Non-toxic

Cleaning Stainless Steel: A Non-Toxic Solution

Cleaning stainless steel - non-toxic - olive oil

When transitioning to non-toxic cleaning products, a common complaint for the newly initiated is that they don’t work. Usually I find this is simply a result of using the wrong product. For example, stainless steel appliances require an easy but possibly surprising solution: olive oil. Really any oil will work, but I’d stick to organic olive or refined coconut. Just add a few drops to a rag, and then rub and polish into the stainless steel until the smears are gone. Add more oil and move around the surface until the job is complete. Super fast, and couldn’t be simpler. (And yes that is a cloth diaper cut in half—my favorite thing to use for rags!)

Non-toxic Postpartum Supplies

FAIR WARNING: This post is real life, guys! While I am tip-toeing into TMI territory, it is with the hopes it will be useful for someone. I had to scramble after my first birth to get these things, and the traditional product offerings often contain ingredients I’d rather avoid. It is so much easier to buy these things ahead of time.

This is my (very!) personal postpartum list. Everyone does things differently, but if you’d like some ideas, I hope these are helpful. While some of this might seem like overkill, taking care of our delicate bodies after a birth not only helps prevent infection but also makes things far more comfortable … and more apt to heal quickly. I recommend corralling all of these items in a convenient place in your bathroom so it is at the ready every time you need it. Here we go:

Non-toxic post partum supplies

Seventh Generation overnight pads and pantiliners. 2 packs of each. Traditional pads and pantiliners often contain questionable ingredients, including chlorine and fragrance.

Organic cotton rounds plus organic witch hazel in a glass spray bottle. These are to replace Tucks, which contain parabens.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray. This is to replace the Dermoplast numbing spray provided by the hospital, which feels amazing but isn’t the best in terms of ingredients.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. This is to replace a traditional hemorrhoid cream, which often contains parabens.

Peri bottle. Although plastic is best avoided, I wouldn’t worry about it in this case. The hospital or birthing center will provide one, so definitely bring it home with you.

Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream. This is an alternative to lanolin. Although it has been used for generations, lanolin really is not a safe ingredient. The lanolin itself is not that bad, but the sheep are nearly always sprayed with toxic ingredients. Click here to learn more.

Stool softener. TMI, I know, but many women struggle with this after delivery. I hear Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks is a great organic option (I have not tried it personally).

Prenatal vitamins. Continue with these. I like the ones from Rainbow.

Heating pad. Great for sore backs. This etsy seller did a custom cover for me in a plain natural cotton for no additional cost.

Underwear. And here it is: do yourself a favor and buy a pack or two of comfy white cotton underwear. These likely will end up in the garbage and that’s okay. Comfort and recovery are the key here. (And then treat yourself to something beautiful and organic when things are back on track!)

There. Now we are really friends.

Not on the list but something to consider: pain reliever. Many women forgo pain relief altogether due to concern about the ingredients. Although I avoid medicine whenever possible, after something this disruptive to the body, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Advil for a limited period if I needed it. For my son, I think I took it for two days, and with my daughter, I don’t remember taking it at all. Just be sure to take it with food, and limit it to what is genuinely needed.

No doubt this list is incomplete—every birth is different. For example, I did not need ice packs, but I know many women do. Here is a recipe for making your own … and if you use the products listed above, they will be even safer. If needing a sitz bath, Wellness Mama has a great herbal recipe.

And finally, I was still learning about toxins when I had my first baby, so I used some ingredients back then that I now regret. This list, while not perfect, is a huge improvement. Sending love and comfort to all expectant mamas!

EDIT: Soooo I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the pain relief. Our bodies are all very different and by all means I support however you need to cope and recuperate. If you need Advil for two weeks, go for it! If you need something stronger, I support you! I had epidurals with both deliveries, and I don’t regret it for one minute and would do it all over again the exact same way. Everyone’s experience is extremely personal and different. The goal is healthy babies, healthy moms … however you get there is amazing!

