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Fragrance-Free Laundromats in San Francisco


Here’s a great idea whose time has come: fragrance-free laundromats!

The link below goes to a post on a blog for an acne clinic. Their concern is acne, not fragrance in general, but since fragrance on clothing from scent in detergent causes acne, they’re on board to live fragrance-free.

“laundry detergent is a major factor in the acne-safe lifestyle. so while we all are making the effort to purchase acne-safe detergent, the cloggy residues from prior machine users can still be getting on our clothes. frustrating!”

SKIN SALVATION: Fragrance-free Laundromats in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Home Iron


While I was looking for an image of a woman’s hands ironing I was struck by how many paintings of women ironing exist, going back a good 100 years. So here’s a bit of art to elevate the act of ironing.


I’m moving this post up to present time (originally published 17 March 2008) because there is a new related question and I wanted to include these comments.

One of the commenters decided not to purchase a new Rowenta iron for the reasons stated in her comment. And she’d like to know what other brands of home irons you all are using and recommend.

So readers, over to you. What do you use for an iron? I’m still using my old Rowenta.

Question from bebe

Is there a specific type or brand of iron you recommend?

Debra’s Answer

The only recommendation I have for irons from a toxicity viewpoint is to stay away from nonstick finishes. Get an iron with a shiny finish and you’ll have no problems.

That said, I personally have a Rowenta iron, which costs more, but it’s a lot heavier, which means it’s easier to iron, because YOU don’t have to press as hard. I’ve had it for years–longer than my husband, so that’s more than 20 years–and it’s still working great.

Because I’m in San Francisco for three months, I just bought a cheap $20 Black & Decker steam iron at Target because I didn’t want to risk losing or breaking my Rowenta in transit. It has a shiny bottom too, but is not as heavy.

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Question from Concerned Mom

Hi Debra,

I noticed that Ikea recently came out with a new latex/cotton/wool mattress called Mausund. We are preparing to move to Europe and will need to buy mattresses for our three young children and this mattress is available there. It appears as though the materials in the US and EU version of the mattress are similar. Would this be a ‘safer’ option for my young kids to sleep on (ages 3, 6 and 9)? No one has any diagnosed allergies or sensitivities, I simply don’t want them sleeping on mattresses that off gas harmful chemicals. The price of the mattress in the EU is more reasonable than here, making it within our budget. Thanks.

Debra’s Answer

Well this is an improvement for IKEA but the materials list doesn’t quite match the description.

The first thing you read on the MAUSUND page is

“You’re right to be fussy about what you sleep on. Natural materials like natural latex, coconut fiber, cotton and wool provide comfort and pull away moisture. This makes for a pleasant sleeping environment with a cool and even sleep temperature.”

But when you click on the “Materials and environment” tap, here’s what it says about what the mattress is really made from:

Ticking/ Ticking/ Lining: 100 % cotton
Filling: Wool wadding
Ticking, side/ Piping/ Handles/ Total composition: 53 % linen, 47 % viscose/rayon
Comfort material: 85 % natural/ 15 % synthetic latex

At least 50% (weight) of this product is made from renewable materials.
Product possible to recycle or use for energy recovery, if available in your community.
All the cotton in our products comes from more sustainable sources. This means that the cotton is either recycled, or grown with less water, less fertilizers and less pesticides, while increasing profit margins for the farmers.

The fabric on the TOP is cotton. Not organic cotton but less pesticides, and it’s a fabric, so much if not all of the pesticides are removed during processing.

Wool is also not organic, but it’s unprocessed so anything applied to the wool (unknown) would still be there.

The fabric on the sides is linen and rayon (a manufactured fabric that starts as bits of natural fibers).

The filling is latex, but natural latex, not organic, and 15% is synthetic.

Oops! They missed the coconut fiber ?????

So up to you. It’s not a mattress I would recommend, but it’s a lot better than a synthetic mattress.

If this is what is available and affordable, it’s a “better” choice. But I have concerns about the unknowns in the wool, and mostly about the synthetic latex, which is made from petroleum.

Brentwood “Hybrid” Mattresses


Question from Teresa

Hi Debra,


Debra’s Answer

First, it was difficult to find ALL the materials used in an organized way that was easy to find. There was no materials page, for example, as is found now on other sites.

Nowhere could I find the material used to make the covers. Looking at the photos, the covers appear to be a synthetic material.

They also refer to their mattresses as “hybrid,” which I am assuming means they are part natural and part synthetic.

And they are not GOTS certified organic, though it appears their cotton is.

I took a look at:

This mattress is “completely vegan” but made with polyurethane memory foam.

This one is made from “all natural and organic materials.”

This one is basically a polyurethane foam mattress.

Again materials information was incomplete, so I couldn’t make a full assessment.

If you are looking for a vegan mattress, Naturepedic now makes one, 100% GOTS certified organic.

