Everything You Need to Know About Killing Mould Naturally

Natural Ways to Kill Mould

Why is mould a problem?

Mould is not just unsightly, it can be the cause of health issues. The Victorian government health website says:

“Mould associated with damp buildings can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, wheeze, respiratory infections and worsen asthma and allergic conditions.

People with weakened immune systems; allergies; severe asthma; chronic, obstructive, or allergic lung diseases are more susceptible to these symptoms and other serious health effects.”

How do you prevent mould?

Clearly, mould is something that you need to both prevent, and remove. There are a few ways that you can prevent mould in the first place:

  • Fix any leaks – leaky pipes or windows mean water sitting around, often in hard to reach places like the backs of cupboards, which is where mould will thrive.
  • If you’ve got exhaust fans, use them! Especially in the bathroom when you’re showering, and in the kitchen when you’re cooking or using the dishwasher.
  • Make sure that clothes dryers are vented outside.
  • Seal tiles and grout properly to prevent mould from growing around sinks, showers and baths.
  • Make sure that you dry towels, bathmats, tea towels and dishcloths thoroughly.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Invest in a dehumidifier.

The next step is getting rid of any mould that’s there.

Mouldy Bathroom
Image Credit: Andrew Ratto on Flickr

Should you use bleach to clean up mould?

While you might be tempted to use chlorine bleach to get rid of mould, don’t do it. Bleach only kills the mould spores that it comes into contact with. So it will work on a benchtop or tiles, but it won’t kill mould spores in porous surfaces like grout or timber. Which are exactly the places that you’re trying to kill the mould.

The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you don’t use bleach to get rid of mould. Bleach is corrosive, so it will damage the surfaces that you use it on.

It can also damage your lungs if you breathe it in, and can cause chemical burns if it touches your skin. If you mix bleach with vinegar or ammonia, it creates toxic fumes.

Not only that, but there are concerns about the dioxins that bleach leaves behind.

So chlorine bleach isn’t the answer to getting rid of mould.

How to kill mould naturally

Fortunately, there are lots of tried and tested natural ways to clean up mould. 

Some natural solutions are:

  • vinegar
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • alcohol
  • baking soda
  • borax
  • tea tree oil
  • clove oil
  • grapefruit seed extract


Vinegar is perfect for getting rid of mould. Just use the cheap white vinegar you can buy in 2L containers at the supermarket.

Dr Leigh Winsor is a mould expert, working at James Cook Univertsity in Townsville for more than 20 years. Dr Winsor recommends cleaning up mould using a mixture of eight parts vinegar to two parts water and a microfibre cloth.

“So you’d have three buckets, you’ll have your 80% vinegar solution (for killing the mould) and you’ll have one that’s half that concentration (for rinsing your cloth) and then you’ll have one that is just water (second rinse),” he explains.

You can also use vinegar to remove mould on clothes or other fabric items. Soak the item in a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water overnight, and then wash and dry as normal.

A vinegar spray can also be used as a preventative measure. Spray it around the shower or other places that are prone to damp and just leave it while it dries. Use vinegar to kill mould

Hydrogen Peroxide

You can buy sodium percarbonate at home brew shops. It’s a powder that you then mix with water to make hydrogen peroxide. You can also buy hydrogen peroxide at supermarkets and chemists.

Hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to chlorine bleach. It’s cheap, non toxic, and it doesn’t produce toxic fumes or leave a toxic residue.


Organic Authority recommends killing mould with vodka. Pour cheap vodka into a spray bottle and spritz away at the mould. Leave it to sit for around half an hour, then scrub it off with a rag or a sponge.

Put away the Grey Goose, because thankfully cheap vodka works better than more expensive stuff. It’s been filtered and distilled less, so it’s got more congeners like methanol and acetaldehyde which will kill mould very effectively.

Baking soda

Use baking soda with water or with a mix of water and vinegar to remove mould. Baking soda is mild, and it’s completely non toxic, so it’s a safe choice to use around children and pets.

To mix up the solution, put a quarter of a tablespoon of baking soda into a spray bottle filled with either just water, or with a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar. Shake the bottle until the baking soda is dissolved, then spray onto the surface. Leave it to sit for half an hour or so, then scrub off with a cloth or scrubbing brush.


Mould can also be killed with borax. Borax is a mild skin irritant, and it can be toxic if ingested, so if you do choose this, make sure you keep it out of the way of pets and children.

Mix the borax with water, spray on to the mould area, and then wipe it off. There’s no need to rinse it off, because the borax solution will keep killing the mould.

Update on borax: borax is classified as being toxic for reproduction. It may impair fertility and it may be harmful to unborn children. It’s definitely not suitable to be used if you’re pregnant or are wanting to have more children.

Tea tree oil

Good old Aussie tea tree oil is brilliant for removing mould. It’s antifungal and antibacterial, which is exactly what you need. And it’s really easy to use. Make up a solution by mixing a couple of teaspoons of tea tree oil in a spray bottle with two cups of water, shake it up and spray it on.

Leave it for a while, then give the area a good scrub and wipe it down. Give it another spray to prevent any more mould from growing.

Clove oil

Clove oil is another natural way to kill mould. It’s antibacterial and antifungal, just like tea tree oil, so it’s perfect for using in a water and oil spray solution. You can even use clove oil in a diffuser to kill mould spores in the air.

Grapefruit seed extract

You can also clear up mould with grapefruit seed extract. If you don’t like the strong smells of vinegar, or tea tree or clove oils, grapefruit seed extract will do the job.  Make a solution of 1/4 of a teaspoon of grapefruit seed extract in two cups of water, shake it up in a spray bottle and apply it in the same way as the tea tree oil and clove oil solutions.

