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What do I use for cleaning and personal-care products, when I'm so chemically sensitive? These are what I'm currently using; some do bother me more than others. There are other possibilities available, too. Substances which are not very smelly are colored like this. (For a discussion of the problem with fragrance, go to Fragrance Toxicity.)

To visit me without making me sick, you need to switch to the product I can tolerate for some time in advance. How long depends on the product you were using: some scents I react badly to persist for over a month. The AFM products do the best job of stripping old smells out.


  • Magick Botanicals Scent-Free, Oil-Free Shampoo. This is the mildest shampoo I have found so far.
  • AFM's Safe Choice head and body shampoo. (AFM makes a variety of products that many MCS folks can tolerate.) Smells a little funny, because it has no "masking fragrance" at all, which means you can smell the basic odors of the active ingredients. But that smell doesn't linger. Cleans very well — too well, in fact: in the winter, when my skin is delicate, my scalp gets too itchy from how well this shampoo gets rid of oils. But it's still good for getting rid of the smells my husband brings home on his hair from out in the world.
  • Tom's of Maine Aloe & Almond Shampoo. This is available at many natural foods stores, and also at many supermarkets


  • I don't use one.
  • I react to all the products my friends and family have tried, even days after they last used it, even afte they've tried to wash it out with AFM's Safe Choice head and body shampoo.
  • Olive oil is supposed to be good for your hair and scalp, as well as useful for conditioning. Other food oils may work, too.

Hand soap:

  • Sappo Hill Glycerine Creme Soap. They make this in several varieties, with different scents. The one I use used to be called "unscented" but now is just called "natural -- all vegetable oil." Health food stores, food coop.
  • Magick Botanicals Fragrance-Free Cleanser for Face, Hands, body and Hair.

Skin moisturizer:

  • Organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Jojoba oil.
  • Vitamin E. I bite open a capsule, and smear it on. It sinks in better if I combine it with one of the other two oils, above.
  • Aloe Vera. Easy to grow in any sunny window. In addition to moisturizing, heals skin wounds quickly and is a decent vaginal lubricant. Pick a piece of leaf, cut off the prickly edges, and slit down the center (parallel to the flat surfaces). You now have two long strips covered with wonderful gel: scrape the gel off in small bits with your fingernail, so that you smash it in the process. Then slather it on where needed. For wounds, I tape on a little piece of the divided leaf, gel side down, with a band-aid overnight. Warning: the gel stains fabric, cutting boards, etc. — brown.
  • Beeswax, mixed with olive oil, vitamin E, and smashed aloe vera pulp.The beeswax helps keep moisture in.


  • I don't use one. I'd rather smell — but find I don't, as long as I eat healthy, avoid stress, and shower once every day or two, or after strong exercise.
  • My husband uses Tom's unscented stick.


  • I don't use one.
  • Most smell strongly enough that if you visit me, you need to rinse your mouth several times after using them.

Insect repellent:

  • Fresh lemon thyme: smashed to release volatile oils, rubbed on the skin & on clothes, and stuck in my hat and pocket.
  • Fresh pennyroyal, used similarly.

Laundry detergent:

  • Hot, warm or cold wash:
    • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent (liquid). Smells rather strong in the bottle, but rinses out to no smell in the clothes. Food coop.
    • Liquid Laundry Detergent by Charlie's Soap. Also has a noticeable smell in the bottle, but rinses out well. I've been using this about three months, and I like it a lot.
      • When I first got it, Taylor at Charlie's told me before I used it on a load of wash, I should clean my machine of the gunk that's been building up on the inside of the tub by running it with water, double the normal amount of Charlie's, and some rag to get moved around.
      • If I didn't do this, the first load would leave flakes of that stuff in the laundry.
      • Well, I did it, and there was definitely a lot of gunk it loosened up... but the worst, that I was glad to get rid of, was a ring around the top of the tub, and that did take some scrubbing. Still, Charlie's Soap loosened it enough to do that!
      • Taylor also claimed that after eight washings, Charlie's Soap will completely remove scent from clothes that have been contaminated with other detergents. I haven't noticed any way to test this. Or maybe my itchy dry winter skin is a little less this year.
    • A few that others have suggested, but I haven't tried:
      • All Free and Clear Detergent
      • Arm & Hammer Essentials Free
      • Melapower scent free laundry detergent from Melaleuca
  • Alternative to laundry detergent: Turbo Disc. This is lumps of a ceramic, held in a plastic cage, that ionize the water, which is the same way detergents clean -- but without adding the gunk in the detergents.
    • Needs warm or hot water.
    • The rubber edge smelled a little unpleasant when I first got it, but the smell didn't transfer to clothes, and went away.
    • The first two times I used them they worked well; the last set was a total failure. Will try to go back and find brand names.
  • I don't usually react when other people use regular laundry detergent that is marked "unscented." I wouldn't use it, because that label doesn't prevent the manufacturer from using "masking scent" to hide the smell of the other ingredients — but so far I can handle occasional exposure to those products.

Laundry bleach: oxgen-based bleaches. Currently I'm trying Oxygen Bleach Plus by Bi-o-kleen, which I order from my food coop. (Note: this is not the same company as Biokleen!)

Laundry stain removers:

  • Gonzo, which I buy at the hardware store, and I think Sears sells it, too.
  • White Wizard, which I buy from the Vt. Country Store. (It's a good spot remover on all kinds of surfaces.)
  • Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap -- especially good for oily stains. Very aromatic, don't use much. My food coop sells it.

Laundry smell remover: (use in addition to detergent)

  • AFM Super Clean. N.E.E.D.S.
  • 20-Mule Team Borax. Grocery store.
  • Baking soda (can add this one to the rinse). Grocery store.

Fabric softener: BAD. Plus you don't need it if you rinse clothes well and don't overdry them. I put every load through another whole cycle with no detergent, to rinse thoroughly.

All-purpose cleaning: AFM Super Clean (also good to add to the laundry, to remove odors).

Antibacterial cleaning:

  • AFM Safety Clean

Dish detergent, for hand-washing: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Dish Liquid

Dishwasher Detergent:

  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Automatic Dishwashing Detergent. The least smelly I can find, that still works in our dishwasher, with our water. It still leaves a smell/taste in glasses and mugs, which I rinse in filtered water before I use them. And in damp weather, it clumps up in the box.
  • Trader Joe's - smells less, no clumping. But this chain isn't everywhere.

Dishwasher spot remover: don't use.

Scouring Powder: Bon Ami. Some supermarkets, and my food coop.

Window cleaner: I used to get Bon Ami cake at the hardware store, but it looks like they don't make it anymore. (Spray-type cleaners are big trouble for me if I inhale any.)

Mold killer: vinegar or Zephiran. (Better yet, I use an ozone generating machine I bought from N.E.E.D.S. Note this is not for breathing; it's necessary to stay out of the room and close it off from the rest of the house while the machine is running, and then to clear the air and bring fresh outdoor air in after using the machine. For information on the dangers of breathing ozone, see "Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners: An Assessment of Effectiveness and Health Consequences" on the EPA site.)

Gunk remover (pine pitch, label adhesive, etc.): Citra-Solve — but I have to rinse very well; I'm starting to get sensitive to those citrus terpenes.

Catalogs I use, for products that I can't buy locally:

For more information

last modified 28 February 2006