Home Care: Tips from MaryJane Butters

Source: Adapted from MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook by MaryJane Butters (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2005).

Make Your Carpet Safe
Good news: You can seal the carpet in your house with a three-step process using products that form a barrier to prevent outgassing. Carpets are built with nasty things like formaldehyde and 1,1,1 trichloroethane, which release an alphabet soup of unpronounceable compounds, most of which challenge your immune system. Many of these toxins stay with you and accumulate in your body. Outgassing is like evaporation, only with solid materials. It happens because even the densest solid material isn’t really solid. There are spaces between the molecules, and the molecules work their way into your air.

In the ’70s, Nester Noe, a manufacturer of paints and watersealers, became alarmed when he and his employees started becoming ill. Mr. Noe asked his company chemist to explore alternatives to toxic ingredients. His first product was Safe Seal, which got its first major trial at an armed forces hospital in Nevada that had closed because it actually had made patients sicker. After coating the interior of the facility with Noe’s Safe Seal, they reopened successfully. Today, Noe’s company (800-239-0321, www.afmsafecoat.com) provides a complete range of chemically responsible building and maintenance products. One of their dealers, Green Building Supply (www.greenbuildingsupply.com), in Fairfield, Iowa, will ship AFM products to you via mail order. Call and ask for Joel Hirshberg (888-405-0222), who can explain more to you about the three-step process. It involves renting a carpet shampooer, buying a small hand-held garden sprayer, using a clean garage broom, and then letting the carpet dry completely. Use the three-step process and soon you can have carpeting that is safe.

Furniture Polish
Most aerosol furniture polishes contain harmful additives like nitrobenzene and phenol. For a healthier home, you can make your own polish. For routine dusting, put one cup of warm water into a spray bottle. Add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender, lemon, or pine. Shake well and spray two or three shots onto a lint-free cloth. It’s simple, but it works. Launder your dust cloth after every use.

If you have some furniture that is unvarnished, you’ll want to oil it occasionally. In a small jar with a lid, mix 1 tablespoon olive oil with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. (Pour the lemon juice through a strainer so it’s free of pulp.) Shake it up and apply with a clean, lint-free cloth. The lemon juice dissolves the accumulated dirt, and the oil is absorbed into the wood, replenishing the natural oils that have been lost over time.

For over 400 pages of wonderful farmgirl thoughts and ideas like these, check out: MaryJanesFarm Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook and to learn more about MaryJanesFarm, visit www.maryjanesfarm.org.