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Test Your Polyurethane Foam for Toxics at Duke University

Note in this chart that most flame retardants found by this Duke University study using samples from homes were in child care seats (more than half), then sofas, love seats and futons, with chairs, recliners and rockers coming in at a close second, with about half containing fire retardants. This doesn’t mean the others are safe. There are other toxic chemicals in polyurethane foam. This study measures only fire retardants.

This reader had foam from a memory foam bed in her home through the Foam Project at Duke University.

Any US resident can submit a sample of polyurethane foam (PUF) from furniture, child car seats, or any other product containing PUF using the submission form on our website. After completing the form, samples can be mailed to us at Duke University, along with the unique ID number generated from the submission form. Individuals are notified by email upon receipt of their foam sample in the laboratory. Our laboratory will analyze the sample for the presence or absence of 7 common flame retardant chemicals. Approximately 6-8 weeks later, we will mail back a report detailing our findings, along with a fact sheet about the 7 common flame retardants. We can answer any additional questions you may have after receiving your results.

Hi Debra,

I received results from Duke university where they test peoples foam to see what flame retardants are in it.

My sleep number bed bought about 2010 has FM 550, Firemaster 550. Has brominated and organophosphates.

It said a recent study showed some of the components bioaccumulate and act as a thyroid hormone disrupter.

I have thyroiditis and nodules, and mild hypothyroidism.

I had slept on Coleman air mattresses with PVC vapors prior to sleep number.

I sent them 2 samples, a foam pad beneath the topper and the topper fabric with foam inside.

I have a mattress protector that is waterproof on it made with polyurethane and fabric. Could this block the flame retardant?

Debra’s Answer

I can’t give you a definitive answer about the polyurethane film blocking the fire retardant, but here’s what I can tell you.

The answer to the question is about porosity.

The polyurethane film used for waterproofing has a pore size of 0.03 micrometers to 10 micrometers (a micrometer is one millionth of a meter)

Micro-porous coatings and membranes rely on an interconnected network of tiny holes (pores) introduced by various means into an otherwise impermeable polymeric structure. Sheets of polymers can be produced with common salt incorporated which is washed out afterwards to leave voids/pores. Such holes (or pores) are too small to allow water droplets to pass through, but are large enough to allow water vapour to pass through. Micro-porous structures work, as do tightly woven structures, because of the large difference in size between individual water molecules present in water vapour and water droplets of rain, each of the latter consisting of many millions of water molecules held tightly together by surface tension forces. Micro-porous membranes typically weigh 10–20 g/m2and should be durable and resistant to laundering, chemicals and UV degradation.

SCIENCE DIRECT: Micro Porosity

So the question would be, what is the size of the vapor of the fire retardant? And that’s what I don’t know.

But I think this would be an interesting thing for someone to research.

If we could get a more exact number for the porosity of the polyurethane film and the sizes of various vapors, then we could calculate what types of chemical vapors could be blocked by polyurethane film.

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Safety of Plastic Drinking Glasses


Question from Lyle

Hi Debra,

I have two new sets of plastic drinking glasses.

The first is hard plastic; the second is a cheaper and lighter plastic. All of the glasses have either cracked or have turned white from the hot water in my dishwasher.

Are there harmful chemicals in the plastic now that they have been changed from their original materials? Should I toss them and returned to glass? Thanks so much.

Debra’s Answer

It would be impossible for me to assess this.

So I would say return to glass.

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Guava Family Lotus Crib/bassinet


Question from Akh

Hi Debra,

I was trying to search your site. Not sure if this has been asked but have you reviewed the Guava Family Lotus Crib/bassinet? It is the only portable one I have found that in greenguard certified but not sure if it is really non-toxic.

Debra’s Answer

I actually can’t assess this product because no materials are given that I could find.

The website makes many claims but no substantiation.

GREENGUARD certification does NOT mean “nontoxic.” It means that the product emissions fall below an established standard for a limited list of chemicals.

If you need this type of bassinet it may be the least toxic brand available, but without materials disclosure, I can’t assess it.

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Toxic Hotel Room? Ask for Different One

My room at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge MA, overlooking the Charles River


I just spent four nights at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge MA. I always stay at Kimpton hotels when I can because they have “eco” policies. These don’t always translate into toxic-free actions, but I consistently find their hotel rooms to be less toxic.

So I was surprised when I walked into my room on Thursday night and the air quality was so bad I could hardly breathe. I put down my luggage and went downstairs to dinner. When I came back I decided the smell was intolerable and I would not be able to sleep in the room.

I went downstairs to the reception desk and told the woman there what was happening. She immediately got keys to another room and went upstairs with me to my room. She took one whiff and said, “There’s something wrong. The air is not supposed to smell like this.”

She took me to the new room (upgraded to a room with a view) and the air was perfect. And it was perfect for my entire stay.

I don’t know if they are filtering this air in addition to ventilation, but the air quality was just exceptional there for a hotel room.

The next evening when I came to my room after being out for the day, there was a beautiful plate of perfectly ripe berries and grapes and a bowl of mixed nuts waiting for me, with a note of apology for the inconvenience.