So there you have it. Lots of solutions for preventing mould in the first place, and for getting rid of it naturally if you do get it. 

What’s your favourite solution for killing mould naturally? Share in the comments below!


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The Complete Beginners Guide to Baby Colic

Complete Beginners Guide to Baby Colic

Complete Beginners Guide to Baby ColicColic has no identifiable cause. It’s not a medical syndrome, digestive malfunction or an illness. And yet according to Dr Luisa Dilner in the Guardian, it’s estimated that between 5-20% of babies are affected by colic.

What is colic? 

Colic is an unexplained, regular cycle of crying that extends for bouts of up to 3 hours at a time, usually occurring in the afternoon or evening. It appears as though your baby has abdominal pain, which, combined with the fact that it generally occurs between the ages of two weeks and three months once the digestive system has had time to mature, leads us to believe that colic is associated with the development of the digestive tract.

While colic isn’t harmful, it can be incredibly stressful for both baby and parents.

How is colic diagnosed? 

The crying patterns are generally the most prominent symptom when it comes to identifying colic, though it’s important to consult your doctor to eliminate any other conditions mistaken for colic.

You may also notice that your baby is red in the face, grimacing, pulling up their legs or has tummy rumblings, and cannot be comforted or consoled after any of the usual reasons children cry such as hunger, tiredness, coldness, a full nappy or rocking.

If your baby is showing any other symptoms, like floppiness, pallor, or a temperature, it’s very important that you seek help from your medical practitioner in case it’s not colic.

How can you help your baby? 

Although colic usually stops between 3 and 6 months, often very suddenly, hours and hours of crying every day sure does take a lot out of your baby (and you, too!)

You’ll want to try anything you can to give your baby relief from colic – there’s no greater helplessness than being unable to comfort your baby.

Colicky Baby

A process of elimination 

Instead of thinking about what you can give your baby, first think about what you can take away. Eliminating triggers can often be much easier solution than adding complications to their already fragile digestive systems.

If you’re breastfeeding, look closely at your diet. Are you consuming any aggravating foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, curry, legumes, cow’s milk, or chocolate? How about any drugs including caffeine or other substances that your baby’s body isn’t able to get rid of? It’s worth trying an elimination diet yourself to ensure that your baby isn’t reacting to anything that you’re eating.

If you’re bottle feeding, check the ingredients of their formula or milk. Some babies have reactions to cow’s milk, so trying a baby formula that isn’t based on cow’s milk could be worth a try.

Check to see that your baby isn’t sucking in too much air whilst they’re feeding. You may even be overfeeding your baby. Feed only little amounts at a time, every 2 to 2.5 hours.

Is your baby overstimulated by bright lights or movement? Soften the lighting and put your baby down for a while, perhaps in a swaddle, to help soothe. You may in fact be trying too hard to bounce and burp your baby.

Baby Massage for Colic Relief

Natural Remedies

Pick up your baby when they start crying. It’s comforting for them, and you can rock or pat your baby easily. You could even try putting your baby in a sling or carrier so that they’re close to you.

The Victorian Government healthcare site, Better Health, suggests trying simple solutions like white noise, soft music or a ride in the car. A warm towel on their tummy can help with gas. Baby massage using appropriate oils can help, too.

Probiotics can also be beneficial as a natural colic remedy. If you’re breastfeeding, remember that you’re passing on immune boosting beneficial bacteria. But could you be boosting this action by increasing your own probiotic intake? Look at foods such as yogurt, make your own sauerkraut or kimchi, and drinks such as kefir and kombucha.

Gripe Water

Gripe water is a liquid given to infants to assist with gastrointestinal discomfort. Ingredients van very, so be sure to look for natural ingredients and avoid buying products that contain sodium bicarbonate that can upset their pH balance, vegetable carbon that may cause constipation or unnecessary sugars.

Breastfeeding mothers can make their own tea using chamomile, dill or fennel. If you’re not breastfeeding, it can be a little harder to work out the dosages so that baby doesn’t ingest too much. However you’ve also got the option of pre-formulated products that take the guess work out such as Weleda’s natural baby colic powder.

And finally …

Always attend to your crying baby. It’s important to let them know that you’re there for them, even if you can’t alleviate their pain right away.

Having said that, you need to take care of yourself as well. It’s very stressful to deal with a non-stop crying baby for 3 hours. It’s okay to put your baby down somewhere safe, like the cot, and give yourself ten minutes with headphones on and music up to give yourself a break.

Ask your partner, or parents, or your best friend to help, and if you can, remove yourself from the sound of crying for a while. Try to eat something, or have a calming cup of tea and get your head together.

When your baby is in the middle of a bout of colic, it seems like it will never end. But it will. Like everything, ‘This too, shall pass’.

Image credit: Valentina Powers on Flickr
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Product Smackdown: Chest Rubs – Natural vs Mainstream

Product Smackdown: Chest Rubs - Natural vs Mainstream

Product Smackdown: Chest Rubs - Natural vs Mainstream

When winter comes, colds and coughs and snuffly noses seem to follow. One of the classic home remedies for stuffy noses is the good old vapour rub chest balm. There’s no denying that it works, but I want to show you why you should be switching to a natural version.

Hello Charlie has two natural chest rubs in store: Little Innoscents Winter Blues Vapour Balm, and the Badger Aromatic Chest Rub. The bestselling mainstream brand is Vicks VapoRub. Let’s have a look at the ingredients and compare them.

