The top 5 natural products to take on holiday

The top 5 natural products to take on holiday

Summer is in full swing. The sun is shining and it is the perfect time to head outdoors and explore. Many of us love to get away in summer for weekend camping trips. Head to the beach or the forest, pitch a tent and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature. Read on to find out my top 5 natural products to take on holiday.

There is nothing like heading out into Mother Nature and enjoying the peace and beauty. If we want to continue to enjoy nature in the future, it is important that we take steps to preserve and protect her. Be conscious of what products you use in your home and especially while camping. And ensure you choose products that will do the least amount of damage.

Camping in summer is a great experience. I have compiled a list of my top 5 natural products to take on holiday. They are all easy to find and many you may already have in your pantry.

Coconut Oil:

You have all heard people praise the versatility of coconut oil. It has had a lot of press over the past year or so, and for good reason. Coconut oil is one of the most versatile products around. I couldn’t have a top 5 natural products to take on holiday list without including it,

I wouldn’t be without coconut oil if I were going camping. You can, of course, use it when cooking. But did you know that coconut oil also has a natural SPF of 6? I am not recommending that you slather yourself in coconut oil and go lay out in the sun. But if you forget your sunscreen it’s a great back up. It also acts as a moisturizer. I use it everyday on my face to moisturize and give me some light sun protection.

Most of us wouldn’t wear a lot of makeup when camping. But if you do find yourself glamming up for a night at the local pub, coconut oil makes a fantastic make-up remover. Just be sure to keep your coconut oil cold or it will turn to liquid.

Baking Soda:

Now this may sound like an unusual addition to your top 5 natural products to take on holiday list. But aside from using it to make damper or soda bread you can use it to scour pots. Especially those you may have burnt the bottom of on the camp fire.

You can also mix it with coconut oil and peppermint essential oil to make a toothpaste. It does take a bit of getting used to though, as the flavour is salty rather than the sweet.

Sometimes on holiday we end up overindulging. This can lead to heartburn and indigestion. Just grab your baking soda. Mix half a teaspoon in a glass of water and drink. Relief shouldn’t be too far away.

If it is relief from insect bites you need, try rubbing some dry powder onto the bite for some itch relief. You can also remove splinters by soaking the area in water that has a teaspoon or two of baking soda dissolved in it.

Forgot the shampoo and your hair is getting greasy? Again, grab the baking soda. Sprinkle some onto your scalp and massage in. Leave for a minute of two, and then brush out. The baking soda will absorb the grease from your scalp, acting like a dry shampoo.

The Green Housewife Dish Soap:

I know this sounds like some shameless self-promotion. But, I would never go camping without it. Being natural and non-toxic you are safe in the knowledge it won’t harm you or the environment. Many commercial dish wash liquids contain ingredients harmful to wild life, marine life and plant life. You can read a post explaining what these ingredients are, and how they effect the environment, here.

Aside from being kind to the environment, there are other reasons that make it good to take away with you. Water quality is very variable. Not all dish wash liquids work well in water that contains a lot of minerals or ions (hard water). The beauty of The Green Housewife Dish Soap is that is works in a huge variety of water conditions. Including seawater!

Even though the Dish Soap is gentle on the environment, it packs a powerful punch against dirt and grime. My mother has even cleaned all her dirty oven racks with it. Use it to clean the BBQ grill that is often a greasy mess at camping grounds. You can also use it as a stain remover for your clothing. Just wet the spot with a little water, rub in a squirt of Dish Soap and rinse in plenty of water.

Lavender Essential Oil:

Lavender Essential Oil is one of the most popular essential oils world-wide, with good reason. It is a great addition to your camping/holiday pack. And a must have on your top 5 natural products to take on holiday.

Most campgrounds are noisy. I struggle to sleep whenever I go on holiday. A lack of sleep does not make for a relaxing holiday. If you’re like me, try putting a couple of drops of Lavender Essential oil on your pillow. Or mix it with your coconut oil and rub into the soles of your feet. This is a good one for kids. Lavender is one of the few Essential Oils considered safe for use on children. And rubbing it on their feet means it stays away from their mouths.

Lavender Essential Oil can also be used on burns and insect stings to help take the pain away. Apply a couple of drops directly to the burn or sting for relief. Or mix a few drops of lavender into coconut oil and aloe vera gel for sunburn relief.

Forgot your deoderant? Then take some of your coconut oil, add in some baking soda and a few drops of lavender essential Oil and viola! Instant deodorant without the aluminium and other nasties found in commercial deodorants.

Natural DIY Baby Wipes:

Playing in the great outdoors is fun but it can also be messy and smelly. Taking a pack of baby wipes means any mess or spill is easily dealt with. You always have a substitute shower on hand. You can freshen up any time you need. The wipes are biodegradable, able to be composted and are gentle on skin. Every mother can tell you how versatile packets of wipes are. Read my post on how to make your own, natural baby wipes here.

Top 5 natural products to take on holiday.

My list is complete. These are my picks of natural products to take on holiday. Do you have any must haves you need to take when you go camping? If so, I would love to hear about them. Please post a comment below and share your tips.

6 ways to improve indoor air pollution

6 ways to improve indoor air pollution

As you are reading this, you are probably sitting indoors in front of your computer. We are spending more time indoors than any other time in history. Because of the way we live, it is now more important than ever to find ways to decrease our exposure to indoor air pollution. Read on to learn easy ways for improving indoor air pollution. 

