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Portable Heaters with Metal Housings

Heaters in this post can be purchased online at


I originally wrote this post in 2010. Not much has changed since then in terms of types of heaters, but I’ve updated it to bring the links to products up to date.

Readers, I’d love to have some comments with the brands of heaters you are using and like.

I had someone ask this week about portable heaters. I had written that I have a “ceramic heater” with a metal housing and she didn’t know what a ceramic heater was, or what to look for. So I’m going to give you a little review here of different types of portable heaters that come with metal housings, including pictures, so you know what your options are.

First, though, I want to say that with any portable heater with a metal housing, there will likely be an initial odor from the finish that is not fully cured. These finishes are heat cured during manufacture, but there can be residual outgassing as the finish is dry to the touch, but not fully cured. Once the finish is fully outgassed, you can use these heaters with no problem.

About outgassing heaters…From reading your comments, I see that some of you are not outgassing them long enough. It requires a lot more than a few hours. I gave mine to a friend to use all winter. Others have just run the heater outdoors or in the garage. How long you need to outgas the heater depends on the model and even within specific models there are differences. Just heat it until it doesn’t smell any more. But for some types of heaters we’re talking about 100 hours or more of heat before the smell goes away.

You can buy some of these heaters used, like on eBay or try your local Craig’s List. A used heater will already be gassed out and you’ll save money too.

You may not be able to find a heater on your local store shelves that does not smell initially. But if you bake it out, the smell will eventually burn off and you will have a good serviceable heater. There are some heaters you can buy online that are unfinished.

Ceramic “utility” heaters

I have two ceramic heaters with metal housings that I purchased more than ten years ago. But I have not been able to find them recently in stores. They are still working now, twenty years later.

I’ve noticed now that the ceramic heaters in metal casings are called “utility heaters.” Here are some that say “all metal construction” in their description.

There are a lot more. The way I found these was I did a Google search on “utility heater” and it gave me Goggle search results for utility heater. I just started clicking and reading descriptions. Sometimes I had to read descriptions from several different vendors to find out they had metal housings.I’ve found this year that if the housing is metal, they say so in the description. If it doesn’t say metal and look further into the Q&A, it always says plastic if someone asks. So look for “metal” or “steel” in the description.

These utility heaters are the least expensive heating option, around $40. They are not beautiful [although the 2018 models are getting more stylish], but they will heat your room.

My experience with buying this type of heater is that they don’t have much odor right out of the box, You might need to run it a day or two to burn offf any odor, but it hasn’t been a problem for me.

Radiator heaters

These are oil-filled heaters that look like old radiators. The oil is completely sealed in and should not leak. I have one and it works very well to heat up one room. And it’s totally silent. Has no fan.

This type of heater is notoriously bad about outgassing. This is the one that requred an entire winter to outgas, But once I outgassed it, it’s been a great, reliable heater for more than twenty years. It was worth the effort.

These are made by many different brands.

Baseboard heaters

Baseboard heaters are filled with water or other substances.

One reader wrote that she moved into an apartment with 50-year-old baseboard hot water/oil heaters that also contained glycol, which was leaking. She and her cat got very sick. So that’s something to watch out for.

Another reader wrote that she installed Cadet Soft Heat baseboard heaters throughout her house and there is no odor. I just looked at their website again and they also have wall heaters and garage heaters which look to have metal housings, but they don’t say in the description. So this is something to check if their products interest you. The baseboard heaters have metal housings.


Infrared Radiant Heaters

The heat produced by infrared heaters and the heat produced by the sun are very much alike. The heat we feel on our planet is infrared heat produced by the sun. In contrast to most heaters, Infrared heaters do not heat the air in the area and do not cause circulation of the warm air–instead, they heat objects directly. The rays produced by an infrared heater penetrate the skin and warm your body beneath the skin.

They are the heat source for far-infrared saunas.

A reader recommended radiant heaters from Radiant Electric Heat. They have stainless steel models “which produces no chemicals, dust particles, odors or fumes.” Their portable stainless steel model has no finish—just stainless steel. The company is experienced working with people with MCS.

