Archive for the ‘Household Products’ Category

Breadman bread machine review

My husband gave me a Breadman Pro Bread machine for Valentines Day this year. I was excited to be able to make fresh bread so easily and we both agree that it’s also healthier than the store bought versions which have preservatives and typically other ingredients that we would like to avoid (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

Everything was great for a couple months. I made bread about once a week and found a whole wheat recipe that we loved. It also made fantastic fresh bread that we loved with our spaghetti dinners. And it was so easy – just measure everything, liquids on bottom, yeast last and boom, in a few hours you have a lovely loaf of bread. However it soon stopped kneading on one cycle, then another. Since it was still under warranty, I contacted the manufacturer and they sent a replacement.

So the replacement came, a BR2500, so I prepped it and was excited about the delayed timer function. That night, I decided to make fresh bread to have for lunches the next day, so I set the delay feature to start about 3:30am. At about that time, I am awakened by a very loud beating noise, like someone beating metal with a heavy object. I was scared to death someone was breaking in our house. My heart pounding, I headed towards the sound and found it was the bread machine. I closed all the doors between our bedrooms and the kitchen (which reside on opposite ends of the house anyway). Still heard it, so I had to move it behind one more door into the laundry room and stuff towels under the door. I could still hear it, but at least it was faint enough I could go to sleep with a pillow over my head. Hoping for a fluke, I tried again on a different cycle, hoping for a different result, yet it was the same loud beating/grinding sound.

Needless to say, Applica (who manufactures this piece of equipment) got another email requesting a replacement for my replacement. Now, let me back up a second and mention that even though the bread machine is not working properly, they expect you to pay for shipping of a new machine to you, as well as pay for the shipping of the cord to them (with tracking no less). Applica received an earful for this. I was not about to pay for them to ship me a new machine, but I did ship them the cord the first time and got them to waive the shipping of the new machine. The 2nd time however, I was not going to spend another dime, so I requested a prepaid label to ship them the cord of the “new” bread machie.

I am currently awaiting my 3rd breadman. I am reallyhoping it will work. If not, I will put the Zojirushi Home Bakery Bread Machine on my wishlist. While the reviews of this machine on Amazon are not perfect, they are much better than the Breadman.

What do I want out of a bread machine? At this point, honestly, I would love one that just works. I will say the different size loaves, a delay setting, and the ability to customize are nice.

If I were to start from scratch and replace my bread machine today, I would consider these, in order of my preference:

Zojirushi Home Bakery Bread Machine. Definitely more expensive at $227 on Amazon, but this brand is clearly the Cadillac of bread makers).
Panasonic’s Automatic Breadmaker also gets good reviews and is about as affordable as the Breadman at $105, and there is another version with a fruit and nut dispenser.
Sunbeam (reviews are only slightly better than the Breadman, but it’s currently about $55 from Amazon.)
West Bend 2lb Bread Machine gets fairly good reviews as well and is affordable at $60
Cuisinart has an OK one, though the reviews to be put it only slightly over the Breadman

Watch for any Black Friday deals and near-or after-Christmas sales.

Easy do-it-yourself eco-friendly disinfectant spray

I just made some of this today and it smells so wonderful! I felt like I was at a spa, even though I had 4 young children (3 in diapers) running around me all morning.

Disinfectant spray
1 ½ cups water
20 drops tea tree oil
20 drops lavender oil
Combine in spray bottle and shake vigorously. Spray in the air to disinfect. Tea tree oil and lavender oil are anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-whatever!

If you want bonus points, you can up the water (roughly 1/2 – 3/4 cups for every 20 drops of essential oils) and add 20 drops of orange oil, lemon oil and/or eucalyptus oil. These oils also have antiseptic and disinfectant properties. I added the orange oil to the above and wow! Love it!

Making your own allows you to avoid the toxic chemicals found in common disinfectants.

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Health Concerns of Lysol

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The health effects of Lysol

When my kids get sick, I want to reach for the Lysol spray, just as my mom did and as the marketers of Lysol tell me I should. But is it safe?

The Wiki page on Lysol states this:

The active ingredient in many of the Lysol products is benzalkonium chloride.[1] This ingredient is highly toxic to fish (LC50 = 280 μg ai/L), very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates (LC50 = 5.9 μg ai/L), moderately toxic to birds (LD50 = 136 mg/kg-bw), and slightly toxic (“safe”) to mammals (LD50 = 430 mg/kg-bw).

