Monday Motivation: Toxins in the Home (Kitchen Edition)

The average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every day without knowing [source], (think of all the beauty products sitting on your bathroom counter right now!) and this number doesn’t include toxins found in the environment. These chemicals can have all sorts of effects, but have been linked to increased rates of reproductive issues and cancer among women. I’m definitely not an expert on any of this, rather I’m really just beginning my journey to get rid of toxins in my home! I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned so far and all of the products that I’ve switched to. I’ll do some other Motivation Monday editions featuring other rooms in the house (the bathroom is a big one!), but thought I would start with the kitchen for now.

On a side note, I sometimes feel like my Monday Motivation posts are “controversial,” and I totally get that others don’t share the same opinions as me – and that is fine! I’m not trying to scare anyone by writing these posts. There’s no way that any of us can live a completely toxin-free life, but we can reduce our exposure a lot by making small day-to-day changes.

Soaps

Our skin is our biggest organ, absorbing anything we put on it. Traditional hand soaps can contain phthalates, parabens, and sulfates, while cleaning products can contain solvents, which can be carcinogens. With dish soap, not only do you come into direct contact with it on your hands, but you then put it on your plates and dishes and eat off of them! I used to use this dishwashing liquid before learning that it was rated an “F” on the Environment Working Group’s website (the lowest score a product can get), with concern for “general systemic/organ effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, and damage to vision.” YIKES!

The two brands I really like when it comes to kitchen soaps are Mrs. Meyers and Puracy – they’re both plant-derived and free of parabens and pthalates, but you don’t have to compromise on good scents. I loooove Mrs. Meyers’ “Iowa Pine” hand soap – it smells like Christmas trees and is perfect for this time of year! I have Puracy’s Lavender and Vanilla hand soap in all of the other bathrooms in our house – I love that you can buy large bags of refill to reduce plastic use – that way you can keep filling up the same dispensers. And for dish soap I have both Mrs. Meyers and Puracy, but I like the scent of Puracy’s dish soap a lot better! The Green Tea & Lime scent is surprisingly really nice.

Dishes and Food Storage

What you eat on and store your foods in can have unwanted impacts on your body – specifically plastic. No matter how many times you wash it, plastic is still plastic. It still emits its plastic odor and leaches into food (especially when the food items are heated or hot). I really encourage you to get rid of ALL the plastic dishes, cups and bowls (melamine counts as plastic!) in your home. We have this dinnerware set off of our wedding registry, and we eat all of our meals on these. They’re made of pure stoneware, which is a great choice for dishes as they are completely non-toxic and can last forever if cared for. 

When it comes to food storage, I recently replaced all of our plastic tupperware with glass tupperware. Aside from containing BPA and other chemicals, plastic tupperware can’t be recycled, so most of it is probably sitting in a landfill somewhere. Glass is much better for you (and the environment). I bought these glass containers, which come in a package of 12 and contain all different shapes and sizes. We really like storing single ingredients in these. I always put quinoa in the biggest one, and use the smaller ones for cut-up veggies, black beans, etc. We also really like these divided glass containers for portioning out lunches for the week. They are safe to use in dishwashers, microwaves and ovens (just take the lid off before heating).

Stovetop

Do you own and cook with non-stick pots and pans? If so, you might want to consider ditching them ASAP. These pans contain perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and have been strongly linked to infertility in women. In one study, women with high levels of PFCs in their blood were up to one and a half times more likely to take more than a year to conceive or required fertility treatment versus women with low levels. This news does make me really sad (and also kind of angry), because right out of college, I spent a lot of money from my savings account on a set of Calphalon pots and pans for my first apartment. They were from Williams Sonoma and really expensive so I thought I was really “treating myself” – and I’ve been using them ever since (for NINE years). When I learned about how bad non-stick materials are (seriously, google it), I ditched my expensive non-stick pots and pans for cast-iron – they’re not as easy to clean, but I feel much better about using them! Keep in mind that non-stick coatings can also be found in other kitchen items like crock pots and cookie sheets.

And what about cooking sprays? Although they’re convenient, most contain highly processed oils extracted under high heat from common GMO crops like canola, corn, or soy. Many also contain chemical propellants such as propane or butane. You’re better off using some organic extra virgin olive oil (in a glass bottle) or some good ol’ grass-fred butter. 🙂

One last thing about the stovetop – we have a gas burner (which I always thought was a luxury), until I recently learned that that too can be toxic if you don’t use the exhaust fan at the same time (which I hadn’t been doing!). Using a gas stove or oven releases contaminants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO) into your home, which can cause respiratory issues and more. One recent study found that gas stoves regularly exceed the recommended amount of CO and NO2, especially for those who are doing all the cooking and children who are at stove height. Another study of preschool children found that those who lived in homes with gas stoves had carbon monoxide exposures that were double those of children who lived in homes with electric stoves. So if you have a gas burner, then definitely keep that exhaust fan on at all times while you’re cooking!

