Monday, March 16, 2009

Green Bathrooms

I don't blog consistently about anything (there is a message in there somewhere...hmmm) but I keep trying to be green and to get greener. This post is about greening up your bathroom - that is, removing toxins from the bathroom and replacing them with products that are good for the earth, good for your body, and (because I want to be frugal) won't break the bank.

The cleaning products that I use in the rest of the house get used in the bathroom, too.

  • A water and vinegar mix cleans up all kinds of things;
  • I also use Trader Joe's all purpose cleaner (which is touted as biodegradable, etc., and comes in under $4 as I recall).
  • I cleaned the tub yesterday with baking soda - I buy a giant bag now, in addition to the little box that I keep in the cupboard for baking. It did a good job on that nasty ring that develops after one really playful little girl has spent some time running around the back yard with no shoes on in the winter, scooping up piles of sticks and leaves, and then hugging the dog. (You get the picture.)
  • Meyer's glass cleaner does a decent job. Not my favorite, but decent.
  • Seventh Generation toilet bowl cleaner.
  • Trader Joe's Next to Godliness Air Freshener: uses essential oils, non-aerosol, cheap, lasts a long time (a little goes a long way)

I try to clean with rags when possible, not paper towels, and I don't use disposable cleaning stuff like Swiffer products or those things that substitute for old fashioned toilet bowl brushes. (And the water in my toilet is water, not blue chemicals.)

Even more importantly is what we put on our bodies. Did you know that common ingredients in shampoos are linked to cancer, or are endocrine disrupters? To get information about safety in cosmetics (defined as anything we put on our skin) I visit the Environmental Working Group website; they have a cosmetics safety database that you can visit at:

It's really easy to use. All you do is type in the name of the product you want to check on, and it gives you a score of 0-9, where 0 is very safe and 9 is toxic. You can look at ingredients lists and see why the score was given, or you can take it at face decide.

Using this database, we discovered that Ryan's favorite hair product - Nexxus Humectrus - received a toxic score of 9. Twenty-five years of putting toxins next to his poor dear. Time to find a new product, needless to say! We also discovered that the tried-and-true Johnson & Johnson's baby wash received a score of 4, a "moderate" score, but pointed out the warning "Keep away from young children." Ack! Other J&J baby products (we used several) got nasty scores of 7; so did Baby Magic and other baby products. I'm so sad that I used these "gentle" products with the belief that they were best, but I was wrong.

But enough of what doesn't work: here is what is working for me right now.

Deodorant: Tom's of Maine lavendar; score =2. (I was using the honeysuckle rose scent, and it was a score of 4. What?! Anyway, switching back to lavendar was no big deal.)

Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine spearmint (Ryan and I) and strawberry (Tessa); score = 3. When our current tubes run out we're going to try Burt's Bees toothpastes (they have adult and kid versions); score = 1.

Shampoo & Conditioner: I have tried Alba and Jason products, but they scored in the 5 range, so we have switched again, this time to Burt's Bees. Guess what? I made a mistake. I went in to the store to buy the grapefruit and sugar beet shampoo and conditioner (score = 2), and they didn't stock it, but they had raspberry and brazil nut shampoo and conditioner, so I picked that instead. ARGH! Grapefruit score = 1; Raspberry score = 4. You've gotta be kidding me....but there it is.

Are you getting the message that scent changes everything? Same product, different flavor....different score.

Soap (for shower): Kiss My Face pure olive oil soap; score = 0. Note: add fragrance and the score goes up to 4. Plain is good.

Hand Soap: Pears. Except it's not in the database. Anyone have info on this one? It's a glycerine soap (good).... A note on hand soap: bar soaps come in cardboard boxes; liquid soaps come in plastic containers. Bar soaps are better!

Lip Balm: Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm; score = 2; for color I've been using Alba but it gets a 3 or 4 depending on color

Sunscreen (well, I keep mine in the bathroom): Alba Botanical Minerals SPF 18; score = 2. However, not all Alba products score this well, and one of the children's sunscreens that we had scored a nasty 7. Ugh! Kiss My Face sunscreens (which I had opportunity to sample thanks to the generousity of their VP who read a previous blog entry in which I complained about them) score well, and I like them: Kiss My Face 100% Paraben Free Sunscreen with Oat Protein SPF 30; score =2. Their Face Factor Paraben Free SPF 30 also scores a 2.

For face lotion I haven't found one I'm in love with. I've tried Jason and Alba; these were to get away from the Neutrogena products that I'd loved for years but scored 4-7 (remember, one small change to the formula and the whole score can change). I'd like to try Burt's Bees unscented shea butter body and face lotion (score = 2) but I'm looking for recommendations.

Acne treatment: Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil; score = 0. (available at Trader Joe's)

Facial Wash: Dessert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash with Tea Tree Oil and Awapuhi; score = 0 (available at Trader Joe's)

For scrubbing my body I stopped using a plastic "pouf" and switched to loofahs. The pouf will sit in a landfill forever; the loufah is a natural sponge and will biodegrade. (I wonder if I could put it in my compost when it starts falling apart, if I ran it through the dishwasher first?)

Anyway, there is a post I wish I'd found earlier in my process to point me in the right direction, because there is a lot of trial and error and I'm not willing to spend a lot of money so if I buy something I need to use it up unless it's really bad. Maybe this will help someone - and maybe people can add comments about products that they have found that do the trick, aren't tough on the pocketbook, and are kind to bodies and earth....

And remember, it's important to look it up if you're trying a new scent or formulation, because a small name change can signify a totally different health perspective.

PHEW! That took longer than I expected it would.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

Good info! I love knowing that TJs carries good bathroom stuff... I've got to look up some of our stuff. And for glass cleaner, I've mixed up 2:1 water/alcohol in a spray bottle, wiping with a microfiber cloth.