Now that’s service.

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Have Air Filter—Will Travel

Wednesday I’m leaving on a road trip to Los Angeles, where I will be staying in a standard hotel room for five nights while I attend a retreat for the business course I’ve been taking this year.

I’m bringing along my EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit Air Purifier to use in the hotel room.

Next week when I get back I’ll report on how well it worked to reduce all the toxic emissions typically found in hotel rooms.

Say tuned…


18 September 2018

The EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit worked great on our road trip to Los Angeles.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza hotel right next to LAX airport (not our choices, attending a conference) and we had no problems with air quality at all in our room, because we had our air purifier along.

The room itself was not the worst hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, but it did have all the standard toxic materials and fragrance piped into the hall ways. But we just plugged in the EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit, turned it on, and within minutes the air quality was completely comfortable for us.

And it was easy to take with us on a road trip. This is going to be standard equipment for us now for road trips. Now I just need to get EnviroKlenz to make one small enough to take on a plane.


It fit well in the back of our Prius. It’s no wider than a car seat.

It didn’t take up much room in the hotel room.

It was easy to put on the luggage cart (we laid the unit on it’s side to prevent it from rolling off the cart).

What’s it Like to Live in an RV?

Inside the luxury Airstream trailers at AutoCamp, where you can spend the night in a travel trailer and see what it’s like.


Question from Bonnie

Hi Debra,

I have some health issues and have been stuck in Mi for 10 years. I have an older home and am going to sell. I am considering a RV full time for a couple years.

Just want to get out and live again.

Does anyone here live in one?

I know new ones are toxic but what about a 4 years old one? If it had a lot of real wood cabinets etc would it be doable? There are so many models that look nice and could be comfortable. Just a thought.

Debra’s Answer

This is something Larry and I are considering also and have been researching for the past year or so. You’re smart to ask lots of questions and find out as much as you can before making this decision.

I’m interested, too, in the experiences of people who have done this.

I can tell you some things we are doing.

1. Can you live in a space that small full time?
What we’ve been doing is working on reducing our stuff. This is a process. It’s not something you are going to do overnight. I think everyone has way more stuff than we actually use. We’ve released a lot of things we weren’t using and we still have more.

2. What is essential to have for your way of life?
For the past year Larry and I have been living in two small rooms: a bedroom and an office. But we also have access to a whole house with a kitchen and bathroom and garage and garden and everything else. Coming from a 1600 square foot home this is a big difference. For me, I need space to work. I prepare my own food, so I need a kitchen.

3. Do you really want to travel around to a different location on a regular basis?
I love to travel. I would love to travel and bring my home with me so I have everything I need and know I have a toxic-free environment at the end of the day. But Larry and I have also taken a fair number of road trips in our 30 years together and when you are moving from place to place frequently you are in a strange place over and over. You have to find everything and get oriented over and over again.

Some of you may remember the year Larry and I drove across the country in his Mercedes powered by vegetable oil. That was a fun adventure, but every day we had to arrive in a new city and find some vegetable oil. It was fun at first, but then got tiresome.

I think if we were to do this, we would pick and place and stay for a while and then pick another place. But I’m not sure I want to be a nomad. I like having a home base. I like belonging to a community. I like building relationships.

I would strongly recommend to anyone considering this to take a road trip in a car or van and see what it’s like. Some people clearly thrive on this, and other’s don’t.

4. Can you get an RV that is nontoxic or retrofit a used one to meet your needs?
It can be done. I know Larry and I can do it because we’ve been remodeling houses nontoxic for 30 years. But can YOU do it? Do you have the knowledge and resources and skills?

We just recently found AutoCamp , which is a small chain of “hotels” made up of Airstream trailers. They have them in Guernville, California, on the Russian River, Santa Barbara, and Yosemite. You basically get to have the Airstream trailer experience overnight.

Larry and I live 20 minutes from Guerville so we drove over there last week and looked around. It was beautiful. Like walking into a luxury California-wine-country version of summer camp. We couldn’t go inside a trailer because all of them were booked for the night. We’re going to LA this week and tried to stay at AutoCamp in Santa Barbara, but they were completely booked for the night we would be passing through. We’re going to LA this week and tried to stay at AutoCamp in Santa Barbara, but they were completely booked for the night we would be passing through. Read about how we peeked inside an Airstream trailer at AutoCamp Santa Barbara on our way home from LA.

Here some articles about the realities of life on the road from different viewpoints:

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The beautiful Airstream myth and painful RV reality of life on the road

SUNSET: Tiny home, big dreams

A SMALL LIFE: Things I Wish I Knew Before Living Full-Time in an Airstream

AND THEN WE SAVED: Living Tiny: Seth And Drea’s Airstream – Home Tour

There are lots more. I searched for “airstream living” to find these, since we’re specifically considering an Airstream only (for aesthetic reasons but also because they are exceptionally well-built and originally the least toxic).

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