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Submitted questions will be posted with my response by the following Tuesday or before.
Submitted comments will be moderated and approved within 24 hours.

Removing Sizing From Fibers

A reader wrote to me last week asking:

I have gone through about 4 different companies flour sack towels only to find they don’t absorb even the smallest amount of water. What happened? They used to be like paper towels and absorbed everything. What has been added to them to make them like polyester? They just smear the water around. Were they “conditioned” with something? It’s like using linen or polyester. Do you have any suggestions of a company that carries the old fashioned ones?

But before I could post her question, she wrote back and said:

No need to post my question as I figured it out! Yea!

For others if you ever get asked, they are now putting sizing in fibers, not just the material as a whole which means they soak up no water. So, soak in vinegar for 1-2 days and it eats it off, then wash like normal.

I did just one and compared it to an untreated one and was happily shocked to see the change.

Also vinegar is an amazing rust remover. I needed to refinish an indoor door and the hinges had some rust on them. I soaked in vinegar for a day and the rust just floated off. Be careful tho, I also soaked what I thought was a copper lamp base, but turned out it was layered over pewter and the vinegar ate the finish and left the pewter. Dang! Thanks again.

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Question from Gustavo

Hi Debra,

Do you have any concerns for Airfryer? Can’t seem to find your comments regarding this on your website! I wonder if they are safe for use or are as dangerous as microwaves

Thank you!

Debra’s Answer

My concerns about the Airfryer are the same as with any other cookware or cooking appliance: nonstick finish.

Plus the circulating air is 390 degrees F, which can make nonstick finishes outgas. And if there are other plastics involved, they will outgas too.

I personally don’t fry or airfry. I eat foods raw, steamed, water-sauteed, roasted, baked, or dehydrated.

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“Chemical-Free” Certification

Last week I had a correspondence that went like this:

Hi Debra,

I just discovered your site and I am loving it! Thanks for creating such a wonderful resource.

I am currently looking for a non-toxic mattress and have narrowed things down based on cost and certifications.

My top choice right now is Sleep on Latex, they seem to have all the right certifications, Oeko Tex, GreenGuard Gold and Eco Institute.

But, I am curious as to why they don’t appear in your article recommending non-toxic mattresses. I don’t want to buy the wrong thing! 🙂

If possible, could you let me know what your thoughts are on Sleep on Latex?

Many thanks in advance.

All the best,

And I replied:

There are better mattresses available. The certifications you mentioned aren’t organic. Since there are organic mattereses available, I’m focusing on those.

And Jane said:

thanks for clarifying your focus — I am trying to weigh eco-friendly certifications with cost, so the focus is different for me, I don’t much mind whether it is or organic or not as long as the chemicals or not in there! :0

And I said:

Be aware that Oeko Tex, GreenGuard Gold and Eco Institute certifications do NOT mean “chemical-free.” They test for an incomplete list of chemicals, so the products may still contain toxic chemicals not on their list.

“Organic” means “NO chemicals.”

Debra 🙂

Reading this I just want to be really really really clear that if you “don’t want chemicals” BUY ORGANIC. I don’t know what Jane thought organic meant, but organic is the highest standard for “chemical free”.

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Safe Bassinet for Baby

Question from Eugenia

Hi Debra,

I have a question regarding baby bassinets in North America. It has been impossible for me to find a “clean” bassinet for my baby. I wrote to two different companies, Halo and Monte, to inquire about their manufacturing.
Both use plastics and foam in their products.

Halo said this of their “organic mattress”:

The Halo Bassinest is manufactured in China. The mattress that is included with the Bassinest is a standard manufactured polyurethane foam and covered with a polyester fabric cover. Both foams are polyurethane but the Organic mattress is certified for non VOCs. Eco friendly refers to the manufacturing environment. The foams are not sourced at the same factory.

