Non-Toxic Cleaning for the Home


Why Green Cleaning?

We’ve been sold a pack of lies. Professional marketers have convinced us that a good housekeeper keeps a pantry full of specialized cleaning products for every item in the house. A toilet cannot be cleaned with the same stuff you use to clean a sink, or the floors, or the shower.  This lie is merely expensive and wasteful. Far worse is the lie that the chemicals in household cleaners can’t hurt us, that we need harsh mystery cleansers in cheerful bottles to make our houses into homes to keep our children safe and well and to hold up the family pride.

In fact, we were being sold cocktails of chemicals which were and are still ill regulated and little understood, thinking all the time that they were safe, because they were on store shelves.  In Europe, a manufacturer has to prove that a product is safe before it goes to market. In the U.S., the people have to prove a product is dangerous before it can be pulled from the market.

We know for a fact that many common cleaning products are harmful to human health. Some of the best consumer protection work in this field is being done by The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan group dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Their website, www.ewg.org, is a treasure trove of consumer information. They rate the safety of everything from tap water to cosmetics to cleaning supplies. We encourage you to reference them often, and support them if you can. We’ve used their information to shape this guide.

Please see their Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners). Look up how they rate your favorite cleaning products, and also browse their top rated cleaning products in various categories.

To quote from the EWG’s website, they made the following findings in their survey of cleaning products:

  • Some 53 percent of cleaning products assessed by EWG contain ingredients known to harm the lungs. About 22 percent contain chemicals reported to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
  • Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is sometimes used as a preservative or may be released by other preservatives in cleaning products. It may form when terpenes, found in citrus and pine oil cleaners and in some essential oils used as scents, react with ozone in the air.
  • The chemical 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen, is a common contaminant of widely-used detergent chemicals.
  • Chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen, sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”) like benzalkonium chloride, found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners, can cause asthma.
  • Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents, enzyme stabilizers or for other functions. They can disrupt the hormone system.

To add to the problem, many cleaning products contribute to the pollution of our watersheds and oceans. Here in Los Angeles what you flush down the sewer ends up in the ocean, with some, but not complete treatment. Nobody really knows what will become of all of the chemicals mixing in the ocean as of now, how they will combine, or disperse, or create new chemicals.

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We’re taking a little break

cowboy erik baby 2Apologies for the lack of posts on here lately, but as our regular readers know, Erik’s mom, Marguerite, has been ill for some time and as of this week she has moved into hospice care. As a result, we’re taking a break from posting for a little while. These are sad times but they are full of good memories and lots of love. And speaking of good memories –I’ve been sifting through the Knutzen family albums and thought you might like to see one of Erik’s–or should I say the Sheriff’s?– baby pictures.

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An Update on Kelly

Kelly is home and hopes to, someday, describe her ordeal soon. But I thought I’d put up a quick post to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers and to let you know that Kelly is back home. It turned out that Kelly had a relatively rare genetic defect that led to an aortic dissection (type A). She was wheeled straight from the emergency room to the operating room for open heart surgery. The doctors and nurses of Kaiser Permanente saved her life through quick diagnosis, skilled surgical treatment and attentive and compassionate nursing care.

I also want to note that, thankfully, we are fully insured through Kaiser and live just two miles from their medical center. All we had to pay was a reasonable co-payment for the entire operation and hospital stay. I must also thank our friend Caroline who drove Kelly to the emergency room, stayed by my side late into the night and cleaned our house top to bottom the next day with her sister Rebecca. And thanks to Fr. Mark Kowalewski of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral who was with Kelly in the emergency room and with me in the waiting room while Kelly was in surgery. Lastly, thank you to our dear readers. Kelly was in tears as she read your comments yesterday.

Thankfullness

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My dear readers,
Life has its surprises. At around 5 p.m. on Friday, towards the end of a routine day that included such dull tasks as going to the grocery store, the hardware store and a stop by our local Indian buffet, Kelly suddenly felt one of her legs go numb. Thankfully she had the good sense to know that she needed to get to the emergency room. By 9 p.m. she was being prepped for open heart surgery. She pulled through the surgery and her prognosis is good, but she is in incredible pain and is still in the hospital. We think this is a congenital condition and we had no warning. The doctors, nurses and staff of Kaiser Sunset saved her life.

Obviously we’re going to put this blog and podcast on hold for a bit while Kelly recovers, which will take many weeks. It’s a cliche, but your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated. And please promise me that if you ever experience chest pain, numbness in a limb or any other unusual symptom, you will call 911 immediately.