Chest Rub Ingredients – Natural vs Mainstream

Little Innoscents Winter Blues Vapour Balm – ingredients: Sunflower Oil*, Jojoba Oil*, Shea Butter*, Beeswax*, Lemon Essential Oil*, Spearmint Essential Oil*, Wintergreen Essential Oil, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Lavender Essential Oil*, Peppermint Essential Oil*, Rosemary Essential Oil. (* ACO certified organic).

Badger Aromatic Chest Rub – ingredients: *Olea Europaea (Extra Virgin Olive) Oil, *Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil, *Cera Alba (Beeswax), Essential Oils of *Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus), *Eucalyptus Staigeriana (Eucalyptus), *Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender), *Mentha Piperita (Peppermint), *Ravensara Aromatica (Ravensara), *Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine), *Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree), *Thymus Mastichina (Wild Marjoram), and CO2 Extracts of *Zingiber Officinale (Ginger), and *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary). (* Certified Organic – USDA).

Vicks VapoRub has the active ingredients: Camphor (synthetic) 5.3%, Eucalyptus oil 1.3%, Menthol 2.8%. The inactive ingredients are Turpentine Oil, Cedar Leaf Oil, Nutmeg Oil and Thymol in a petrolatum base.

Are Chest Rubs Safe to Use on Children?

Using essential oils for babies, children and pregnant women can be cause for concern, however, both Little Innoscents and Badger use their essential oils in a low concentration (less than 2% for both) specifically so that they can be used for everyone. The rest of the ingredients used in both of these natural chest rubs are organic natural oils and beeswax, which are entirely safe.

Badger’s aromatic chest rub says that it’s safe for the whole family to use, and it’s got an EWG Skindeep rating of 0, so we’d have to agree.

Antonette Golikidis, the founder of Little Innoscents, is a qualified aromatherapist. She has confirmed that the essential oils concentration in this formula is under 2%, so it’s safe to use from newborn.

The Vicks VapoRub is a different story. The pack says to keep out of reach of children, and to use only on children aged 2 years and older. The pack also says to keep out of reach of children, and if swallowed to get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.

Camphor is highly toxic, and is very dangerous if swallowed. Although Vicks contains only 5.3% camphor nowadays (it used to be higher), the combination of camphor, eucalyptus and menthol are irritants, and can cause respiratory problems because the body responds to these irritants by producing mucus to protect the airways.

Our take? If a product says keep out of reach of children, and has poison control warnings, we’ll keep it out of reach of children by keeping it out of our house. Use a natural version of a chest rub balm and you’ll find that it’s not only safer, it’s just as effective.

Hello Charlie stocks and recommends both the Little Innoscents Winter Blues Vapour Balm and the Badger Aromatic Chest Rub.

Further reading:

Camphor toxicity and children: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/410566_3

Vicks VapoRub Warning: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2009/01/13/44914.aspx


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Are natural food colours really natural?

Are Natural Food Colours Really Natural?

Are Natural Food Colours Really Natural?

If you’re a parent, teacher, carer or observer of children, you probably don’t need double-blind placebo controlled scientific studies to know that artificial food dyes have an adverse affect on some kids.

Step 1: Give a kid some M&M’s.

Step 2: Watch them immediately spiral out of control into a whirlwind of hyperactivity and irritability.

There you have it. The science is settled. Well, okay, maybe not settled. But I’ve seen my own children react exactly this way when they’ve had M&M’s or other highly coloured, 100% artifical crap.

If you need to be convinced by something more than my empirical evidence, there are decades of scientific studies linking artificial food dyes to ADHD, hyperactivity, cognitive disturbance, compulsive aggression, asthma, hives, low-serum iron and zinc, irritability and poor sleep. All of these things can impair a child’s learning abilities.

But if you’re reading the Hello Charlie blog, you’re probably already trying to lead a natural lifestyle, and it’s unlikely that you’re feeding your child M&M’s and wondering what on earth has gotten into them. So let’s go a little deeper here.

How do you know whether ‘natural’ food colours are natural or not? 

Interestingly, according to government food regulations, a food dye is considered natural if it is nature identical, i.e. it is produced by chemical synthesis. There’s an interesting table here from an Australian food ingredient specialist, which shows how food colours are categorised at different levels of natural.

This means that a lot of ‘natural’ products can include artificial food dyes and still call themselves natural – because food regulations let them.

So the first step to avoiding artificial food dyes is understanding how it’s classified.

There are three categories of natural food colouring.

  • N1 is derived from plant, animal, mineral or microbiological source through traditional and/or physical processing. In other words, unaltered from its natural source.
  • N2 is the same as N1, with the provision for chemical processing. So, extracted from its natural source and then altered.
  • N3 is a colour identical with a colouring principle that occurs in nature and which is produced by chemical synthesis. So it’s synthesised to be chemically identical to its natural source, though no part of it is actually natural.

And then there’s category A: artificial food dye produced by chemical synthesis and not found in nature.

So two out of three categories that the food regulators class as natural are not what you or I would consider natural, as they’ve been manufactured in a laboratory.

Why do companies use artificial and synthetic food dyes? 

Part of the reason that companies use artificial food dyes is due to cost. Part of the reason is due to stability, especially handy when producing on a mass scale. But a LARGE part of the reason that companies use artificial food dyes is due to consumer expectation.

That’s right, you. 