The former main chemical ingredient wass cresol, which does have toxicity at some levels. This version is still available commercially. Breathing high levels over a short period of time can cause irritation to the nose and throat. I experience this every time I spray Lysol. And though there is known toxicity at “high” levels, small exposure over a long period of time has not been studied.

In addition, there are other chemicals including Glycol Ethers, O-phenylphenol, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid that all have health concerns. It is also important to note that Lysol’s formula is considered proprietary, thus the ingredients list may not be fully disclosed. Wonder what else is in there? Possibly phthalates since fragrances are used and these 2 typically go hand-in-hand, but again show knows?

Does this sound like something you want to spray all over your house, furniture, doorknobs, bathroom, nursery, toys, etc? I think I will pass, too.

Daycares overuse Lysol. When my kids were smaller, the thought of my children mouthing toys that have been sprayed so heavily with Lysol there was a film on them made me cringe, of course so did the thought of them mouthing the same toy 11 other babies just mouthed. Ah, the joys of daycare!

Bottom line: really occassional use my have no harmful effects at all (but then again, cummulative exposure has not been studied and chemicals surround most of us every day). Aside from health concerns, there are environmental concerns, like the toxicity to fish, aquadic invertebretes and birds. Concerned parents do have choices. Vote with your wallet! Don’t buy Lysol spray or any Lysol product until their products are reformulated and are truly non-toxic. Vinegar and water will disinfect a toy just as well, without the weird film and chemicals. Not to mention it’s much cheaper. You can also make your own disinfectant spray in seconds! I love it and am much happier with it than Lysol. Is smells so fresh – like a spa – and has no chemicals in it! It disinfects and it is something I actually want to smell!

Natural ways to unclog a drain

Until a few months ago, I never thought twice about pouring Draino down the drain to clear a clog. After several failed attempts at clearing a drain with chemicals, including one incident where the pipe had been eaten through and I had water on the bathroom floor, I knew there had to be a better, chemical-free way.

In this quest I saw the reality of pouring chemicals down the drain – they end up back in our drinking water for one, and I could not believe that I had been so duped into thinking this was safe, especially since I have eliminated all other chemicals for reasons such as this. Not wanting to drink Draino residue any longer, or at least not contribute to the problem, I found 2 very easy and non-toxic solutions for clearing a drain.

Method one – look in the pantry
Remove the stopper from the drain
Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup of vinegar.
Let sit for 30 minutes.
Pour boiling water down the drain (use common sense here to not burn yourself or others)

Method 2 – be your own plumber
Clogs form at the curved part of the pipe sitting at lower point than the rest of the pipe. Because of this, soap scum, hair, dirt, etc. get trapped there and start to collect and form a clog. Since that part can easily come off, there really is no need for chemicals or otherwise.

Remove the curved part of the pipe from under/behind the sink.
Unwind a wire coat hanger and use the end to scoop out the gunk form the pipe
Or take it to the yard and spray out with the garden hose. The pressure from the water will push out the clog.

My husband used the garden hose method and it was easy, less frustrating, free and most importantly worked even better than any chemicals!

National Healthy Schools Day

header_hsn_nhsdayaltNational Healthy Schools Day
What you can do to make sure no child’s health is left behind
 
by Janelle Sorensenjanelle
 When my husband and I first toured schools to find the one we wanted to enroll our daughter in, I’m sure I was silently voted one of the strangest parents ever. Why do I feel I was secretly endowed with this title? Because every room and hallway we were taken through, I sniffed. A lot. And, according to my husband, I wasn’t terribly discreet. 
 
I didn’t have a cold or postnasal drip. And, I’m not part bloodhound. I was simply concerned about the indoor air quality. My daughter was (and still is) prone to respiratory illnesses and I wanted to be sure the school she would be attending would support and protect her growing lungs (in addition to her brain). For many air quality issues, your nose knows, so I was using the easiest tool I had to gauge how healthy the environment was.
 
While air quality is a significant issue in schools (the EPA estimates that at least half of our nation’s 120,000 schools have problems), parents are also increasingly concerned about other school health issues like nutrition and the use of toxic pesticides. Many schools are making the switch to healthier and more sustainable practices like green cleaning, least toxic pest management, and even school gardening. What they’re finding is that greening their school improves the health and performance of students and personnel, saves money (from using less energy, buying fewer products, and having fewer worker injuries among other things), and also helps protect the planet. It’s truly win, win, win.teacher_students_classroom
 
To highlight the issue, the Healthy Schools Network coordinates National Healthy Schools Day. This year, over three dozen events will be held across the country (and more in Canada) on April 27th to promote and celebrate healthy school environments.
 