  • StainlessSteel model s DME Certified
  • Non-allergenic, perfect for chemically sensitive or people with acute allergy or sinus conditions
  • Built-in thermostat for accurate control of your comfort
  • Internal tip-over switch for your safety
  • Silent – Clean – Odorless – Economical – Reliable

Warm Your Body Instead of Your Home

I can’t pass up this opportunity to remind everyone that you can save a lot on your heating bills by warming your body instead of the air around you. It takes a lot more energy to warm the air in a room than it does to warm your body. Many body warmers need no energy at all!

  • Put on a sweater or scarf or even a wool vest. In the winter I wear flannel shirts with tank tops underneath, sweatshirts, sweaters scarves, wool sock. Long underwear is great!
  • Drink hot liquids. Skip the hot chocolate and find herbal teas that you like that you can sip all day, or vegetable soup or bone broth.
  • Snuggle with a loved one under a blanket. Body heat is great!

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Fragrance-Free Laundromats in San Francisco


Here’s a great idea whose time has come: fragrance-free laundromats!

The link below goes to a post on a blog for an acne clinic. Their concern is acne, not fragrance in general, but since fragrance on clothing from scent in detergent causes acne, they’re on board to live fragrance-free.

“laundry detergent is a major factor in the acne-safe lifestyle. so while we all are making the effort to purchase acne-safe detergent, the cloggy residues from prior machine users can still be getting on our clothes. frustrating!”

SKIN SALVATION: Fragrance-free Laundromats in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Home Iron


While I was looking for an image of a woman’s hands ironing I was struck by how many paintings of women ironing exist, going back a good 100 years. So here’s a bit of art to elevate the act of ironing.


I’m moving this post up to present time (originally published 17 March 2008) because there is a new related question and I wanted to include these comments.

One of the commenters decided not to purchase a new Rowenta iron for the reasons stated in her comment. And she’d like to know what other brands of home irons you all are using and recommend.

So readers, over to you. What do you use for an iron? I’m still using my old Rowenta.

Question from bebe

Is there a specific type or brand of iron you recommend?

Debra’s Answer

The only recommendation I have for irons from a toxicity viewpoint is to stay away from nonstick finishes. Get an iron with a shiny finish and you’ll have no problems.

That said, I personally have a Rowenta iron, which costs more, but it’s a lot heavier, which means it’s easier to iron, because YOU don’t have to press as hard. I’ve had it for years–longer than my husband, so that’s more than 20 years–and it’s still working great.

Because I’m in San Francisco for three months, I just bought a cheap $20 Black & Decker steam iron at Target because I didn’t want to risk losing or breaking my Rowenta in transit. It has a shiny bottom too, but is not as heavy.

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Question from Concerned Mom

Hi Debra,

I noticed that Ikea recently came out with a new latex/cotton/wool mattress called Mausund. We are preparing to move to Europe and will need to buy mattresses for our three young children and this mattress is available there. It appears as though the materials in the US and EU version of the mattress are similar. Would this be a ‘safer’ option for my young kids to sleep on (ages 3, 6 and 9)? No one has any diagnosed allergies or sensitivities, I simply don’t want them sleeping on mattresses that off gas harmful chemicals. The price of the mattress in the EU is more reasonable than here, making it within our budget. Thanks.

Debra’s Answer

Well this is an improvement for IKEA but the materials list doesn’t quite match the description.

The first thing you read on the MAUSUND page is

“You’re right to be fussy about what you sleep on. Natural materials like natural latex, coconut fiber, cotton and wool provide comfort and pull away moisture. This makes for a pleasant sleeping environment with a cool and even sleep temperature.”

But when you click on the “Materials and environment” tap, here’s what it says about what the mattress is really made from:

Ticking/ Ticking/ Lining: 100 % cotton
Filling: Wool wadding
Ticking, side/ Piping/ Handles/ Total composition: 53 % linen, 47 % viscose/rayon
Comfort material: 85 % natural/ 15 % synthetic latex

At least 50% (weight) of this product is made from renewable materials.
Product possible to recycle or use for energy recovery, if available in your community.
All the cotton in our products comes from more sustainable sources. This means that the cotton is either recycled, or grown with less water, less fertilizers and less pesticides, while increasing profit margins for the farmers.