Both the organic and standard mattress share these call outs-

No flame retardants

No harmful chemicals

No vinyl

No formaldehyde



The organic cotton mattress(sold separately) is made from the finest non-toxic materials with the comfort and safety of your baby in mind. Its cover is made of 100% certified organic cotton fabric with a food-grade, water-resistant coating. Easy-to-clean and stain resistant, our organic cotton mattress also provides a hypoallergenic dust mite barrier. To provide the safe and comfortable support your little one needs, the mattress is made with ECO-friendly foam, uses NO flame retardants and emits NO harmful chemicals. It does not use any vinyl or PVC, and is Phthalate-free. Made specifically to fit the HALO Bassinest with its hourglass shape, it is an ideal safe sleep surface for your little one.

• 100% certified organic cotton cover with a food-grade, water-resistant coating that is easy-to-clean.

• Made with ECO-friendly foam. No flame retardants.

• Non-toxic design is safe for your baby. No vinyl, No PVC, and Phthalate-free.

• Meets the California Section 01350 Standard for harmful emissions.

• Oeko-Tex Certified.

• Hypoallergenic / dust mite barrier.

Monte wrote:

Vintex’s products do not contain any of the following materials :
• Latex
• DEHP (di-ethyl hexyl phthalate)
• BPA (bisphenol A)
• Formaldehyde
• Brominated flame retardants

Vintex’s products do not contain any of the 84 chemicals listed in the REACH regulations. (reference EC 1907/2006, updated 18 June 2012)

The chemicals listed in California Proposition 65 were reviewed. Based the form of these materials in Vintex’s products, and the exposure levels expected from normal uses of the products, there is no requirement for warning labels as described under this regulation. (reference State of California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, updated 2 Nov. 2012)

None of the materials mentioned in the Designated Substance List are present in Vintex’s products in concentrations greater than the maximum exposure limits. (Ontario Regulation 490/09 – December 2009

The following materials are not intentionally added to any of Vintex’s products : Arsenic, Bismuth, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Lead, Manganese, Mercury, Selenium, Thallium.

All of Vintex’s products contain less than 10 ppm of Lead, Cadmium, Mercury or Chromium, and less than 20 ppm of Arsenic, as per ASTM D-1976-07, using EPA 3052 digestion.

In addition to the above statements, Vintex products that have the Safe Guard certification (Vintex’s V-Care and SoffTICK product lines, and some athletic products) are lead-free and phthalate-free, as defined by the CPSIA. (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008)

It looks to me like neither company is making non-toxic bassinets. Is this correct? Would buying one of these bassinets second-hand (3+ years old) have off set some of the chemicals released by these materials?

Many thanks for your amazing help.

Debra’s Answer

The problem with this kind of description is that you can say that the product DOES NOT contain a whole list of chemicals, yet it still DOES contain toxic chemicals that are not on the list.

This is why I look at the actual materials present to see if they are toxic.

I would say neither of these bassinets are nontoxic.

See the image and caption at the top of this post for an all natural/organic bassinet. These are available through small businesses, but not yet from major brand names (as far as I know)

Another option is the “Moses basket” which is made of natural plant materials. Often these are painted or synthetic materials are sewn inside. Best to get one that is all natural and add your own mattress and bedding.

Americana Bassinet  “A simple soild wood bassinet hand crafted by the Amish from Oak. Finished in a natural danish oil/ linseed oil mix or unfinished. Comes with an organic cotton/ wool latex mattress.” You could replace the latex mattress with a certified organic cotton bassinet mattress from Naturepedic

 Moses Basket: Tadpoles All Natural Organic Storage Basket “The classic moses basket is perfect for your baby. Made from 100% all natural woven palm leaves, these baskets are all completely handmade in Morocco.”

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Non Toxic Outdoor Gas Grill


Question from Richard

Hi Debra,

Looking to purchase a toxic free gas grill for my sons. All I find so far all include at Prop 65 warning. Is there any grills made with toxic parts?

Thank you.

Debra’s Answer

This is like asking me are there any nontoxic cigarettes.

