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Eco-Friendly Cleaning



As most of the regular forum members know, I’m a bit of an eco-geek. I recycle, I compost, I use our local Household Hazardous Waste depot and Scrap Metal depot. I try not to waste water and energy. I don’t buy products tested on animals or that have the “mean 15” ingredients in them. I haven’t bought plastic bottled drinks since 2007!



I am particularly diligent in making sure the cleaning products and body products I use are healthy for the environment and for me and my family. For over 30 years I have been making my own general cleaners for the house and of course for the cottage. More recently, I have been making home made hand sanitizer, laundry soap, toothpaste and deodorant.

There are many eco-friendly products in the health-food or natural stores or departments. Too many to mention. If you wish to check out the recommendations for the best store-bought cleaning products, you can read Ecoholic Body and Ecoholic Home by Adria Vasil.


I am very passionate about my eco-consciousness. I have a collection of great books that I refer to often. I keep up-to-date with my township’s waste management practices and changes. There is so much that I would like to share on this topic, but you would likely get bored reading it all. I’ll try to keep it short and simple! If you have any specific questions….please don’t hesitate to PM me.


First of all, familiarize yourself with the mean 15….the worst chemicals that are found in many [if not most] body products and cleaning products. You can visit the site for a printable version of the list.




Avoid these chemicals!

1. BHA and BHT:
Endocrine system-disrupting preservatives also linked to cancer.

2. DEA/MEA/TEA: (diethanolamine):
Can create carcinogenic nitrosamines when mixed with preservatives.

3. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:
(DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and Bronopol, a.k.a.2-bromo-2-nitropro- pane-1,3-diol

4. Oxybenzone (BP-3/ benzophenone) and octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate):
Two sunscreen chemicals that may disrupt our hormone system and that can trigger allergic reactions.

5. Palm oil:
(or anything with “palm” or “palmate” in its name, like sodium palmate): Avoid unless it’s fair trade/organic

6. Parabens:

Estrogenic preservatives also tied to damage to male reproductive system.

7. Parfum/fragrance:
Laced with phthalates and other hormone disruptors and sensitizers. Note: some natural Euro brands with “parfums” are made with natural essential oils (it should say so on the label)

8. PEGs:
(polyethylene glycol compounds, and anything with “-eth” in its name). These are often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.

9. Petrolatum/paraffin/mineral oil/petroleum distillates:Green your bodycare by avoiding these petrochemicals

10. PPD:
In all permanent hair dyes. Can also be called p-Aminoaniline; 1,4-benzenediamine;
p-benzenediamine CI 76060; p-Diaminobenzene; 1,4-phenylenedia- mine; 1,4-diaminobenzene                                    In all permanent hair dyes. Linked to some cancers.

11. Phthalates:
Hormone-disrupting family of chemicals hidden behind the word “fragrance,” but you can look for the phrase “phthalate free.”

12. Retinyl palmitate:
Keep this one out of the sun as it seems to speed up carcinogenic effect of UV rays in mice.

13. Siloxanes:
Pass on cyclo- or “-methicone.” Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and cyclopentasiloxane (D5) are
eco toxic siloxanes (silicone based polymers). Cyclomethicone is a mix of D4, D5 and D6 siloxanes.

14. Sodium laureth sulphate:
Foaming agent in soaps and shampoos often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.

15. Triclosan/triclocarban:
Suspected thyroid disruptor and may contribute to antibacterial resistance.




Many store-bought sanitizers contain petroleum-based chemicals. Some contain synthetic fragrances in hormone-disrupting phthalates. Some come in containers that are not recyclable.

To make your own:

v Mix 2/3 cup ethanol or grain alcohol [at least 60%] with 1/3 cup of pure aloe vera gel. You can add a few drops of true essential oils for a natural scent! Put in a pump or sealable container! Place pure alcohol in a perfume atomizer to keep in your bag or back-pack for a quick spritz of sanitizer.



Always avoid anything that says “anti-bacterial”. Triclosan, a common germ-killer is bad. It is a wide-spread water contaminant. It is similar to dioxins and harmful to human life. It will persist in the environment for months and overuse can even create antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria! Triclosan is found in many, many rivers, streams, lakes and waterways.

Even if the packaging says “biodegradable”, you should never put any soaps or cleaning products directly into water systems. Simply put, all biodegradable means is that the product will break down into a gazillion particles. If those particles are toxic…you then have a gazillion toxic particles in your water. Shampoo, soap-up and condition away from shore. Rinse well before going in the water.

v If you must purchase hand soap, try Dr. Bronner’s. It’s pure. You can buy the bars or the liquid. Both are great.

v To make your own hand soap, grate one bar of ALL-NATURAL soap. Add the flakes into 1.5L of near-boiling water. Let it sit for a day, then add in some pure essential oils if you want it scented. If it’s not liquid enough, add some more water and let it sit for another day.



If you use Tide, Sunlight, Gain, Cheer or Ivory Snow, etc,….did you know that they contain cancer causers like trisodium nitrilotriactetate or asthma-linked monoethanolamine? There are so many toxins in laundry detergents….hormone-disrupting chemicals, synthetic scents heavy in phthalates, bleach, caustic poisons, deadly dioxins, etc. Manufacturers suck consumers in to buying their detergents by promising “smells like rain” … “phosphate-free”, [phosphates have been gone from powdered products over a decade ago….but it’s still allowed in dish soaps! What??]....”stain-fighting”....”hypo-allergenic”, etc.