Wintertime Skin Favorites

Even in our part of sunny Florida, we still get our bursts of winter weather. Like many people, my skin is pretty sensitive to the combination of cold air outside and really warm air inside. The tricky part is choosing products that nourish our skin without harming our health. Here are the non-toxic products I rely on during the cold months:

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FACE: In addition to my normal evening routine, one to two times per week I use Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cleansing Balm as an overnight mask. Although not the product’s primary purpose, it is a wonderful use for it. Before bed, I apply a light layer all over my face and wake up super moisturized. It feels so amazingly luxurious too.

LIPS: I use a few things on my lips. For day time, SPF is still really important, so I use the totally wonderful Hurraw SPF lip balm. For night, Beautycounter’s calendula lip conditioner is fantastic.

NOSE: Does your nose get a bit runny in the winter even without a cold? Mine does. To avoid the dreaded rudolph look (happens to me so easily), I apply this organic shea butter to bottom of my nose at night when needed. Sounds strange and silly, but it clears up the redness and tenderness by morning!

HANDS: Nothing like a good hand cream. This one is brand new from Beautycounter and totally amazing. Apply throughout the day! [NOTE: this item is so popular it is temporarily out of stock! I’ll let you know when it returns!]

BODY: It depends on what kind of mood I am in, but for scented body oil, I use Beautycounter’s Lustro Body Oil in Rosemary + Citrus. For unscented, I use 365 organic refined coconut oil. After the shower is the best time to do this.

FEET: Shea butter to the rescue again here. I slather it on and then put on socks. [cue sexy music]

So nothing earth shattering here, but it is nice to know there are great non-toxic options available. Maybe one of these will come in handy for you!

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My Evening Skin Care Routine

I’ve talked before about my morning skin care routine, so I thought I’d share the products I use in the evening. Before buying any products, I always research it on EWG’s Skin Deep database to be sure it is completely non-toxic (I try to only buy products rated 0-2, which is the least toxic).

This probably looks like a lot of work, but I spend less than 4-5 minutes doing all of this. For me, it is a nightly ritual where I get to slow down, take care of myself, and prepare for bed, so I enjoy making this small extra effort. This is the order I do things:

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1. Beautycounter Routine Cream Cleanser. This gentle face wash really removes make up while soothing my skin. I love it because it doesn’t burn my eyes when I wash off my eye make up. It also moisturizes as it cleans, which I love for my dry skin. The subtle scent is really nice, too. I often use it in conjunction with my Clarisonic Mia (11.), which is a cult favorite for good reason! (EWG 2)

2. Beautycounter Rosewater Uplifting Spray. I love using toner as part of my routine. It helps prep the skin so it better absorbs any additional products applied. The subtle rose scent is a bonus. (EWG 1)

3. Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. It might seem funny to include toothpaste in a skin care routine, but I find it is vital to let products soak in before moving on to the next, so I use this time to brush my teeth. It makes the whole routine more efficient. (EWG 1)

4. Aura Cacia Organic Tea Tree Oil. If I have any blemishes, I apply a tiny bit of tea tree oil at this point. Just add a few drops to a q-tip and apply where needed. Fluctuating hormones of pregnancy get me every time! (EWG 1)

5. Countertime Radiance Firming Complex. I’m a major fan of this serum. It fights fine lines and discoloration, and I have definitely seen an improvement in both areas. My skin is more “glow-y” as someone told me—super nice to hear after a long night with a sick baby! To me, the best part about it is that it is still non-toxic. All of the other serums I have come across that are effective contain harsh ingredients, which I am not willing to use (especially while pregnant and/or breastfeeding). And a little bit goes a long way with this stuff. Definitely my favorite item out of everything. (EWG 2)

6. Countertime Vibrant Eye Perfector. I’ve loved this eye cream for a while. For someone who has dark circles with or without sleep, I really appreciate a product that solves that for me while still being safe. A must for me. (EWG 1)

7. Glide Floss. Next up I floss my teeth while the serum and eye cream absorb. I tried using Tom’s floss but it felt like flossing with shoelaces—it was just too thick. So I am not sure Glide floss is the purest out there, but it does a great job. I can’t go to sleep without flossing. [EDIT: Glide is not as safe as I thought! Now we use Radius floss! Much safer!]

