I was sitting around wondering what to write this week when two consecutive (literally seconds apart) inquiries came into my mailbox. I wrote an article about toxic fabric softeners (they all are) a few weeks ago and still get inquiries about which safe products I use for my home. I figured that was a sign. I am happy to share the information because I know that if more households switched to non-toxic, biodegradable products, our country would be cleaner and we would all be healthier (assuming we don’t start importing toxic waste from other countries. GRRR!) So here it is.
Detergents: Locally, there are only two that I would recommend: Victoria and Perla White. Victoria is a herbal, non-toxic, biodegradable detergent that is now available everywhere. It comes in powder and bar form. The powder is not fine and tends to leave white streaks on clothing if you use too much. They recommend that you melt the detergent in a pitcher (half detergent, half water) and use that solution in your machine. It helps to use warm to hot water when you dissolve the granules. Perla White is an all-time favorite, but I do not recommend the new Perla variants. I’ve heard reports of allergic reactions from them. Just stick to the white and play safe.
Bleach: I don’t use the stuff but I do use non-chlorine bleach when needed. I found a brand, Country Save, in Rustan’s Supermarket before but the supply has been erratic. It is non-toxic, biodegradable and works very well for dingy whites.
Alternatively, you can use borax (see below under Pest Control).
Dishwashing Liquids: This is one of my frustrations. I used to use PAOS clear (there’s an antibacterial orange one which I prefer not to use) that was available in Unimart and briefly at Rustan’s Shangri-la, which has now disappeared from the market. I loved that product and wish someone would bring it back. The product is derived from coconut and is non-toxic. I recently found a brand called Bio at Shopwise and sometimes at Hi-Top, which says it is biodegradable, but the color leaves me suspicious. One is yellow and another is peach. Clear is always a better sign for me, but I use this now because my PAOS has disappeared (CALLING THE SUPPLIER!!!). As a rule, always dilute and use sparingly anyway.
Soap and Shampoo: Locally, I trust Ilog Maria (www.ilogmaria.com), though I find their shampoo way too strong for me. They have soaps, furniture polish, honey, insect repellents and a lot of other wonderful, non-toxic products. I also love the brand Weleda, which is available at Centro Natura (9285386). It is pricey but worth it because the ingredients are biodynamic or organic, non-toxic and definitely biodegradable. They have Iris Soap for adults and Calendula Baby Soap for children. They have other body care products and medicines for children and adults.
Toothpaste: If you think all that fluoride is good for you, check again. I use Weleda toothpaste or Tom’s of Maine. Tom’s of Maine is available in Healthy Options but I recently spotted their dental floss in Shopwise. It is advisable to use toothpaste with fluoride only once or twice a week and even then, be wary. Most toothpastes are full of sugar and other chemicals that you don’t need and are possibly harmful. Can you imagine? Sugar in your toothpaste. How silly is that? But it’s true. So my fluoridated toothpaste of choice is still Tom’s of Maine. They don’t have all the sugar and flavoring I don’t need. There are other brands I’ve seen in Healthy Options. I know some people who simply use baking soda to clean their teeth. Our water has fluoride anyway. Really, the best way to fight tooth decay is a good, healthy diet–not an overload of fluoride. Don’t take my word for it, though, google!
Deodorants: No aluminum please! This ingredient in most deodorants has been proven carcinogenic and has been linked to breast cancer. My sister brought me a brand called Pit Rock from the UK. It is literally “tawas” which has been molded and polished and packaged in a practical deodorant case. You just have to wet it and put it on. I saw a similar one in Healthy Options recently. I didn’t get the name but it came in a pink container. You can’t get healthier than that. If it is pricey, just think it lasts for years! Of course, you can just go for “tawas”—the crystal–not the regular deodorants that are derived from it but contain other, possibly toxic chemicals in them.
Household Cleansers: This gets tricky but if you go to True Value, you will find some that are both non-toxic and biodegradable like Citra-Solv and Krud Kutter that are both in concentrate form so one bottle goes a long way. I use this only for tough jobs that regular PAOS or PERLA can’t seem to handle. Fish smells and anything “malansa” requires them. I also buy tea tree oil and put a few drops in a spray bottle with water that I keep in the bathrooms. I have two little boys who sometimes miss the bowl, so these tea tree oil concoctions are handy. They are wonderful tools of disinfection. I love how it smells. Some people also mix peppermint oil in them. I also have a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap which I bought in Healthy Options years ago. I add a dollop of that to my tea tree oil solution when I need something stronger and use it to clean all kinds of things. That’s nice, too. A recent discovery is Mr. Clean Magic Eraser which is also available at True Value. It is non-toxic. You can use it to clean any white surface that has gone dingy. Since it is slightly abrasive, they don’t recommend using it on anything shiny or faux finished. People use it to clean their computers, refrigerators, microwaves (but I hope you don’t own one of these lethal zappers that do nothing but denature your food), you name it. It can even clean old books that have grown brown and moldy. It would be perfect if local companies could start manufacturing environmentally sound products, but until then, we have to make do using both local and imported.