And the answer is no.

The whole act of grilling and BBQ is toxic.

The smoke itself has a long list of toxic chemicals.

The blackened meat has toxic chemicals.

It really doesn’t matter what the parts are made of.

All that said, it’s not always clear what the Prop 65 warning refers to. It could be that the warning is there for the smoke, not materials on the grill.

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How Can I Remove Nature’s Miracle from Carpet?

Question from Elizabeth

Hi Debra,

If you have any ideas on how I can get the Nature’s Miracle smell out of my carpet I would greatly appreciate it.

FYI – In September 2017 I had used the Nature’s Miracle on the first floor of my home in an area of my living room where there is wall to wall carpet that also has a layer of padding and then concrete under it. I have tried to neutralize the area by –

  • Treating it with vinegar and water.
  • Having my carpet cleaner person come and use his machine with just water and then his strong vacuum to suck it up.
  • Sprinkling it with baking soda and then vacuuming it.
  • Baking the room.

I am so disappointed as I seriously feel this product is now horrible! Unfortunately, the newer version is no longer “natural” like it use to be.
Please feel free to share my experience with your readers.

Here is my correspondence with the manufacturer. They also sent me a refund for the product. Attached is the SDS, the only info they would send to me.

Thanks in advance for your advice on this situation. Much appreciated.


I used natures miracle urine eliminator in September 2017 on my carpet. I can still smell the natures miracle on warm days. How long will it take for the natures miracle to break down so that I don’t smell it? Or is there a way I can remove it from my carpet? I’ve used your product 10 yrs ago and never had this happen before. It use to be within 4 to 6 weeks natures miracle smell was 100% gone. Not sure why with your current product I can still smell it so long after the application.

From: Elizabeth


Thanks for your feedback. While the fragrance will dissipate over time, the time it takes for that to happen can vary, depending on the surface. A dusting of baking soda, or a solution of diluted distilled white vinegar may help alleviate the smell. If you have additional questions, feel free to reply to this email, or to call us at 1-800-645-5154. We are available M-F 8:00am – 6:00pm EST. Thanks for your time. Have a wonderful day!

From: Aleksander Baxter l Consumer Relations Spectrum Brands – Pet, Home and Garden Division


Thx so much.

Can you please send me a list of chemicals and all ingredients that are in natures miracle urine destroyer for dogs product?

Warm Regards,
Elizabeth Schaefer


Thanks for your inquiry. The ingredient compositions of some of those blends (fragrance, enzymatic blends, etc.) are proprietary. I’ve forwarded a copy of the Safety Data Sheet for the Urine Destroyer product with additional info. If you have additional questions, feel free to reply to this email, or to call us at 1-800-645-5154. We are available M-F 8:00am – 6:00pm EST. Thanks for your time. Have a wonderful day!

Aleksander Baxter l Consumer Relations
Spectrum Brands – Pet, Home and Garden Division

Debra’s Answer

Readers, any suggestions on how to remove this odor?

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Furniture Finish for Bed Frame


Question from Inna

Hi Debra,

I am having a king bed-frame custom-made for me by a couple that does local workworks in Alaska (they use real wood from home depot, but haven’t worked much with people with chemical sensitivities such as myself).

I was wondering what readily available finish would be best for someone like me with chemical sensitivities; is it better to use Klean Strip Boiled Linseed Oil, or Old Masters 100% tung oil, or something else?

They usually use polyurethane but are willing to use something else that’s readily available. I wouldn’t be the one putting it on, so I’m looking for something that no longer off-gases at all once it’s delivered to me.

Also, if they’re using real wood from Home Depot, is there anything I should avoid from there that people have had bad experiences with (e.g. wood that is mislabeled as all real wood but that actually has chemicals that bother people with chemical sensitivities)?


Debra’s Answer

I highly recommend Vermont Natural Coatings

I’ve used this and it’s really beautiful. It’s made with whey protein recycled from cheesemaking.
They have an All-in-One Stain & Finish at Vermont Natural Coatings.

