Category Archives: Tip-sy Tuesday

How to Really Freshen Your Air

Air fresheners act in one or more of the following ways:

  • The chemicals deaden your nerves and thereby kill your ability to smell
  • An oily film is released which coats your nasal passages
  • They mask one smell by emitting another smell
  • They break down the offensive odor (although this is rare)

Not much there that actually “freshens” the air now, is there? The EPA has done testing of the plug-in types and found that the chemicals they contain react with indoor air pollutants to produce even more toxic substances.

How then, can you really freshen the air in your home?

Here’s some healthy ideas:

  • Don’t allow any standing water to remain – such as in a bathtub. Mold & mildew contribute greatly to indoor odors
  • Keep things clean – often we use air fresheners to mask what we didn’t clean so well
  • Don’t allow them in in the first place
  • Identify and remove sources of bad odors
  • Use baking soda an borax to control odors in areas such as trash cans and to deodorize when you clean.
  • Open windows to let bad air out and fresh air in.
  • Consider an air purifier with an activated charcoal filter.

If I Could Live My Life Over

I love shower time because my mind is allowed to wander aimlessly. Occasionally, it comes up with good ideas.

I don’t usually like to even think about living my life over type questions. I think they’re pointless, and can often lead to negative thoughts. BUT, sometimes, it can be a good learning tool for yourself or others, so here goes:

If I had my life to live over, I think I would have avoided ALL fragrances. I was 16 when I had my first migraine. I was able to trace it to a single perfume and deduced that I was allergic to it. (Which wasn’t technically correct, the response is not an allergic reaction.) Other perfumes didn’t bother me. At first. Then, over time, more and more fragrances began to bother me. I eliminated all perfumes and colognes from my life. I found unscented hair products, deodorants, laundry products, etc.

I kept adding to the list. I used to make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce a few times a year. I’d start it early in the morning and let it simmer all day. The aromas filled the entire house. Then I’d freeze it in dinner-for-two size portions. It makes a pretty quick meal. But in late ’03, I wound up with a bad migraine from smelling the sauce all day. And trust me, everything in that sauce was natural.

It’s one thing to have to (try to) avoid fragrances. It’s another when you have to avoid natural smells such as cooking smells.

A common migraine theory is that the triggers for a migraine are additive. So that if I get enough in my system, I wind up with a migraine. My personal theory as to why I began having migraines all the time a few years back is that the is an accumulation within the body. Thus my system reacts more readily to things that never used to bother me. So, IF I could live my life over again, here is what I would do different:

  • I would avoid all perfumes and fragrances in the products I used.
  • I would try, as much as possible, to avoid places that purposely put fragrances in the air. (Especially those I could avoid – malls, Disneyworld (yup, they do!), certain stores.) This one would be hard since in today’s world you encounter them in grocery stores.
  • I would avoid all artificial sweeteners. I used to drink a lot of diet sodas. But now they all bother me. No matter what allegedly natural sweetener they use.
  • I would avoid all nitrates and nitrates – the preservatives that allow your ham, bacon and lunch meat to seemingly last forever. I had a friend years ago who would preach against these. At the time, I thought he was a bit “over the top” about it. Turns out, he was right – there’s nothing good about them.
  • I would never touch anything with MSG in it.
  • I would definitely not have started smoking.

Would all this help? Can’t say for sure. But perhaps it is worth a try. I have a good friend who has bad reactions (worse than mine) to one or two perfumes. I think she believes I’m a bit “over the top” with all my preaching against perfumes. Except that she hasn’t really put together the fact that, in the 7 years I’ve known her, I’ve watched her add more than one fragranced product to her list. Hmmm….

More Tips on Fragrance Free Household Cleaners

Since the ingredients may not tell you that there is a fragrance in a product, you might be tempted to use the “sniff test.” But there are 2 problems with opening a product in the store and smelling it.

First, there are a lot of competing smells in your average store. You may not detect a fragrance specifically coming from a cleaning product in the store. This is especially true if the store has chosen to “freshen the air.”

Second, there could be a masking fragrance in there. If you have severe reactions to fragrances, or are concerned for the environment, then these are still a problem.

The best solution is to seek out companies and products that spcifically state they have no added fragrances.

Fragrance Free Household Products

The main problem with cleaning products is that there really are no rules requiring manufacturers to list the fragrances. There are laws requiring them to mention certain ‘known to be’ toxic chemicals, but that’s all.

Sometimes you can get clues from the label. “Fragrance Free” and “Unscented” may mean that there is no fragrance added, and it may not. It could be that there is no detectable fragrance odor, but they may have added a “masking fragrance”. Which, for me, is worse than a fragrance because I can’t smell the harmful part.

Other clues of things to avoid – Anything that says something like “Fresh Clean Scent” has a fragrance in it. It may not be listed, but those words are a definite sign that there’s a fragrance on board.