Insect Repellents: Ilog Maria has two: one is in a big spray bottle which is for home use and then they have smaller ones you can use on yourself. I also use Bioneem for the garden. This is a local product that is available in Hi-Top (in a stall outside the main grocery area that sells vitamins, Victoria detergent and other health items) and sometimes in the Rizal Dairy stall in Market Market. Citromint is also a staple. It is available at the 6th floor of the Shangri-La Mall. I use this to mop my floors daily. I love the residual scent it leaves and people have commented on it. You just have to make sure you follow instructions because the smell can be overwhelming if you put too much. There are a lot of local concoctions available, too, mostly found in bazaars, tiangges and weekend markets. Unless the insect repellent is deet-free and says it is non-toxic, it is better to stay safe. Yes, you have to keep putting it on, and I do supplement that with citronella candles or incense in the garden, along with bioneem, etc., but that is safer than anything with deet in it. A friend says she knows of a child who died of leukemia. When they did an autopsy, they found an alarming amount of deet in her system. I also do not use the insect repellent sprays you buy in the grocery store. The smell alone tells you it’s very toxic, no doubt carcinogenic. If you have doubts, check out the ingredients and do your research on the internet. Scary.
Pest Control: My pest control man is Danny Abejero. He uses non-toxic, foodgrade materials only and is up to speed on the chemicals that are banned abroad but dumped here. Call him at 8622985 or 0928-7209437. For cockroaches, I use a chalk that friends purchase in Chinatown for 10 pesos each. I also have a recipe for cockroach poison that works really well: 1 cup borax, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup ground oats. Put small amounts in cardboard boxes and place in strategic areas. They like dark and damp, corners, etc. inside cabinets, under the sink. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen and water. Borax is not harmful to washing machines, plumbing or septic tanks and does not contain phosphates or chlorine. It is biodegradable but I cannot say it is non-toxic when ingested, so if you have little kids that put everything in their mouths, this is not ideal. Call Alyson Chemicals at 7122266 for borax. Citromint also keeps bugs away if you are good about pouring it into the drain and along their path. For those too-close encounters with cockroaches, I use Orange Guard or other similar products from Healthy Options. They also have efficient spray mechanisms so you don’t have to be too close to these icky creatures when you try to kill them. They are usually orange-based. The smell isn’t that great but it beats Baygon any day. You can be assured it is not toxic.
Dust Mites: This is a discovery of only a few years that I am thrilled to share with you. A company called Dust Mights can take care of these virtually invisible bugs for you. They are a cleaning specialist that sets a new standard in hygiene for the care of mattresses and other soft furnishings like pillows, comforters, couches, carpets and curtains. They help reduce the allergens in homes/establishments by eliminating dust mites whose by-products can trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions. They believe that one can maintain a healthy indoor environment without using harmful cleaning aids. (YAY!) They do the job through this 4-step process:
· Scanning with ultra violet grade C light to sanitize the surface and kill the dust mites.
· Deep cleaning and extraction of coarse dirt, pollen, spores, dust bacteria, dust mite secretions, fine dust and other particles entering the lungs.
· Air purification using a four-step filtration system with HEPA filter that traps 99.99% of the dust allergens.
· Spraying of a plant (tea) derivative, that helps reduce the allergen levels in house dust.
I have worked with them several times and am very grateful they are around. The owners are very nice and professional. Their workers, are too. Please call Jaypee Garcia at 0917-5294121. You won’t regret it.
There are more books now that outline options for sustainable living. I have seen several that have recipes for home-made cleansers at Fully Booked. The internet is also a great source of information. I’m sure you can find a lot of simple recipes derived from vinegar and baking soda that you can create at home. There are also degrees of safety you have to be sensitive to. Non-toxic and biodegradable are a must. Organic is a step up. That is really chemical-free. The same goes for essential oils such as tea tree, peppermint, etc. Some are better than others. But I still say essential oils are better than the toxic cleansers we find on our supermarket shelves today. Use your nose, eyes and skin as your gauge. Anything that smells artificial or chemical should not be in your home. Too-flowery scents probably mean lots of chemicals to mask. Very scary. Also, remember that too much of anything still pollutes, so we need to be conscious about our waste output, even if the labels say non-toxic, biodegradable and organic.
Finally, if you are taking pains to clean your home , make sure you do the same for your body and start eating organic or biodynamic. Rizal Dairy in Market Market is a good place to start. You can also visit ISIP at 6241 Palma corner Mañalac Streets, Poblacion, Makati City (near Ateneo Law Schools, Rockwell) or call RAQUEL at 8958421 and 09064353184 or EMAIL: email@example.com. ISIP has Weleda products and biodynamic vegetables. Market day there is Tuesday. You should also look into their monthly activities that feed the soul and spirit. The Raphael Clinic, a clinic that specializes in Anthroposophical medicine, also recently opened there. Check it out. Biodynamic vegetables are also available through IKAPATI at 687-7481 to 82. There are some shops and restaurants in the U.P. Teacher’s Village area, too, that now serve organic. Try Hi-jea Whole Food Store at 19 Mahiyain St., Teachers Village-West or call 4338116 and 9293304. There are other similar establishments in that area. The weekend markets (Legazpi and Salcedo Village and Lung Center) are sources for some organic food. You can also visit the mini market day at the Manila Waldorf School on Fridays for organic products and biodynamic vegetables from Ikapati (see address below). Shopwise and Rustan’s are slowly (too slowly and I wish they would hurry) are stocking up on organic products, too. Healthy Options still carries the widest choices but is quite pricey. There’s a lot more to say but I think I’ve covered quite a bit for now. Here’s to the healthy Filipino!