8 Simple Ways to Live More Toxin-Free This Spring

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Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home.

Spring is finally upon us.

This is the perfect time of year to pursue a greener and more natural way of living. With the warmer weather, however, there are also hidden toxins in various products and practices that we would do well to avoid. 

If you’ve been contemplating moving towards a more natural lifestyle, or slowly working through small changes in that direction, here are 8 simple ways that spring offers a perfect opportunity to practice wholesome, healthy, non-toxic living:

1. Bye-bye bugs

Most insect repellents include DEET in their ingredients (among others), a nasty chemical which is extremely poisonous and remains on (and ultimately, in) our skin long after we spray it.

That doesn’t have to keep you indoors, though. Essential oils like citronella, cedarwood, lavender and cinnamon are effective at keeping the bugs at bay, but are non-toxic and safe enough to be used even on children.

A few options to consider: Bug “bars” like this one or thisAll-Terrain Herbal Spray, or Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent.

 

Photo by Bruce Guenter

2. Line dry your laundry

Winters where I live in the Pacific Northwest are grey, wet, cool, and did I mention that they’re wet? Line drying is laughable.

Not so in the spring and summer, when the sun reveals its lovely face. Save on energy and dollars while avoiding the toxins found in dryer sheets when you wash as usual, then use a rack or line in your yard (or apartment balcony) instead of the dryer. Not only will clothes smell delightfully fresh, but the sun even acts as a natural whitener and brightener, even removing set in stains, so you can ditch the bleach and harsh stain removers as well.

3. Hello, Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Markets in most parts of North America begin to open up between April and June, abundantly full of tasty, nutritious and seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Buying locally and seasonally encourages us to eat the bounty of each season. We learn to appreciate the ebbs and flows of the growing year, enjoy each food at its finest (both in taste and nutritional content), and it becomes more affordable to eat fresh, organic produce and kiss those pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers good-bye. 

Try searching Local Harvest to find a Farmer’s Market in your local area. Another option to consider is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which works beautifully for many people. Gardening in your own backyard is another of my favorite options, to supplement what I buy locally.


Photo by cogdogblog

4. Stay hydrated, plastic free

We all know by now that hoarding plastic pre-bottled water in our garage or car trunk isn’t the right way to go about getting in our requisite eight (or more) glasses of H2O per day.

If you haven’t already, invest in one (or even several) high quality stainless steel, refillable water bottles. You’ll avoid harmful BPA and other chemicals leaching out of the plastic bottles, keep unnecessary waste out of landfills and recycling plants, and ensure a supply of pure drinking water to keep you hydrated in the heat.

5. Protect your skin sensibly

If we all had a dollar for every time we’ve ever heard the importance of sunscreen espoused, we’d be rich. Yet, the sun also offers benefits to us– for our moods, our immune systems, our energy. Avoiding the sun and its rays altogether is neither necessary nor wise.

That said, practicing safe sun exposure is important. Avoid the sun during peak times of day (when the sun is at its highest and strongest). Wear light colored, loose clothing to cover up for long periods of exposure. Hats are helpful, especially for busily playing children. Do your best to avoid burning (this is when the greatest sun damage occurs), and be mindful of those with fairer and more delicate skin, infants and toddlers in particular.

When it comes to days when longer sun exposure is unavoidable, consider some of the safer and less chemical-laden sunscreen options available. EWG has an excellent safe sunscreen guide, and their research and recommendations are excellent.


Photo by Bob_Jenkins

6. Deal with weeds (sans chemicals)

Since most store-bought weed killers contain chemicals that are toxic to people (especially children), to animals, and to our water supply, doesn’t it make sense to learn to maintain your yard without them?

Better options for keeping the weeds at bay include:

  • Mulching to smother weeds (shredded bark, wood chips, rocks or gravel, newspaper, etc.)
  • Picking them by hand (easiest when they are small and after a rain or a brief watering)
  • Making your own weed killing formula (like this one or some of these ideas)

7. Choose deodorant, not antiperspirant

It’s important to avoid dangerous toxins like aluminum, and Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex (which is considered carcinogenic) is a common key ingredient in antiperspirants. Not only that, but blocking sweat glands isn’t a wise choice, either, as this prevent toxins from leaving the body, and interferes with our built-in internal “cooling” system.

Deodorant is a better option, and there are plenty of natural ones to choose from. Some common brands that you’ll find in-stores and online are deodorant Crystal SticksJASON, or Tom’s of Maine (or check the Skin Deep database for more options). Or, make your own with common kitchen ingredients like baking soda and coconut oil, either in a simple combination, or go fancy and make your own stick deodorant (it’s easy, really).


Photo by stevendepolo

8. Paint those piggies

I’m not a sock gal. Bare feet and sandals are my preference. Painted toe nails make feet cute and having prettily colored toes is just plain old fun.

Toxins aren’t fun, though. Formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates and more. These are some of the nasty and dangerous chemicals lurking in that innocent-seeming bottle of polish.

Thankfully, there are increasingly more options for toxin-free nail polish. A few that I’ve tried or heard good things about include: Piggy Paint (for kids), Honeybee Gardens, Zoya, Suncoat, Peacekeeper, Scotch Naturals and Karma Organic.

What are your natural-living goals for this spring?

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About Stephanie

Stephanie Langford has a passion for encouraging homemakers who want to make healthy changes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke, and (her newest!) through successful meal planning. Together she runs a music school teaching piano lessons in Surrey with her handsome husband, is mama to 4 little ones, and she is the editor and author of Keeper of the Home.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing all those natural bug repellant links! Just last night my family was outside playing and the bugs were out too. My toddler and I both had a few bites.