Microwave

Microwaves are incredibly convenient and recognized by the FDA as very safe. Just make sure you aren’t putting any type of plastic in the microwave (when heated, BPA and phthalates in plastics can leach into your food), and I always stand at least four feet away from my microwave while it’s on just to be safe (to reduce EMF exposure). If you need to boil water, there are other ways you can heat it up rather than microwaving it! You can boil a pot of water on the stove or invest in a tea kettle or a water boiler (I have this exact one!).

Cleaners

Commercial cleaners contain thousands of unregulated chemicals, many of which are known health hazards, like 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning evaluates 2,500 cleaners for chemical safety, so you can look up your cleaners and make informed decisions. As a general rule, look for plant-based, biodegradable soaps and cleaners. I love Puracy’s Multi-Surface Cleanser, a good alternative to the Lysol wipes that I previously used (in comparison, the Lysol wipes scored a D and the Puracy cleanser scored an A).

The next step for me is making my own cleaning products! You’d be surprised how simple it is and how many ingredients you already own. I already bought a few glass spray bottles, I just need to sit down and make them. Here are just a few:

General cleaner: Add 2 tablespoons baking soda to 16 oz. warm water.

Window Cleaner: Add 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar to 16 oz. warm water.

Disinfecting Cleaner: Add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil to 16 oz. warm water.

Floor Cleaner: To 16 oz. of warm water, add: 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, 1/2 teaspoon borax, squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar. Spray floor with solution and mop as usual.

Water

Sadly, most drinking water is contaminated with everything from agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals to heavy metals. An Environmental Working Group report from2016 revealed that 75% of Americans’ drinking water contains concerning levels of chromium-6, the carcinogen at the center of the Erin Brockovich case. I have this water filter that I keep filled and in my fridge at all times. I use it for everything, even putting into my electric tea kettle when I make tea!

Candles/Scents

I can’t believe I used to use those plug-in fragrance wallflowers – once I found out what was in them, I threw them all away! Even burning candles can pollute your home – for example, paraffin candles (like the ones from Bath & Body Works) emit toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene into the air. This was probably the saddest news ever, considering I LOVE candles and usually always have them burning in our house. I did some research and there are a few “safe” alternatives, such as beeswax candles, soy candles and essential oils. I like all three, but I’ve fallen in love with these 100% beeswax candles from Amazon. The thing that is CRAZY about beeswax candles is that rather than polluting the air, they actually clean the air. Beeswax candles burn with almost no smoke or scent, and clean the air by producing negative ions, which bind with toxins and help to remove them from the air. I ordered a few of the plain, unscented ones from Amazon, as well as a couple with essential oils added. The “uplifting” one is definitely my favorite – it smells so good and also lasts for much longer than a regular candle!

Like I said above, by no means am I an expert on any of this stuff. If you don’t believe something I said, I really hope that you take the time to research it yourself – that is the best way to learn! I also highly recommend listening to this podcast as I found it incredibly enlightening. 🙂 Okay, that’s it for now guys! Be back tomorrow!

Leave a Comment

20 Comments

  1. These are my favorite posts of yours! Love all the information and how well-researched it is. It’s super inspiring seeing you make changes, even ditching things you really loved like Bath and Body Works candles! (I’m not being sarcastic, it’s hard to get rid of those little things we love!)

    I recently replaced our pans too once I found out about how toxic non-stick pans were, and went with GreenPan. They are ceramic and have a sort of “non-stick” type of function so no oil is needed, but they are touted as one of the top non-toxic cookware options. They won’t give you that same taste and char as cast iron but they are obviously way easier to clean so thought I would mention them if you want to look into them!

    xo MK
    http://www.goldhattedlover.com

    11.4.19Reply
  2. Stephanie

    Thank you for taking the time to do these posts Caitlin! I started listening to the Ultimate Health Podcast on your recommendation and have learned A TON. I’m definitely switching out my dishsoap for the puracy brand!

    11.4.19Reply
  3. Rae

    A few thoughts:
    -While it may be true that the average woman puts over 500 ‘synthetic’ chemicals on her skin every day, I think it’s important to remember that synthetic does NOT necessarily mean bad! There are plenty of synthetic chemicals that really are perfectly safe (just as there are ‘natural’ substances that can kill you!).
    -Not all non-stick cookware is potentially harmful. I’ll agree with you that PFC coated cookware should be avoided but some pans that are labeled ‘non-stick’ can be ceramic and not chemical coated. Cast iron is certainly the easiest way to be sure (and I love my cast iron! highly recommend!) but I would encourage anyone who’s not sure to double check your pans before throwing them away and replacing them. The fastest and easiest way to help the environment is to use what we already have instead of needlessly consuming more!
    -GMOs are also not inherently harmful.
    -A final note: Words like ‘toxin’ ‘natural’ ‘organic’ and ‘green’ are all either meaningless, scientifically speaking, or have been co-opted to mean something entirely different than how the scientific community uses them.