Here’s an example that will blow your mind. There are salmon farmers that use a SalmoFan colour chart to determine the amount of artificial food colouring to be added to their salmon, or the colour of egg yolks, not unlike a graphic designer labouring over a Pantone chart for the most attractive and alluring colour to use in the advertisement they’re creating.

Before you cry outrage from the rooftops, put your hand up if you’ve ever been guilty of choosing your fish or meat over your preconceived ideas of what looks the most appetising? I know I have.

How to read food labels to avoid artificial food colours

By buying food that is labelled has having ‘no artificial colours or flavours’ you’re still leaving yourself open to ingesting nature-identical or chemically synthesised food dyes. The same goes for buying organic. Most of us believe that something is either is natural, or it isn’t. But the regulatory boards say otherwise.

Know your numbers. There are good and bad E numbers, so you need to know exactly what you’re looking for.

This table from the Natural Food Colours Association shows you which E numbers are for natural colours, and which are artificial colours.

Best of all, look for natural colourants such as beet, carotenes, annatto or the paprika extract capsanthin for example. These are natural food colours. Remember the words ‘naturally derived’ can be deceptive, you don’t know what chemical processing has been undertaken to arrive in its end state.

How can you avoid artificial food dyes? 

When it comes to the crunch, the best way to avoid food dyes of any kind is to eat whole foods. Better yet, introduce your kids to a garden so that they learn from a young age what fruits and vegetables are supposed to look like in nature. A little wonky. Not so bright. Tastes so much better.

Try making your own play dough for the kids using foods such as blueberries, beetroot and spices such as turmeric. There’s a great post here about how to make your own natural food dyes.

When it comes to medicines and over the counter remedies, always ask your doctor or chemist about the ingredients of any prescribed medicines or supplements for your kids and check whether there is a better alternative.

Is any of this surprise to you? How do you avoid artificial food colourings, especially for your kids? Share in the comments below.

Image credit: Dominic Rooney on Flickr

Safer Hand Sanitisers – A Hello Charlie Cheat Sheet

Safer Natural Hand Sanitisers - A Hello Charlie Cheat Sheet

Safer Natural Hand Sanitisers - A Hello Charlie Cheat Sheet

I’m a soap and water kind of girl, not a hand sanitiser girl.  Nothing kills germs like soap and water. There are times, however, that you need to get your hands clean and there’s no soap and water available, so a hand sanitiser is the next best thing. But after using one in Bali last year that made all the skin on my hands peel off, I thought it was time to get down and dirty and sort out some safer hand sanitisers.

Hand sanitisers are harsh on your skin. They have to be to kill bacteria. Alcohol, while it’s great at killing bacteria, is also great at enhancing skin absorption. What this means is that whatever other ingredients are in your hand sanitiser are going to be more easily absorbed into your skin. And while there are alcohol free hand sanitisers with natural ingredients, there are some doubts about whether they work as well as alcohol based hand sanitisers at killing germs.

This is why it’s so important to use a good hand sanitiser (choose one with moisturising ingredients to offset the drying effects of the alcohol), and to stick with soap and water unless there’s really no alternative.

Here’s our top picks for safer hand sanitisers:

  1. Squeakie Natural Hand Sanitiser (because the ingredients are good, plus it complies with WHO and CDC guidelines, so it does actually work!)
  2. After Touch Hand Sanitiser (alcohol free)
  3. Bentley Organic Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer
  4. Dr Bronner’s Hand Sanitizing Spray
  5. EO Hand Sanitizers (Gel and Sprays)
  6. Melrose Organic Hand Sanitiser

And here’s our down and dirty detailed analysis of hand sanitisers:

After Touch Hand Sanitiser/AntibacterialName: After Touch Hand Sanitiser/Antibacterial
Ingredients: Aqua, Citrus Aurantium Amara Extract, Olea Europaea Leaf Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis, Caprylic Acid, Glycerin, Betain, Decyl glucoside
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available, but we estimate around a 2
Cost: 50mL for $4.50
Comments: This looks pretty good. It’s alcohol free, and according to their website, kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria. Their website also says it’s chemical free, which is clearly nonsense, but the ingredients do look okay. Nothing alarming. Be aware, though, that the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) says that alcohol free sanitisers may not work as well as those with alcohol.


Name: Bentley Organic Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer with Organic Aloe Vera and LemonBentley Organic, Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer with Organic Aloe Vera and Lemon
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Lauryl Betaine, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder*, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Extract, Lactic Acid, Potassium Sorbate
* Certified Organically Grown Ingredient
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available but we estimate around a 2
Cost: 50 ml for $5.23
Comments: This looks pretty good as well. Another alcohol free choice and nothing too alarming in this one, either.


NaDettol Instant Hand Sanitiser me: Dettol Instant Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Alcohol Denat, Water, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Fragrance, Limonene, CI19140, CI42090
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available, but we estimate it around a 6
Cost: 200ml for $5.69
Comments: Hmm. There are contamination concerns with the PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, there’s propylene glycol, there’s fragrance and limonene, and there’s FD&C colours (CI19140, CI42090). Not much to recommend this.


Dr. Bronners Fair Trade & Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizing SprayName: Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade & Organic Lavender Hand Sanitizing Spray
Ingredients: Organic Ethanol (62%)*, Water, Organic Glycerin, Organic Lavender Oil
* Certified Fair Trade Ingredient
EWG Skin Deep Rating: 2 (Low Hazard)
Cost: 59ml for $6.95
Comments: This is a good, alcohol based product. There’s glycerin added to combat the drying effects of the alcohol, and the lavender is soothing and antibacterial.


