You have to smile graciously when a well-meaning person gives you a pretty bottle of scented bubble bath, shower gel or body wash. Yes, the gift not only smells sweet, but is undoubtedly a very sweet thought. But, more often than not, if you squint your eyes at the label you’ll find that the bottle includes inexpensive, irritating ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, parabens, and perfumes.
I know very well from experience that were I to lather such concoctions onto my skin, they would quickly transform me into a red-splotched, puffy, itchy mess. After all, your skin is your largest organ, absorbing just about anything applied to it. As they say, you are what you – er – slather on your skin.
So, the question remains: What to do with these fancy soaps and washes? Here’s one idea I like: Display them prettily on a bathroom shelf, but instead of using them on your skin, splash them in the toilet and sink for a quick, smell-good bathroom cleanup! Just swish the soapy product around in the bowls, wipe down and voilà ! (Got some extra bottles of hotel soaps that you don’t know what to do with? These work equally well.) In addition, it’s a more ecofriendly alternative to your regular toxic bathroom cleaning products. Cost: free!
There’s nothing that sets me off sneezing more than a traditional bottle of air freshener misted into the air. Or how about those plug-ins that ooze synthetic perfumes into the room? The chemical assault on my lungs makes me jumpy just thinking about it. Why not simmer some soothing cinnamon sticks, orange peel and cloves in water over the stove, instead? Ah, sounds scintillating, doesn’t it? You can often buy these inexpensive herbs in bulk in health food, Latino and world-import-type stores. Cost: under $5.
Another trick that your mother may have tried is to place small bowls of odor-absorbent baking soda around the house, sprinkled in the bottom of trash cans, and in the refrigerator. You might even mix a little of that soda with any liquid nontoxic soap to make a “scrubbier” kitchen or bathroom cleaner. Cost: under $5.
Finally, to really go green, consider this: Scientists have found that many common houseplants help fight pollution indoors. Cost: varies.
When it comes to polishing furniture, an image of aproned June Cleaver comes to mind. Perhaps you don’t rise to that clean-cut ’50s standard often, yourself. But have you checked the products your housecleaning service totes in their caddy? Take a closer look, and you may find highly toxic, flammable, aggravating ingredients such as petroleum distillates or other solvents. The cost of such products is often not only heavy on your pocketbook but on your health. A nontoxic alternative is to mix up your own bottle of polish with two simple ingredients: mineral or olive oil, and a small amount (2 teaspoons per pint of oil) of lemon juice. Spray or rub into wood, then wipe well with a dry soft cloth. Cost: under $5.
Here’s to some happy — and healthier — cleaning!