Thursday, March 14, 2013

Money Down the Drain

Buying commercial cleaners is not only adding toxins to your home, it's throwing money down the drain.

The cost of cleaning can be just pennies.  Nontoxic ingredients are cheap, cheap, cheap...and they work just as well as the smelly, toxic cleaners in the store.  Vinegar, baking soda, and liquid soap do not have frightening labels telling you how to call the poison control center. 

Think about what you're buying when you purchase a commercial cleaner:
  • Advertising and Marketing - The companies must convince the masses that the product is essential for a clean home.  New, improved, will rev up your sex life, make your neighbors jealous...
  • Chemical Engineering - Someone has to figure out how to make ammonia smell like a tropical rain forest--and make it a lovely green color!
  • Packaging, Shipping, and Shelf Space - OK, the nontoxic ingredients have the same issues, but I don't think the vinegar companies go to quite so much effort as the drain cleaners in their packaging designs.

What's the Difference in Cost of Typical Cleaning Products Versus Nontoxic Cleaners?

Using simple math (the kind I'm best at), I've calculated the comparable costs of nontoxic cleaners versus store-bought toxic cleaners.  Check it out!  (And hey, those are rounding errors--not my fault!)  Want to save some money and have a clean, nontoxic home?  Make your own cleaners....  (See the Recipes page)

Glass Cleaner - Windex Original costs $3.69 for 26 ounces or $0.14/ounce versus a nontoxic homemade cleaner costs $0.52 for 26 ounces or $0.02/ounce.  That's 86% cheaper.

All-Purpose Cleaner - Simple Green (boo, hiss! Greenwashing at its worst) costs $3.79 for 22 ounces or $0.17 an ounce versus a nontoxic homemade cleaner at $0.44 for 22 ounces or $0.02 an ounce.  That's 96% cheaper.

Abrasive Powder - Comet costs $0.75 for 14 ounces or $0.05 an ounce versus baking soda at $1.69 for 14 ounces or $0.12 an ounce.  OK, OK, this is one that's cheaper to buy the commercial brand, but you already have baking soda in the cupboard--and if you bought baking soda in bulk it would cost less than what I've calculated.  That's 25% more expensive for the box type of baking soda.

Abrasive Scrub - Soft Scrub costs $3.49 for 24 ounces or $0.15 an ounce versus a nontoxic homemade cleaner at $2.64 for 24 ounces or $0.11 an ounce.  That's 15% cheaper.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner costs $2.69 for 24 ounces or $0.11 an ounce versus $0.48 for 24 ounces of white vinegar or $0.02 an ounce.  That's 96% cheaper.

Drain Opener - Liquid Plumber costs $3.99 for 32 ounces or $0.12 an ounce.  A vinegar and baking soda cleanse costs $0.30 for one application to keep your drain clean or $0.04 an ounce.  That's 93% cheaper.

So, if reading the tiny print on the commercial cleaners doesn't make your palms sweat, then maybe saving some cash will get you to convert to simple, nontoxic cleaning.  That can be 100% safer!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Second-Hand Smoke and Pets

I have heard a lot about second-hand smoke and its impact on humans; but I hadn't heard anything about the impact on pets.

Recently, I went to visit a friend for several days (we'll call her "Lily").  We hadn't seen each other in 20 years so Lily reminded me that she smokes.  I thought, "no big deal, she doesn't smoke in the side of the house where I'll sleep."  And it wasn't that big of a deal because I was mentally prepared, but it did remind me how much I hate smoking.  The smoke travels around the house, and I would wake up with a smoke taste on the roof of my mouth.  And I always knew when Lily lit up even if I was at the opposite side of the house.

Lily isn't just a smoker.  She's a million other wonderful things.  She's kind-hearted to an extreme, and she rescues animals that otherwise might be put down or die from exposure.  She has 10 cats, two dogs, and a rabbit between two homes.  The stories about their previous lives make me want to cry, and I'm so grateful for people like Lily.  One cat had been shot in the face, and Lily made sure he had all the care he needed to recover as much as possible.  He's now a pretty robust cat--loving and playful.

There were seven cats in the house where I stayed, and I absolutely fell in love with one cat named Ginger Snap.  She's a Siamese kitty with a heart of gold.  Unfortunately Ginger Snap has allergies and trouble breathing sometimes.  It's heartbreaking when she has a sneezing jag.  Ginger Snap was an abandoned or lost kitten that scratched on a motel door when Lily was traveling.  She looked for the owner, but no one seemed to know anything about this kitty.  Ginger Snap has been with my friend for about 8 years now.  This kitty has been on several medications and is now on two--one for allergies and one for high blood pressure. 

Aside from Ginger Snap, a couple other kitties there have more minor wheezing or sneezing.  I thought, this can't be a coincidence.  The smoking is so irritating to my respiratory system, I wondered what could it be doing to small animals who are subjected to it for several hours a day.

According to several sources such as Petside, Science Daily, Petfinder, ASPCA, and the American Journal of Epidemiology, there is a definite link between a pet's health and its exposure to secondhand smoke.  There are 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, and 43 are known to cause cancer.

Breathe New Hampshire cites the following impacts of secondhand smoke to pets: 
  • Cats exposed to secondhand smoke in the home have a higher rate of an oral cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which may be due to the way cats groom themselves. When cats groom themselves they eat the poisons from secondhand smoke that have settled on their fur.
  • Cats exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher rate of feline lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer, than cats not exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Cats can develop respiratory problems, lung inflammation, and asthma as a result of secondhand smoke.
  • Dogs that inhale secondhand smoke are three times more likely to develop lung or nasal cancer than dogs living in smoke-free homes.
  • Dogs can experience allergic reactions to secondhand smoke.  Common symptoms of this allergic reaction are the scratching, biting, and chewing of their skin. Owners often confuse this reaction with fleas or food allergies.
  • Cigarette butts can also be deadly. Two butts, if eaten by a puppy, can cause death in a relatively short period of time.
  • Birds can react badly to secondhand smoke and may develop eye problems, as well as other respiratory problems like coughing and wheezing.
  • Birds that sit on a smoker’s hand can experience contact dermatitis from the nicotine that remains on the smoker’s hand. This can cause them to pull out their feathers.

What Can You Do If You Smoke and Have Pets?

You can quit smoking.  I know this is a tall order.  I am a nonsmoker so I don't fully comprehend the difficulty of quitting smoking.  My Dad quit after a few decades of smoking.  He was hypnotized once, but I think he just really wanted to quit.  My co-worker quit by using nicotine gum, but he's been chewing this type of gum for years now--a better addiction, I guess.  And my niece quit for vanity--she noticed a wrinkle on her face she felt was caused by the cigarette smoke since we know a few women who smoke and their faces look ravaged.

Well, if you can't quit for your own health, maybe considering your innocent pets as well as the humans that live with you might help you to give quitting a good try.  If you fail, don't stop trying.  The road to change is not a straight line.

You could also only smoke out of doors so you're not contaminating the air, furniture, curtains, and carpeting in your home as well as your pet's fur and respiratory system.  Your pets will thank you for it--and it will reduce your vet bills.

Photo source for smoker