Ego Aqium Hand Sanitiser Name: Ego Aqium Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Alcohol, Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Acrylates /C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Parfum, Limonene, Butylphenyl Methylpropional
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available, but we estimate it around a 4
Cost: 70mL for $2.99
Comments: There’s perfume and limonene, the Aminomethyl Propanol is considered an irritant, and the butylphenyl methylpropional is a fragrance compound that’s also considered an irritant. That’s enough for me to avoid it.


EnviroCare ready2go Foam Hand SanitiserName: EnviroCare ready2go Foam Hand Sanitiser (unscented)
Ingredients: Purified water, biodegradable surfactant (plant based), citrus pulp extract, citric acid, lactic acid, glycerine (plant)
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Cost: 50ml for $6.90
Comments: Another alcohol free sanitiser, which also looks pretty good. The Mandarin version has mandarin oil in it – delicious. However, I’m not impressed with the manufacturer of this one, who won’t disclose what the ‘biodegradable surfactant’ is. ‘Surfactant’ isn’t an ingredient, it’s a group of chemicals. As this is a skincare product, the manufacturer needs to disclose all the ingredients, but say that they won’t due to intellectual property concerns. I’m not saying not to use this (from what I can see, I like it and we’re stocking this at Hello Charlie), but the manufacturer is doing the wrong thing here, and they need to disclose. I’ll keep you updated on this one.


EO Hand Sanitizer Gel LavenderName: EO Hand Sanitizer Gel Lavender
Ingredients: Ethanol, Purified Water, Vegetable Glycerin, EO Essential Oil Blend [Organic Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil], Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Carbomer, Dimethicone, Aminomethyl Propanol
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available for this product, but we estimate a 2 (based on their other sanitiser sprays on EWG with similar ingredients)
Cost: 60ml for $8.95 (Buy at Hello Charlie)
Comments: This is an alcohol based gel, with added glycerin and jojoba oil to make it less drying on the hands. The ingredients are good, and it kills 99.9% of germs.


EO Hand Sanitizer Spray Organic LavenderName: EO Hand Sanitizer Spray Organic Lavender
Ingredients: Organic Ethanol, Purified Water, Organic Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil, Organic Echinacea Angustifolia Leaf Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Tocopherol
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available for this product, but we estimate a 2 (based on their other sanitiser sprays on EWG with similar ingredients)
Cost: 60ml for $7.95 (Buy at Hello Charlie)
Comments: Another alcohol based one from EO, this time a spray. Again, the ingredients are good, and it kills 99.9% of germs.


Hands First Alcohol Free Hand Sanitiser Name: Hands First Alcohol Free Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Benzalkonium Chloride, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Aloe Vera
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available, but we estimate it as a 4
Cost: 50ml for $3.50
Comments: The Benzalkonium Chloride in this would make me avoid it. Sure, it’ll kill germs, but it’s a skin toxicant, and allergen and particularly bad for people with eczema and asthma. It’s also one of the disinfectant chemicals that’s been linked to the rise of superbugs. There are definitely better choices.


Kenkay No Rinse Hand SanitiserName: Kenkay No Rinse Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Alcolec BS, Cellulose, Glycerin, Mannan, Water – Purified (not a full ingredients list)
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Cost: 100mL for $3.95
Comments: It’s hard to tell whether this is any good or not. As it’s got ‘bursting beads of aloe vera and vitamin e’, and there’s no mention of this on the ingredients list, I can tell that we don’t have all the ingredients. So I can’t make a judgement until we know.


Melrose Organic Hand SanitiserName: Melrose Organic Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Organic Ethanol (62%), Organic Glycerin, Purified Water, Organic Lemon Myrtle Essential Oil
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A but we estimate around a 2
Cost: 50ml for $5.95 (Buy at Hello Charlie)
Comments: Another good alcohol based sanitiser, with glycerin to help offset the drying effects of the alcohol. Lemon myrtle oil is a good antibacterial oil, too.


Natralus NatraSan Hand Sanitiser Aloe Vera and CucumberName: Natralus NatraSan Hand Sanitiser Aloe Vera and Cucumber
Ingredients: Purified Water, Alcohol (Derived from Sugar Cane), Vegetable Glycerine, Kakadu Plum Extract, Panthenol (Pro Vitamin B5), Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Polysorbate 20, Acrylic Polymer, Benzalkonium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, PHMB, Potassium Sorbate, Chloroacetamide, Vanilla Extract, Tea Tree Extract, Fragrance.
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A but we estimate it at a 5
Cost: 28ml for $4.80
Comments: Eek! I have no idea how this one slipped under my radar, but until recently we were selling this at Hello Charlie. As soon as I checked the ingredients list, I dumped it. Fragrance, Chloroacetamide, Benzalkonium Chloride, what was I thinking? Avoid.


Natures Sunshine Silver Shield Skin and Hand GelName: Nature’s Sunshine Silver Shield Skin and Hand Gel
Ingredients: Silver Shield® Solution (colloidal silver and purified water 98.5%) 24ppm silver with TEA and carmbomers
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Cost: 85g for $11.19
Comments:  The TEA (Triethanolamine) in this is a skin sensitiser and an irritant, so I’d avoid this product because of that. However, I’m even more concerned when I read the claims on their website about what a miracle colloidal silver is. I’d give it a miss.