Here are more nontoxic wood finishes chosen for MCS from Green Building Supply.

If they really need to use something off the shelf at Home Depot, use Varathane Water-Based Floor Polyurethane.

It contains dipropylene ether, but it is fast drying.

Since you have MCS and you will be using this wood and finish in a bed frame, please TEST both wood and finish for individual tolerance BEFORE they make the frame.

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New York Times Columnist Finds Toxics in His Body—How Toxic is Yours?

This week New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about having his urine tested for 10 common toxic chemicals.

Even though he had been avoiding some endocrine disruptors for the past decade, his tests still came back back with high levels of four toxic chemicals.

Read more about his experience. And if you want to get tested yourself, the Silent Spring Institute is offering a Detox Me Action Kit for $299 that will both give you results for 10 common toxics and also help researchers study levels of exposure to these chemicals in the U.S. population.

NEW YORK TIMES: What Poisons Are in Your Body?


If you do get this test, please post your results here. I’m interested.

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Cleaning May be as Dangerous As Smoking

A 20-year international study conducted by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway has found that using cleaning products can be as harmful to lung function as smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

The authors of the study suggested that exposure to cleaning materials can be detrimental to women’s health in the long term. The effects of 10-20 years of cleaning can be as damaging as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for the same amount of time.

There have been a lot of sensational headlines about this, this week, but they are a bit misleading. The study didn’t say that the amount of cleaning done at home is equal to 20 cigarettes. This comparison applies only to women who are cleaning professionally and exposed to cleaning products almost daily on an almost continuous basis during normal waking hours.

FORTUNE: Using Household Cleaning Products Can Be as Bad as Smoking a Pack a Day

EUROPEAN COMMUNITY RESPIRATORY HEALTH SURVEY: Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction

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Beadex Silver Set Lightweight Setting-Type Joint Compounds

These flowers were created right on the wall using joint compound.


Question from Arlene

Hi Debra,

Have you heard of Beadex Silver Set Lightweight Setting-Type Joint Compounds ? I learned of it on this website.

I am asking on behalf of a practitioner who has some chemically sensitive clients but is not sensitive herself. I suggested Murco M100, but it is not locally available and costs a lot of money to ship in.

Thanks so much for all your work and the wealth of information you provide.

Debra’s Answer

I have no experience with this product, nor have I heard of it.

But the article by Mary Cordaro at your link is a good one.

And here’s another article by Mary on chemicals in joint compounds:

I’ve known Mary for years and trust her research. If she recommends a product, I’ve never disagreed.

Here are Mary’s recommended joint compounds:


  • KEIM Dolomitspachtel, the only ready-to-use, premixed, chemical-free, biocide-free joint compound. The natural lime in this joint compound preserves the product without chemical biocides. This product is more expensive than conventional ready-mix joint compounds.


  • Murco M-100, a dry, chemical-free joint compound. Murco is a very popular alternative, successfully used by many contractors, but requires more labor time. Some contractors don’t feel that it provides a hard enough surface, however, or feel that it may crack more easily in earthquake-prone areas.


  • Hamilton Smooth Set and Smooth Set Light Weight, also called Westpac Fast Setand Fast Set Lite. To avoid biocides, purchase Hamilton Smooth Set or Smooth Set Light Weight, Westpac Fast Set and Fast Set Lite in bags only (not boxes), and do not purchase Eco-Finish or any other versions offered by Hamilton and Westpac. Smooth Set and Fast Set are actually patching compounds, but as long as a contractor is skilled with applying fast-drying plasters, this is a great, healthy alternative product that dries very hard. However, it does require more labor and definitely more application skills.

Readers, any experience with any of the recommended joint compounds?

I recently looked for a nontoxic joint compound on the shelf at Home Depot and couldn’t find one.

If any one knows of any other safe joint compounds, please comment.

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