Green Cleaning

“My Home Sweet Home”

Tweenies Greenies:  Monday Edition

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I am proud to say that we have taken one more small step to “green” up our home.  I have finally taken the plunge and changed our cat litter.  The cat litter has been a very touchy subject at our house.  Both Tomas and I HATE to change the litter.  It’s a dirty, stinky job, but somebody has to do it.  Plus, we love our little kitty and want to do what’s best for her as well.  Awwww….

One of the reasons that I hate to change the litter, is because my allergies act up quite badly when I change it.  I seem to be very sensitive to animal urine.  I know it sounds wierd but that is also why I can’t have gerbils or hamsters in my home.  It’s not the fur and dander, it’s the urine soaked cedar chips that trigger the sneezing and coughing.  If their urine touches my skin, it flares up in huge painful hives.  I have years of doing laboratory work with mice to thank for that sensitivity.  Anyway, I have that type of allergy and then also to dust.

If you have a cat and use clay based litter, you may notice a cloud of dust that rises up when you pour it into the litter pan.  This is what makes my eyes water and my throat scratchy.  Claylitter has silica in it, and that is a known carcinogenic.  When, you get that big dust cloud or even when your kitty paws around to bury her business, both of you are inhaling dangerous silica dust.  Overtime, that can be a big deal for both yours and your kittys health! 

Then there is the dangerous sodium bentonite that is the clumping agent in the scoopable litters.  It acts like expanding cement to “clump” the litter.  Just imagine what that does to then insides of your kitty when they lick that dust off their fur when they are cleaning themselves! 

Now, let’s talk a little about the environmental downside of clay based litters.  Clay is not considered a “renewable resource”.  Tons of it is strip mined from the Earth for the purpose of creating clay based littler.  Over 2 million tons of non-biodegradable cat litter made from clay ends up in our landfills every year.  Like other non-biodegradable materials, it will just sit and sit and sit there for years taking up space and wasting resources.

The last time I needed cat litter, I grabbed a bag of Feline Pine Cat Litter.  It’s made from pelleted renewable pine (no new trees were used) and is biodegradable.  Which means, no stip mining and that it won’t sit for ages in the landfill.  It is all natural, has no dust, no silica, no artificial fragrances are added and it also is not tracked out of the box by your sweet kitty. 

I just switched my whole litter box at once.  Our cat is not too picky about her litter.  But if you suspect yours may be a finicky fellow, you may want to slowly introduce the new litter by mixing it with the old.  I was worried that the pine litter wouldn’t soak up the urine and that it would stink to high heavens.  That soon proved to be a wasted worry.  There was literally very little odor, period.  The pine naturally neutralizes the ammonia in the urnine.  It absorbed any waste quickly and was easy to scoop.  Both Tomas and I ended up loving it.  It worked better than the clay clumping litter we had always used before.  Plus if you shop the sales, you can usually get it for just arond the same price as the clay based litters.  A big green change for a little money.

There are a few options for environmentally friendly litters.  There are those made from pine and there are litters made from wheat, corn or recycled newspaper.  Any pet supply store or major supermarket/shopping center should at least have one of these.  I have found Target to be the most reasonably priced in my area.

Take the plunge and switch your litter!  It’s so easy and the environmentally friendly brands really do work.

One more sidenote:  please do not flush your cat litter, even if you are using a flushable litter.  Our water treatment plants do not treat incoming waste water for toxioplasmosis gondii.  This is a parasite that many cats may carry and is found in their feces.  This parasite is dangerous to pregnant women and marine life.


Go to fullsize imageI am so angry.  I mean really angry.  I was suckered.  I should have known. 

Take a look at this little article/post.  I knew that Herbal Essence hair care products were poison.  I haven’t used that crap since it first came out ages ago.  I had heard wind that it caused cancer and had some major toxic chemicals in it. 

