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Morton Salt

“Do I need iodized salt in my diet?”

Without knowing your location or diet, my answer is a qualified “yes.”

We obtain iodine from food grown in soils that contain it, but large areas of the world’s soils lack sufficient iodine. So, seasoning your food with iodized salt is the best way to be sure you’re getting as much of this essential nutrient as you need.

Iodine has one main function in the body: The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland nestled at the base of the throat, needs it to make thyroid hormones, which affect every cell in the body by regulating metabolism. They’re also critical to optimal growth and development, including that of the skeletal and central nervous systems in fetuses and infants. According to the National Institutes of Health, iodine may also have a positive effect on immune function and in preventing fibrocystic breast disease.

If a person becomes iodine-deficient, his or her thyroid gland will enlarge to form a “goiter.” Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, include fatigue, constipation, cold intolerance, depression, dry skin and hair, weight gain, and muscle weakness. In 1924, the iodization of table salt in the United States successfully addressed deficiencies caused by the consumption of foods grown in soils lacking in iodine. Before that, illnesses due to iodine deficiency were widespread throughout the Great Lakes, Appalachians and Northwestern regions — known as the “goiter belt.”

If a woman is iodine-deficient during pregnancy, her infant may have mental disabilities, stunted growth, and problems with speech and hearing. In fact, the World Health Organization calls iodine deficiency the most preventable cause of brain damage. Mild iodine deficiency has also been linked with attention deficit disorder.

While the typical U.S. diet contains a lot of salt in the form of processed foods, these foods are mainly made with non-iodized salt, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Table salt is thus the main source of iodine in most U.S. diets. (The label will specify whether the salt is iodized.) A half-teaspoon of iodized table salt contains about 140 micrograms of iodine. Adults need 150 micrograms a day. Requirements rise to 220 micrograms during pregnancy and 290 micrograms while nursing.

Reliable dietary sources of iodine include saltwater fish, shellfish and seaweed. Breads and other grains often contain iodine as well.


Scientist in Lab 

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide, and when I learned that I could affordably have my body tested for glyphosate accumulation, I immediately jumped on board. People get tested all the time to see if their vitamin levels are deficient, and some pay big bucks to test hormone levels and genetic history. Why not see if you’re playing landlord to a toxic tenant?

My Test Results

I’ve eaten an all-organic diet for years, and filter most of my drinking and cooking water. With the exception of occasional restaurant meals, I consume organically-grown, local-when-possible, whole foods. This goes a long way toward avoiding glyphosate and other non-organic pesticides and herbicides; however, I live in Kansas, where the rolling fields are overrun with “Roundup-Ready” crops. If there was ever a part of our nation where glyphosate pollutes the water and unavoidably creeps through the air, it’s my prairie homeland.

The glyphosate test that I took part in was conducted by Moms Across America, and participants could choose to have either their urine, breast milk or home’s tap water tested. I chose urine, because I wanted to see how my organic diet and agriculture-heavy location factor together. About a week after I sent off my sample, I received a short email, “Your test results are <7.5 ppb.” To which I thought, “OK … Is that good?”

 I went to the Moms Across America website to compare my results with others across the nation. It turns out that 7.5 ppb (parts per billion), is the lowest detectable limit that the test is capable of finding. Yes! I’m either at or below the lowest detection level! I congratulated myself for eating organic and patted myself on the back.  I celebrated too early, though, because as I scrolled further down the page I discovered that 7.5 ppb is still way higher than anything deemed “OK” by the standards of many other countries. For example, in 2013, 182 urine samples from 18 European countries were tested for glyphosate levels, and the highest result was 1.8 ppb in Latvia (and they weren’t thrilled). My test results of <7.5 ppb could still potentially be about 6 times higher than anything found in the European study — and I’m lucky — a test respondent from Oregon had levels at 18.8 ppb. 

 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other U.S.-based regulatory bodies have created rules for how much glyphosate is allowed in drinking water, and these rules are based on the assumption that the toxin isn’t bio-accumulative. Glyphosate is water soluble, so it’s been assumed that if you eat a peach with glyphosate on or in it, then within a few days your body will expel the toxin and everything is peachy keen. However, the Moms Across America testing found “high” glyphosate levels in three out of 10 breast milk samples submitted. This discovery questions the assumption that glyphosate is not bio-accumulative, and it points to the idea that this toxic chemical is indeed building up in our bodies faster than it can be expelled. We’re passing it along to our sensitive infants via breast milk (and even umbilical cords) before our children even have a chance to be exposed first-hand via pesticide drift, drinking water and non-organic foods.

