Ask Your Questions About Toxic Free Living
and Get Answers From Me and My Readers

I’ve been doing this Q&A blog for about ten years, so there are literally thousands of questions and answers here. If you’ve got a question, there’s probably an answer, and if there isn’t post a question of your own. It’s free.

Dental Floss

Question from Matt Carter

Hi Debra,

I know you posted before that you use a Hydrafloss and I am looking into getting one, but in the meantime am looking for a safe dental floss option. I have found two types of floss that are unwaxed nylon (POH and Dr. Collins) would these be the safest options in terms of regular floss? I also looked into some wood pick options instead of floss but was concerned if the wood might have been treated with anything. Thank you!.

Debra’s Answer

All flosses I’ve been able to find are made from nylon, so these are as safe as any others. The things to watch out for with dental floss are the waxes and flavorings.

When I used to use floss, I tried using heavy cotton sewing thread. Worked just fine.

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Question from Beverly Shutes

Hi Debra,

The popcorn on my living room ceiling is cracked and falling down. I have found someone to repair the ceiling for me and they have stated that once the popcorn is scraped and removed, they coat the ceiling (which is poured concrete) with a product called Plaster-Weld.

They stated that it smells terrible for a couple of hours and request you leave, but then the smell goes away. It is necessary to bond the plaster to the concrete. After application, they skim coat, prime and paint (Benjamin Moore Natura no VOC paint).

The MDS for Plaster-Weld is here:

I’m not sure of any alternatives, but I try to keep things as chemical free as possible for my baby and I. Do you have any thoughts on this product?

Debra’s Answer

The MSDS states that the health effects are minor irritation, but the product should be used in a well ventilated area.

My experience has been that many products have odors and offgas during application, and then when dry can be completely inert.

I agree you should leave while it’s being applied, but once it is dry, I don’t see a problem.

Readers, any experience with this product or alternatives to suggest?

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Car Outgassing

Question from Chris Condon

Hi Debra,

I have a question about cars outgassing. Many people who are chemically sensitive buy used cars in preference to new to avoid the new car chemicals. Do cars that have been driven in hot climate outgas faster and better than cars driven in cold climates? And how about humidity? Do cars outgas better in humid than dry climates or vice versa? I imagine that if you want to buy an outgassed car you might be better off going to Tuscon or Phoenix, where they have fierce summer heat combined with low humidity, buying it there and driving it back home, provided Phoenix and Tucson are not too far away. I would assume a car driven in the Arizona summers would outgas its chemicals faster than anywhere else.

From past experience I gather than the chemicals put into leather are much more toxic than the chemicals put into cloth automotive upholstery. Worse still, based on my own experience, leather never completely outgasses its chemicals, so that buying a used car in preference to new is not a satisfactory solution with respect to leather, because no matter how old the car is, there are always some chemicals still coming out of the leather. (I once had a beautiful Saab, but was still having allergy problems while driving it even when the car was 7-8 years old and supposedly completely outgassed. )The best solution for chemically sensitive people is to avoid cars with leather upholstery altogether and stick to cloth. But if you can suggest some way to completely outgas leather, I might change my mind on leather.

Debra’s Answer

Car interiors outgassing is one of the most difficult challenges for MCS. I’ve written about this before, so will just answer your question and summarize.

Yes, a car in a hot climate will outgas faster than one in a cold climate. Your logic is correct.

I’m not sure I would agree that the chemicals in leather are worse than the chemicals in cloth. I much prefer the leather myself, but everyone is individual with MCS.

Things I have done to minimize exposure from car interiors are:

  • Use an air filter such as the Foust Auto Air Filter
  • Install a sunroof so the fumes can rise and escape without bringing car exhaust in through the side windows being open
  • Reupholster (yes I’ve done this—reupholstered the bucket seats in a sports car with cotton canvas.

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Filling Cracks in Concrete

Question from Suzanne Foster

Hi Debra,

I have removed the carpeting from my bedroom and bathroom. The concrete floor has several large cracks in it from where the building has settled. Is there any non-toxic product to fill the cracks?

I am very sensitive to smells and will not be able to move elsewhere while and after it is done.

Thank you so much for all that you do.

Debra’s Answer

First, here’s an article that outlines the basics of filling cracks in cement: WiseGEEK: How Can I Repair Cracks in Concrete?

It says to use a siliconized latex concrete caulk or concrete patching compound. Both are likely to contain some toxic ingredients.

But you can follow these instructions and just use regular concrete powder mixed with water for the patch.

A lot of concrete crack fillers are designed to fill concrete cracks outdoors, thus the toxic ingredients for waterproofing. But indoors you don’t need this.

