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Oven Cleaning Woes

My mom is super irritated by our dirty oven, right Mom?!? She even looks forward to times when she is at our house without me so she can use the “self-cleaning” function on our oven.

Have you used the self-cleaning cycle on your oven? Do you remember the smell? I do and that’s why I hesitate to use it.

What happens in “self-clean” mode?

When you use the self-cleaning function on your oven the inside heats up between 900 and 1000 degrees to burn off the food remnants. There are a few reasons why this is bad and not all of them are related to toxin free living.

Why you should skip self-cleaning your oven

It could potentially break your oven. Newer ovens have hidden heating elements beyond those you see on the bottom of your oven. These are harder to vent and keep air circulating, so at temperatures that sometimes reach over 1000 degrees, self-cleaning can cause fuses to pop and electrical panels to burn out. Sometimes the calrod element burns out. This is more likely the more times you use the self-cleaning option.

The enamel coating of ovens is made of a pyrolytic ground coat enamel and contains glass. This helps breakdown the food to ash. Unfortunately there are some potential health effects from the fumes released during the self-cleaning process.

  1. Carbon monoxide - according to the North Iowa Municipal Electric Cooperative Association, your self-cleaning oven can produce a concerning amount of carbon monoxide during the cleaning cycle.

  2. Self-cleaning can release toxic fumes that are dangerous for people who have asthma or respiratory issues.

Even though no one in my family has asthma or respiratory issues, I prefer to skip the self-cleaning function and use good old elbow grease. If it’s not safe for some, then it’s not good for my family either.

And those aerosol oven-cleaners are no good either. Easy-Off gets an F from the EWG. The warning labels are enough to scare me off!

So what CAN you use to clean your oven?

Two of my favorites, baking soda and vinegar. Here’s how:

  1. Remove all racks from the oven.

  2. Make a baking soda paste: Start with a 1/2 cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water and adjust the ratio until you have a spreadable paste.

  3. Spread the paste all over your oven. Coat the whole oven adding more paste in the greasier areas.

  4. Let it sit overnight for at least 12 hours.

  5. Wipe out the paste: Take a wet cloth and wipe it clean. You might need a spatula to scrape off the paste.

  6. Spray vinegar: Put some vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the portions that still have baking soda residue. This will create a foam.

  7. Wipe it clean again: Repeat step 6 until the baking soda residue is gone and your oven is sparkling clean.

  8. Clean your oven racks and replace them in the oven.


The #1 Question I Get - Deodorant

I’ve been helping people switch over to safer products for over two years now, and deodorant is STILL the most asked question. I totally understand why too. “Natural” deodorant has become much more available and there are so many more brands because people are starting to pay attention to ingredients (thank you for voting with your dollar people). Unfortunately, many of these “natural” deodorants still contain some not so great ingredients - yep greenwashing. Even with deodorants that DO contain 100% safe ingredients, many of my friends and clients have struggled with what I like to call “pit rash”. It’s as annoying, unflattering, and also very common.

But before we discuss “pit rash”, let’s chat about why you should pay attention to the ingredients in your deodorant or antiperspirant.

  1. Aluminum-based compounds: This is the main ingredient in antiperspirant that plugs sweat ducts so you don’t perspire. Research suggests that these aluminum compounds have an estrogen like effect. Some scientists say that this estrogen effect contributes to breast cancer.

  2. Parabens: This is one of the more common ingredients that people know to look out for. You’ll often see “no parabens” listed on a label (but you should still check out the full ingredients list). So what are parabens? Parabens are a preservative that mimic estrogen in our cells. Scientists have found parabens in breast tumors.

  3. Propylene Glycol: A controversial ingredient associated with skin and allergic reactions.

I will admit that I was a long time Dove anti-perspirant user. If only I could go back and amend my ways…

Anyway, enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s chat armpits.

The dreaded “pit rash” is what often steers people back to traditional deodorant or antiperspirant even though they know they shouldn’t be using it.

So what exactly is “pit rash”? And what causes it?


Our underarms are a very sensitive part of our bodies. If you’ve used antiperspirant for years, your body may be reacting to the fact that your armpits now have sweat on them. Weird but true. The good news is that once you switch to natural deodorants you will likely sweat LESS! But in the meantime, exfoliation can really help. 


While baking soda can help absorb sweat and block odors, too much is not a good thing. Baking soda has an alkaline pH and can cause irritation. Your underarms might be extra sensitive to baking soda if the soap you are using is too harsh.


Your “natural” deodorant may not be as health as you think. As I shared above, the term fragrance is proprietary and can hide over 3,000 chemicals within the term.

So you have the “pit rash”, what do you do?

If it’s bad you may want to see your health care provider. It may have gotten infected and need medical attention.