According to the test’s summary, “The levels found in breast milk testing are 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They are, however, less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level for glyphosate in the U.S.” It was after reading this conclusion that it hit home for me just how much glyphosate accumulation our government is willing to deem “safe,” despite the lack of long-term, peer-reviewed, unbiased studies.

What Is Glyphosate?

There’s glyphosate in our bodies; but why are people concerned? Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, which means that when it’s absorbed by the body it either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body’s normal functions, leading to increased rates of infertility and prostate or testicular cancer, as well as low sperm count. Studies have also linked glyphosate exposure to celiac disease and gluten intolerance, as well as an increased number of children born with autism spectrum disorder and developmental problems.

In 2014, honeybees were tested to see how field-realistic doses of glyphosate would affect their behavior – sadly, they were noticeably less sensitive to nectar rewards and they experienced impaired associative learning. It goes without saying that for a delicate and declining species, these skills are necessary to both their survival, and, from a pollination standpoint, our own.

Last, but certainly not least, the World Health Organization announced in March, 2015, that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. This announcement has huge implications, and it’s amazing that it was even publicized considering how much money and political sway Monsanto and other key players in the biotech industry have put forth to prevent such credible, unbiased studies from being conducted or promoted.

Infertility, honeybee deaths, cancer; these aren’t small concerns. To make matters worse, many of the studies mentioned above tested glyphosate in isolation. For real-world application, however, this toxic chemical is mixed with solvents and surfactants, legally considered “inert ingredients,” that work together to amplify the toxic effect of the herbicide – and as a result amplify its toxic effects on human cells.

There’s been tremendous growth in the amount of glyphosate sold and used within the past two decades. The increased use of glyphosate is due largely to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops. These “Roundup Ready” crops, including soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton and sorghum, are specifically engineered to withstand heavy sprayings of glyphosate, while nearby weeds wither and die. Because weeds continuously evolve, they’re quickly becoming resistant to the sprays, and, as a result, farmers have to douse crops with larger and larger amounts of the toxic chemical each year. Because genetically modified crops are more likely to be doused with glyphosate, choosing to eat organic foods and voting to label genetically modified ingredients are two ways you can work toward avoiding this toxic pesticide.

As you can see, glyphosate isn’t a product I want to mess around with. Even without factoring in the societal impacts of its largest promoter (Monsanto) unnecessarily suing small farmers and tampering with the world’s seed supply, I simply don’t think the benefits of using glyphosate outweigh the costs. Organic market farmers are proving left and right that it’s possible to grow bountiful crops without the use of toxic pesticides or herbicides. Plus, in response to the “we need to feed the world” argument, we first need to address what to do with all the food we’re already wasting. (Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption each year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is wasted, and that’s a problem.)

After taking some time to analyze my test results, I feel reassured to learn that the glyphosate levels in my body are low — at least according to U.S. standards.  I like knowing that my daily choices to eat organic foods and avoid toxins when possible are worth the extra time — and sometimes money — that it takes. I do believe that if I didn’t eat organic foods and filter my water, then my glyphosate levels would be significantly higher, especially considering the fact that glyphosate is gleefully sprayed on the fields and yards surrounding my home and workplace. For me, participating in this study verified that eating organic foods is a powerful step toward protecting your health and divesting from a system that’s more focused on profit than the health of our people or our generous host, Earth.   

Learn more about Moms Across America, and read more about the glyphosate test results (or sign up to participate!), here.

Photo by Foltolia/jolopes: St. Louis-based Microbe Inotech was the laboratory used for the glyphosate testing mentioned in this article.

Hannah Kincaid is an Assistant Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She is an enthusiastic student of herbal medicine, organic gardening and yoga.


Global Warming 

I believe we need to change our language around climate change. It seems to me that our current words don't speak the full truth. "Saving the Earth" is not what we need to set our sights on, the Earth will exist long after we humans become extinct. If we want to pay attention to humans saving something we should talk about saving our species.