What can you do? Healthy Schools Network recommends simple activities such as:
·      Adopting Guiding Principles of School Environmental Quality as a policy for your School;
·      Distributing information related to Green Cleaning or Indoor Air Quality (IAQ);
·      Writing a letter or visiting your Principal or Facility Director to ask about cleaning products or pest control products;
·      Walking around your school: looking for water stains, cracks in outside walls, broken windows or steps, and overflowing dumpsters that are health & safety problems that need attention. Use this checklist.
·      Writing a Letter to the Editor of your local paper on the importance of a healthy school to all children and personnel.
 
You can also help support the efforts of states trying to pass policies requiring schools to use safer cleaners. (Or, initiate your own effort!) There are good bills pending in Connecticut, Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon. According to Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, the key pieces to promote on green cleaning in schools are:
·     Not being fooled by ‘green washing’ claims—commercial products must be third-party certified as green (to verify claims);
·     Understanding that green products are cost-neutral and they work; and,
·     Learning that “Clean doesn’t have an odor.”
 
She encourages parents and personnel to tune into one of the archived webinars on green cleaning (like the first module for general audiences) at www.cleaningforhealthyschools.org.
 
The fact of the matter is that whether you’re concerned about the quality of food, cleaning chemicals, recycling, or energy use – schools need our help and support.  Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, it’s time to help do what’s right – for our children, our schools, and our planet.
 
What are you going to do? There are so many ideas and resources. Find your passion and get active on April 27th – National Healthy Schools Day.
 
Additional Resources:

 
·      Creating Healthy Environments for Children (DVD): A short video with easy tips for schools and a variety of handouts to download and print.
·      Getting Your Child’s School to Clean Green: A blog I wrote last year with advice based on my experience working with schools.
·      Healthy Community Toolkit: Healthy Child Healthy World’s tips and tools for being a successful community advocate and some of our favorite organizations working on improving child care and school environments and beyond.
·      The Everything Green Classroom Book: The ultimate guide to teaching and living green and healthy. 
 
Janelle Sorensen is the Senior Writer and Health Consultant for Healthy Child Healthy World (www.healthychild.org). You can also find her on Twitter as @greenandhealthy.

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Green Cleaning: Do it yourself

USA Today had a nice article today about Green Cleaning, highlighting that there is a growing trend with people making their own cleaners at home. Parents, including myself, are going green with their cleaners due to the toxic chemicals typically found in traditional cleaners.

I use plain ole vinegar to clean just about everything and even use it in the rinse cycle when doing laundry. It is a fantastic glass cleaner — something I learned from my dad decades ago. You can use it straight, but even diluting with water works well. Add a little vinegar to water you have a cleaner to mop your floors, wipe the counters, wash walls, etc. And vinegar is cheap!

Baking soda also cleans very well. It’s great at scouring tubs, helps absorb odors and interestingly enough, helps soften clothes in the laundry! Just add a half cup or so to the laundry. Baking soda is also cheap.

For dusting, we use a simple microfiber cloth which is a fantastic cleaning cloth requiring no additional cleaners. For heavier dusting, we use a damp cloth — no cleaners. Most microfiber cloths are roughly a dollar each.

I do not make my own laundry detergent, but many do using Borax. I have not gotten that adventurous. And I like my Charlie’s Soap which does not require any extra softeners or otherwise. See my review here. If you are interested in giving the make your own detergent a try, here is a great article telling you how to do it, for about a penny a load!! Hmmm, maybe I should give this a try…

Some Green Cleaners Are More Effective

And most are just as effective. The article states that doctors say even the simple act of scrubbing is usually enough to kill the germs and cleaners like bleach, are an overkill. They say bleach is needed for messes if blood or other bodily fluids are involved. I stopped buying bleach after my daughter was born 3 years ago. I found it is not needed and I certainly do not miss it.

We had some mold on our bathroom ceiling last year and I mixed a few drops of tea tree oil with a cup of water and sprayed on the mold. It killed the mold and has not been back. Previously, my husband had sprayed water with bleach on it but it always came back. One treatment with tea tree oil  kept it away.

Gotta green cleaning do-it-yourself or frugal tip? Please share your tips below.

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Spring cleaning tips for people with allergies or asthma

Seventh Generation had a blog post with tips to help those of us with allergies and asthma cut down on the sneezing while we are cleaning.

