Going Gluten-FreeOctober 22, 2014

Environmental Intolerances and a Fragrance Free Me

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Posted by Erica Dermer


In addition to food allergies and intolerances, I know many of us have environmental intolerances. I have very sensitive skin and can easily get dermatitis if I touch something with harsh chemicals or fragrances. I also get headaches, nausea and dizziness when I am exposed to certain fragrances. I use fragrance free everything – unless that fragrance is essential oils or natural fruit fragrances (like a freshly-squeezed lemon). When I went to ShiftCon (an organic social media summit), I learned I was not the only one that has food sensitivities as well as environmental sensitivities. I’d love to share with you what I learned, and some allergen-friendly cleaning tips that you can easily do yourself at home!

I learned to take a closer look at labels – much like what I had to do when I learned I had celiac disease. However, there are few regulations governing cleaning products labeling, and don’t require disclose all product ingredients.

Corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, acidic toilet bowl cleaners or anything made with chlorine or ammonia can be immediately irritating to a sensitive body. I was wondering why I had to use rubber gloves and rinse everything 10 times before I could breathe without coughing! I learned that you should always have this Green Power Team on hand to make your DIY natural cleaners without those intense side effects:  

-BAKING SODA: Baking soda can lift stains and odors from carpet. You can add it to anything to scour and scrub absorbs smells in fridge. Baking soda can also aid in whitening a load of laundry.

-VINEGAR: Vinegar is a great natural cleaner. You can easily create a pleasant-smelling grease cutter by soaking citrus peels in white vinegar. You can also save money and make a natural fruit and vegetable wash using vinegar.

-LEMON JUICE: Lemon juice is great for just about everything – and lemonade! It can disinfect your kitchen, bathroom – wherever! Try adding coarse salt with lemon and scrub to remove kitchen stains like on your cutting boards.
Hydrogen Peroxide: You can often use this in place of bleach for mild stain removal.

A gentle and natural soap cleanser. I use this for everything from my personal care in the shower to cleaning my laminate flooring.

Fragrance added to anything in my home was always risky business. You can legally hide 3,000 commonly-used fragrance chemicals in the word “fragrance.” When I purchase any bath and body product that I use directly on my skin, I have to purchase fragrance-free versions. I can no longer use Bath & Body Works smelly seasonal lotions that smell like pumpkin pie or cranberries. In fact, I can rarely go into that store or candle stores in the mall without leaving with a headache. I have to test all perfumes for 24 hours before I purchase them – as I often leave mall beauty counters with hives or a sneezing fit. The word “fragrance” is one of the first things I look for on any product I purchase.

One of the first products in my house I had to change was my love affair with dryer sheets. Typical dryer sheets coat clothes with a residue that make them feel snuggly soft. However, that coat can transfer to your skin and cause itching and irritation. Even some fragrance free versions still contain chemicals to mask their smell (thus negating the fragrance, but leave all the icky stuff on the sheets. The ladies at ShiftCon recommended adding vinegar to the rinse cycle of the washing machine to naturally soften clothing. They also recommend wool dryer balls in the dryer to soften clothes as they dry.

Bleach, although is noted for its germ killing abilities, can be matched by less toxic alternatives. There are many recipes online for DIY bleach alternatives that won’t trigger asthma or breathing issues. Most of these simply use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar and lemon.

Scrubby cleaners used to be my friend. I stocked up on Comet and Soft Scrub cleaners in bulk. However, there are 100 undisclosed chemicals in Comet – and you’ve got to use gloves or your skin will make your pay for your mistakes! You can use BonAmi powder – which prides itself in ingredients that you can easily pronounce including baking soda, biodegradable cleaning agents and preservatives and limestone. It’s also easy to whip up alternative using a castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s and Earth Mama Angel Baby brands), baking soda, and essential oils.

I learned that I would have to scrub harder to get these products to work as well as the chemical-heavy versions. However, a little bit of elbow grease was worth it to me to keep a happy environment inside my home and keep my body and skin as happy and healthy as possible.


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