Household products

Decades ago we eliminated mothballs, a particularly noxious substance. It must have been popular back in the old days since the homes of older relatives are full of the stuff.


We don't use artificial fragrances. Room air fresheners are an obvious example, but many products are scented—even toilet paper for heaven's sake! Ingredients listed as "fragrances" frequently contain phthalates, which can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems. Is just normal air really all that bad?

Plastics and vinyls

Plastic lid ©Janet Allen
We like storing our food in glass, but unfortunately, they come with plastic tops

It's hard to avoid plastic, partly because these days it's hard to find substitutes and partly because it's so darn convenient.

Even so, though, we've started to reduce our use of plastics. We long ago stopped heating things in plastic containers in the microwave even if they said they were microwave-safe—maybe they just meant they were safe for the container, because they certainly weren't safe for our bodies!

We're increasingly storing our food in glass containers. We invested quite a bit in glass containers of various sizes, but even then, they have plastic lids. The newer lids are BPA-free, which I guess means the older ones aren't. We try to make the best of it by not filling the container so full that the food touches the tops.

Still, though, we freeze so much food from Our Edible Garden that we resort to using some of the space-saving plastic freezer bags.

Cleaning products

White vinegar ©Janet Allen
White vinegar cleans well

Most commercial cleaning products contain toxic substances. In fact, I remember reading a book a few decades ago about house cleaning, and the main message was to stop using elbow grease and just let the chemicals do the work. I'm sure they do the work, but what else are they doing? Nothing I want done!

We've been using primarily just plain soap, white vinegar, and baking soda for most of our cleaning for the last few years, and they work really well. We do use a little elbow grease, too, but don't we all need a bit more exercise? But all in all, they're easy to use.

DIY goo remover ©Janet Allen
We were glad to discover this simple cleaner

We reuse a lot of our glass food jars (peanut butter jars, salsa, and the like), and they come in really handy for safe food storage. But sometimes it's hard to remove the label without leaving behind a gooey mess. We sometimes also have goo left behind from price stickers on general household things, too.

We were about to buy a commercial "goo cleaner," when I wondered whether there would be a safer alternative. A quick search on the internet and I discovered this simple recipe: 2 parts baking soda to 1 part coconut oil. It also called for sweet orange essential oil, but since we didn't have any, we just used 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. coconut oil. Amazingly, it worked perfectly—without any toxic substances—and was very inexpensive. In fact, for the few jars we were trying to de-goo, we could have made half the amount.

Fragrance-free ©Janet Allen
Fragrance-free products

One of the simplest ways to eliminate unhealthy products is to choose fragrance-free products since fragrance is often provided by harmful chemicals. When we do use household products, such as laundry detergent, we choose fragrance-free.

We've never used ammonia. Too toxic. I can remember my mother using it, though, to clean things, such as her rings.

Chlorine bleach

Bleach ©Janet Allen
Bleach is bad news

Another product we used to use frequently but now minimize is chlorine bleach. We never use it for laundry. Yes, some of our towels and clothes aren't as bright white as they could be, but compared to the damage bleach can do to the environment when it goes down the drain, the appearance of our towels isn't that important. They're still clean, and thanks to drying out in the sun, they're fragrant, too.

We don't know what to use as a substitute for things such as cleaning bird feeders or other things that should be disinfected. We use a very dilute solution, but even so, I hate to use it.

And our front-loading washer requires the use of bleach (or some similar commercial product) every six weeks or so to clean out the washer.

We've also used it to occasionally clean our manufactured stone kitchen sink. After a time nothing else seems to work. We let it go for a while, but when company is coming, I've caved in and used some bleach. I haven't yet tried hydrogen peroxide. (Next time, we'll choose a stainless steel sink.)


Monarchs ©Janet Allen
Monarchs on pesticide-free milkweed

We never use chemicals outdoors in Our Habitat Garden.

(And yes, we're aware that everything is made up of chemicals, but we mean the purchased kinds.)