    My biggest goal for this spring/summer in regards to natural-living is growing a successful garden! So far, things are looking good. I’m excited about fresh {and very local!} veggies.

  2. I’m so excited to explore our local farmer’s market as this is our first Spring in a new area. And thanks for the links to homemade weed killer.

  3. Can’t wait to make some bug banisher and sunscreen for the first time this summer! I also love to line dry my clothes. Unfortunately, our HOA made a rule against clotheslines. :( We can’t even use our retractable one. I do use a folding drying rack outside, though–mostly for my diapers! Great list!

  4. Kristen says:

    I’m really glad I found this site – love hearing from you each day! I’m a newbie to all of this and it’s a great resource. thanks!

    Kris

  5. My dad, who is an agronomist, taught me that certain weeds mean that your soil is deficit in certain nutrients. Now we had a humongous patch of clover in our pack yard. I didn’t really mind how it felt, but it did look ‘weedy’ and the dandelions tended to flock to that spot as well. I asked my dad what he thought my soil was lacking and he suggested a few minerals (i’d have to check again). I followed his suggestions and this year our grass came back greener than ever and totally clover free. I would never have believed it would work that drastically if I hadn’t seen it!

  6. i’m interested in natural bug spray or repellent. especially the cinnamon one…any tips on how to use this?

  7. While these tips are great, there are 2 that I simply CANNOT do.

    1. NO line-drying clothes for me. I have severe allergies and this is not recommended for me since all of the allergens stick to the fabric this way.

    2. I have tried a million brands of non-antiperspirent and I smell like a pig. After two hours. Can’t live with that.

    • Tricia says:

      These are the exact 2 that we struggle with in our house as well. I would love to be able to hang clothes outside on the line…but I can just picture all the pollen collecting on them :(

      We struggle with the deodorant/antiperspirant issue as well. I sweat…A LOT! I also work full-time outside the the home. I just simply can’t stink and/or have huge sweat marks under my arms while in the office. To top it all off we’re also expecting baby #4 this summer which means more sweat of course.

  8. Good post! I think a lot of women don’t realize that there are toxins lurking in nail polish… I just wanted to say that I have tried piggy paints (they also have Piggy Paints Refined for adults) and I like them. It is a little tricky to get off with regular nail polish remover though. I got them from mylittlegreenshop.com.

  9. Love this list!
    Just to throw another one out there- for bug repellent, try vanilla! (it has to be real, without any corn syrup) it smells delightful and the bugs stay far away.

  10. Interesting Deodorant tip and great post overall! I look forward to living more toxin free this spring. :)

  11. This is a really great list. I’m actually going to invest in a line dryer for the outdoors, because we’ve got so much warm, sunny weather now…and I want to take advantage of the free sunshine to dry my clothes ;) :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of CAlifornia, Heather :) :) :)

  12. Line-Drying –
    I keep trying to line dry over and over again but I have to go back to my dryer because I can’t figure out how to not make the clothes so hard, crunchy and rough! It’s especially bad for towels and diapers! Does anyone have any solutions to this? Does it mean my clothes still have soap in them or something?

    • I use a drying rack all year long near a bank of windows with lots of sun. We don’t have to worry about pollen (luckily!), but would help with that, right? To prevent the crunchie feel I try to toss them in the dryer just before they’re completely dry–it helps some!

      Another question: a friend told me she’s started using a recycled glass jar for water to go because she doesn’t like the taste of water from metal containers. She hasn’t found any that fit in car drink holders though. Ideas?

      • There is a bottled water called Voss that comes in a glass bottle, it should fit in a cupholder. Buy one then just keep reusing it.

        • Thanks, Kay, that’s a great solution! I’ve never seen that brand…I’ll be on the lookout.

  13. I live in the South where the summers are brutal. While the baking soda/coconut oil deodorant works well for me in the winter, it’s not powerful enough to take on the summers here. I use Milk of Magnesia (sp?)…but check your labels…cheaper brands will likely contain aluminum, or lemon juice. Either one will carry me through an entire day with only one application.

  14. a) I’m about to swap to a stainless steel water bottle, but am curious: with daily-used water bottles that are basically damp all the time, how do you keep them clean from mold? (without bleach, ideally) Is it safe to use boiling water on the lids/seals? Or is the key to have several and rotate them so that they can fully dry between washings? We don’t have a dishwasher.

    b) Aroma-based bug repellents sometimes work to scare off mosquitoes, but citronella at least does not eliminate problems with ticks. Ticks aren’t a big problem in the PNW, but other areas may want to be more cautious due to Lyme, etc. – the East coast in particular is at risk for a “bad” tick season since the winter was unusually mild. If the skin absorption of conventional repellant is a concern, doing light full-coverage clothing and spraying repellant over the top of that that can work out well, focusing on the places where clothing joins (socks-pants, waist, etc.) or where clothing is thin enough for bugs to bite through. Some repellants don’t mix well with some clothing options (staining, etc.), but otherwise it’s a decent compromise, and you end up less bug-spray-stinky/sticky. I still spray my hair/face/neck/hands, but at least it’s less surface area?

    • KC, we give our bottles a good swish out with fresh water daily, before refilling, and then once a week I chuck in some bicarbonate soda and vinegar, pop the lid on loosely and give them a good shake. Rinse them again until the vinegar smell has gone. This has kept our bottles clean and fresh for years! The vinegar keeps the mold away and the bicarb keeps them odor free.
      Hope that helps :)

  15. Nicole says:

    ooh, thanks for the natural week killer info!

  16. I love going natural so thanks for posting these tips.
    Kathryn Dilligard´s latest post: thesiteowl.com

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