8. Acure Organics Argan Oil. I use argan oil in place of a moisturizer. It has almost no scent, goes on smoothly and absorbs quickly. This goes on once the serum has soaked in. In really cold months, I use a heavier night cream, but for now this works. (EWG 0)

9. Raw Organic Shea Butter. I use this for my lips and it moisturizes throughout the night. It is hard when you first get it out of the jar, so you’ll have to rub it in to soften it. It only takes a moment, and it has been incredible for my lips. It is also great for hands and cuticles. (EWG 0)

10. California Baby Organic Body Oil. I often take showers at night, and if so, I apply this baby oil after. I find it moisturizes more intensely than lotion alone. (EWG 1) (This isn’t the exact body oil I use, but the one I am finishing up is discontinued, and I will be buying this brand when I need a new bottle).

Many of the products here are from Beautycounter, a brand I have been passionate about for a long time. With a mission focused on extreme safety, Beautycounter’s products are not only effective, but they are completely non-toxic. After using and raving about this brand for many months, I decided to become a consultant. I am very proud to be working with Beautycounter and sharing their message that all products on the marketplace should be safe. I used every product listed here before becoming a consultant (except for the Rosewater), so I can tell you without bias how effective each of these are. In fact, it is only because I thought the products were so incredible that I got involved on an official level. If you’d like to learn more about why I love it so much, please don’t hesitate to ask.

This routine of course evolves through the seasons and as my skin changes, but for now, this is what works for me. My top priority is to use the safest products on the market that also get the job done, and I feel like I’ve finally found those very things.

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Toxin-Free in the Kitchen: Cups & Bottles

Plastic is a tricky one to avoid these days, but we do our best. If you are looking to make a transition away from plastic, an easy (and important) place to begin is with your drinkware—at home and away. Here is what we use:

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Adults: We use glass cups (1), ceramic mugs (2) and stainless steel travel thermoses (3) and cups (4).

Children & Babies: We transition from bottles (8) to regular glass (5) and stainless steel cups (4) as quickly as possible with toddlers, but there is still a time and a place for sippy cups (7) and thermoses (6).  If you don’t feel comfortable with your young child using glass (we’ve had very few breaks), stainless steel cups are the perfect solution. I don’t know why it isn’t more popular! For their glass cups, we just use a small version of our adult glasses and for the stainless steel cups, we all share the same ones. We’ve used Dr. Brown’s glass bottles for both babies, and we have never had a single chip or crack. Highly recommend!

A Simple, Non-Toxic Nursery

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When creating a nursery, I like to think of it as a calm, soothing little cocoon. Our nursery is made of varying shades of white and cream with natural fibers (seagrass, wicker, cane) added for texture. Both our son and daughter used the same room and if we have any more children, I don’t anticipate it will change very much for them. We keep the room comfortable yet spare—limited furniture, decorations, and toys. Like many parents, I also strive for it to be as non-toxic as possible (easier said than done!). If you are looking for ideas for your nursery, here are some suggestions:

Crib. We are not co-sleepers, so a crib is center stage in the nursery for our children. Ideally this would be made from non-toxic materials. (Here and here are some good posts about non-toxic cribs). Ours is from Ikea, but if I was doing it all over again, I’d get this one from Land of Nod. It is made by El Greco and seems to be wonderful.

Crib mattress and mattress pad. The mattress is the one serious, no-compromise-must-be-organic item in the nursery. Ours is from Naturepedic. If I was doing it over again, I’d get this one from Naturepedic without the waterproof cover (the waterproof layer is supposedly safe, but I’d still rather be more cautious. We have a waterproof  mattress pad anyway, so there is no reason for the mattress itself to be waterproof.) This is our organic mattress pad. Natural Baby Mama has a great post about all of this.

Crib sheet. Preferably GOTS certified organic cotton (companies can say the cotton is organic and then still treat it with chemicals). We like these from Naturepedic.

Chair. A comfortable place to sit, feed the baby, read books, etc is paramount. Unfortunately nearly all conventionally upholstered gliders/rockers contain excessive amounts of flame retardants. We had a very comfortable but very toxic glider. I’ve replaced it with a vintage, solid wood rocker with a cane seat and back. The caning makes it surprisingly comfortable (it has more give than solid wood).

Dresser. I don’t need to tell you that dressers are the perfect multipurpose piece of furniture. We use ours as a changing table, as well as a place to store diapers, creams and supplies, clothing, bedding and blankets. Ours is an old family dresser that will grow with our children and hopefully one day live in their homes.

