Super Search

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

Pet urine killing grass

Question from Susan W

Any suggestions on what to apply on grass to prevent our dog’s urine killing the grass? I have yellow spots on my front yard (and he has to start using the back yard!) and I’d like to get them cleared up.



Debra’s Answer


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Urethane Foam In Upholstered Furniture

Question from Laura Sharp

We recently built a new house and have killed ourselves trying to make it healthy for our 2 young daughters with all kinds of health issues. We did as much as we knew to do, including solid wood cabinets, healthy paint, hardwood and ceramic tile floors, etc. We also bought completely solid wood furniture. However, I somehow missed the health concerns about upholstered furniture. Since our upholstered furniture has been delivered, our 3-year old has been stuffy with a runny nose, and her excema has flared up. I’m afraid it’s the furniture. The cushions are 85% urethane foam and 15% resin treated polyester. How unhealthy is it, and what do I do now???

Debra’s Answer

It’s probably the furniture. There’s a simple answer to your question at which outlines the dangers of PBDEs found in all synthetic foam products (such as yours).

I don’t know how many pieces you have that need to be replaced, but you’ll need to either remove and replace the foam with natural latex foam or old-fashioned box springs (I have box springs in my sofa), or stuff it with wool batting. You may also need to reupholster.

It might be easier to sell what you have and start over with some nontoxic furniture from one of the websites on Debra’s List: Interior Decorating: Furniture.

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Fire Retardents In Furniture

Question from Laurie

Your web site and some others mention that IKEA uses pdbe free foam furniture but doesn\’t say if they use some other fire retardent. Do you know?

I recently bought a chair from Crate & Barell advertising they use soy foam rather than polyurethane and would appreciate any insight you have on whether it\’s less toxic, i.e., reduced fire retardents.


Debra’s Answer

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Getting Pesticide Out Of Clothing

Question from Julie Vietor


My clothes all smell of pesticide from being stored in my condo that reeks of pesticide (recently bought it, cannot live in it, have recently had it baked out by professional bake-out contractors, still not good enough, I keep working away at it).

I know soaking clothes in vinegar may help. Am currently trying a 48 hour soak. Has anyone had experience with this? How much white vinegar should I use?

Debra’s Answer


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Safe insulation?

Question from Jill Sverdlove

I’m in the process of planning a safe home building project (so I can move out of my tent!) I’ve had trouble testing every insulation (even the soy foam). I do ok with the Ultra Touch, but am worried about mold issues. Do you have a personal favorite you recommend? Or perhaps an insulation that you’ve heard many people with MCS do ok with? (There is no local dealer for Air Krete so that’s out.)

If I do need to go with a spray in insulation, would soy foam or icynene be a safer bet?

Thank you!


Debra’s Answer

I’m going to let readers with experience with insulation answer this one…

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Green Child Daycare

Question from America

Does anyone know of any green daycare for children? I’m have a non-toxic home for my child – and am not happy about the idea of putting her into an unhealthy environment – but it seems as if I have no choice. If anyone knows of a healthy, non-toxic, green-living childcare center …. anywhere – please let me know.

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Mrs. Meyers products

Question from lynn witt

Hello Debra,

Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products have been appearing in the health food stores in our area. The products smell nice. Are Mrs. Meyers products on the approved lists of safe for environmental and personal health use?

Thanks, Lynn

Debra’s Answer

I wrote about Mrs. Meyer’s products at Q&A: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Cleaning Products.

I’ve been seeing them in a lot of “natural” places too, perhaps because of their aromatherapy image. But they are not 100% natural. Read the blog post linked above.

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Memory Foam Mattress Outgassing

Question from Hilary

Dear Debra,

Do you have any information concerning outgassing from polyurethane, i.e. memory foam, mattresses? I’m thinking of buying a particular mattress (like the ones found at, but I want to make sure that I won’t be breathing in outgas fumes for the near future…any thoughts or information to share?

Thank you!


Debra’s Answer

On page 327 of my book Home Safe Home I wrote:

You can always contact a manufacturer and ask them questions about material safety.

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Finding Healthy Cleaning Tools

Question from Luisella


I am starting a green cleaning business and would like help finding mops, gloves, brooms, buckets, rags, you name it (essentially all cleaning tools)that are kinder to the earth. I read your post on hemp rags. Any resources for the other necessary tools? Additionally, what is your list of essential cleaning supplies (keeping in mind that they will be used for a cleaning service.)? Thanks for your website and all of the wonderful information you provide!

Debra’s Answer

I’m posting this and I’m sure my friend Gina will answer…

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Prevent outgassing of a foam back wedge

Question from Julia

I must have a back wedge for my bed that will allow me to sit up straight for eating and recline a bit as well. I can only find them in foam. I need a 12″ one.

I hate using foam but I need something sturdy, that will not loose its firmness, to support my awful upper back.

Ordinarily I’d assume that a barrier cloth cover would be the best type cover. I am pretty broke from years of living on disability, which leads to two, no, three questions.

I need this asap for I’m quite ill. My preference would be to get a craftmatic type bed with a safe mattrass (organic wool and cotton I guess) so that I could change angles for my back at the push of a button and it would also give me the needed lift for my knees (I have an old wedge for that with a reg cotton cover). But this option, while best for my health, is way, way out of range.

Thanks so much.

Debra’s Answer

Readers, do any of you have experience with this? I would probably go in the direction of making it with latex foam.

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