Products that say things like “Free of Perfumes”, “No added fragrance”, and such are your best bet. That usually means staying away from most of the “commercial” brands. They’re main concern never seems to be health or our environment, but only the almighty dollar!

One of the real quandries I’ve found is in scented automatic dishwasher detergent. A few years back, my husband and I were buying dishwasher detergent. And he asked me, “What fragrance do you want for your dishes?” My answer is NONE. At that point, I hadn’t found anything without a fragrance. So, I had some things that were not allowed in the dishwasher. Such as the lid to my travel coffee mug. I use it everyday, and since the plastic lid absorbed the fragrance, I couldn’t use it if it had been in the dishwasher. I also could only run the dishwasher when I was away from the kitchen or out of the house because the fragrance found its way throughout the room.

And that’s why one of my favorite companies is Natural Choices. I use their Oxy-Dish Automatic Dishwasher Detergent; I buy it in the 18 pound bucket. One bucket usually lasts us a year, so it’s not as expensive as it may seem. I also buy their floor cleaner – Clean & Free Floor Cleaner Concentrate.

A sometimes source for fragrance free products is your local health food store – Whole Foods, Sun Harvest, etc. But, if you’re as sensitive as I am, be careful. Some of the products have things like “Orange Oil” in them. While it is natural, it is often highly concentrated.

Someone just sent me a tip about Shaklee products. I haven’t tried them yet, but am adding them to my list.

Fragrance Free Personal Care

Over at Fragrance Free World , I occasionally review the search criteria that brings visitors to the site. Recently, I noticed a lot of searching for fragrance free products. So I thought that this week’s tip would address a few of my products of choice:

Bath Soap:

Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap – I fell in love with this soap from the moment I first heard about it for one reason – its ingredient list: Saponified Olive Oil, Water, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid. That’s it. How simple can you get. (I had someone tell me that they couldn’t use Kiss My Face because of the preservatives, but they must have meant another soap. ) Be warned: not everything at Kiss My Face is fragrance free, so read the ingredients.

Shampoo & Conditioner:

By far, this is one of the hardest things to find. I found some by Earth Science called Pure Essentials. They make Fragrance-Free Shampoo and Conditioner. I find this at both Whole Foods and Sun Harvest.

Hair Mousse:

I don’t think there is one. There must be some really nasty smelling stuff in mousse that they have to add fragrance to cover up. I see that Kiss My Face has one now, but I haven’t tried it. I do, however, use Kiss My Face Upper Management Styling Gel.

Hair Spray:

I don’t think there’s one of these either. The last “fragrance free” one I bought had a “masking fragrance” in it (see below). I took it back and decided that I could live without hair spray.

Laundry Detergent:

All Free & Clear is the only thing I have found that I can use. There are probably some others but I’m sure I would have to order them. I’ve looked at some online, but they are expensive. All Free & Clear works for me so I haven’t really been spurred to buy anything else. Beware though, I once tried an similar product from a major warehouse store. It caused a lot of itching.

You have to be very careful when evaluating products. The laws are rather vague about what labeling is required. It’s not enough for it to say “fragrance free” or “unscented”. Read the ingredients. A lot of products have a “masking fragrance”. If your problem is like mine and it’s actually the VOCs that bother you, well, they’re in a “masking fragrance” as well!

Next week I’ll provide tips on cleaners around the house. Have a question or comment? Got a product to add to the list? Leave a comment.

My Laundry Recipe

Laundry products seem to be some of the most heavily scented products on the market. I have never been able to use scented laundry products. It was more than 10 years ago that I noticed I could not be outside near my neighbor’s dryer vents when their dryer was running.

For years, I used the unscented dryer sheets, although I’ve since learned there are not so chemicals in them either. Worse, they’re manufactured in the same place as the scented sheets, and stored there too. So, they still have fragrances. What’s a girl to do?

Here’s my recipe:

All Free & Clear

Baking soda – This actually helps get odors out of clothes. Be sure it dissolves completely or else you’ll wind up with white spots on your dark clothes. I run the cup full of baking soda under the water while the machine fills. We buy 12 pound bags of baking soda @ our local warehouse store. It comes with a measuring cup!

Vinegar – Helps remove some of the soap. Actually does the same function as all the fabric softeners but it doesn’t stink and it costs a lot less!

Aluminum Balls – I take sheets of regular aluminum foil about 6-8 inches long and crumple them up. Eventually they begin to disintegrate and will need to be replaced. They help to get rid of static cling. They’re noisy, but they don’t stink!

In the washer:

  • All Free & Clear
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup Vinegar (9% if you can get it) put into the rinse dispenser

In the dryer – 4-6 aluminum balls. Take sheets of aluminium foil, roughly 12×12 inches and crumble them into balls.