The part that I am angry about is the Tide, Bounce, and Downy Pure Essentials.  Seriously, how could I have been fooled to think that this line was more enviro-friendly than the old.  It was the packaging, the lingo, the crafty marketeers with their sneaky ways.  Proctor and Gamble did well on this one.  Suckering us into thinking that Pure Essentials was a good attempt at becoming greener. 

I knew that it wasn’t pure “greenness” to buy the Tide and Downy Pure Essentials but the White Lilac smelled SO good and they did say something about “natural”.  I have a secret love for the smell of Tide and maybe that was subconsciously directing me on that particular shopping day.

I guess I didn’t investigate the label thoroughly because guess what…it’s basically all the same formulations as the usual, traditional stuff.

So, once again do your part, greenies, and read those labels!  Do a little research!  Don’t be fooled by that new fandangled wrapper that looks pretty.  Drat that Proctor & Gamble!  Big corporate may have fooled me yet again!  But they’ve got another thing coming…  I pledge to never buy this stuff again even if it smells like heaven, is on sale and I have a good coupon.  Now, that will be some big green will power my friend!  Money talks and the loss of my business will single handedly bring this foolery to a halt (actually, it won’t.   But it could if many people stopped buying)  You just wait P&G!  You haven’t heard the last from this little grasshopper!

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. ~Confucius

I have to say that this has been the worst summer for the itchies and the scratchies around here!  First, it was the mosquitos that were migrating from the abandoned pool next door.  Those have since migrated elsewhere since a bunch of “flippers” are doing an amazing job on getting things cleaned up fast on that once trash ridden foreclosure.  Now, we are blessed with the arrival of fleas and ticks.  You know, if it’s not one thing, it’s the other.  There’s always something!

Our lovely little one year old puppy, Harry, is scratching up a storm!  He did this last year as well.  It was only a matter of time before we would once again be alarmed at the little bugga-boos he brings into the house.  My time is now spent on vigil, waiting for the next itch or twitch (I am not talking band members or “So You Think You Can Dance” contestants, so don’t be confused here).  Thank goodness our husky mix doesn’t have nearly the skin, bug issues Harry does.  There is something to be said for that protective undercoat they have.  I just might try to tape some of the big hair tumbleweeds that float around our wood floors to Harry to see if it helps.

I hate to keep putting all kinds of chemicals on him. The kids all snuggle him and I don’t want his itches from fleas/ticks to turn into itches from skin reactions to applying combos of meds to it.   He has already taken the oral pill thing that the vet gave us a while back and he still suffers.  Of course, I dug out all my “recipe books” and started looking for something less harmful but still effective.

I aim to try a couple of these out by the time the summer flea season is over. First of all, you need to get rid of existing fleas.  I have given Harry a wonderful flea bath.  I personally used a natural shampoo that I purchased at the pet supply store because I was in a frantic state thinking about how many fleas were being transported into my home.   I didn’t feel like I had time to research yet.

However, you can easily make the following flea shampoo:  10 ounces of Water,  1 or 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap (the less the better), 1 teaspoon glycerin or 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon orange oil.  Combine ingredients in a jar.  Shake to blend.  Dampen your dogs fur and put enough shampoo on to cause a lather.  Work into fur and rinse.  This can keep in the jar for 6 months in a covered glass jar.  This recipe should kill fleas in all stages of development due to the citrus oil.  Do not use this on cats however, because they are known to be sensitive to it. 

Once you have your little buddy washed up.  Focus on washing everything and anything they may lay or sit on.  Try to wash or at list dry all bedding and furniture covers at a high heat to kill the little nasty pests.  That made a huge difference.  Then I sprinkled the dog beds with a natural flea repellent powder. 

Here’s a recipe for a flea repellent powder:  1/2 teaspon dried eucalyptus, fennel, or rosemary and penny royal.  Grind herbs in a blender or a spice mill.  Add to 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Combine in a glass jar by shaking.  Sprinkle on pet bedding and you can also rub into fur.