Introduction:

It is estimated that we now spend up to 90% of our time indoors. This percentage has increased greatly in the last 30-40 years. Because of the large amount of time we spend indoors, it is vital that we find ways of improving indoor air pollution to ensure that our indoor environment is as healthy as possible.

The Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) states that ‘Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.’ (source) They also believe that air pollution is two to five times higher than outdoor air pollution. I live in a city where smog is a real problem. Therefore the thought that the air inside my home is considered more polluted, quite frankly scares me. This lead me to research ways of easily and cheaply improving indoor air pollution in my own home.

Exposure to chemicals, pollutants and toxins within our homes has a direct impact on our health. The terms ‘sick building syndrome’ and ‘building related illness’ are now being recognized by doctors. Symptoms range can be acute complaints of dizziness, headaches, eye irritation and respiratory irritation to name a few. Or chronic exposure, which have long term effects and can include respiratory complaints and cancer.

Articles on indoor air pollution statistics and sources of exposure can make scary reading and be overwhelming. Luckily there are some simple and inexpensive things you can do today which will make a dramatic difference in improving indoor air pollution in your home.

Sources of Air Pollution:

Indoor air pollutants can come in two forms. Particulate matter and Gaseous pollutants.

Particulate Matter

Particulate matter are all solids and liquids that are suspended in air.

These include;

  • Pollen
  • Mould
  • Smoke
  • Dust Mites
  • Animal Dander
  • Viruses and Bacteria
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Dust

Gaseous Pollutants

These pollutants are the result of a combustion process. These can come from cooking processes, tobacco smoke or vehicle use. However, some less obvious sources include;

  • Soft furnishings
  • Adhesives
  • Building materials
  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Pesticides
  • Cleaning Products

 

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from some liquids or solids. They may have short term or long term negative health effects. VOCs can be emitted by thousands of products and the concentration of VOCs can be up to ten times higher indoors.

‘EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s “Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study” …..found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regarless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas…. and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.’ (source)

VOCs can be found in many common products we utilize everyday in our homes.

  • aerosol sprays
  • cleaners and disinfectants
  • air fresheners
  • dry cleaning
  • paint, paint stripper
  • solvents
  • furnishings
  • building materials
  • printers and copiers

Health Effects of Indoor Air Pollution

The health effects of indoor air pollution can be categorized as either Acute, (rapid onset, short, severe course), or Chronic, (persisting for a long time or constantly reoccurring).

Acute:
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Breathlessness
  • Headaches and/or dizziness
  • Runny Nose
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Nose bleed
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Poor concentration
Chronic
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Digestive issues
  • Memory problems
  • Sinus problems
  • Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals and are suspected to contribute to cancer in humans
  • Sleep issues

Steps to Improving Indoor Air Pollution

The above all seems very grim and frightening. However, there are some simple, cost effective things you can do in your home right now to improve the quality of air.

Eliminate the source: Have a look around your home and identify some of the possible contributing factors to air pollution and make a plan to fix, repair or remove the source.

Clean air conditioner air ducts regularly.

Adjust gas stoves and heating appliances to decrease the level of emissions.

Properly vent all fuel burning devices, including fireplaces, water heaters, gas and wood burning stoves.

Use natural pest control to decrease exposure to pesticides.

Minimize dust mites in your home. For tips on how to do this, refer to my blog post on 10 ways to minimize dust mites. You can read it here.

Eliminate odours in the home instead of masking with artificial smells. Or use Essential oils to provide scent where needed.

Ventilate: Let fresh air in. Simply opening windows to let in fresh air whenever you can will  go a long way to help remove pollutants from your home.

Ensure that you have good exhaust systems in place in bathrooms and in the kitchen.

Put down a welcome mat: To stop people bringing in pollutants from the outside, place mats at every entrance to encourage wiping of shoes and ask people to remove shoes within your home.

Where you have the option, opt for hard flooring and have washable rugs.

Ban smoking from your home.

Invest in a home air cleaner: These are pricey but may be an option for some. For those of us who simply do not have the budget for this level of protection, grab your Essential Oil diffuser.

Essential oils have many health giving and cleansing properties. Some Essential oils are antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and some will kill airborne mould spores. Diffuse these oils for half an hour a day in bedrooms and living areas to help keep air clean, I like to use a combination of sweet orange, cinnamon. clove, rosemary and eucalyptus.

Change to a natural clean: cleaning products and disinfectants are responsible for a large portion of the air pollution we have in our homes. Changing to an all natural, non toxic cleaning system will help to keep air pollution inside your home to a minimum.

Go green: Houseplants are a great way to help lower indoor air pollution naturally. Here is a list of some good ones to try. List is taken from an article written  by Mother Earth Living. You can read  the full article here.

