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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.

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.

Debra’s Answer


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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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Cleaning All-Clad Stainless Steel Pans

Question from Barbara

I have been using SOS pads and Bar Keepers Friend for cleaning my pans. I want to use the safe and ecological way to clean my pans. Have I opened the door to the leaching of metals into my food by using SOS pads ? Is it bad to use Bar Keepers Friend because of residue on the pans and/or down the drain and into the environment ?

Thank you for your time and this great site. I appreciate you very much !

Debra’s Answer

Yes, you have opened the door for metals to leach from your pans by using SOS pads, as they scratch the surface, allowing the metals to escape into the food. And the toxicity of Bar Keeper’s Friend is covered in Is This Scouring Powder Toxic?.

At our house we minimize the use of scouring powder and scrubbing by soaking pots and pans with water before attempting to clean them. After several hours of soaking, the food usually wipes right out with soap and a sponge.

We also use Bon Ami or baking soda as a scouring powder.

Readers, your suggestions?

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Safe Materials for Garden Boxes?

Question from Gary

Hello! We’re planning to start an organic garden using raised boxes (the “Square Foot Gardening” method), and we’re unsure what the best material would be.

There seems to be some question about the safety of cedar around food, and most wood available untreated, such as pine, would be susceptible to unhealthy mold growth. Recycled plastic “lumber” claims to be nontoxic, but is it really safe for a box that will be in contact with the moist soil that food plants are growing in, or will it leach into the soil?

And would something like an AFM sealant be both a barrier between the soil and the box material (preventing leaching of the plastic into the soil, or mold-promoting moisture entry into the wood), and safe for contact with food-garden soil itself? Thanks for any information you can provide.

Debra’s Answer

I’m not sure where you read that cedar is not safe around food. Cedar planks have been used traditionally by Native Americans for imparting flavor to cooked fish and they are widely sold nowadays for this purpose (type “cedar salmon” in any search engine for more information).

In California, we made our garden boxes out of redwood, which is impervious to rot and insects, but now that we are in Florida, I am aware that redwood is not available everywhere.

Personally, I wouldn’t use recycled plastic lumber for this purpose. I just wouldn’t be sure it wasn’t leaching.

And I don’t think that AFM products are designed to withstand weather.

I would probably ask at your local organic garden center what the best wood to use would be for your location.

Readers, any suggestions?

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Food Grade Stabilizers

Question from martina


Can anyone tell me the names of some food grade non toxic stabilizers. I want to use them in my all natural cleaning products.

Thanks so kindly


Debra’s Answer

Readers, I don’t even know what this is, so you’ll have to help out with this one!

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Shower Filter for Tankless Water Heater

Question from Mary Anne

Hi Debra – I hope you can help me. Our ancient water heater was on its last legs, and rather than waiting for it to die we researched and bought a tankless model. Way less enery usage, no water storage, etc – it is a more environmentally sensitive product. Plus we never run out of hot water :-).

HOWEVER (and I don’t know how I missed this, or was never told it), I can’t use my old shower filter head any more. The heat generation mechanism of the tank depends directly upon water flow, so any flow restriction is a problem. In order to make my old shower head work, the tank needs to be turned down to a lukewarm-at-best 104 degrees, an unacceptable solution.

Do you know of any point-of-use shower filters that work with tankless heaters? I’m back to taking chlorine-filled showers, and that’s soooooo not good. Thanks so much for any help or advice you can give me.

Debra’s Answer

Thanks for forewarning the rest of us about this. I agree a tankless water heater is a great idea for the environment, but we shouldn’t have to give up filtering out the chlorine.

This wouldn’t be a problem for those of us with whole-house water filters, but I understand you want a chlorine filter that can fit on your showerhead.

Readers, anyone with experience or knowledge about this?

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What is Butyl Lactate?

Question from Brad Carroll

Hi. I use a “natural” herbicide called Matran EC. The main active ingredient is clove oil, while the inerts are wintergreen oil,

butyl lactate, and lecithin. I like this product, but I do have a question.

While I think 3 out 4 known natural substances is good, the butyl lactate is an ingredient that I know nothing about, and have been unable to find anything regarding it on the internet: where it comes from, how it is made, and whether it would be considered truly natural or not.

Debra’s Answer

Butyl lactate is “the butyl ester of natural L(+)-lactic acid, produced by

fermentation from sugar. It is a clear and colorless liquid of low volatility,

having a characteristic odor.” You can find more technical data on this at (click on the “datasheets” link and find butyl lactate on the list).

As to whether it is natural–perhaps someone with more knowledge of chemistry than I can jump in and correct me if I am wrong–my understanding is that butyl is a particular carbon structure derived from butane, which is a hydrocarbon derived from petrochemicals. So this is “natural” in the sense of many so-called “natural” ingredients that are derived partially from plant or animal sources and partially from petrochemicals (I discuss this thoroughly on pages 30-32 in my book Home Safe Home).

It is a toxic substance, found, among other places, in the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, NIOSH being the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and on the Centers for Disease Control website at

The EPA actually has an exemption for butyl lactate at, finding it to be “of low concern.”

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