Here’s a spray that can also be used:  1 or 2 drops each essential oils of eucalyptus, citronella, tea tree, and penny royal, add to 2 cups Witch hazel in a glass jar.  Put a few drops on the pets collar to see if they react at all to the essential oils.  REMEMBER:  Essential oils can be very potent.  Especially for some pets with skin sensitivities.  If the pet doesn’t react.  Place 1 teaspoon worth on the pets collar and rub 1/2 teaspoon into their fur.  Do not use with citronella on cats!  This can be stored indefinitely in the glass jar, covered.

Some other great ideas:

Make a dream pillow for your pet bed to repel fleas.  Make a large sachet about 8 inches by 11 inches.  Fill with any of the following insect repellent herbs; southernwood, rose geranium, palmerosa, rue, camphor, feverfew, lavender (LOVE lavendar, it’s so useful and smells so good!), rosemary, sage, catmint (YES!  You should see all the catmint I have growing around here anyway!) pennyroyal,  or eucalyptus.

Other natural measures you can take:  Use a flea comb to remove present fleas, Ingesting Brewer’s Yeast will cause your dog to give off an odor that fleas don’t like (there are wafers and supplements available at pet stores and health food stores.  I know that Pet Supplies Plus stocks these.), Add a couple cloves of garlic a day to the pet’s food (mmm…that sounds yummy.  Garlic doggy breath), Submerge pet in water to drown fleas (that means all but the head.  That’s almost impossible with my wiggly dogs, but I tried!).

If you are having tick problems, the same soaps above will help.  You can use a repellant by placing a couple drops of essential oil of rose geranium or palmerosa on their cloth collar every week.  Be sure to always check pets if they have been in tick populated areas. 

Here’s an article about fleas and ticks.  I use one of my favorite books “Better Basics for the Home” by Annie Berthhold-Bond for the above recipes.  If you want more choices, look here or here.

I have completed everything except I still have to wash some of the furniture covers.  Although, I did vacuum all the areas thoroughly being sure to dispose of junk in the dirt catcher (What do you really call that part?  I don’t really know.) and clean out the dirt catcher throughly with flea killer/spray.

Hopefully Harry and your pets will soon sleep soundly.  May the only itching be the itch they have to chase bunnies in their sweet doggy dreams.

Go to fullsize imageWell, well, well….I am back from my 4th of July hiatus only to see that blog stats/visits have dropped 3 fold over the holiday.  I hope that’s a temporary thing and not a sign that the bloggy world has suffered some strange alien capture. 

Our vacation was great!  It’s always nice to reconnect with each as a family and see new sites.  I didn’t tell anybody in the bloggy world that we were leaving because I get a little weird about mass numbers of people knowing that my house was empty for any certain length of time.  So, Suprise!  I went on vacation and now I am back!  Ready to rock your world.  I was ready to write a novel last night but a huge power surge ripped through our neighborhood and started the power lines on fire.  Which in turn snapped and started lawns on fire.  Nice toxic smoke filled our ‘hood.  I think we almost died.  Okay, that’s exaggerating but still there’s nothing like some dramatic acts of nature to bring the neighborhood together.  It was a regular block party out on the street.

Speaking of toxic smoke…..if you didn’t catch it, this is my handy intro line to my official post topic.  How often don’t we use that word “toxic”?  Seriously, this word drives Tomas and me crazy.  The media uses it nonstop.  Marketing agencies have clung to it like stink on poop.  It’s used to describe everything from chemicals, to medicines, to chidren’s toys, to band names,  and don’t forget the almighty toxic relationship.  Say it 15 times and see if it makes any sense anymore.  “Toxic, Toxic, Toxic, etc”.  If you say it with the Jan Brady “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” twang it’s more fun. 