Read about it here.

Link between Autism and vinyl floors?

Certainly more research is needed, but a Swedish study concluded that an infant/toddler with vinyl flooring in their bedrooms were twice as likely to have autism 5 years later than those with wood or linoleum flooring. For parents who smoked, autism rates were also twice as those who’s parents did not smoke. More research is absolutely needed, but interesting nonetheless. 
Vinyl can emit phthalates, which are chemicals used to make soft plastic that have also been connected to allergies and asthma. The scientists, lead by Carl-Gustav Bornehag of Karlstad University in Sweden, call the data “far from conclusive” and say further studies with a larger group of children are needed to confirm a link.

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The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A

How a handful of consultants used Big Tobacco’s tactics to sow doubt about science and hold off regulation of BPA, a chemical in hundreds of products that could be harming an entire generation.

I always liked FastCompany magazine. There are always great articles. Well, they have recently looked into the BPA controversy / debate as well and published an article here last week. They looked at both sides, the history, how the studies were done, what the FDA reviewed and who funded the studies, etc. Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about the BPA issue. They interviewed several folks from both sides. It’s a very long, but very interesting read.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:
“The United States has a long tradition of keeping harmful substances — lead, DDT, tobacco, PCBs — on the market for decades after scientists find adverse effects.”

“Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has launched numerous investigations into the agency, contends, “The FDA has got to be a watchdog, not a business partner with industry.”

“If these low-dose findings were counterintuitive to toxicologists, they made perfect sense to developmental biologists. After all, BPA is a synthetic hormone. Any physician knows that at small doses, most hormones are extremely powerful in stimulating their target organs, while at higher doses — above a certain threshold — they can paralyze these same organs. (Testosterone powers the male sex drive, for instance, but at high doses causes impotence.)”

Very interesting indeed. I could pull more quotes, but then I may as well copy the whole article! They have uncovered what many of us already know – there is enough evidence that it may cause harm at any dose so it is best to just avoid BPA altogether. Retailers such as Babies R Us, Wal-Mart and Target had said they would stop selling polycarbonate baby bottles at the end of 2008 (though I have seen them on the shelves as of last week). Nalgene has gone to a BPA-free plastic water bottle as consumers demand a safer product and the FDA sits and takes money from the plastic industry and tries to convince us that BPA is safe when there are over 100 studies not funded by the plastics that claim otherwise.

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a hormone-mimicking chemical found in plastic polycarbonate baby bottles, water bottles, dental filings, in the lining of canned foods, etc. Even at low doses it can affect the endocrine system. Learn more here

I have several lists with safer alternatives to polycarbonate plastics.
BPA free bottles, sippy cups and food storage
BPA and phthalate free pacifiers
BPA and phthalate free teethers and rattles
 
BPA free dishes, utensils, snack containers and food storage for kids

And I am finishing up my BPA free food storage list in between nursing my newborn, so please check back!

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Product Review: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Detergent

I saw Charlie’s Soap on Amazon as an eco-friendly laundry soap. On a trip to Whole Foods, they had some in the store, so I decided to try some since I was in need of laundry detergent anyway.

The soap is intended to clean your clothes without leaving behind any residue. In fact, they recommend running a load with just Charlie’s Soap to clear the washing machine of all detergent residues. I will admit, I did not do this. I did do a small load the first time, though.

The soap cleans well, does not leave residue and is not scented. In fact, the package says “If you want flowers, go pick some.” It works just as it promised to do. It is great for people with sensitive skin. I will say that they do not recommend fabric softener, but I found my clothes still needed it. They were a little stiff without it. I used Seventh Generation’s fabric softener.

In fact, I did not realize the difference until I picked up an article of clothing tht had not yet been washed in Charlie’s Soap and I was surprised how much detergent and fabric softener residue I could feel on the garment. I am not sure how I wore those clothes washed in conventional detergent (sorry Proctor and Gamble).

The best part is it’s economical as well. It’s about $13 from Amazon  for a bag that will do 80 loads so that equates to 16 cents a load (though truth be told, I am pretty sure I got mine from Whole Foods for less than this on sale). And yes, 1 tablespoon of the soap is all that is needed, so that bag is small as well. So it is eco-friendly in that respect too.

Overall I give this product an A. I would go ahead and try without fabric softeners as they recommend, and if you find you do need one, I would recommend Seventh Generation’s fabric softener, I personally like the blue eucalyptus

Also available in liquid form
This review refers to the powder form.

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