  • English Ivy: An excellent choice for removing formaldehyde, benzene and even airborne fecal matter, this native of Asia, Europe and North Africa is somewhat difficult to grow indoors. It prefers moist air, so mist leaves regularly when humidity is low and keep in bright light. Beware that the leaves are poisonous to pets and humans when ingested.
  • Ficus ‘Amstel King’: Adept at clearing formaldehyde and a good general air purifier, the new ficus cultivar Ficus alii is rapidly gaining popularity. Native to Thailand, this plant is related to weeping fig, but less finicky and with long pointed leaves. Water thoroughly, allowing the top half-inch of soil to dry out between waterings, and provide bright, indirect light.
  • Gerbera Daisy: This lovely plant from Africa adds a splash of color to the room and removes a variety of chemical vapors from the air, notably formaldehyde and benzene. It makes a delightful plant in the summer garden, and if brought indoors in the fall, it may continue to flower through the winter. This is a relatively difficult indoor plant that requires bright light and moderate temperatures.
  • Peace Lily: This lily is adept at removing a variety of alcohols and chemical vapors, including acetone, benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde and xylene, and it scored among the top plants tested for removing several toxins. This easy-to-grow lily can raise humidity levels by up to 5 percent, a helpful feat in dry climates. They enjoy semisun to semishade and being watered a lot at once, then being allowed to dry out.
  • Rubber Plant: This handsome houseplant from southeast Asia, known botanically asFicus elastica, is near the top of the list for removing formaldehyde. Under proper conditions, a rubber plant can reach a height of 8 feet. Rubber plant is extremely forgiving. Ideally, it prefers bright, indirect light; regular watering; and mist on its leaves when the air is dry.
  • Snake Plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue): Native to West Africa, this evergreen perennial clears smog, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air. Like aloe, the snake plant produces oxygen and removes carbon dioxide at nighttime, making it ideal for bedrooms and other low-light rooms. This plant can withstand considerable neglect and infrequent watering.
  • Spider Plant: This flowering perennial is native to Africa and removes smog, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene—found in auto exhaust, synthetic perfume and paint. A NASA study found this plant can remove 96 percent of the carbon monoxide and 99 percent of the nitrogen dioxide within a sealed chamber. This resilient plant thrives in a variety of environments. It prefers medium to bright light, but avoid extended amounts of direct sun.
  • Weeping Fig: These popular tropical trees, known botanically as Ficus benjamina, are excellent at removing a variety of pollutants, including formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. They come in three main varieties: a bush, a standard tree and a braided tree with entwined trunks. Weeping fig has a tendency to drop its leaves when moved. They enjoy full to semisun and moist soil.

 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this article shows, indoor air pollution is a very real problem that most of us are unaware of. It can be the root cause of a myriad of health related problems. Left unchecked and the health implications are huge. The above suggestions are simple and effective things you can do right now to improve the quality of air in your home.

Have you implemented any of the six suggested ideas for improving air quality in your home? If so, i would love to hear what you have done and how it has worked for you. Please leave a comment below.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/guide-air-cleaners-home
  2. https://draxe.com/indoor-air-pollution-worse-than-outdoor/
  3. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/indoor-air-facts-no-4-sick-building-syndrome
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/indoorairpollution.html
  5. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-01/documents/indoor_air_pollution.pdf
  6. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality
  7. http://www.motherearthliving.com/healthy-home/reduce-indoor-air-pollution-zm0z14ndzhou?pageid=2#PageContent2
  8. http://www.webmd.com/lung/features/12-ways-to-improve-indoor-air-quality
  9. http://yourmedicalsource.com/content/ten-ways-reduce-indoor-air-pollutants#axzz4Nvqr8v7A
  10. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/08/7-easy-ways-to-reduce-indoor-air-pollution/index.htm
Health effects of dish wash liquid

Health effects of dish wash liquid

A few weeks ago we looked at what the environmental impact was from doing the dishes. This week takes a more personal look and we investigate health effects of dish wash liquid. Dish washing liquid contains  many different chemicals designed to foam, de-grease, preserve, fragrance, lather and decrease surface tension. Many of these chemicals have an effect on human health and well being. Read on to learn more about the health effects of dish wash liquid. 

Introduction:

A few weeks ago we talked about the unacceptable toll we place on our water ways and aquatic life every time we wash the dishes. However, often the unseen environmental costs are not enough for people to make permanent changes. Because of this, many people need to see that there is a direct impact in their own lives before they adopt change. Luckily for the fish there are plenty of reasons why we should ditch the washing up liquid in favour of a more natural alternative.

For a long time we have have understood that cleanliness is linked to health. And while to a large degree that statement still holds true, we are also starting to see that the very products that we use daily to help keep our homes clean and therefore healthy, actually have the ability to harm us. Unfortunately, unless you have an allergy to a certain product, the effects of cleaning products on our health are often unseen. Most people are unaware of the damage they are doing. However there are some serious health effects of dish wash liquid and other household cleaning products that we should not ignore.

Chemical Exposure:

My research into the chemical toll of cleaning products found many companies claim that the chemicals in their products only cause concern after prolonged and continuous use. This appears to be the case with most of the chemicals I have researched. However, the problem with that statement is, that the same chemicals that can be found in our dish washing detergent often turn up in our laundry detergent, our shampoo, our body wash, our dishwasher tablets, the spray for your kitchen bench……. The list truly goes on and on. When you stop to think about how frequently we expose ourselves to these chemicals every single day, it is staggering. I think it would be fair to say that over the course of the day, week, month and years, it adds up to ‘prolonged and continuous use’.

Think of how often you stop to wash a dish or cup during the course of a day or a week. It is little wonder that the health effects of dish wash liquid are plentiful due to the level of exposure.

Surfactants:

It would be acceptable to assume that a product sold to clean a dish that you prepare or eat food in, would be ‘safe’ for us. However, that appears not to be the case. Many of the individual ingredients found in dish washing detergent can have a detrimental effect on our health over time. One of the issues with dish washing liquid is that the chemicals get absorbed through the skin. This means that they do not get filtered through the liver. Consequently, they are directly delivered to the bloodstream. Depending on the structure of a molecule, the cells that make up your skin can prevent it passing through. However oily, non-polar substances will be absorbed by the cells simply on contact.(source)  Surfactants found in dish washing detergents are one such substance and can readily be absorbed by the skin. Many of these surfactants have been linked to cancer, skin irritation, dizziness, headaches and breaks in the DNA chain.

