Spring cleaning: It’s time to toss the chemicals hiding in your cupboards


By Guest contributor Shannon Wianecki

During a recent spring-cleaning session, I scoured my cupboards for hidden toxins and synthetic chemicals. I opened my toiletries bag and chucked half-used jars of fancy face cream. I eighty-sixed harsh cleaners and petroleum-based first aid items. I replaced these chemical-laden cast-offs with simple, sustainable alternatives—many of which I already had in my kitchen. Here are a few examples:

Face cream

Toss: Expensive brands with parabens and other toxins

Use instead: Coconut oil, ghee, or Banyan Botanical’s Beauty Balm. It’s an Ayurvedic blend of ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax, shatavari root, ashwagandha root, vidari kanda root, fennel seed, licorice root and geranium essential oil. I also use Dr. Hauschka’s Rose Day Cream, which smells fabulous.

Hale Pule also makes wonderful face oils, specific for each dosha.


Toss: Sunscreens with chemical blocks, such as avobenzone or oxybenzone.

Use instead: Physical blocks with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; long sleeves, sunglasses and hats. I avoid the midday sun and limit my outdoor adventuring to the early morning and late afternoon hours, which are usually the nicest times to be outside anyway.


Toss: Aluminum-based deodorants

Use instead: Crystal Rock (potassium alum). I always thought body odor was a fact of life; I didn’t realize that it was actually a symptom of poor digestion. After I cut out onions, garlic and coffee, my body odor decreased dramatically. Now that my diet is cleaner, my armpits don’t smell as strong and the rock works great! Bonus: I don’t have to wash my clothes after a single wearing.


Toss: All synthetic fragrances

Use instead: Sustainably harvested essential oils. They last longer than synthetic perfumes, connect me to the powerful essence of plants and transform subtly throughout the day. I especially love Hale Pule’s Sattva aromatherapy blend.

Body lotion

Toss: Fancy lotions with parabens and other toxins

Use instead: Coconut oil (this and neem oil also work as sexual lubricant) or sesame oil infused with Ayurvedic herbs. These beneficial oils soak right into the joints and lubricate the ligaments.

Rash ointment/burn relief

Toss: Synthetic gel or petroleum jelly

Use instead: Ghee, comfrey salve or fresh aloe vera leaf. I keep an aloe plant in my kitchen to treat burns and excess sun exposure.

Cleaning products

Toss: Major brand cleaners with ingredients, such as triclosan

Use instead: Vegetable-based soaps, such as Miracle Soap, and scouring powder, such as Bon Ami. Between these two, I can clean everything from mirrors to ovens. I add a few drops of bleach when cleaning toilets.

Flea and tick treatment/insect repellant

Toss: Imidacloprid, DEET

Use instead: Neem oil and a spray made with citronella, tea tree and lavender essential oils, Neem oil smells strong, but it makes my dog’s coat extra shiny and keeps the pests at bay. (It’s also great for my hair.) I use the essential oil spray to freshen bed sheets and curtains and deter mosquitos and bedbugs.

The more I embrace a Yogic lifestyle, the more I seek to embody ahimsa, non-violence, in my consumption choices. When shopping, I review a product’s ingredients and ask myself: How might this affect my health and the health of the natural environment? How sustainable is its production process—from harvesting the raw materials, creating and packaging it, and finally disposing of it? And the biggest question: Do I need it? I’ve found that I can get by with half (or less) of what I once thought was essential.

Visit our Ayurveda Lifestyle page for natural personal care products

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