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Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home Spiral-bound – April 1, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
I gave this five stars after first leafing through a lot of it in a store that doesn't follow the Method manner at all. Then I ordered it from Amazon. A huge plus is the flip- book, loose leaf, graphics-packed format, although that has a predictable downside. While the ideas in this book range all throughout the house, they necessarily focus in certain areas, those taken from the sources and studies named in the back (which allows readers to track them down). It would take a review as long as this book to mention everything in it, so I'll merely hit a few points.
The authors pinpoint problems in the home related to cleaning, and then give a few suggestions. The obvious one, which they resist saying outright, is switch to Method products. A strength of this book is that each chapter ends with a brief checklist, and one can make a change in five minutes. It's a bit more difficult to throw away a bottle than to simply litter, but not much harder to recycle it. A small difference over time, or made by a lot of people, equals a big change. This book arms the reader to make such decisions.
How? Often by just reading the label of a product. The authors list what they consider to be bad ingredients and why. Nearly always this depends on the studies listed in the back, so the lists are uneven. Surprisingly, some items you think have those ingredients may not, and others in which you'd not suspect them, do.
One ingredient they say is bad in dental products is triclosan. Guess what? It's not in Aim. Another chemical they're against in personal products is paraben, although they're not clear if polyparaben is worse than methylparaben or if they're all bad. That is in a lot of stuff. Can stuff be made without it? One thing it's not in is Gillette Foamy shave cream (which also contains no CFCs). I know; I looked.
Another thing they're very against is EDTA (that's spelled out somewhere in the book, so you can look for it in the ingredients list). Some cleaning products have "endocrine or hormone disruptors" which mimic estrogen, causing early puberty in girls, and reduced organs in males. What I don't find in this book, although I haven't read it all, is that early studies linked this to ingredients in clothes detergents. The extra brightners are actually ultraviolet dyes, and enzymes eat your clothes rather than clean them, which is why I switched to a brand called Planet that contains none of the above.
Another bad thing is PBDEs, in mattresses to make them flame-retardant. California is supposed to ban them this year, and Ikea stopped using them in its mattresses years ago. The authors have all sorts of suggestions here, including using a HEPA filter vacuum.
One way to check out your home is simply to breathe in. The shower curtain smells like plastic. The paint smells like paint. The cleaning products smell toxic. That's called off-gassing, say the authors, and you breathe that in. The heart and strength of the book is devoted to finding alternative solutions to these common problems, and here the authors excell.
This is the only book I've come across that is even slightly honest about CFLs (compact flourescent lamps). "Lots of people complain that CFL bulbs are too harsh, too white, and way too bright." Their solution is silicone covered CFL bulbs that "mimic the yellow light". Anyone concerned about the chemicals in their body ought to be slighly concerned about the quality of light. CFLs are always rated against incandescent bulbs, which are only 40 per cent efficient and haven't changed since Edison. What they're never rated against is halogen, which has the spectrum of natural light, and gives two to four times as much light and heat per watt. CFLs are literally propping up a bad idea from the Dark Ages: flourescent lamps (don't ever try to read by a CFL). Why? Philips has taken leaps and bounds with halogen in Europe, while the largest electronics company in America is behind the flourescent light lobby. How surprising eco-activists would side with them (and flourescent lamps are toxic), instead of giving a green light to a new method in energy conservation: halogen light.
Today is that day. I'm doing both.
I'm renting a new place with particularly stubborn tub dirt, but the air quality in here is already suspect, and I didn't just want to fumigate myself every time I worked on the stubborn tub. Vodka, vinegar, bleach, and traditional cleaners were striking out for me, so I grabbed the book to see if it had any bright ideas.
It has none. I mean, absolutely none.
The title says "Squeaky Green." I thought that this was obviously a book of do's, don'ts, and how-tos. One out of three isn't so hot: this book contains only "don't."
Watch for triclosan in your toothpaste, don't use traditional commercial cleaners, and go buy natural alternatives is all the book suggests. No mention of vinegar, no baking soda, no elbow grease, hardly a single cleaning tip to be found. (I found ONE: hang a sprig of eucalyptus in your shower to un-gunk your sinuses in the morning. Thanks?) I flipped to the cover to confirm that I had the right book in hand. "Method: 100% good stuff," the seal claims. "The method guide to detoxing your home."
The Method method, unsurprisingly, appears to involve purchasing 'green' cleaners for anything that ails your home. That's a matter of preference, and I have no personal beef with their products, but my poor snap-judgement mother bought this thinking it might be useful. Instead, it's a book of marketing. The photos are beautiful, the 'dangers' in your home are driven home in punchy quips, and product placement ain't subtle.
I'm actively unimpressed. No, scratch that: I'm impressed that they got people to pay them to be marketed to.
This is the kind of book I feel guilty about donating. Recycling something that took effort to print and that someone might find useful is silly, but I fail to see how anyone benefits from this book. By the time you pick it up, you're probably picking it up because you already know or believe that there are cleaning solutions that are better for human and environmental health, so the scaremongering between the pages is frightening the proverbial choir. The few tips included in the book pale in comparison to the average "how to clean green" women's magazine article or blog post, so save yourself some cash and go pick up a Better Home and Garden, a Shop Smart, or Consumer Reports. Alternatively, use Google's search engine to see what the latest buzz on green cleaning projects might be.
I do concede that if you're uncertain what all the environmental housecleaning "don'ts" are, this book has merit. It quickly, succinctly, and accurately names major heath and environmental hazards. I think the logical next step is to follow each "don't" with a "do," but the unwritten, implied "do" is "now go buy a method product to replace that scary thing you were using."
Again, I have no complaint with Method products, but they aren't always necessary. The easiest way to clean a water bottle is by shaking baking soda in it and wiping the mouth with a hot soapy cloth, then rinsing. Salt and olive oil are an excellent exfoliant. Filtered water and a clean microcloth do an amazing job cleaning mirrors, as well as all the shiny metal hardware in your bathroom. Method doesn't sell a tap water filter that I'm aware of, but Pur- and Brita- type filters are excellent for removing calcium (not a health hazard, but definitely a nuisance), small amounts of lead, and chlorine from your drinking and cooking water.
One last minor gripe: bad grammar. I didn't remove stars for this, because the subject matter far outweighs grammar concerns for safe cleaning, but it was a little distracting. "Where does your home end and you begin?" and "She wants . . . and me, her son, wants to . . . . "
Where does you end? Me wants to? It's just a mismatch of subject and verb when the subject is complex, and it's pretty minor, but it's there. (Heck, I caved to pluralizing "do" with an apostrophe for readability in this very review. No one's perfect).
If you see this book at a salvo shop, you have my humble apologies. I'm hoping you can find the pretty pictures useful for decoupage or something.