Changing pad. This is another item that really needs to be organic. Conventional changing pads are made of polyurethane foam and contain flame retardants. Naturepedic makes an organic version (which is what we have). Here is the changing pad cover we use.

Bookcase. The shelves can house books and toys, while the top is a surface for a lamp, white noise and a plant (plants help filter the air. Peace lilies are great). Avoid pressed woods and MDF—ideally it would be made from a solid, hardwood with a non-toxic stain or paint.

Window coverings. Whatever you choose, make sure it adequately blocks out the light if that is a goal. We have cotton black-out curtains that I open and close for nap time and bed time.

Rug. Toxins are incredibly sneaky and rugs are often an overlooked haven for these guys. The ideal solution is hardwood floors (with a non-toxic finish) with a natural fiber rug on top (wood floors without a rug could be very loud and echo-y). Wall-to-wall carpeting is nearly always chock-full of toxins, which is why I strongly suggest steering clear from it if at all possible. (Side note: Do not ever remove wall-to-wall carpeting yourself. Ripping it up releases tons of toxins into your house and lungs. Have it professionally removed by someone who specializes in non-toxic removal). I love these seagrass rugs from Curran. They come in any size, and they are made without any treatments, pesticides or finishes (some companies treat their seagrass with pesticides, such as Pottery Barn). The backing is natural latex without any adhesive. Seagrass also naturally repels stains due to its naturally-occurring waxy finish. We have these rugs throughout our house, and I am thrilled with them.

Minimal art and decorations. I prefer to keep things simple and clean in this department. No need to go crazy and feel pressure from Pinterest to bedazzle every aspect of the room.

Mirror and clock. I like having a mirror in the room so I can see if that sweet little baby has dozed off or not on my shoulder! A discreet yet illuminated clock is vital during those nighttime rendezvous. More on this here.

White noise. Indispensable in a creaky old house like ours. We use an old ipod on a dock.

Baby monitor. Brace yourselves: we’ve given up the monitor. Once I learned that video monitors actually run on wi-fi (What did I think they used? Magic??) I removed it from the room. It wasn’t close to our children (probably five feet away), but I still felt uncomfortable. If we have another baby, we will use an old-fashioned noise-only monitor. The pros of the video aspect are not worth the risks to us. (Talking about wi-fi being toxic definitely could make you think I’ve gone off the deep end. Unfortunately, it might not be as safe as we think. The CDC recently issued a warning about it, and I imagine it will become a much more mainstream concern in the coming years. On that note, we’ve never allowed our children anywhere near our iphones, ipads or laptops, and we keep our wireless turned off in our house most of the time. We—the adults—also only use our phones on speaker or with a headset—never against our heads. No doubt your eyes have glazed over by now!)

A small selection of books and toys. Preferably all non-toxic (no plastic, no batteries, etc.). Fewer is always better when it comes to toys. I promise your children will not be bored! More on this soon. Here are some of our favorite baby toys.

Paint. This must be VOC-free (primer, too!) We use Natura by Benjamin Moore for all of our paint.

Must-Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Non-Toxic Living

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A question I am often asked is “what should I do to live a less toxic lifestyle?” Such a wonderful question, and I so appreciate any interest in the topic. The tricky part is the vast quantity of things to consider. I admit it might feel overwhelming for someone new to the subject.

My best suggestion is to start with this fabulous, comprehensive, free PDF guide from Healthy Child Healthy World (or free e-book version here). While it is targeted toward pregnant women, I think it is highly beneficial for everyone to follow their guidelines. Though there are some things it has left out, for the most part, it is pretty all-encompassing, rock-solid advice. It might seem long at first glance, but it is a quick, easy (free!) read. Two important things the guide leaves out are the Skin Deep (cosmetics and personal care items) and Cleaners databases from EWG (Environmental Working Group)—key parts to finding the best, safest products available. Combining EWG and HCHW, you are on your way to an extremely healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Child Healthy World also has some really helpful guides here, here and here on DIY/ remodeling, which is always important and particularly important while pregnant (all of you nesting out there, proceed with extreme caution and care).

More to come on living a non-toxic lifestyle. I hear your requests and appreciate the interest! :)