The word “toxic” has been so used and misused, that it’s confusing to much of the general population.  If something says “non-toxic”, can we eat it?  If you read something that’s not labelled  “non-toxic”, should you avoid all contact and purchase hazmat gear if you come in a 15 mile radius of it?  Let’s think about this for just a minute.  Come along and join one of the weekly debates at my house. Yes, we are nerds.  But I have always been taught that,  “Nerds will always win in the end.  Nerds rule the world”.

Our trusted resource Mirriam Webster says that the word toxic means: 

1. containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation <toxic waste> <a toxic radioactive gas> <an insecticide highly toxic to birds> 2 : exhibiting symptoms of infection or toxicosis <the patient became toxic two days later> 3 : extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful <toxic sarcasm>

If you go by the first definition anything could be toxic.  Crystal clear spring water could be toxic if consumed in large amounts.  Even to the point of causing death.  If you take into consideration the number of people that die every year from drowning, water is very toxic.  Food is toxic.  Especially any food containing additives or artificial ingredients.  People get cancer, bowel obstructions, and die from choking all the time.  Would we avoid all these the same way we would toys from China covered with lead paint?  Granted that’s an extreme argument, but you get the point. 

So what does it mean for an item to be “non-toxic”?  Since the lead in toy scare this past holiday, mothers especially are desparately concerned with labels and anything indicating that a child’s item could be toxic.  It may come as a surprise to you that many items are labelled non-toxic simply because there is no negative information or safety testing completed for it at the time.  No data could mean “non-toxic”.

What you really need to consider is, that it’s all in the amount of toxic material present in the item.  For example, there is no way to avoid lead completely in your life.  It’s everywhere in small amounts and the same is true for many of the toxic chemicals/minerals that we come into contact with every day.  However, it’s only at a certain level that it becomes dangerous to human health (or the length and frequency of exposure).

And thus we are back to the study of labels that I have talked about previously.  Be warned that just because something is labelled as “non-toxic”, doesn’t mean it is completely safe.  It’s probably safer  than other some other alternatives but you’re not free and clear to bathe in it or eat it in entirety.  From my very limited studies on this, it simply means that if used according to instructions, it is not known to cause any harmful effects on humans or the environment at that exposure/amount.  However, don’t be suckered into thinking that just because going green is the next best thing to sliced bread right now that testing and labelling requirements have tightened.  They have not and probably will not any time soon.  It’s still a fuzzy gray toxic crazy world out there.

Remember, common sense is key.  Moderation and appropriate use and limited exposure to anything is crucial to your overall health.   Also, be sure to read.  Read those labels.  Become familiar with buzz words that are covering up actual ingredients.  Look for short lists of ingredients and avoid the long sonnets of additives.  Research companies and stick with those that have proven non-toxic track records. 

I know I probably mushed your brain if you made it this far.  Nothing in the labelling world is clear cut or straight forward when it comes to this.  If you have suffered an electrical short in the firing of your neurons from taking in this post, have fallen off of your chair, hit your head on the wall and fell into your waiting bubble bath made with all natual, non-toxic soap, only to wake up on the other side, remember this my friend…everything can be toxic.  Even this post.  It’s just how much you absorb that makes the difference. 

Go to fullsize imageThe rain has stopped for a couple days which means that I can go back to greening up things around the house.  I have been experimenting with fabric softeners since I am line drying about everything possible thanks to the clothes line challenge.  A good friend of mine, was sure to recommend use a really good fabric softener to keep things soft and supple.  I tried some “homemade” recipes for softener.  They worked, but didn’t make my clothes smell as lovely as I wished.

So far, my favorite smelling environmentally friendly fabric softener is Seventh Generation.  The blue eucalyptus lavendar scent is heavenly (since I love both of those scents).  It makes me want to roll in a big pile of my clothes.  Or maybe, I could just take some all natural cotton material, wash it with the fabric softener and tear it into smaller strips.  Once I have made the strips, I can roll them up into a small tampon like shape and shove it up my nose.  I figure, that way, I can smell it for hours and still get work done (since I won’t have to stay situated in a pile of clean clothes).

