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Stainless Steel Cleaner

Question from P. S.

How can I clean stainless steel without toxic chemcials?

Debra’s Answer

No need for a commercial cleaner. You can just use that old good-for-everything standby baking soda, mixed with water to make a paste.

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Cotton Swimsuits

Question from A. Z.

What kind of swimsuit do you wear when you swim in your chlorine-free pool? Are cotton swimsuits available, or swimsuits made from other natural fibers?

Debra’s Answer

I have had cotton swimsuits in the past, but today I wear standard nylon swimsuits for a couple of reasons. One is because nylon is a more suitable fabric for the function of swimwear (it dries a lot faster than cotton and doesn’t mold) and the other is that cotton swimsuits are just really hard to find now.

I used to have a cotton swimsuit that I loved. It was a strapless tank made from woven fabric that was then gathered together with elastic thread to make it stretchy, then plain fabric straps were added. I had a thought that one could take two pieces of fabric and sew them together to make chennels through which you could put elastic, and then make a suit from that, but it was too complicated for my patience with sewing!

I also had an idea to make a swimsuit out of cotton/lycra “tube top” fabric. It comes in one piece so there are no seams. You can just cut it and make a strapless top that hugs your body. That didn’t work. Just wearing the fabric without swimming, it stretched out so much I couldn’t see that it would stand up to wearing it in the water.

I found some pictures of cotton swimsuits from the past that could be easily sewn. One was a kind of a loose jumpsuit with a belt with the legs cut to the length of very short shorts. Another was a loose tank top over bikini bottoms. But these are no longer available readymade as far as I could find. Kwik-Sew has a pattern for a modest two-piece swimsuit, designed to be made with cotton fabrics.

Light and Tight or Wet with Regret: Why Fabric Matters in a Swimsuit has this to say about cotton swimsuits:

I also for a time wore a cotton dance leotard as a swimsuit. You can get them from B. Coole. What I found with the one I had (not from B. Coole) was that over time the elastic stretched out and the fabric began to disintigrate (to the point where you could see right through it!). So this option is fine for a time, but you’ll need to replace these suits more often than nylon.

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Nontoxic garden hose

Question from R. G.

I was wondering if you know of a safe nontoxic garden hose, one that doesn’t leach any toxic chemicals or plasticizers into the water?

Debra’s Answer

All garden hoses are made from either polyvinyl chloride “PVC” or “vinyl”, rubber, or a combination of the two.

Vinyl hoses are the least expensive but also the most toxic, both in use and in manufacture. A number of environmental groups have called even for the banning of PVC because of the environmental effects of its manufacture. And PVC can leach vinyl chloride, which is carcinogenic. How much vinyl chloride ends up in the water as it is rushing through a hose? I don’t know. Probably more leaches into the water sitting in the hose in the hot sun. For that reason, it’s probably a good idea to empty the hose after you turn off the faucet.

As far as I can tell, rubber garden hoses are made from natural rubber, the milky latex of the Hevea tree more about obtaining latex from the tree Though it starts out from a renewable plant resource, by the time it is processed it is anything but natural.

Many chemicals are added to natural latex to improve performance, making natural rubber latex suitable for use in the manufacture of rubber products. Chief among them are chemical accelerators used to speed up the manufacturing process, vulcanizing agents, reinforcing agents, filler, pigments, blowing agents and more some exact chemical names In terms of toxicity, the most dangerous health effect I found was skin allergy.

Whether or not the chemicals in natural rubber hoses leach into the product water and what their toxicity may be, I don’t know. Though rubber hose is heavier and more bulky, it is your best buy for durability. Sears says their Craftsman Rubber Hose is the last garden hose you will ever need to buy. Rubber hose is also more pliable and coils more easily in cold weather than vinyl hose.

Rubber hoses are easily available. In addition to Sears, both Lowe’s and The Home Depot carry rubber garden hoses, and most good nurseries will as well. Rubber hoses say “rubber” on the label. If no material is specified, it’s probably vinyl.

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Purchasing Himalayan Salt

Question from P. T.

I know that ordinary table salt is nothing but sodium chloride. My problem is trying to settle on a company to buy Himalayan salt from. Every one of the companies that I have looked at claim that they are the “one and only”. And, on one site, they claim that if the salt is not red, then it is not the real Himalayan salt. Gosh, I thought the salt came in a variety of colors, depending on where the salt was mined from. Which company would you buy from?

Debra’s Answer

First, let me say a few words about salt for readers who don’t yet know about different kinds of salt.

The salt that is in most salt shakers and used in most food processing is refined salt, containing pure sodium chloride and nothing else. Natural salt as it occurs in the Earth contains a broad spectrum of minerals. It is refined for industrial purposes, used in factories to make various products, and is also used industrially as a cheap food preservative. Refined salt has been associated with health problems such as water retention and high blood pressure.

Natural salt actually restores health to the body by providing needed minerals as well as sodium and chloride. Many functions in the body just won’t happen without sufficient salt. In ancient times, before salt was refined, natural salt was considered to be one of the most valuable substances on Earth, and essential to life.

Once you’ve made the leap from refined salt to natural, then the next choice is whether to choose sea salt or salt from the Earth. All salt originally was from the sea, but as the Earth changed over time, some of those evaporated seas are now underground in salt deposits. One area of such deposits is under the Himalayan Mountains.

Salt in the Earth is often mined by use of explosives and other devices that are less than eco-friendly. Mechanical mining can also change the energy matrix of the salt. Mining and processing by hand preserves the energetic quality of the salt.

I buy a brand of Himalayan salt called “The Original” Himalayan Crystal Salt. It comes from a deposit of salt from a sea that evaporated millions of years ago, from a time when the planet was a pristine ecosystem. Then when the Himalayan mountain range was formed, the degree of compression was so extreme that it created perfectly structured crystal grids within the salt, giving it a unique bio-energetic pattern. The salt is gently hand-mined, hand-selected, hand-crushed with stones, hand-washed, and sun dried, both to preserves the Himalayan ecosystem and retains the original bio-energetic qualities of the salt.

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Safety of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and iron oxides

Question from R. R.

I’ve recently found some cosmetic powders mostly made of cornstarch and iron oxides. Are iron oxides just as bad as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide? After reading about these ingredients in your e-book Debra’s Guide To Choosing Natural Sun Protection I’m wondering if iron oxides are just as bad.

Thanks! Thanks also for the e-book!!! It’s great info!!!

Debra’s Answer

Iron oxides are used in almost 2,000 cosmetics products. I don’t know how they are processed, but they are naturally occurring minerals in Nature. I was once driving through the deserts in the Southwest and stopped to look at the colored rock by the side of the road. They had so many colors I could see how they could just be ground up to make cosmetics.

The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website says only that they are concerned that iron oxides have not been assessed for safety. I have not heard of any concerns about the health effects of iron oxides over the years.

Contrast this to the fact that the same source says titanium dioxide is a suspected human carcinogen and zinc oxide is known to be an immune system toxin and a respiratory toxicant, and may present risks to human reproduction and development based on limited data, and I would say iron oxides are much safer. I don’t see any reason to not use them.

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