Perfect Potion Natural Hand SanitiserName: Perfect Potion Natural Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: alcohol (plant derived ethanol), aqua (water), glycerin, vegetable (derived from Palm oil) oil, dehydroxanthan gum, citrus limon (lemon) certified organic, Limonene, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) certified organic, linalool, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A
Cost: 50ml for $8.95
Comments: There’s nothing too scary in this. The only thing is the palm oil. There’s nothing on Perfect Potion’s website about whether their palm oil is sustainable. If this is an issue for you, this may not be a product you’d choose to use. There’s also lemon oil in this, and while it’s organic, it can still be irritating for some people.


Simplyclean Lemon Myrtle Hand SanitiserName: Simplyclean Lemon Myrtle Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: Ethanol (plant derived alcohol), water, carbomer (thickener), glycerin (vegetable based skin moisturiser), aminomethyl propanol (ensures correct pH for perfect skin compatibility, less than 5%), pure Australian lemon myrtle oil, green colour (food grade)
EWG Skin Deep Rating: not available on EWG, but we estimate it as a 3
Cost: 250 ml for $8.50
Comments: The aminomethyl propanol is a skin irritant, and the green colouring is just not necessary. Food grade or not, we don’t know what’s in it, and I choose not to use products with unnecessary ingredients.


Soap2go Antibacterial GelName: Soap2go Antibacterial Gel
Ingredients: Alcohol, Water, Xanthan Gum, Glycerine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Allantoin, Ocean Fragrance, Tocopherol, Cellulose, Lactose, Jojoba Esters, CI 42090
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A but we estimate it at a 4
Cost: 60mL for $3.00
Comments: It’s the fragrance and the colour (CI 42090) in this that would make me avoid it. Otherwise there’s nothing else scary, but as fragrance is one of the top ‘must avoids’, that make this product an ‘avoid’.


Squeakie Natural Hand Sanitiser Name: Squeakie Natural Hand Sanitiser
Ingredients: pure milk whey alcohol, purified water, bladderwrack extract, rosehip oil, aloe vera, omega 9, lime essential oil, palmarosa essential oil, cellulose gum, vegetable glycerine
EWG Skin Deep Rating: N/A but we estimate it at a 2
Cost: 75ml for $8.95 (Buy at Hello Charlie)
Comments: Another excellent alcohol based sanitiser – in fact it’s our favourite. The lime oil in this is steam distilled from the fruit so that it’s not an irritant, rather than from the peel which can be. As an aside, the manufacturer tells me that Squeakie is Australia’s only natural hand sanitiser that meets WHO and CDC (Centre for Disease Control) guidelines.


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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Nappy Rash

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Nappy Rash

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Nappy RashWhat is nappy rash?

Nappy rash isn’t a disease, it’s just an irritation on baby’s skin that’s found in the area of the nappy. It’s also called diaper dermatitis in places where they don’t call a nappy a nappy. It’s very common, and most babies will get it at some point.

It’s not serious, but it can be very irritating both for baby and for parents. A grumpy baby with a sore bum does not make for happy or well rested parents.

What causes nappy rash?

Just like it’s hard to figure out what causes a rash on adults, it’s tricky to figure out what’s causing nappy rash on a baby. There are lots of possibilities:

1. It could be the chemicals you’re using on your baby.

Every time you use a baby wipe to clean up your baby’s bum, you’re swiping chemicals across his delicate skin. Baby wipes with harsh chemicals can cause irritation.

Luckily, Hello Charlie has done all the hard work for you, and has done heaps of research to find the best and safest baby wipes for your baby. You can find it all in our Safer Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet.

2. It could be something your baby has eaten

My babies both had bad reactions to kiwi fruit. They’d eat some kiwi, and bam! Next nappy change they’d have a red, sore bum. It took me a while to put it together, but it turns out the kiwi fruit was just too acidic for both of them. I have friends who found the same thing with strawberries.

If your baby is still being exclusively breastfed, it could be something that you’ve eaten.

If your baby has started on solids, it could be something that your baby has eaten. When you introduce a new food to your baby, watch out for any adverse reactions. It might take a couple of days, which is why it’s recommended that you introduce new foods a few days apart.

3. You might be waiting too long between nappy changes

Although urine is sterile, it can be irritating on baby’s skin if the nappy is on too long. If you’re using cloth nappies, make sure that you’re using a nappy liner to draw moisture away from baby’s skin. It’s also best not to use waterproof plastic pants as these don’t allow the air to circulate.

If your baby is in a disposable nappy, change it frequently. Newborns will need to be changed every 2 to 2 ½ hours. As your baby gets older, he won’t need to wee as often, so you won’t need to change the nappy as often.

4. The nappy could be too tight

While you do need to fit a nappy firmly so that you don’t get leaks and blowouts, too tight and your baby can get irritations and rashes where the nappy rubs. Try moving up a size, or a different nappy brand.

5. Your baby could have an allergy to the nappy

If you’re using a cloth nappy, use an unscented, natural detergent to wash nappies in. Perfumes and baby skin do not go together.

If you’re using a disposable nappy, make sure you’re using one without perfumes, lotions and toxic chemicals. How do you know which nappies don’t have any of these? Check the Hello Charlie Safer Disposable Nappy Cheat Sheet, of course!

How to treat nappy rash

1. Use a soothing, safe nappy cream

Choose a nappy cream with soothing natural ingredients like calendula and chamomile. Stay away from the toxins, and go with natural oils (preferably organic).

If you want to go with a barrier cream, again, choose a nappy cream with organic ingredients, but find one with zinc. The zinc will soothe, but also puts a physical barrier between your baby’s skin and moisture.

How do you find a safe nappy cream? We’ve got a Cheat Sheet for that, too. Check out the Hello Charlie Safer Nappy Rash Creams Cheat Sheet.

