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.

Lead on Extension Cord

Question from mindy goldis

I have recently bought an extension cord at wal-mart and there is a tag on it that says it contains lead and may cause cancer and you need to wash your hands after touching it.

I tend to take a rag/cloth when I touch the cord, but I’d rather find a store that sells a cord that is lead-free.

Do you have any suggestions.


Debra’s Answer

Yes. Please see Q&A: Lead on Power Cords.

Latex Disposable Surgical Gloves

Question from Jayne L.

Does anyone have a good green alternative to latex disposble surgical gloves?

I’m an artist and art teacher and sometimes I just have to use the disposable gloves due to health and budget reasons. (I’m not allowed to share gloves and I can’t buy each person their own set of gloves each class.)

If anyone has a suggestion, I would much appreciate it!

Thanks! Jayne L. Walnut Creek, CA

Debra’s Answer

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Wheat free nut cake

Question from KJR

I have tried several of your recipes and they have all been fabulous.

But today I tried to make your nut cake for a friend’s birthday. It did not work at all. I’ve never made a cake without flour before, so I knew the batter would look different, but it was very runny and egg-like instead of “batter-like”. As it cooked, it rose like a souffle and then dropped when I took it out. It was a total loss.

Any idea where I went wrong? I used all the same ingredients without substitution.


P.S. I also made the crumb cake and it was excellent!

Debra’s Answer

I test all the recipes in my kichen before I publish them, so I know they work. Perhaps…the recipe says “finely chop the nuts…” They should be almost as fine as flour, like corn meal. Did you chop your nuts this fine?

Has anyone else made this recipe? Did you have success or no?

This is an excellent cake, so I want to make sure my instructions can be successfully followed.

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Cranberry Juice

Question from Melissa

By now many are well aware of the health benefits of Cranberries. My question is, how do you make your own Cranberry juice so that you don’t have to worry about artificial sweetners, perservatives, and colors? I’d like to use a juicer, but should they be boiled first? Thanks!

Debra’s Answer

Actually, if you are wanting all the health benefits of cranberries, it’s better to drink the raw juice–it’s not necessary to cook them first.

Bottled juice is always cooked for pasturization, which gives it a longer shelf life. When you cook the juice, it destroys many vital nutrients and enzymes.

You can go ahead and put raw cranberries through your juicer. It will be very tart, however! You might want to juice it along with apples, oranges, grapes, or cherries to add some sweetness, or use a natural sweetener that also has health benefits, such as raw honey.

Even better than juicing is to blend the cranberries with water to make a juice. This gives you the fiber as well (which is discarded in juicing) which is vital for intestinal health.

In At Home With Debra : My Vitamins, I wrote about a Chinese doctor who treats cancer, heart disease and diabetes with simple, readily available foods. The healing part of these foods is the phytochemicals, which are contiained in the fibers of the foods. So you need to chew each bite 40 times (or put the foods into a very high-powered blender) to release the phytochemicals. He recommends a 2-horsepower blender (Vitamix) or preferably a 3-horsepower blender (Blend-Tec) to can masticate the skins, seeds, and stems, to make the phytochemicals readily absorbable. Home blenders typically have motors less than 1 horsepower, but it’s better to use these low-power blenders than nothing.

The containers on both blenders are polycarbonate, but these are very hard plastics and there is a minimal amount of contact time with the food. The benefits of the blended drinks far outweigh exposure to any toxic chemicals that may be present.

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Baking Soda vs Washing Soda for Laundry

Question from Lynn Evans

Hi Debra,

I love your books and website! (I sell your books in my office)

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for years (baking soda, borax and castile soap flakes). I just ran into a site with several similar recipes but noted NOT to use regular baking soda but to use Washing Soda instead. I see the former is sodium bicarbonate while the latter is sodium carbonate.

Do you know which would be best for laundry? And why regular baking soda is not a good idea?


Lynn Evans

Debra’s Answer

According to Arm & Hammer’s website:

So baking soda is made from washing soda.

I don’t see any reason NOT to use baking soda in the laundry. Arm & Hammer’s own website recommends using baking soda to boost laundry detergent.

It may just be that these other sites are recommending washing soda because it is more effective. Washing soda is advertised to improve laundry detergent performance up to 40 percent.

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Temporary Spare Beds

Question from S.L.

Greetings. Does anyone know of a good non-toxic or low toxin, compact spare bedding option for overnight guests? Inflatable plastic mattresses have lots of out gassing. Know of a good foldout comfortable cot or such? Thanking you in advance,

Debra’s Answer

Well, traditionally, that would be a futon. Our (infrequent) guests sleep on our sofa or put our sofa pillows on the floor.

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Bottles for home made sprays

Question from Susan

Hi Deb,

I want to go back to making my own cleaning supplies (something I have gotten away from) and I do remember a problem I did have earlier was finding a spray bottle that I could keep my sprays in. In particular, I had a ‘monster spray’..the boys were little and afeared of monsters. I made up a spray with lemon and lavender essential oils and would spray it in their rooms at bedtime to keep the monsters away (Tx roaches don’t care for lavender either). But I did have a hard time finding a container to keep the spray in and then keeping the sprayer from disintegrating.

So, where can I find containers at a reasonable price? (which was another concern and still is)


Debra’s Answer

I’m sure some of our natural cleaning people will write in with an answer for you.

The only cleaner I make is vinegar and water, and I have been reusing the same plastic spray bottle I got at a hardware store for years. But I see your formula has specific needs.

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Roofing materials

Question from DB

We need a new roof on our house in the Northeast. I’m researching the safest, most affordable materials, and would appreciate any info. We have cedar shakes now, but they are badly deteriorated & curly in many areas. I would like to find something that can be put over the old plywood underlay, since we don’t want any new plywood added if we can avoid it. So far it sounds like sheet metal is our best bet for safety & affordability. There is a large walk-in attic space between the living space & the roof, but we might use that space someday, so probably shouldn’t consider asphalt shingles. If anyone knows of alternatives that are affordable, please share! Metal shingles, standing seam metal panels, slate, and terra cotta tiles are all out of our price range, as far as I can determine. Thanks so much. Dorothy

Debra’s Answer

My experience with roofing is that there are different types of roofs appropriate to different climates. I’m not going to make a recommendation for that reason–because I’m not an expert in your regional needs–but perhaps a reader who is will write in with an answer.

I would suggest looking for green architects or builders in your area and asking them for a recommendation.

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Question from jkw

Because I’m extremely chemcially sensitive, I’m looking for very good and very bad experiences, as well as brand names, regarding reactions to new flooring with 1) cork flooring and 2) laminate flooring.

Debra’s Answer

OK, readers. What do you recommend?

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Ink Stains

Question from KL

Is there a safe product that removes ink stains from leather without damaging the leather?

Thanks for the advice.


Debra’s Answer

Good question! I’m dealing with some ink stains myself at the moment, on clothing.

What I did was email the manufacturer of the pen and ask them how to remove the ink stain. They replied with the names of a few products which I haven’t tried yet.

I found for clothing that rubbing alcohol and soap work together, but the soap didn’t work without the alcohol. But the alcohol smells. I’d like a nontoxic way to do this, but I may need to use something like alcohol, rather than throw my clothes away (a pen got in with the wash and ruined about two dozen pieces of clothing).

Another thing I’m considering doing is taking them down to a dry cleaner and letting them try their hand. Then I can wash out whatever residues of spot remover remain.

Anyone have any suggestions for removing ink stains from leather or fabric?

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