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Another Side of Being Sensitive…

This morning I received an email from someone with MCS with a gift for everyone with MCS. She said her MCS often reminded her of her favorite childhood story “The Princess and the Pea”. And that sensitive young lady turned out to be a princess!

It just reminded me that inside, we are all princesses and princes, regardless of what our bodies are doing.

Here’s the story if you want to read it again…

“The Princess and the Pea”

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Oxygen bleach

Question from Dalia Frydman

Now that Oxigen bleaches are all over the place (even 99c stores have them…) I wonder which ones are really effective because the prices really vary…Dalia

Debra’s Answer

I contacted Natural Choices Home Safe Products, a small company who created their own oxygen bleach based products, and asked them to respond to your question. Click on COMMENTS to read their excellent answer.

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Steam Cleaners

Question from Mary Anne

Hi Debra – this is Mary Anne Stern in Los Angeles (the person who sent you the organic manicure/pedicure recipes). THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the help you give to us persons with MCS (I have fibromyalgia also). Anyway –

Can we pretty please get your “take” on the value or advantages (if there are any) to steam cleaners? I started looking into them and quickly got overwhelmed. There’s everything out there from $19.95 hand-held models that are supposed to sanitize your countertops clear up to models that are $2,000+ with a dozen or more attachments.

The advertising promises to do everything from sanitize your home surfaces to cleaning your rugs and drapes to mucking out the tracks in your doors and windows to killing dust mites in matresses; and of course all effortlessly, if you believe the ads. I keep wondering about the old adage about something that seems to good to be true . . .

Because of my medical conditions, I already make my own household cleaners with baking soda, H2O2, vinegar, castille soap etc etc etc. Would a steam cleaner do a better job? Thanks again so much! Mary Anne in Los Angeles

Debra’s Answer

Hi Mary Anne. I’d be happy to give you my thoughts.

I bought a steam cleaner a couple of years ago. It was about $150, so it’s the “middle of the road” model.

I think the idea is fabulous. The hot steam really does clean things without elbow grease. One thing we cleaned was a lot of green stuff that was growing on the north side of the walls of our house in the forest. It came right off.

But, to be honest, I hardly ever use it. I think the reason is that it isn’t “quick and easy.” It sits in my closet and I only think of it if I have a big cleaning job. But this is me. I don’t vacuum either (Larry does the vacuuming). Hauling noisy machines around isn’t something I enjoy. I’d rather sweep with my handmade broom with the nature spirit face carved in the handle than vacuum.

Also, you need to add water to make the steam, and when the water runs out you have to stop cleaning, add more water, and wait for it to heat up again.

I also don’t have a lot of attention on sanitizing my house. There’s only just Larry and me anyway and we’re exchanging germs all the time.

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Non-toxic Bathtubs

Question from Susan H.


Thanks for the great information on your blog!

We are planning to remodel parts of our bathroom, such as using porcelain tile on the floors and inside the shower. We are trying to find out which bathtubs are the least toxic. The old acrylic tub that we’ve had for 15 years looks awful, and I would like to know if cast iron or porcelain on steel are the best bets. Thank you!

Debra’s Answer

Both cast iron and porcelain on steel are fine choices. Just get a new one or make sure one you choose at a salvage yard was made after 1984. Prior to that year, lead was used in the manufacture of these tubs, which can leach into the water and in to our bodies. Those manufactured after 1984 are fine.

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Reacting to organic cotton

Question from Merilee Eggleston

Here’s a strange question: Any idea why I might react strongly to organic cotton but not to conventional cotton? This is true of all the organic cotton I have tried over the years, from the least expensive to the purest of the pure (SuiteSleep)–clothing, sheets, mattress and pillow covers, you name it. The only conventional cotton I react to is percale sheets; clothing and conventional cotton knit sheets seem fine, as do poly-cotton percale sheets (!).

I’m completely mystified. Ideas?

Debra’s Answer

I’m mystified too. Readers? Any ideas?

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Window Treatments for Insulating the House

Question from Robin

debra And All,

I’ve been through all the sites mentioned in the “window coverings” section of Debra’s list, and am still wrestling with this problem.