Be gentle with your pits - use a sensitive soap and moisturize well (be sure to check the ingredient label of your moisturizer!)

Try an armpit detox - it may sound weird, but a mask made of bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar can be quite helpful for transitioning from traditional deodorants and antiperspirants and help if you have “pit rash”. 

  • Mix equal parts bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar in a non-metal bowl and apply a thin layer to each armpit. Leave on anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Wash off. 

  • You can repeat this as often as needed until the rash is gone and you’ve successfully transitioned to safe deodorant.

Wow! That’s a lot about armpits.

If you’re looking for safe deodorants, here are some suggestions:

Agent Nateur (my personal favorite)

Vermont Soap Company


It's time to break up with disinfecting wipes.

Sure, it’s super easy to pop open a can, grab a wipe, and swipe down the counter top. But besides the waste factor, antibacterial/bleach wipes, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Bleach wipe labels often say they can be used anywhere to clean, disinfect, and kill 99.9% of germs, including viruses that kill the common cold and flu. But, if you take a minute to actually read the fine print, a few things stand out.

  1. “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

  2. “Use enough wipes for the surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes.”

  3. “For surfaces that may come in contact with food, a potable water rinse is required.”

Four minutes! And a water rinse?!? That’s not quick and easy!

The truth is we don’t always need to disinfect. Sometimes simply cleaning is enough. Sure, disinfecting is important when cooking raw chicken or if a family member is sick with the flu. But most of the time simply removing the germs through cleaning with soap and water is enough. Over-use of disinfectants leads to “super bugs” and antibiotic resistant bacteria - not good!

While most schools include bleach wipes on back to school supply lists, children shouldn’t be using them. Most labels include the warnings “store in area inaccessible to small children” or “keep out of reach of children”. Some states have even banned them from schools.

Here in Washington State, the Department of Health’s Guidance for Healthy Classrooms recommends fragrance free baby wipes instead. They also say that only teachers should be using district approved cleaners.

Even though I’ve been on this toxin free mission for a few years, I admit that I’ve been buying wipes for my kids’ school! I’m definitely a rule follower and I certainly don’t want teachers to have to fill in the gaps if the supply list comes up short. But next year I’ll be providing information and safer options instead of just buying the bleach wipes. I’ve already shared this information with my daughter’s principal and her teacher and I encourage you to do the same.

Besides the reasons listed above, a quick ingredient analysis shows us why we should avoid antibacterial wipes. Although manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients in their wipes, these are commonly found in many brands:

So now you know. And in the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. And then when you know better, you do better.”

Photo by  Daiga Ellaby  on  Unsplash

Should I really care about what kind of shower curtain I use?

Have you ever opened up a package of plastic shower curtain and thought. Oh man, this thing smells like chemicals?

Me too.

Well guess what that smell is?!? Toxic gases being released from opening up the package. Yuck!

Ever heard of the term PVC and wondered why it’s bad. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is sometimes just listed as “vinyl” on a package. In 2008, some Canadian environmental researchers from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice published a report explaining just how bad those shower curtains are.

The researchers tested PVC plastic shower curtains from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart and found the curtains released 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of the chemicals were still found in the air 28 days after taking the curtain out of the package and hanging it up. So much for airing out the chemicals…

So this report was written ten years ago, things have changed right? Well I did a quick search for vinyl shower curtains and found that Walmart still carries a 100% vinyl shower curtain. While the packaging doesn’t show what makes up the vinyl, it does include a warning required by California’s Proposition 65.

Some additional highlights from the report:

• Forty different VOCs were detected after 7 days; 16 VOCs after 14 days; 11 after 21 days; and 4 after
28 days.

• The level of Total VOCs measured was over 16 times greater than recommended in the U.S. Green Building Council and Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program guidelines for indoor air quality.

• Seven of the chemicals released by the shower curtain are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

• VOCs can cause serious health effects including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and the central nervous system. Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

So what’s a replacement for that plastic shower curtain? I recently bought this one for our family. I like that the fabric liner snaps off for easy washing.

Do you have a plastic shower curtain? Ready to make the switch?


This is my "why"

Raising my daughters in an environment with minimal toxins - that’s the crux of my “why”. I know deciphering the confusing marketplace of household cleaning supplies isn’t always easy. I’m here to help you.

My journey to a toxin-free home started with wanting to make the best choices for my family but also feeling overwhelmed and confused, and lacking the time to make detoxing our home a priority. I know packaging contains misleading messages, so I’ve immersed myself in product knowledge and safe ingredients, all so you don’t have to.

Today, there are toxins in the environment all around us. We do however have some control over what we choose to bring into our homes. Give me about one hour and I’ll identify and remove the nasty products from your home leaving you with safer options and the knowledge you need to make toxin-free choices each time you shop.