Health Effects of Dish Wash Liquid

There is a plethora of chemicals lurking in our washing up liquid. They are there to perform a myriad of functions such as; surfactants, foaming agents, fragrance, preservatives, hand softeners and colour.  “There is approximately 8.6 million kilograms of hand dishwashing detergent consumed every year in NZ.” (source) That is a lot of chemicals being flushed down our drains and absorbed through our skin, every single year. And yet so many of us are unaware of the health effects of dish wash liquid that we blindly use every single day. In case you need more convincing to change the way you clean, below is a closer look into just a few of the nasties that can be found in your washing up liquid.

  • “Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS): SLS is a detergent and a surfactant used to break down surface tension allowing the shampoo to become a more effective cleanser. SLS is also linked to Nitrosamines a potent carcinogen that causes your body to absorb nitrates, another known carcinogen. Over 40,000 studies in PubMed science library include information on the toxicity of this chemical.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES): SLES is a concern as it can become contaminated with Dioxane. Whether or not Dioxane is present is dependent upon the manufacturing process. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen. Because the liver has a difficult time metabolizing this effectively, it remains in the body for an extended period of time.
  • Propylene Glycol: Although this ingredient is used in anti-freeze for your car radiator, you can also find it in dish soap, moisturizers, hand sanitizers, baby products, conditioners and shampoos. MSDS sheets warn users to avoid skin contact, yet it remains in many cosmetics. It is linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep site, this widely used preservative is associated with allergic reactions and lab studies on brain cells of mammals suggest that it may also be neurotoxic. Methylisothiazolinone can be very irritating. For this reason, it is mostly used in rinse-off products. The concentrations in leave-on products are restricted to a minimal amount to lessen the risk of a negative reaction.
  • Fragrance: Artificial fragrances can contain hundreds, even thousands of chemicals, including phthalates. Since fragrances are protected as a trade secret, the full ingredients do not have to be listed on the label. Fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.
  • Phthalates are manmade chemicals used in a variety of products such as personal care products, food packaging, plastic medical devices, jar lids and plastic tubes. Phthalates can negatively affect estrogen and testosterone levels.
  • Triclosan: Triclosan was introduced to the marketplace in 1972, although it was originally developed and registered as a pesticide in 1969. Triclosan is a commonly found antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal ingredient in numerous products such as soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, deodorants, first aid products, kitchen ware, clothing, office and school products, air filters, anti-microbial sponges, paints and coolers.

Manufacturers of a number of triclosan-containing toothpaste and soap products claim that the active ingredient continues to work for as long as 12 hours after use. Thus, consumers are exposed to triclosan for much longer than the time it takes to wash their dishes or brush their teeth.”

This list is an excerpt from an article written by Elisha McFarlandis the founder of My Health Maven. It goes on to talk about how dish washing liquid fares in the Environmental Working Group’s rating system for health effects and how to find safe products. You can read the whole article here.

Conclusion:

This list only covers some of the chemicals found in dish detergent, there are many more to be found. There are countless blog posts, medical and journal articles available that outline the health effects of dish wash liquid and the environment costs of the continued use of these products. It is time we took a hard look at the products we use on a daily basis in our homes and start to make better, informed decisions that will safeguard our personal health and that of the planet.

Since I have now put you off using dish wash liquid for good, I want to share with you a recipe that you can make that is safer for you and kinder on the environment. This recipe is courtesy of  Mommypotamus. You can read her take on washing up soap and how to make your own here.

I urge you to begin to look at the products you regularly use in your home and start to look at the ingredients that you are exposing yourself and your family to. There are safer, healthier and better alternatives out there. If you are interested in adopting a more natural approach to home care, then I would suggest checking out my Transform Your Home Challenge series of natural cleaning guides. This series contains all the information, techniques and recipes you will ever need to ditch the toxic synthetic chemicals permanently from your home. And even better, they come in an instantly downloadable format so you can begin the transformation of your home today. To find out more, or to download your copy, click on the image below.

HTC intro cover

 

The Environmental Impact Of Washing The Dishes

The Environmental Impact Of Washing The Dishes

My husband will tell you there is plenty wrong with doing the dishes. If he had his way, he would never hand wash another dish ever again. In fact he is trying to convince me to put three, yes three!, dishwashers in our home when we build soon. I’m not converted on the idea yet. Aside from my husband’s aversion to washing dishes, there are actual environmental costs every time we fill the sink and squirt in the dish wash liquid. If you are interested in the environmental impact of washing the dishes, even if it is just to justify three dishwashers, then read on. 

Washing the dishes is something that most of us will do at least once every single day. Have you ever wondered what happens to the soapy water once you pull the plug? I certainly hadn’t. Most of us are blissfully unaware of the impact the simple act of washing a dish can have on the environment.

Dishwashing liquid contains a plethora of chemicals. Many of these chemicals are derived or manufactured by petrochemicals which is a limited and non renewable natural resource. The manufacture of the individual chemicals and the end product requires huge amounts of water and energy. It is then packaged in a container that is not biodegradable, requires more chemicals in its manufacture and is often tossed into landfill once empty. Often it is then shipped or trucked over distance to stores all over the country or world adding to its environmental footprint along the way. By the time it arrives at its final destination in your kitchen it already is on the environmental back-foot. And unfortunately it just gets worse from here.

