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‘Tis the season to simplify: get rid of things you aren’t using, and make room for new things (in the form of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, hopefully!).
This time of year, plenty of local and national organizations are taking donations of winter clothes, canned food, children’s toys, and more. But before you un-hoard your house and toss your leftover belongings in the charity bins, consider washing them—especially clothes.
When you buy laundry-cleaning products, be an eco-savvy consumer. Here’s what you want to look out for:
Look for the keyword “biodegradable,” and make sure it doesn’t contain phosphates (nasty inorganic chemicals that contribute to water pollution and inhibit the growth of organisms when their balance is out of whack).
Toxic, pungent bleach irritates the lungs and the environment. Instead, add a cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your wash. For whites, you could instead add ½ cup borax. And for darks, a cup of white vinegar (which locks in dye—think Easter eggs).
A cup of baking soda works in a pinch!
Most of the fabric dryer sheets you can buy contain synthetic chemicals and contribute to landfill waste. Instead, consider investing in a lavender sachet that you can toss in with your laundry as it dries. It’s re-usable and smells naturally great!
And here’s another tip: stay away from dry cleaning if you can.
Dry cleaning methods use chemicals instead of water to clean your things. Those chemicals are not only environmental contaminants, but they have been known to infiltrate the body’s systems and even seep into breast milk. Nasty! The easiest way to avoid dry cleaning chemicals? Buy clothes that don’t need to be dry cleaned.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide what’s worse: having moths in your closet eating holes in your clothes, or the noxious smell of mothballs. And they don’t just smell bad; they contain a nasty and toxic pesticide known as paradichlorobenzene. (Older mothballs were made primarily of naphthalene, which turned out to be quite flammable, and has since been outlawed.) Many mothballs also contain camphor, a foul-smelling insect repellent.
Fortunately, there are natural, delicious-smelling alternatives that dissuade moths from taking up residence in your closet and destroying your wardrobe.
- Cedar. Cedar chips, sachets, sprays, and even cedar hangers are available to outfit your closet with a toasty scent that moths don’t like.
TIP: every few months, you can sand down cedar hangers or blocks to bring out fresh aroma.
- Essential oils. If putting clothes away in storage for a season or longer, tuck a sheet of tissue paper that’s been sprinkled with lavender and rosemary essential oils. Moths don’t like the smell, but you will when you take your clothes back out.
- Lemon peels. For clothes hanging in a closet, you can hang whole, dried lemon peels among them.
Luckily, we don’t share the same flavor preferences as moths. Because of this, we can ward off closet invaders while making our clothes smell fresh… and healthy.
The unpredictable summer weather in San Francisco makes it impossible to stay on top of battling house-invading bugs like ants. We’re never sure when they’re going to stop by. Before you douse your home with toxic RAID, consider this more natural preventative solution.
Ants, like vampires, are averse to the odor of garlic. A few ingredients from your local natural foods market can help you concoct a noxious insect-repellant that you can drizzle around the base of your cabinetry.
- 1/2 cup flaxseed oil
- A handful of garlic cloves, crushed a bit to release their odor
- A few cups of water
- A dash of liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronners)
First, let the garlic cloves sit overnight in the flaxseed oil. Be sure to cover it to seal in the aroma. The next day, you can remove the garlic from the oil and toss the now-flavorless pulp. Combine the garlic-flavored oil with the water and castile soap in a spray bottle.
Note that this mixture will actually work well to ward off many types of insects. Any soft-bodied insect will go out of its way to avoid a powerfully odiferous irritant such as garlic. You can use it in the garden or as a natural insecticide on houseplants! That is, if you don’t mind the smell of garlic.