I want to buy a curtain for a sliding door situated on the bottom level of my house. This room gets very cold in the winter, and I’d like to buy a curtain which will provide some insulation. has just such a curtain, but the insulation is in the form of acrylic foam backing on a cotton and polyester curtain. No one in this house has MCS, but I am trying to keep sustainability and toxicity in mind when making new purchases.

I am trying to decide whether to just buy this curtain and lighten the eco-footprint of the house in other ways, or whether to search for another product.

Do you have any product suggestions? This room is not fancy, so design isn’t much of a concern.

Debra’s Answer

When I lived in California, we used to just hang wool blankets over the windows on really cold days.

I wouldn’t use a curtain with an acrylic foam backing personally, but this is one of those trade-off things. It’s not the most toxic material, and it will save energy. Wouldn’t advise it for MCS.

If it were me, I would go in the direction of putting a wool liner or qulited cotton liner in the curtain for insulation, or choosing a very heavy fabric, like a tapestry fabric.

But let’s see what others have done. Readers?

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Diatomaceous Earth

Question from Deanna


I was wondering if you, or anyone out there has heard of this or has used it, and if so, what kind of results did you get with it?

I am including the web site where I purchased this (see below) because it has lots of information that seemed in line with all the other info I found on other sites. They all said the same thing: it was a natural product, it kills all kinds of pests, is safe for humans & pets, can even be used as a cleanser for internal parasites in humans.

I purchased the food grade DE & also the DE with pyrethins to use on my dog for fleas. I sprinkled the food grade on all the carpeting in my entire house, working it into the nap & left it there for over a week. I also dusted my dog with the DE with pyrethrins. It is supposed to kill the “pests” by drying them up from the inside.

In theory, this all sounds great, but in all honesty, the fleas on my dog (who, by the way, has never had fleas before) got much worse. After about 3-4 days of his constant scratching & agony, I broke down & purchased the old stand-by poison in the vial that is absorbed into his bloodstream.

The powder is extremely fine & dusty & I spent an entire week cleaning dust off of every surface in my house after this. I believe the part about drying the pests up because it really dried my hands & also my dog’s skin.

Debra’s Answer

I personally used to use DE to control fleas on my cat. It did work for that purpose, without pyrethrins, because, as you said, it dries up the flea bodies.

I no longer use it because someone wrote to me and said the dust caused lung problems in cats. How true that is, I don’t know, but, as you said, it is a very fine powder and that made sense to me.

I’d like to hear the experience and thoughts of others regarding DE. It is a natural, nontoxic product. Readers?

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Green Building Resources

Question from D. W.

Hello Debra,

Love your website.

We are about to start building a home, can you recommend a book or resource to try and build it as ‘green friendly’ or non-toxic as possible?


Debra’s Answer

Actually, I can recommend lots of resources. The Building page on Debra’s Bookstore lists many books on green building, and the Directories section of the Building page on Debra’s List has websites that list green building products and how to choose them.

The most consumer-friendly site for green building ideas and a good place to start is GreenHomeGuide.

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Removing mold from wood cutting board

Question from Amy

I got careless and let the underside of my big expensive cutting board get wet, and stay wet without checking it. Today I found a black mold spot 2″ x 4″. I don’t know what to do. I tried peroxide (one treatment) and ultraviolet lamp (grow-light-one treatment), and sandpaper to remove the spot (no effect). Is there a way to kill the spores and remove the black spot and still be able to use that side for cutting food, or do I have to just kill the spores and give up on that side? Please help.

Debra’s Answer

I’ve never removed a mold spot from a cutting board. Readers, any experience with this?

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Floor Underlayment

Question from Leah

Is there any type of floor underlayment for wood or cork floors that is low or non-toxic? I have looked at cork underlayment, but it is expensive. Did you use any type of underlayment with your wood floors Debra? Thanks!

Have you had any experience with SOUND SOLUTIONS floor underlayment? We are considering this to go under new hardwood flooring. The packaging does not offer too much information but does say it is safe and is also a vapor barrier. We are concerned about what to put down first and feel that the traditional tar paper leaves a lot to be desired.

Having suffered from environmental illness, we appreciate the work you do frequently refer to your original book even though many things in there are outdated. THANKS!

Debra’s Answer

For those who are not familiar with “underlayment,” it is a material placed under flooring, primarily for sound control and to act as a thermal insulation barrier. I haven’t used it under any of the wood floors I have laid.

Readers, any suggestions?

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