2. Give your baby some nappy free time

Guaranteed to bring a grimace to the face of any parent, have your baby let it all hang out for a while. Pop baby in a warm spot on the floor, preferably on a towel or a blanket (you just know there’s going to be an accident, don’t you?). Getting a bit of air around the bum will do wonders for nappy rash prevention. Do this every day or every few days if you can.

How to prevent nappy rash

So, how to prevent nappy rash? Let’s sum up.

  • Choose a nappy without perfumes, lotions or toxic chemicals
  • Use a safer baby wipe
  • Give your baby some nappy free time
  • Watch your baby’s diet, and introduce new foods gradually
  • Use a natural nappy cream

If you do all these things and your baby has still got a rash, if the rash doesn’t seem to clear up, or if you’re just plain worried – go see your child health nurse or other medical professional. It may not be nappy rash at all, but an allergy to something else.

Got any other great tips for treating nappy rash? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit: Rebecca VC1 on Flickr

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Toxic Beauty – Deodorants

Toxic Beauty - Deodorant

Toxic Beauty - Deodorant

Deodorants and anti perspirants are one of those personal care products you use on autopilot, every single day without much thought. Does it prevent body odour? Yup. Does it stop you perspiring? Yup. OK great, if that’s covered then it’s back to the hundred and one other things you need to think about.

Stop! Think about what’s in these products, and what it’s doing to your body.

Sweating is a natural function of our bodies.  We sweat in order to maintain our body temperature and keep us cool, as well as releasing  toxins. So it makes sense that if you stop something from working naturally, you’re going to have consequences. Blocking perspiration and the release of toxins means that we get a build up of toxins, and you end up smelling worse than ever. Then you cover that up with a whole heap of synthetic and toxic ingredients, which you apply to delicate and sensitive skin – your armpits. The smells get worse, and you use more and more deodorant and anti-perspirant to try and fix it.

What’s the problem with deodorants?

There are concerns about the possible links between the use of deodorants and breast cancer. Lots of studies have been done, but there’s no definitive answer yet. have led to numerous studies exploring the possibility. The jury may be out a conclusive link, but this study looking at the location of cancers in the breast shows that the number of cancers diagnosed closer to the armpit almost doubled between the ’30’s and the 90’s.

More alarming are studies confirming the presence of aluminium in breast tissue, including a higher content of aluminium on the outside of the breast closer to the underarm. There’s evidence in this study  that skin is permeable to aluminium when applied as an antiperspirant.

What’s in deodorants and anti-perspirants that make them so bad for you?

Aluminium, propylene glycol, parabens and triclosan are the key toxins to watch out for. Like many personal care ingredients, manufacturers argue that the amounts in the products are too small to cause problems. The problem is that the effects of small amounts of toxins over an extended period of time are simply unknown.

What do these ingredients do?

Studies sponsored by major deodorant manufacturers state that aluminium only covers the outside of the skin. This isn’t what the cancer prevention journals  and dermatologists say. They explain the same process, where aluminium ions are drawn into the cells that line the top layer of the skin, water is drawn in and cells begin to swell, squeezing the ducts closed so that sweat cannot get out.

There are other concerns that aluminium can build up in the nervous system, and there are many consistent studies linking aluminium ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer.

The other problem is that many studies only look at the effects of using only one or two chemicals at the same time, not the multitude of chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis.

Propylene glycol is a petroleum based penetration enhancer also used to prevent products from drying out, which when paired with harmful chemicals can increase their absorption.

Triclosan is an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent used in many consumer products. It’s been linked to fertility issues, birth defects, allergies in children and liver toxicity, as well as contributing to the rise of super bugs.

Parabens are used as preservatives, and there are concerns that they are endocrine disruptors which may interfere with male reproductive functions.

Then there’s fragrance. Manufacturers don’t have to list ingredients in perfume, as it’s considered to be commercially sensitive. There are 3,100 stock chemicals that can be used in perfumes, so how do you know what you’re actually buying?

What’s the alternative to toxic deodorants and anti perspirants?

Aluminium is an element found practically everywhere – in our drinking water, food and kitchen utensils, pharmaceuticals and more. But it shouldn’t be used near the sensitive skin of your armpits and breasts.

Fortunately, there are heaps of natural deodorants available these days. Sure, some work better than others, and it might take you a while to find one that you love and that works for you. But when there are so many concerns about the ingredients in standard deodorants, this really is one area of your personal care regime that you need to clean up!

If you’re looking for a great range of natural deodorants, check out Hello Charlie’s Safer Deodorant Cheat Sheets, and shop here.

Image credit: Metro Centric on Flickr

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Crystal deodorants – are they safe?

crystal deodorant potassium alum safe

Why Dry Cleaning is Bad for You, and Some Alternatives

Why Dry Cleaning is Bad for You, and Some Alternatives

Why Dry Cleaning is Bad for You, and Some Alternatives

Dry cleaning would have to be the two dirtiest words in the cleaning business. For a cleaning method that uses no water, it sure does have a heavy environmental impact (and on ourselves, too).

Dry cleaning chemicals are toxic

Conventional dry cleaners will pre-treat grease and oil stains with a solvent or treat water soluble stains with water, and then submerge in perchloroethylene, hydrocarbon or K4 to remove dirt and oil.

Perchlroethylene (or PERC) is a toxic chemical that can damage the nervous system and leave you dizzy or unconscious when exposed. Long term exposure to PERC can additionally damage the liver and kidneys, cause respiratory failure, memory loss, confusion, leave your skin dry and cracked, and can cause problems in developing foetuses.

