In August 2014, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the second serious cancer I’d had to deal with. Seventeen years earlier, as a young single mom, I’d had in-situ melanoma. Both times, I was incredibly fortunate. The melanoma hadn’t spread and I didn’t need treatment beyond in-office surgery to remove the mole and surrounding tissue. Pancreatic cancer is often fatal within a few months, since it has usually metastasized by the time it’s discovered. The pancreas – which I knew pretty much nothing about before my diagnosis – is buried deep in the abdomen behind the stomach, and symptoms generally don’t appear until it’s too late. In my case, the tumour had not spread, not even to nearby lymph nodes.
Although I had to endure a huge surgery and five rounds of chemo, and even though pancreatic cancer is particularly vicious, I still feel extremely lucky. I have recovered well and, eight months later, am feeling strong and healthy. I’m doing everything I can to boost my immune system so cancernever returns. I’m eating healthy and clean, I take a range of supplements and I exercise, do yoga and meditate. It’s also important to me that the household products I use are as non-toxic as possible – I even go so far as to make some of them.
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
In fact, I make my own laundry detergent. Maybe it’s a weird thing to do, and sure, people look at me just a little strangely when I boast about it. Still, there’s something about buying a little paper bag of real soap flakes in the health food store that seems so very pioneer – maybe even a little cool. But why would you want to take the time to make something that’s so readily available in the store, even in eco-friendly formats? Check it out:
- The recipe I use is about as eco-friendly as you can get, while still being amazingly effective at getting clothes clean and white, if white is what you were going for. Not blindingly white because there’s no bleach, of course, but your stuff will be clean. And you know exactly what’s going into your washing machine (and into the sewer system!). Commercial laundry detergents are loaded with baddies like synthetic fragrances, toxic brighteners, ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (a cytotoxin) and carcinogenic linear alkyl benzene sulfonates. Who needs ‘em? No one – particularly not someone dealing with cancer!
- It’s incredibly cheap – you’ll save a lot making your own. I have been making the same recipe for about four years and I’m still using the same boxes of borax and washing soda.
- Its super easy – from beginning to end, it takes about 20 minutes to get your finished product.
- As mentioned above, you’ll feel pretty cool doing it.
Here’s the link to the recipe I use, from David Suzuki’s website. It includes a video so you can see exactly what’s going on:
Making your own does involve a bit of stovetop magic, but that’s just to dissolve the soap flakes. To make the detergent smell pretty, I usually use a combination of lavender and lemon essential oils – about 30 drops of lemon and 20 drops of lavender (even though the recipe calls for less). You could also try lemon and tea tree oil, or sweet orange oil and mint, or whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. Your clothes will smell fresh, with just the nicest hint of whatever essential oil you used.
You’ll notice the detergent is pretty liquid-y when you pour it into whatever containers you’re using (I use old plastic jugs and a tall glass jar). However, after about an hour or two, the liquid will solidify into a gel, so you’ll be able to easily scoop it from your container. I use a little over half a cup for a full load.
Alternatives to Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets
What about fabric softener and dryer sheets? They give us nice soft, fluffy towels and no static cling. But did you know that commercial fabric softener and dryer sheets are loaded with toxic chemicals, particularly nasties like benzyl acetate (a known carcinogen) and camphor (which can be fatal if breathed in!), among many others? Do yourself and your family a huge health favour and just get rid of that stuff.
What can you replace them with that’s not only healthy and eco-friendly but also effective? Plain old vinegar, for one – I’ve been using it as a fabric softener for years. I just pour about ¼ cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser in my machine. Not even a hint of vinegar smell remains on the clothes. If you’re worried about the vinegar damaging the dispenser (which hasn’t happened to me), you could fill a spray bottle with 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 1 ½ tsp of eucalyptus essential oil and spray the mixture on the wet clothes before you put them in the dryer.
Another option is felt wool dryer balls, which are wizard at eliminating static and keeping clothes soft. They have the added benefit of reducing drying time! If you’re at all handy, you can make them yourself – it’s fun! See a great DIY tutorial here at Crunchy Betty’s site. You can also buy them at baby shops or farmer’s markets (or online). Just pop one into the dryer with each load.
Window Cleaner Alternative
We now turn to household cleaning products. Once again, commercial ones are almost always also filled with lots of nasties you should avoid. Did you know one of the main ingredients in commercial window cleaners is 2-butoxyethanol, a glycol ether which can contribute to pulmonary edema and liver and kidney damage? Yikes! And ammonia, also a big component of these cleaners, is a powerful irritant. I discovered an amazingly effective, healthy and eco-friendly window and glass cleaner recipe, again on the totally cool Crunchy Betty site, which is basically just vinegar, rubbing alcohol, water and a secret, quite magical ingredient – cornstarch. Not only does this stuff work fabulously, it’s ridiculously cheap – around 50 cents for about 2 ½ cups (which lasts forever). You can find the recipe here (it’s #4 on the list, “Alvin Corn glass cleaner”). Ma ke sure to shake your spray bottle well before each time you use it, as the cornstarch tends to settle to the bottom.
(You’ll find all sorts of lovely homemade recipes on Crunchy Betty’s site, from facial toner to household cleaners. Take a peek around.)
All Purpose Products for Household Cleaners
Good all-purpose cleaning ingredients include baking soda, vinegar and liquid castile soap – you can find several recipes for homemade household cleaners here on David Suzuki’s website – just click on the pdf. You’ll also see the homemade laundry detergent recipe there. Ditch the smelly, toxic cleaners! Most of them contain at least one ingredient linked to the development of cancer.
Those of us dealing with cancer – or who are doing everything possible to ensure we never have to deal with it again – can easily substitute healthier and greener cleaning products for those toxic and expensive commercial products. Take a stand for your health and that of your family – and the planet. And have fun doing it!
About the Author:
Rhonda Greenaway is a mother of two grown sons, a writer-editor and a former children’s bookstore manager who is currently going through her own cancer journey. She loves to write about holistic nutrition and other aspects of living healthy.