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Health & Balance

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The Natural Home: An Insider's Guide

Breathe Easy continued...

Safer Paints for Your Home

  • Free of all synthetic ingredients, Livos's furniture oils, waxes, stains, strippers, and linseed-oil-based paints are natural, nontoxic, and biodegradable. Leftover products can safely be disposed of with regular household garbage; livos.com.
  • Available in 500 colors and finishes, Sherwin-Williams's Duration Home water-based latex paints minimize the "fresh paint" smell and possess fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — the gases that can cause respiratory-tract irritation when new paint is applied; sherwin-williams.com.

Virtually odorless during application, Benjamin Moore's Pristine Eco-Spec emits few VOCs and is quick drying, allowing a fresh-painted room to be put back to use in roughly two hours; benjaminmoore.com.

Wash-Day Wonders

  • Ecover's nontoxic, hypoallergenic Natural Liquid Laundry detergent contains no petroleum-based products; ecover.com.
  • Vermont Soapworks' all-purpose Liquid Sunshine cleanser is mild, hypoallergenic, and free of artificial colors and preservatives; vtsoap.com.
  • Seventh Generation's Natural Fabric Softener softens clothes with soy and canola oils; seventhgen.com.

"The chance of buying a home with off-site toxic perils has become a real issue for rural and urban homeowners," says Larry Tuttle, director of the Center for Environmental Equity, in Portland, Oregon. Tuttle notes that "one in five Americans lives within four miles of a hazardous-waste site listed on the federal Superfund list." The good news is that homeowners can now find the location of potentially problematic spots by accessing such Websites as scorecard.org or e-risk.com. "If the sites don't answer your precise question," says Tuttle, "they'll at least point you in the right direction."

Green Cleansers

If you have baking soda, vinegar, and lemons, you can safely clean almost anything around the house. Mildly abrasive baking soda cleans bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and grimy pots and pans. Use a paste made of lemon juice and baking soda to scrub stubborn mildew on shower tiles and plastic curtain liners. To freshen carpets and neutralize odors, liberally sprinkle with baking soda, let stand overnight, then vacuum. For wood floors sealed with polyurethane, mop with a mixture of one gallon of warm water and a cup of white vinegar.

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