How to get clean without chemicals

Two ways to stay spiffy without hurting the lake

By Ray FordRay Ford


Photo by Nature Clean

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Look for the EcoLogo

Canada’s Environmental Choice certification for soaps and shampoos includes biodegradability tests, and a ban on phosphates and harmful ingredients, including EDTA, and alkylphenol ethoxylates, surfactants that break down to produce nonylphenols. But there aren’t a lot of EcoLogo-certified personal-care products available. Only two companies, Deb Canada and Nature Clean, have certified shampoos on the market.

Use elbow grease

It’s the missing ingredient that’s not on the label, and never part of a marketing campaign, but a little effort and persnicketiness can trump harmful chemical cleaners. Take handwashing: Conventional soap merely makes your hands slippery enough to rinse off dirt, organic material, and bacteria. You don’t need a fancy germ-killer, you just need to work the soap around for about 15 seconds before rinsing. “It’s really a mechanical cleansing,” says Dr. Lindsay Nicolle, a professor of internal medicine and medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba.

When soap and water aren’t handy (such as in the outhouse), alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a lake-safe option. But they only tackle microbes, not actual dirt. “If you’ve got soiled hands, they don’t get through the dirt,” says Nicolle. Maintain a buffer zone Put as much distance as possible between your cleaners and the lake. Bathing in the lake is always a bad idea, but so is washing the boat or car near the water. A buffer zone of plants and trees, combined with good septic maintenance, will help scrub out contaminants before they hit the water.

This article was originally published on April 24, 2008

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Jan. 18, 2012

7:59 pm

I think the key is "bathing in the lake is always a bad idea". We need to spread the word to all of our cottage neighbors and friends that this is not acceptable. These featured products are great, but we need to remember to keep them out of the water!

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