Many dishwashing liquids contain phosphates.Phosphate is added to reduce spotting and film on dishes, as well as help remove food and grease, suspending them so that they are not redistributed back onto dishes. Phosphate is a naturally occurring mineral and is essential to plant growth. It is used as a fertilizer in the agricultural sector.  The problem with phosphate comes when there is too much of it entering the water ways. It causes an over growth of algae and plant life. This excess growth starves the river or lake of oxygen once that algae dies off. It reduces the availability of nutrients to fish and other plant life. This can lead to great loss of fish life. Some algae release toxins during the decaying process which also can cause death in fish and animals that drink from the affected water. A large part of the problem is caused from agriculture, however phosphates found in many of our cleaning and personal care products are certainly a contributing factor.

It is not just fresh water that is effected. One study found high levels of perfluorinated compounds, which are found in items such as the non stick coating in food packaging and in carpet stain repellants, in loggerhead sea turtles. The same properties that make them tough at resisting stains and spills, also makes them remain in the environment. These chemicals then get filtered through creatures such as mussels and clams which then get eaten by the turtles. Triclosin which is a chemical found in dishwashing liquids and antibacterial handwash has been discovered in dolphins at levels that can disrupt hormones, growth and development. Triclosin is stored in the fatty tissues of mammals. Even scarier is that Triclosin has also been detected in breast milk. Triclosin has also been causing trouble in municipal wastewater treatment plants by disrupting the microbes that are involved in the ‘sludge processing’.

Surfactants are the agents  that  give dishwashing liquid its wetting, dispersing and foaming ability. However the common surfactants found in traditionally used detergents can wreck havoc for aquatic life. According to Lennitech, a company specialising in water treatment, detergents are poisonous to all forms of aqautic life. The detergent “destroy the external mucus layers that protect the fish from bacteria and parasites; plus they can cause severe damage to the gills.” The other problem identified by Lennitech caused by surfactants in freshwater systems is that they reduce the surface tension of the water allowing other chemicals and pesticides present in the water to be more easily absorbed by fish.

Next week I will look at how washing the dishes effects us and our health. However I wanted to cover the environmental effects first because at the end of the day, we have a choice about what we expose ourselves to. The aquatic, marine and plant life do not. They rely on us to keep them healthy and safe. At the end of the day, one must at some stage stack the plates, fill the sink and wash the dishes. The reality is we simply cannot just stop cleaning. However, I ask you to rethink how you do the dishes and maybe you might consider trying an alternative, natural and more environmentally friendly option in the future.

Have you tried any natural dishwashing products? If so, i would love to hear what you have used and how it has worked for you. Just leave a comment below.
References:

  1. http://www.facilitiesnet.com/green/article/The-Environmental-Impacts-of-Cleaning-Products-Facilities-Management-Green-Feature–10796
  2. http://www.greenchoices.org/green-living/cleaning/environmental-impacts
  3. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/household-cleaner-affect-environment-79335.html
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080216095740.htm
  5. http://mightynest.com/blog/a-cleaner-way-to-wash-up-%E2%80%94-11-avoidable-ingredients-in-dish-detergent
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutrophication
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dishwashing_liquid
  8. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/triclosan-and-dolphins
  9. http://www.lenntech.com/aquatic/detergents.htm

 

 

Essential Oils, The Benefits and the Risks

Essential Oils, The Benefits and the Risks

Let me start off by saying that I love Essential Oils and I use them daily in my home. They are a fantastic addition to any natural cleaning regime and are great added to many personal care products. I have also utilized their healing properties in various ways on myself and my family. However, Essential Oils are incredibly potent and need to be handled and used with care, responsibility and caution. If you want to know more about Essential Oil safety then read on. 

Use of herbs and plants has been around for thousands of years. Every indigenous culture world wide has their own ways of using plants to treat a myriad of problems. The use of the oils Frankincense and Myrrh is even mentioned in the bible. However it really has only been recently that Essential Oils have become popular in western society. Many Multilevel Marketing companies have sprung up and the internet is now full of people selling and giving recommendations for Essential Oil use. My issues lie in the lack of training and education a lot of these people have who are making recommendations. Most of them are not trained in aromatherapy and are giving recommendations that could be potentially dangerous.

Think about what an Essential Oil is. For example it takes 3000 lemons to make 1 kg of lemon oil. Or 68 kgs of lavender flowers to make 450 gms of lavender oil. These oils are incredibly concentrated. One drop of oil is the equivalent to approximately 10 -15 cups of herbal tea or 20 herbal tinctures. I do not know anyone who would say it would be wise to drink 15 cups of herbal tea in a sitting and yet I have seen recommendations for ‘health’ recipes that have multiple drops of Essential Oil in the mixture. Extreme caution should always be taken when ingesting Essential Oils and it should only ever be done with a health professionals guidance.

There are some Essential Oils that are safe to be used undiluted on the skin. Most however need to be diluted in a carrier oil. For adults that dilution can be 3-5%, or 3-5 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil. In infants the ratio is even greater with a recommended dilution of 0.05% and up to 1% in older children and the elderly. There was one case I heard of where a mother, going on advice she found on the internet, applied an undiluted Essential Oil to the bottom of her child’s feet which resulted in a seizure and a 2 week stay in hospital. It is important to remember that just because something is ‘natural’ it does not mean it is safe. Just take arsenic, lead and mercury as examples, all natural substances.