Has anybody else found a great smelling eco-friendly fabric softener?  Let me know because despite my love for Seventh Generation, it is a little pricey and that may be a problem if I use it all the time.


Go to fullsize imageThis weather in the Midwest is driving me bonkers and has us trapped inside for days on end.  Just long enough to make me disgusted of my house.  Looking around I notice all the cobwebs and black dust from the furnace running all winter.  Why do we have that dust anyway??  We have good filters and we have had our ducts cleaned recently (last year). 

What else can I do but start cleaning.  I haven’t even dared keep the computer plugged in for too long because of the lightening.  I have had bad experiences of computer frying even with a surge protector in the past.  So yesterday, I cleaned and cleaned.  One thing led to another and I did accomplish a lot but I had a huge backslide with the green cleaning thing.

For one, I used a TON of papertowel.  I was cleaning my windows and no matter how hard I try, I can find nothing that is as fast and efficient as premade window cleaner and papertowel.  If I was just doing a couple windows, I would use the vinegar solution and newspaper.  However when I have a whole house to do, time is of the essence.  That movie the kids are watching is less than 2 hours and that’s how much time I have to get things done (if I’m lucky).  At the end of the day, about 1 1/2 rolls of paper towel gone.  Thanks to a house of windows/sliding doors needing to be cleaned inside and out.  It was so much paper towel, but when I can look outside through a crystal clear window, I have to think it was worth it.

I will say that my new favorite window cleaner is Mrs. Meyer’s aromatherapeutic Window Cleaner in Geranium Scent.  It may seem a little pricey at $4.99 a bottle but it goes a long way.  (look for it on sale. I originally got this bottle for $2.50 at a local health store)  No streaks, an awesome scent and best of all, no toxic fumes/byproducts.  I guess I can be glad that my gigantic pile of used paper towel, was aromatherapeutic and helped my mood during cleaning.  I highly recommend Mrs. Meyer’s stuff.  So far, I have not been disappointed.

After I cleaned the windows, I was sure to take down the draperies and was them.  Of course, since everything is drenched from rain and storms, I put them in the dryer.  The clothesline challenge is a bust for me this weekend.  I have mountains of laundry and no place to hang them all.  My dehumidifier is running at capacity and the basement is still dampish.  I have to dry it using even more energy than ever.  (include my air conditioner running 24/7 and we are going to have a heck of a bill for June)

On the upside, I did find some fabric that I bought a year ago and never used.  It was intended for curtains.  I finally took a couple hours while the laundry was going and whipped up 4 curtain panels.  I love them and they look beautiful on my sparkly clean windows.  I guess that was kind of green.  Actually using what you have instead of letting it waste in a closet.

Today, I continue my laundry quest and hope that our power doesn’t go out as we are to get more storms today.  Although if the power goes out for a while, it might off set my energy bill from using my dryer and air conditioning so much.  **Sigh…**  I can only hope!

Go to fullsize imageI have waited on pins and needles to get this beauty pictured here.  Yes, it is an umbrella clothesdryer for outside.  I looked high.  I looked low.  I finally found it and saved big money at Menards.  It was originally $39.99 but was on sale and then there was a rebate.  The final sale was about $24.99.  It’s so exciting!  I can hardly stand it!  This will definitely assist with helping me maintain my commitment to dry 90% of my laundry without the use of a dryer.  See Gift of Green’s Clothesline Challenge.

I wondered just how much money I could save by switching all the laundry to air-drying/line drying.  The average dryer costs about $80-$85 to use annually.  (That’s not as much money as I would have expected but, anyway, I will move on to my point.) So, if I continue to line dry my clothes, I will have made my $24 that I spent on the umbrella line back in no time!  Plus, I will be cutting back on my carbon footprint.  Next to the refrigerator, the dryer is the most costly appliance in your home to run due to the amount of energy it consumes.

Therefore, can there be a more logical choice??  I think not.  Go save some big money at Menards and buy your umbrella line.

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