket. Then open the windows to really freshen the air.

Alternatives to chemical cleaning products can be found at health food stores, but read the labels even there and be aware that ingredients may change. Old standbys for non-toxic cleaning include vinegar, baking soda, borax and BonAmiTM scouring powder. When you need serious cleaning power, try some AFM SuperCleanTM. A bottle of this concentrate will last you a long time. The label directs how to dilute if from between 1:15 to 1:2 to clean everything from kitchen counters to walls to difficult-to-remove soap scum deposits. For soap scum, you may want to moisten the surface with 1:2 SuperCleanTM, let it stand a while, and then scrub with BonAmiTM.

Microfiber cloths and dusters can eliminate the need to use many cleaning products. My old favorite cloths contained 80% polyester and 20% polyamide fibers and were reasonably priced but, unfortunately, came from a company that recently closed. Since then I have tried several brands of microfiber cloths in all price ranges. Cloths sold by multi-level marketing are not more effective than my favorites but are much more expensive. The cloths sold at grocery stores and discount stores seemed much less effective to me. When I inspected the labels on the few cloths that came with fiber content information, I discovered that they contained no polyamide. Before purchasing such cloths, feel them. Microfiber that works well contains polyamide and feels sticky. My new favorite looped cloths contain 20% polyamide like my old favorites and are made by VibraWipeTM. Although the manufacturer's website may say they are out of stock, the Amazon sales page seems to always have them.

Use water with microfiber cloths when cleaning, either by wetting the cloths or with a spray bottle. Although microfiber can be used dry for dusting, I slightly dampen cloths before dusting to minimize the amount of dust that escapes the cloth and is inhaled. I also change cloths frequently while cleaning and deposit the soiled cloths in the washer to wash when I finish cleaning. Do not wash microfiber cleaning cloths with cotton fabrics or they will pick up lint that destroys their effectiveness. Wash the cloths in cool water with laundry detergent only and hang them to dry.

Although I usually use non-toxic cleaning agents, there are times when what you are trying to get rid of is worse than a "big gun" cleaner. Click here for more about getting rid of mold. If you must use something like CloroxTM, open the windows so the fumes will be diluted with fresh air rather than building up. If you are sensitive to the smell of CloroxTM, have someone else treat a moldy area with CloroxTM, let it dry and sit for an hour or for as long as overnight, and then rinse the area thoroughly and air out thoroughly before you use the room. Be sure to buy unscented CloroxTM.

When you buy an item of new clothing, remove the chemicals it is laden with before wearing. I have always washed new clothing before wearing, but recently read about a new twist on this. In The Allergy Solution, Dr. Galland recommends soaking new clothing overnight in the washer with warm water first, and then washing it repeatedly until it smells all right. [3] I was surprised when I soaked a rust-colored turtleneck top overnight and the water was deep orange the next morning.

Personal care products should be natural, unscented products, not petroleum-based and without parabens or phthalates. [4] Shop for them at health food stores and read the labels. Interestingly, recent studies have linked the rapidly rising incidence of peanut anaphylaxis in children to early exposure to peanut oil in skin care products. [5] Thus, be careful of what you put on your skin because it will be absorbed. The practice of slathering children with toxic DEET to prevent mosquito bites is ridiculous considering that vitamin B1 works better and is non-toxic. For more about using B1 to prevent mosquito bites, click here.


[1] Galland, Leo, MD. The Allergy Solution. (Carlsbad, CA, Hay House, Inc., 2016), 88.
[2] Galland, 93.
[3] Galland, 91-92.
[4] Servan-Schreiber, David, MD, PhD. AntiCancer: A New Way of Life. (New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 2009), 6 of "AntiCancer Action" section in the center of the book.
[5] Galland, 49.