The quality of your oil and the type of oil you buy are all important considerations for safety. I recommend buying only therapeutic grade oils. You do get what you pay for and if the price seems too good, then it probably is. But in saying that I do think that there are some great companies out there who are selling fantastic quality oils and that many of the Multilevel Essential Oil companies are very pricey. One of the reasons buying therapeutic grade oils is important is that you want to ensure that you are getting the proper properties from your oil. If you buy one that is ‘cheaper’ there is good reason to believe that it may have been cut or diluted with something else. Therefore you are not necessarily going to get the benefits you want but you will be getting the properties of whatever substance the oil has been diluted with. If you are wanting the full benefits of an Essential Oil make sure it is pure and has been processed correctly. For example, if you are wanting an oil just for its perfume then buy a cheap one. It may have only been processed for 15 minutes which will deliver on smell but not health benefits. Alternatively the same oil that is Therapeutic Grade may have been processed up to 1 1/2 hours.

Extreme care needs to be taken when using Essential Oils around children, the elderly and pregnant women. That does not mean that you need to avoid them completely. Just that you need to exercise caution and educate yourself on safe practices. I have three preschool age children and use Essential Oils in my home regularly. I make sure that I check out any new Essential Oil before I use it and educate myself on whether that oil can be used around my children. This only takes me a few minutes and could save my children from experiencing a potentially dangerous side effect. If you do not think that Essential Oils can be that dangerous, think again. Sage oil has been reported to have been the cause of seizures in infants and children. (source). Even common Eucalyptus oil,which appears in many homes, can be dangerous if you do not buy the right type. Buy the wrong variety and the outcome could be disastrous. Here is what one aromatherapist had to say about use of this oil.

‘Eucalyptus, for example, has over 900 species, with about 20 being used in the essential oil realm.  E.globulus is your common Eucalyptus species but should not be used around anyone with Epilepsy.  E.radiata is good for long term use with chronic respiratory infection and works well on viral or bacterial infections.  E.smitthi is child safe where E.globulus is not. So the actual species is the type of essential oil you want to buy, don’t just go by the English name – you may not know what you’re buying. (Side Note: Some experts say Eucalyptus Globulus can cause choking or even death in infants and any Eucalyptus should not be used on a child under 2 years of age. E. globulus is a very strong Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus Smithii is the mildest of all and safe for children and the elderly. E. radiata is another good choice recommended by some well known aromatherapists.)’ (source)

I cannot stress enough, you need to inform and educate yourself! Do not simply take the word of any thing you read on the internet. Including from me! I am not an expert on Essential Oils. I am not a qualified aromatherapist. Essential Oils when used correctly and responsibly are an amazing resource that can add huge value to your home. Just do your homework first.

How do i use oils in my home?

I mainly use oils in my natural cleaning regime. Many Essential Oils not only have health promoting properties but cleaning ones as well. For example, I like to use Lemon oil when cleaning my kitchen because it has great grease cutting properties. I also use Lemon oil to help me deter spiders in the home. Eucalyptus is added to my toilet cleaner and in my laundry for its antibacterial properties. Peppermint Oil is used to help keep the mice out of my cupboards and Rosemary to keep the moths and silverfish at bay. Clove oil is used to kill mould, (do not do this if pregnant as clove oil is a uterine stimulant), and diffused to purify the air. When I want to add an Essential Oil to a product that I know will come into contact with with my kids either topically, like in a hand wash or bath products, or inhaled, I make sure I only use oils that are safe for them.

Below is a list of Essential Oils complete with warnings and advice for use on children. It is complied by Lea Harris a certified aromatherapist from the book Essential Oil Safety: A Guide For Healthcare Professionals. 

  • Anise/Aniseed Pimpinella anisum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Anise (Star) Illicium verum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Basil (lemon) Ocimum x citriodorum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Benzoin Styrax benzoin, Styrax paralleloneurus and Styrax tonkinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Birch (sweet) Betula lenta – avoid using (all routes) on children
  • Black Seed Nigella sativa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cajuput Melaleuca cajuputi, Melaleuca leucadendron – avoid using on children under 6
  • *Cardamon Elettaria cardamomum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Cassia Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – avoid using (all routes) on prepubertal children
  • Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata, Eugenia aromatica – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cornmint Mentha arvensis, Mentha canadensis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus Autraliana,Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii – avoid using (all routes) on children under 10
  • Fennel (bitter), Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • *Galangal (lesser) Alpinia officinarum, Languas officinarum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Garlic Allium sativum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Ginger Lily Hedychium coronarium – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Ho Leaf/Ravintsara Cinnamomum camphora (cineole chemotype)  – avoid using on children under 6
  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis (pinocamphone chemptype) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • *Laurel Leaf/Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis– avoid topical use on children under 2; avoid all routes for children under age 6
  • Lemon Leaf/Lemon Petitgrain Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Marjoram (Spanish) Thymus mastichina – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Massoia Cryptocarya massoy, Cryptocaria massoia, Massoia aromatica – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • May Chang Litsea cubeba, Litsea citrata, Laura cubeba – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Melissa/Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Myrtle (red) Myrtus communis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Myrtle (aniseed) Backhousia anisata – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Myrtle (honey) Melaleuca teretifolia – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Myrtle (lemon)/Sweet Verbena Backhousia citriodora – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Niaouli (cineole chemotype) Melaleuca quinquinervia – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Oakmoss Evernia prunastri – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Opopanax Commiphora guidottii – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, Origanum compactum, Origanum hirtum, Thymbra capitata, Thymus capitatus, Coridothymus capitatus, Satureeja capitata– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Peppermint Mentha x Piperita – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Peru Balsam Myroxylon balsamum, Myroxylon pereiraw, Myroxylon peruiferum, Myrospermum pereirae, Toluifera pereirae – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Rambiazana  Helichrysum gymnocephalum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Rosemary (1,8-cineole chemotype) Rosmarinus officinalis  – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Saffron Crocus sativus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sage (Greek), Salvia fruiticosa, Salvia triloba Sage (White) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Sage (White) Salvia apiana – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Sage (Wild Mountain) Hemizygia petiolata – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sanna Hedychium spicatum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Saro Cinnamosma fragrans – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Savory Satureia hortensis, Satureia montana – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Styrax Liquidambar orientalis, Liquidambar styraciflua – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Leaf/Black Tea Camellia sinensis, Thea sinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Tree (lemon-scented) Leptospermum petersonii, Leptospermum citratum, Leptospermum liversidgei,– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Treemoss Pseudevernia furfuracea – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Turpentine Pinus ayacahuite, Pinus caribaea, Pinus contorta, Pinus elliottii, Pinus halepensis, Pinus insularis, Pinus kesiya, Pinus merkusii, Pinus palustris, Pinus pinaster, Pinus radiata, Pinus roxburghii, Pinus tabulaeformis, Pinus teocote, Pinus yunnanensis– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Verbena (Lemon) Aloysia triphylla, Aloysia citriodora, Lippa citriodora, Lippa triphylla – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima, Gaultheria procumbens – avoid (all routes) on children due to methyl salicylate content
  • Ylang-Ylang Cananga odorata – avoid topical use on children under 2

