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The Natural Home: An Insider's Guide

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.

Natural Fabric Choices

  • Sweetgrass Natural Fibers specializes in towels, robes, and curtains made from hemp; sweetgrassfibers.com.
  • Merida's chemical-free area rugs are handwoven of sea grass, jute, and sisal; meridameridian.com.
  • Made from spongy, soft latex, Nature's Rest Forest Glen mattress repels dust mites and mold; naturesrest.com.
  • Coyuchi's soft organic cotton bedding is free of dyes and chemicals; coyuchiorganic.com.

H 2 0 Filters

Although municipal water supplies must meet stringent quality standards set by the EPA, many homeowners are taking the extra step of filtering their tap water to improve taste, reduce odors, or significantly lower any existing levels of chlorine, lead, and waterborne microorganisms, such as cryptosporidium. Sleek faucet filters, such as Moen's Puretouch (moen.com), use a carbon filter to deliver clear, clean water straight from the tap. Kinetico's Drinking Water Filters 7500 (kinetico.com) is an under-counter reverse-osmosis filtration system that delivers filtered water via a separate countertop tap. Another option is KitchenAid's side-by-side refrigerators with built-in AquaSense Ice & Water Filtration (kitchenaid.com). Convenient on-door dispensers offer easy access to ice and chilled drinking water.

For answers to frequently asked questions about water quality, check out the EPA's informative Website, epa.gov/safewater. The easy-to-navigate site lists common contaminants in drinking water and outlines how to protect drinking water from such contaminants as lead, cryptosporidium, and e-coli. In addition to offering links to state and local sources of water-quality information, the site also lists approved companies offering water-testing kits. To test private wells, which are not regulated by the EPA, contact your state certification officer to obtain a list of certified water-testing labs in your area.

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