The fabric on the TOP is cotton. Not organic cotton but less pesticides, and it’s a fabric, so much if not all of the pesticides are removed during processing.

Wool is also not organic, but it’s unprocessed so anything applied to the wool (unknown) would still be there.

The fabric on the sides is linen and rayon (a manufactured fabric that starts as bits of natural fibers).

The filling is latex, but natural latex, not organic, and 15% is synthetic.

Oops! They missed the coconut fiber ?????

So up to you. It’s not a mattress I would recommend, but it’s a lot better than a synthetic mattress.

If this is what is available and affordable, it’s a “better” choice. But I have concerns about the unknowns in the wool, and mostly about the synthetic latex, which is made from petroleum.

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Brentwood “Hybrid” Mattresses


Question from Teresa

Hi Debra,


Debra’s Answer

First, it was difficult to find ALL the materials used in an organized way that was easy to find. There was no materials page, for example, as is found now on other sites.

Nowhere could I find the material used to make the covers. Looking at the photos, the covers appear to be a synthetic material.

They also refer to their mattresses as “hybrid,” which I am assuming means they are part natural and part synthetic.

And they are not GOTS certified organic, though it appears their cotton is.

I took a look at:

This mattress is “completely vegan” but made with polyurethane memory foam.

This one is made from “all natural and organic materials.”

This one is basically a polyurethane foam mattress.

Again materials information was incomplete, so I couldn’t make a full assessment.

If you are looking for a vegan mattress, Naturepedic now makes one, 100% GOTS certified organic.

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Test Your Polyurethane Foam for Toxics at Duke University

Note in this chart that most flame retardants found by this Duke University study using samples from homes were in child care seats (more than half), then sofas, love seats and futons, with chairs, recliners and rockers coming in at a close second, with about half containing fire retardants. This doesn’t mean the others are safe. There are other toxic chemicals in polyurethane foam. This study measures only fire retardants.

This reader had foam from a memory foam bed in her home through the Foam Project at Duke University.

Any US resident can submit a sample of polyurethane foam (PUF) from furniture, child car seats, or any other product containing PUF using the submission form on our website. After completing the form, samples can be mailed to us at Duke University, along with the unique ID number generated from the submission form. Individuals are notified by email upon receipt of their foam sample in the laboratory. Our laboratory will analyze the sample for the presence or absence of 7 common flame retardant chemicals. Approximately 6-8 weeks later, we will mail back a report detailing our findings, along with a fact sheet about the 7 common flame retardants. We can answer any additional questions you may have after receiving your results.

Hi Debra,

I received results from Duke university where they test peoples foam to see what flame retardants are in it.

My sleep number bed bought about 2010 has FM 550, Firemaster 550. Has brominated and organophosphates.

It said a recent study showed some of the components bioaccumulate and act as a thyroid hormone disrupter.

I have thyroiditis and nodules, and mild hypothyroidism.

I had slept on Coleman air mattresses with PVC vapors prior to sleep number.

I sent them 2 samples, a foam pad beneath the topper and the topper fabric with foam inside.

I have a mattress protector that is waterproof on it made with polyurethane and fabric. Could this block the flame retardant?

Debra’s Answer

I can’t give you a definitive answer about the polyurethane film blocking the fire retardant, but here’s what I can tell you.

The answer to the question is about porosity.

The polyurethane film used for waterproofing has a pore size of 0.03 micrometers to 10 micrometers (a micrometer is one millionth of a meter)

Micro-porous coatings and membranes rely on an interconnected network of tiny holes (pores) introduced by various means into an otherwise impermeable polymeric structure. Sheets of polymers can be produced with common salt incorporated which is washed out afterwards to leave voids/pores. Such holes (or pores) are too small to allow water droplets to pass through, but are large enough to allow water vapour to pass through. Micro-porous structures work, as do tightly woven structures, because of the large difference in size between individual water molecules present in water vapour and water droplets of rain, each of the latter consisting of many millions of water molecules held tightly together by surface tension forces. Micro-porous membranes typically weigh 10–20 g/m2and should be durable and resistant to laundering, chemicals and UV degradation.