 

The first time I read this I was wondering, what CAN I use around my children? The beauty is that there are so many different Essential Oils that there are actually plenty that you can use. Below is a chart, again by Lea Harris, which shows some of the oils that are safe to use around children.

 

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The other time in your life you need to be particularly careful about Essential Oil usage is during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Below is a list of Essential Oils that should be avoided during this season. (source)

 

Aniseed Pimpinella anisum
Basil ct. estragole Ocimum basilicum
Birch Betula lenta
Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Parsley seed or leaf Petroselinum sativum
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
Sage Salvia officinalis
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus
Thuja Thuja occidentalis
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium

 

I hope that you take this information as intended,which is to help you make informed decisions in your home. Please do not let it put you off using Essential Oils in your home. As previously stated, when used responsibly and correctly, Essential Oils are a great addition to your home. In particular they are an integral part of my Natural Cleaning regime.

Do you use Essential Oils on your home? I would love to hear what you use and how you use them. Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

 

20 uses for baking soda in your home

20 uses for baking soda in your home

Baking soda has to be the most widely used and versatile tool in the Natural Cleaner’s Toolbox. Whole books have been written dedicated to this powder. It is cheap, easily to find in any supermarket and has literally dozens of uses. If you want to discover some great ways to use baking soda in your home then read on.

1. Make Toothpaste:

This is something my husband and I have been doing for about 6 months now and we love it. It does take a little getting used to since we a used to sweet tasting toothpaste and this is salty. I cannot go back and now hate the sweet taste of conventional toothpaste. My dentist also commented lately how good my gums were looking and my husband no longer has sensitive teeth since making the switch.

Simply mix together 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil with between 1/2 – 1 teaspoon baking soda (start on the low side until you are used to it). Add in 5 drops of peppermint oil and you are done. Just dip your toothbrush into the mixture and brush away.

2. Clean your face:

This is another trick I do myself. I keep a small jar of baking soda in the bathroom, I pour about 1 teaspoon of powder onto my palm and mix with enough water for form a paste. I apply to my face and rub gently. Baking soda will act as a cleanser and has a mild exfoliation effect. Rinse in clean water.

3. Clean brushes and combs:

Natural oils and hair products build up in our combs and brushes over time. To keep them clean and fresh, mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in a small basin of water and soak brushes and combs. Rinse and allow to dry.

4. Make a bath soak:

In a food processor blend 1/2 cup rolled oats until they become a very fine powder. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda and 15 drops of lavender essential oil. Mix well. Add half of the mixture to your bath, swirl to dissolve. Lay back and relax!

This is a great combination if you have skin irritated by sunburn or eczema.

5. Clean burnt food off pans:

If you are anything like me you won’t be a stranger to burnt offerings in the bottom of your saucepans. Simply boil 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot for a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup baking soda and leave overnight. In the morning simply give a gentle scrub. Rinse and wash as usual.

6. Deodorize the fridge:

I love broccoli and cauliflower but I hate the way they smell, especially when opening the fridge first thing in the morning! To combat smells in the fridge put a small container on the shelf full of baking soda.

7. Shine silverware:

Make a paste out of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth. Leave for 15-20 minutes. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

8. Clean the bath and sink:

Make a paste from baking soda and water. Using a clean cloth rub the paste over surfaces. Rinse with water and dry with a clean cloth.

9. Deodorize carpets and soft furnishings:

Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil in to half a cup of baking soda. Sprinkle over carpet and couches. Leave for 20 minutes then vacuum.

10. Clean the toilet:

Turn off the water at the cistern. Flush a few times to remove water from the bowl. Sprinkle in baking soda. Scrub with a toilet brush. Turn on the water and once cistern is full, flush to rinse.

11. Freshen your bins:

Add baking soda to the bottom of your rubbish bins to help absorb foul odors.

12. Unblock drains:

Before you go calling a plumber, give baking soda a try. Tip 1/2 cup of baking soda into the sink. Pour on white vinegar and watch the fizz. Keep adding vinegar until the fizz stops. Pour a jug full of boiling water down the drain and your blockage should be fixed.

13. Soothe Itchy Skin:

Next time you have an itchy mosquito bite grab the baking soda. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with a little water to form a paste. Apply to the bite for itch relief.