Even short term exposure at low levels can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, mouth, throat and respiratory tract. It’s also a groundwater contaminate and acutely toxic to wildlife. The EPA has labelled PERC a likely human carcinogen and the chemical is slowly being phased out. In the meantime, is this really a chemical you want so close to your skin?

What’s the alternative to dry cleaning? 

You may not be aware that many items with a dry clean only label (in particular anything made of wool) can actually be hand washed carefully, in an eco friendly detergent, avoiding chemicals and possibly even putting the grey water from the wash to good use.

There have also been improvements in the dry cleaning process, paving the way for some dry cleaners to label themselves as non toxic or even organic (though be extremely mindful that the term ‘organic’ is not regulated in the dry cleaning industry).

Look for CO2 dry cleaners – carbon dioxide cleaning that is far less harmful but effective in removing stains, even outperforming PERC in consumer reports. Clothes are washed in a machine using biodegradable cleaning liquid. The machine is pressurised and the CO2 turns from a gas to a liquid under pressure. The cold liquid CO2 rinses cleaning liquid from the clothes, then the CO2 vaporises as gas when pressure is reduced, leaving the surface material clean and instantly dry.

Another option is GreenEarth cleaning which uses liquid silicone in place of petrochemicals, meaning that the liquid sand breaks down into the three natural elements it’s made from: sand and trace elements of water and carbon dioxide. This means that it’s a safe solution for the air, water and soil. GreenEarth dry cleaners are found in all states of Australia, including some outside the capital cities.

Reducing the chemical load of dry cleaning

If you aren’t located near a CO2 dry cleaner or a GreenEarth dry cleaner, there are still things you can do to minimise the chemical load of conventional dry cleaning.

PERC fluid remains in the clothing fibres after it is cleaned. And usually, your garments are delivered inside plastic garment protectors. Remove the plastic and hang your garments outside so that the PERC residue can air out in the open air instead of in your wardrobe. If you don’t have a yard or a garage to hang your dry cleaning, leave them in a room of your home with a window open and the door closed for a few days.

Pay careful attention to the care labels of your clothing and bedding before you buy as you can save yourself the challenge of finding an environmentally friendly dry cleaner. Learn how to care for wool and silk by hand washing and drying in the shade instead of dry cleaning, as it’s estimated that upwards of 65% of dry clean only garments can be machine or hand washed.

You can also try your hand at dry cleaning in your own home. Often, steam is enough to remove some stains. Another do-it-yourself remedy is using vodka! The alcohol kills the bacteria that causes odours, it evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave an evaporation ring. Make sure that you test any of these methods on a small amount of fabric that can’t be seen before you try a large section, like doing a patch test. We suggest leaving leather and suede to the experts, though.

Image credit:  Ralph Aichinger on Flickr

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Redmond Earthpaste & Lead Warnings – What’s Going On?

Redmond Earthpaste and Lead Warnings

Redmond Earthpaste and Lead Warnings

We had a call from Anna, one of our lovely customers, the other day. “I’ve just received my Redmond Earthpaste from you guys,” she said, “and I’m confused. On the package it says that it may contain traces of lead. Should I be using this?”

I love getting calls like this from customers. I love that our customers read packaging, and I love that they come and ask us when they’re not sure. (I also love that they’re just so lovely when they call and ask us stuff like this!)

Here’s what the packaging on Redmond Earthpaste says:

[California Residents Proposition 65] WARNING: This product may contain trace amounts of lead, a substance known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. This product may not be appropriate for consumption by children or pregnant women.

Now, of course, I’d done my research before adding Redmond Earthpastes to the Hello Charlie website, so I was completely happy to be stocking this one, and indeed was already using it at home.

But I’d forgotten that people can’t read my mind (doh), and I really should have written an explanation and posted it. So I’m very grateful to Anna for bringing this to my attention, and here’s what I explained to her.

Start by having a look at the explanation on the Redmond Earthpaste website: http://www.earthpaste.com/prop65/ (love the handy infographic on here, by the way!)

And there is also information on Proposition 65 on the California Government website: http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65/background/p65plain.html

Basically, as Redmond Earthpaste is made with bentonite clay, it contains trace elements of naturally occurring lead. Under California law, companies have to notify customers if there are particular chemicals in products that they purchase, whether or not those chemicals are natural or synthetic, and even if there are only tiny amounts.

For further reading, you can also have a look at the EPA (the US environmental protection agency) on lead: http://www2.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead
Natural levels of lead in soil are about 50 and 400 parts per million, and the Redmond Earthpastes have about 12 parts per million: http://www.redmondtrading.com/pdfs/RedmondClay_MineralAnalysis.pdf

So it’s a trace element, very low indeed, and is safe for use.

As an aside, we don’t stock the Wintergreen Redmond Earthpaste, as methyl salicylate (which is one of the chemical compounds in Wintergreen essential oil) can be very toxic for children, and not safe for pregnant women, either, although it does have great therapeutic benefits for adults who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. I felt that it was safer not to stock this one but to stick with the spearmint and peppermint flavours instead. Anyway, in my opinion, the wintergreen essential oil IS an issue, but the small trace elements of naturally occurring lead is not.

We’re loving the Redmond Earthpaste at home, by the way! Even my terribly fussy ‘if it doesn’t foam it’s not toothpaste’ husband.

If you’re keen to try it, you can get it here at Hello Charlie.

With thanks to Anna for bringing this to my attention!



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