SCIENCE DIRECT: Micro Porosity

So the question would be, what is the size of the vapor of the fire retardant? And that’s what I don’t know.

But I think this would be an interesting thing for someone to research.

If we could get a more exact number for the porosity of the polyurethane film and the sizes of various vapors, then we could calculate what types of chemical vapors could be blocked by polyurethane film.

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Safety of Plastic Drinking Glasses


Question from Lyle

Hi Debra,

I have two new sets of plastic drinking glasses.

The first is hard plastic; the second is a cheaper and lighter plastic. All of the glasses have either cracked or have turned white from the hot water in my dishwasher.

Are there harmful chemicals in the plastic now that they have been changed from their original materials? Should I toss them and returned to glass? Thanks so much.

Debra’s Answer

It would be impossible for me to assess this.

So I would say return to glass.

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Guava Family Lotus Crib/bassinet


Question from Akh

Hi Debra,

I was trying to search your site. Not sure if this has been asked but have you reviewed the Guava Family Lotus Crib/bassinet? It is the only portable one I have found that in greenguard certified but not sure if it is really non-toxic.

Debra’s Answer

I actually can’t assess this product because no materials are given that I could find.

The website makes many claims but no substantiation.

GREENGUARD certification does NOT mean “nontoxic.” It means that the product emissions fall below an established standard for a limited list of chemicals.

If you need this type of bassinet it may be the least toxic brand available, but without materials disclosure, I can’t assess it.

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Toxic Hotel Room? Ask for Different One

My room at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge MA, overlooking the Charles River


I just spent four nights at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge MA. I always stay at Kimpton hotels when I can because they have “eco” policies. These don’t always translate into toxic-free actions, but I consistently find their hotel rooms to be less toxic.

So I was surprised when I walked into my room on Thursday night and the air quality was so bad I could hardly breathe. I put down my luggage and went downstairs to dinner. When I came back I decided the smell was intolerable and I would not be able to sleep in the room.

I went downstairs to the reception desk and told the woman there what was happening. She immediately got keys to another room and went upstairs with me to my room. She took one whiff and said, “There’s something wrong. The air is not supposed to smell like this.”

She took me to the new room (upgraded to a room with a view) and the air was perfect. And it was perfect for my entire stay.

I don’t know if they are filtering this air in addition to ventilation, but the air quality was just exceptional there for a hotel room.

The next evening when I came to my room after being out for the day, there was a beautiful plate of perfectly ripe berries and grapes and a bowl of mixed nuts waiting for me, with a note of apology for the inconvenience.

Now that’s service.

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Have Air Filter—Will Travel

Wednesday I’m leaving on a road trip to Los Angeles, where I will be staying in a standard hotel room for five nights while I attend a retreat for the business course I’ve been taking this year.

I’m bringing along my EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit Air Purifier to use in the hotel room.

Next week when I get back I’ll report on how well it worked to reduce all the toxic emissions typically found in hotel rooms.

Say tuned…


18 September 2018

The EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit worked great on our road trip to Los Angeles.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza hotel right next to LAX airport (not our choices, attending a conference) and we had no problems with air quality at all in our room, because we had our air purifier along.

The room itself was not the worst hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, but it did have all the standard toxic materials and fragrance piped into the hall ways. But we just plugged in the EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit, turned it on, and within minutes the air quality was completely comfortable for us.

And it was easy to take with us on a road trip. This is going to be standard equipment for us now for road trips. Now I just need to get EnviroKlenz to make one small enough to take on a plane.


It fit well in the back of our Prius. It’s no wider than a car seat.

It didn’t take up much room in the hotel room.

It was easy to put on the luggage cart (we laid the unit on it’s side to prevent it from rolling off the cart).


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