14: Cure Stinky Feet:

Mix baking soda and water into a paste. Apply to feet and allow to dry. Also try sprinkling some Baking Soda into shoes for odor absorption.

15. Boost Shampoo:

Add a teaspoon of baking soda to your shampoo before use and wash as per normal. The baking soda helps remove dirt, oil and residue build up from hair products.

16. Put Out A Fire:

Turned your back for a second and turned back to find a small fire in your pan? IT happens! Grab the baking soda. Throw a handful at the base of the fire to extinguish.

17. Remove Stains From Coffee/Tea Cups:

Make a paste out of baking soda and water. Rub the stains. Rinse and wash as per normal.

18. Make Mouth Wash:

Mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of water. Swish about, spit and rinse. Done!

19. Relieve Diaper Rash:

Add a couple of teaspoons to your baby’s bath water to help soothe a sore bottom.

20. Clean Your Floors:

Mix half a cup of baking soda in a bucket of warm water. Use to mop your floors. Add any essential oil you like for extra cleaning power.

Phew! That is only 20 uses but trust me when I tell you there are many, many more. I have tried all 20 of the list. How many have you done and what is your favourite way to use Baking Soda?

 

Five ways to improve your mental health through cleaning!

Five ways to improve your mental health through cleaning!

I’ll be completely honest. I HATE cleaning! There i said it. I, The Green Housewife does NOT like cleaning in any shape or form. I can easily find things I would rather be doing than cleaning the toilet or scrubbing the floors. I clean because it is necessary, not because i enjoy it. I dream of one day being able to pay someone to do it for me. Since i DO in fact have to wash, buff, scrub and polish on a regular basis why not make the process as uplifting as possible. Here I look at 5 ways cleaning can actually be good for your mental health. Don’t believe me? Read on….

depressionCan help decrease Cortisol levels and depression

How we perceive our home directly effects our mood and levels of Cortisol (a hormone in the body which is released in response to stress). One study found that when women perceived their homes as cluttered and full of unfinished projects, they experienced higher levels of Cortisol and depression. Doing a big de-clutter and sorting out all those little jobs we start and never find time to finish can help us feel a sense of control and order.

Imagine coming home from a day at work and encountering piles of washing waiting to be folded, stacks of newspapers piled up ready to go out to the recycling bin, dishes waiting in the sink and the kithcen bench is littered with a weeks worth of unopened mail. You are not going to be able to relax and unwind properly. Spending a little time each day to keep on top of the clutter in our homes goes a long way towards creating a restful, stress free environment.

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Can help you make healthier food choices

We know that what we eat can effect mental health. If we adopt a healthy diet we are less likely to suffer from depression. A 2013 study in the Journal of Psychological Science states that participants were more likely to reach for a chocolate bar than an apple when they were working in cluttered spaces. (source) 

Cortisol which we just learnt is at higher levels when we are stressed about the state of our home, also causes you to hold onto weight. Where as a vigorous cleaning session will help lower Cortisol and give you a good workout to boot.

 

sleeping-1159279_640Insomnia

If you have ever suffered from insomnia you will know how it effects your mental health. Nothing functions without sleep, except for Mothers! Your cleaning can be contributing to your lack of sleep. 

In one article I found air pollution can be responsible for difficulty sleeping. We know that in most homes the air pollution is higher inside the home than out. (source) The toxins from our cleaning products are a direct contributor to indoor air pollution, as are the chemicals released from our carpets and soft furnishings. In one article on sleep issues, (source) mould was found to effect ones ability to nod off. Mould left unattended can be a contributing factor in chronic insomnia. How you address the mould in your home is really important. Bleach which traditionally has been used for mould remediation is certainly going to increase your indoor air pollution.

The solution to a good night sleep and a well rested mind? Decrease the air pollution in your home by adopting a natural, low toxic cleaning regime and sleep easy.

cleaning-932936_640

Green clean and stop being a hormonal mess

Our endocrine system controls all of our body functions through hormones.Too much or too little hormone released from different glands can tave a detrimental effect on anxiety. (source) We have already discussed the role of Cortisol, the stress hormone. Thyroid function can also effect mental health. Hyperthyroidism has been linked to anxiety and panic attacks. Sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone can also change how we feel emotionally.

So how does this relate to cleaning? Most of our cleaning and personal care products contain chemicals that are known endocrine distruptors (source). That means that they interfere with the body’s natural hormone regulation. The only way to ensure that the products you use in your home and on your body are not going to disrupt your hormones is to make your own using natural, non toxic ingredients.

essential-oils-1433693_640Use your oils

The beauty of making your own cleaning products is that you can customize them to your needs and mood. Need a little uplifting? Add some lemon, sweet orange or grapefruit oil to your clean. All the citrus oils have mood uplifting properties. 

Got up this morning and even the coffee isn’t lifting the fog? Then add either Rosemary or Frankincense to your cleaning products for mental clarity and focus. Or add Peppermint oil for mental energy.

 

 

So while I admit to not particularly enjoying the cleaning process it turns out that a clean home is not just aesthetically pleasing but good for us too. So I will splosh in the essential oils and enjoy the mood enhancing, and mental clarity while I am scrubbing the toilet!

Do you use Essential Oils in your home? I would love to hear what you use and how they work for you. Leave a comment below and share your experience with us.

If you want to learn more about using Essential Oils and other natural cleaning methods then I encourage you to check out my downloadable Natural Cleaning Guides. Through the series I teach you everything you need to know about cleaning in a safe, natural and environmentally (and mental health approved!) way. I share all my recipes, knowledge, tips and tricks in this course. Click in the image below for more information.

 

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