If you need to, put a thin “skim coat” of concrete over the entire floor so the crack repairs will not be visible.

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Wrinkle Treatments

Question from Kiki Li

Hi Debra,

I recently read your book Toxic Free and have been doing my best to transition into living a chemical free lifestyle. I work in the beauty industry and was an avid Botox and dermal filler client which I have stopped doing since reading your book.

I would like your opinion on the safety in terms of toxicity of treatments such as thermage and fraxel which uses radio frequency and lasers.

Also I assume without saying that Botox and dermal fillers are unnatural and toxic but I would like your confirmation as well.

Debra’s Answer

You don’t have to look far to find information on the side effects of botox injections. Just search on “botox health effects ” and you’ll get warnings from The Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and other mainstream medical sites.

Botox is a drug made from a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum called botulinum toxin. A neurotoxin. That means it’s toxic to the nervous system. When you get a botox treatment you are just injecting a toxic substance into your body.

There are three types of dermal fillers, each with their own health effects. Here’s a good article on WebMD that gives a breakdown of available wrinkle fillers, their basic ingredients, how they work, and their pros and cons: WebMD: What you should know about wrinkle fillers.

If you want to reduce your wrinkles, it’s best to use a natural product, such as Touchstone Essentials’ Super Serum I personally know people using this all-natural product and I’ve seen dramatic changes in their skin. You can see a before and after picture.

There are other natural skin restoring products that reduce wrinkles by nourishing the skin topically and from within. Better to choose one of those.

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Citric Acid Deodorant

Question from Susan Hayden

Hi Debra,

Why don’t people just mix up some pharm grade citric acid in water…and use under their arms!!!.

It’s super cheap and works amazingly well, even on my athletic-type husband.

Deoderant is just another one of those products that have been marketed really well – branded images, stupid artificial fragrances and fancy packaging.

That’s all. Just do it.

Debra’s Answer

Thanks for the tip!

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DIY Natural Bedding

Question from cheseldm

Hi Debra,

I found this company on line and thought you and your readers would be interested. I am not connected with this company. Just interested in creating a non-toxic home.

P.S. Thank you for your wonderful website. It has greatly help me and my husband.

Debra’s Answer

Oh this is great! Thank you! I’m going to put this on Debra’s List.

DIY Natural Bedding is about letting you have your mattress and pillow your way. They have all the natural materials (including GOTS certified organic fabrics). They have patterns so you can get materials and make your own mattress at home, or they will sew it for you. You choose and control everything.

Mattress fill is latex or wool, more choices for pillows. They even sell the notions, like zipper by the foot.

I just spoke with Deborah and she’s going to be a guest on Toxic Free Talk Radio on Tuesday, 24 February 15. Listen live or play the archived recording.

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Nontoxic dresser and night stand

Question from L Budin

Hi Debra,

I would like a list of furniture manufacturers who make furniture that is free of carcinagens and toxic odors. I am asthmatic and have gone thru two different sets of bedroom furniture that I now have to discard. Help!

Debra’s Answer

I don’t have a list of manufacturers, but you probably have some nontoxic wood furniture right in your own community.

Look in the yellow pages for “unfinished wood furniture.”

I have purchased most of my furniture at unfinished wood furniture stores. Most of the pieces still don’t have any finish on them—just bare wood. But you can finish them yourself with any nontoxic finish.

Everything I didn’t buy at an unfinished wood furniture store I bought used at auctions or salvage stores. My desk where I write every day is an old oak library table from Stanford University that was taken apart and was sitting in pieces at a salvage yard. All the edges were frayed but it was a beautiful table. My husband sawed the edges off and put an edging of purpleheart wood and a nontoxic finish. It’s the most gorgeous desk in the world. $50 for the desk and I don’t remember how much the purpleheart wood was, maybe another $50. So $100 and lots of love. I should take a picture…

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Fumes from Maytag Gas Range

Question from sttlove

I purchased a new Maytag gas range, but have been unable to use the oven because the fumes make my eyes burn and give me a headache. I called the company and they said it is a coating and it needs to burn off, but it still hasn’t. I suspect that it is the insulation inside the oven that is bothering me.

Would an oven that doesn’t have self-cleaning be less toxic because it would have less insulation and coatings inside?

Are there any recommendations on a gas oven brand or model that is less toxic?

Or, should I continue on my hunt for a used one that has finished its off-gassing?

Debra’s Answer

You’re best bet is to get a used oven that has finished outgassing.

The last oven I bought was a Whirlpool gas range that was a floor model. It had been sitting there quite some time and when I brought it home there were no odors of any kind. I think it was because it had been sitting out on the floor for months.

Mattress fill is latex or wool, more choices for pillows. They even sell the notions, like zipper by the foot.

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