    11.4.19Reply
  4. This post was incredibly eye opening. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I’ve been thinking about changing my soaps, detergents and beauty products to more natural ones because I’ve heard some pretty terrible things about them. I didn’t know candles were harmful too though! That’s sad for me to know, but I can easily switch to soy ones. Also, had no idea gas stoves were dangerous! This post was super helpful!

    Erika Marie | https://imerikamarie.com

    11.4.19Reply
  5. Christina1980

    i totally became hyper aware of this after having my baby girl… i also try to air out our home at least once a day, even in the winter (i have a gas stove too so i always open the back door when i’m using it)! my husband thinks im crazy when he sees all the windows open, but toxins build up in our homes from the products we use and the materials are homes/furniture are built with… exchanging this with fresh air whenever possible feels good 🙂

    11.4.19Reply
  6. Sally Nichols

    I am so glad you are making these posts! I always thought making homemade cleaners would be complicated, but you’re right. I have all of those ingredients in my home right now. Thank you for doing this research and making this knowledge easily applicable.

    Have you ever considered a post about how to shop differently to support local stores and boutiques? I shop on Amazon like no one else (it’s so convenient!) so I would love to learn some tips and tricks on how to change my shopping habits to support local businesses rather than big corporations. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

    11.4.19Reply
  7. Thank you for this! I’m always trying to educate myself on safe products in the home, especially with two little ones!

    bloomwithstyle.com

    11.4.19Reply
  8. This is an awesome post. Very informative! I blog and I know how much time went into putting this together. This post is going to help me make some changes around my home and I’m looking forward to trying the products you recommend. I do have a question – I have hardwood floors and right now I’m using lemon oil, cleaning vinegar and water to clean them. I have two Labrador retrievers and need something that will pick up the dirt from them as well. What would you recommend I use? Thank you, Bobbi Jo

    11.5.19Reply
    • Puracy has an entire lineup of natural products for your home, your baby and YOU! The multi-surface cleaner works amazing and smells so good! Perfect for your wood floors and safe to use around pets too. They sell everything on their site, Amazon, and Target! Hope this helps.

      11.8.19Reply
  9. Melinda

    Thank you so much for putting these posts together Caitlin! I’ve always wanted to do better with using more clean products in my home, but I just never know where to start. Your posts have been so helpful.

    On another note, what color paint do you have on your kitchen walls? It’s beautiful!

    11.5.19Reply
  10. Laura Leigh

    Literally buying ALL of this! Thank you so much for sharing today’s post. I truly appreciate all the work you put into these posts and the sources + research you share. They have been incredibly informative and have helped me – someone who does really want to remove as many toxins as possible. Keep these awesome posts coming!

    xo Laura Leigh
    http://www.louellareese.com

    11.5.19Reply
  11. Fiona

    Have you been able to find a dishwasher soap that you love?! I have been using safer home cleaners for a while but have found it really challenging to find a soap for the dishwasher that is safer for myself and the environment.

    11.5.19Reply
    • Liette

      Puracy makes dishwasher pods that work really well!

      11.8.19Reply
    • Kate L.

      I like 7th generation dishwasher soap 🙂

      11.12.19Reply
  12. Masha Savelieva

    Thank you for sharing this! Finding this information is often difficult and confusing and your posts make it easy to see the basics all in one place. Trying to live a healthier life and save the earth one person at a time 🙂

    11.5.19Reply
  13. So crazy!! Was reading along and saw your Blue Corn candle!! I JUST ordered a pack of votives and they arrived today. I’m burning one right now as I work. I love that they smell like honey. I used to roll my own taper candles from the honeycomb beeswax sheets with cotton wick, I’m not really sure why I stopped. They make great gifts and they help ionize/clean the indoor air which is such a win-win!

    11.5.19Reply
  14. Haley

    After taking an environmental issues class last year, I had wanted to switch to less toxic products. I become overwhelmed at all the information and never started. Your post lately about removing chemicals we can control has been beneficial! As you mentioned, plastic isn’t the best. My current cooking utensils are plastic, do you recommend any cooking utensils that aren’t plastic?

    11.5.19Reply
  15. Laura

    Great post. Recent studies showed that sunscreen chemicals can be found in relatively high levels in the bloodstream after use. Any thoughts on the safety of spray tanner chemicals?

    11.5.19Reply
  16. Gabriella Garcia

    Thank you for such an informative post! Where on the scale would you place Bath and Body Works candles?

    11.6.19Reply
  17. Rachael Beach

    Cast iron pans are great, but if you buy the cast iron ceramic coated pans (Le Cruset as an example or the less expensive brand here in Texas called Cocinawear) then you have a closer match to non-stick. Just a little FYI.😊

    11.12.19Reply