Have you ever noticed how strong the scent is when you walk down the laundry aisle in the grocery store? It’s probably the phthalates and hormone-distruptors you’re smelling! Oi!

v To make your own: Grate one full bar of PURE laundry soap, 1 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of Borax. That’s it! This stuff is amazing….I love it! I use a coffee scoop to add to one full load of laundry.



Mmmm, that fresh scent of laundry after tossing around in a dryer with fabric softener sheets? That’s likely chloroform, benzyl acetate, neurotoxic toluene, petrochemicals and phtalates. And some of those chemicals are especially harmful if exposed to heat! Hmmm, dryers = heat!! Without going into too much more detail, don’t use dryer sheets….ever. They are not recyclable either [no matter what the box may say]. Some liquid fabric softeners even make certain fabrics more flammable!

v If you like liquid softeners, use plain, white vinegar. Yup! Add a cup to the rinse cycle. It’s super cheap too!

v Use PVC-free and plastic-free dryer balls. There are some felted wool ones and Nellie Dryer Balls are great too.

v Hang your clothes on the line instead of using a dryer



You may want to do your own research on the dangers of Fluoridation. I can’t advise you either way, but personally I avoid fluoride. I particularly like Tom’s Natural toothpaste. Unfortunately, the tube is not recyclable in my area, but a tube lasts hubby and I a really long time…especially when I supplement with the homemade paste. Have you ever stopped to think about what’s IN your toothpaste…or your kid’s toothpaste? Watch out for artificial colourants, dyes, sweeteners, triclosan, sodium laurel sulphate. Is your container recyclable?

Back when I was young, I remember my mom telling me to put a bit of baking soda on my palm and dip my toothbrush into it for a great teeth cleaning!

v My favourite homemade toothpaste recipe: 1 teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon peroxide, 1 drop of essential oil



Say no to aluminum….it’s a pore blocker! Watch out for that antibacterial triclosan! Talc is devastating to the environment. Avoid synthetic fragrances. The chemicals in anti-perspirants and deodorants can even get direct-access to our bloodstream through our just-compromised skin barrier if we have just shaved. Natural deodorants don’t work for everyone. It’s hard to find a good one. Some natural ones even contain some of the mean 15 chemicals, so always read the labels. That goes for everything….read the label! For several years, I was using the natural crystal along with a health-food store brand. The two together were just okay. Then I discovered the following recipe….amazing! A friend of mine always had a real problem with excess perspiration and this recipe works wonders for her!

v ¼ cup baking soda, ¼ cup arrowroot starch/powder, ¼ cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, ¼ teaspoon essential oil [I use tea tree oil] Mix well until you have a moist paste. If it’s too dry, add more oil. Too wet, add more powders. All you need is a little pea-sized dab. Spread on pits! Use with the crystal and you’ll have extra protection.



It’s one thing to add chemicals to body lotions that we rub all over our body, but it’s something else to add chemicals to our head!!! That’s too close for comfort for me. I need all the brain cells I can get. Beauty product manufacturers promise us beautiful hair, shiny locks, healthy hair. But at what cost to our health and the environment. One of most toxic ingredients in shampoo made in the US is 1,4-Dioxane….another cancer link. In 2008, 46% of “natural” and “organic”-branded shampoos, body washes and hand soaps tested positive for 1,4-Dioxane. Here in Canada, it cannot be added … but it’s okay if it gets in the product, umm, er, accidentally! Eeep.

Look for shampoos without any –eths or PEGs in them. Avoid the mean 15. Don’t believe the most-often phoney claims to be “all natural” or “green”. Sometimes, all that means is that the colour of the liquid is green!

Some shampoo and conditioner ingredients are impossible to pronounce. That can’t be good.

When shopping, the best thing you can do is READ THE LABEL.

At the cottage, the best thing you can do for the environment is to not use any shampoo or conditioner. Don’t let them get into the water system by any means.

v For hair washing, [good for every day use]: add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to an empty shampoo bottle. Add warm water and shake gently to dissolve the soda. Massage into your scalp and hair. Rinse.

v For conditioning [use once a week]: add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to an empty conditioner bottle. Add warm water to fill. Add to hair and scalp and rinse. You won’t smell like French fries…honest!

v For hair spray: Chop one orange [for dry hair] or one lemon [for fine hair] – peel and all, and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half. [Your cottage or home will smell lovely in the mean time]. Cool and add to an empty spray bottle. Add 1 ounce of alcohol if you want to extend the shelf life…about 1 month.



Coconut Oil is my new-found best friend! Seriously….I can’t stop talking about how great it is. I use it as a body moisturizer, Sunscreen – it’s about an SPF 8, for Oil-Pulling, to make my deodorant, for cooking, for a deep-conditioner for hair, for bug bites, for cold-sores, for Gracie’s itchy belly, etc, etc. For the best site about Coconut Oil, visit



Debb – aka Panache