I am not a scientist and I don’t need to be one to realize that we are living through a time of human-induced and unchecked climate change. When we frame our conversation around this pressing matter ‘light’ and ‘mindful living’ on the earth has the wrong connotations of sacrifice to it, when it is really about protecting and salvaging whats left. If we shifted our conversations to tie into comparison with other extinctions maybe we could unarguably begin to understand the self-defeating weight of our own errors. Some current articles do speak to one extinction leading to another.

I have always believed that when you craft words carefully you can create a more compelling picture. So instead of save the earth how about we make it personal – Save The Humans, save ourselves. If we want to save ourselves and future generations we need to prevent our home, the Earth, from becoming humanly uninhabitable. In this self-preservation attempt it seems paramount to keep the land masses above sea level and enveloped in oxygen rich air.

When nonbelievers say that their is no such thing as climate change we can just stick to the facts, if the conditions of our planet shift and make it impossible for some insects and animals to exist humans will have no immunity. The only alternative is to continue on ignorantly talking about reducing our footprint while we continue running towards the biological limits of no return. Hopefully if we humans become extinct the Earth will heal and rebalance itself.

Are there people in your circle that would benefit from a more simplistic conversation about saving the humans? Can you change the way you live by living more lightly? What does more lightly look like to you? How can you help to Save The Human?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Context is everything. I often forget that who my parents are, where I’ve lived, the color of my skin, my gender, my sexual orientation, my education, my family, and my job often define what I notice in the world around me and how I’m treated.

Sometimes when I’m engaged in a transaction that seems relatively simple to me, such as returning merchandise without a receipt, I remind myself that one of the reasons it may be easy is because of my color and class. I imagine the complexity of returning merchandise without a receipt might depend on the store clerk’s construct of who you are based on their perception of how you look. "White privilege" is something that needs to be discussed as much as our country’s racism. All too often, I hear one talked about without taking into account those folks discussing the other, each view based on individual contexts and truths.

I recently heard Sue Monk Kidd speak about her new book The Invention of Wings. At the end of the reading, she answered questions from the audience. A white middle-aged man from Seattle asked a question that really stuck with me: "How can we help to end discrimination?" When Mark, my husband, and I talk about ways to resolve this enormous issue, I normally say he needs to speak about it with his "tribe," other white middle-aged men. If, as whites, we started discussions about each other's context and what whiteness has afforded us, we might engage in more-full spectrum conversations. In discussions where everyone is aware of the context for their perceptions, I find that more questions are asked and perceptions adjusted as we move forward together toward understanding.

When I got home after hearing Sue Monk Kidd speak, I started to read her historical fiction novel. I couldn’t stop reading, partly because (a) I didn't grow up in the South, (b) my stepfather had no tolerance for racism, and (c) as a 1960's kid from the West Coast, including my experience living abroad, I had no understanding of Southern racism.

In Sue Monk Kidd’s book, she explored slavery in the early 1800's. I’m always taken back when I see or hear about the underbelly and cruelty of some human experiences. And I often can't understand or reconcile the how or why of it. The day after I finished The Invention of Wings was the day of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. It’s impossible for me to understand the hatred and violence that one person can inflict on so many. At the same time, it was stunning to see the forgiveness given by many to the young man who inflicted such a violent act on their loving community.

If we change the conversation about racism to a wider, more full-spectrum conversation that includes white privilege, can we abolish racism?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh by Herbal Academy

Midsummer announces the arrival of an abundance of plant medicine for the herb gardener and wildcrafter to harvest and preserve. While many herbs can be dried and stored for later use in teas and remedies, some plants are best preserved fresh. St. John’s Wort, lemon balm, violet leaf, mullein flowers, and milky oats make powerful remedies when they are harvested at the peak of their potency and processed into tinctures, infused oils, and/or glycerites when still fresh to extract their pharmacologically active constituents as well as their vital energy.

5 Midsummer Herbs

5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh - st. john's wort by Herbal Academy

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

The bright yellow five-petaled flowers of St. John’s wort are arranged in a flat-topped cluster at the top of a branching stem. Tips for a positive ID: if you hold a leaf up to the light, you can see tiny dots that appear to be perforations but are actually a translucent layer of oil glands; and the flowers are covered with tiny black dots that release a red oil, staining your fingers as you harvest. This red pigment is hypericin, one of the bioactive constituents in St. John’s wort, which is preserved in fresh extracts or oil infusions of the plant but not in the dried plant. While hypericin isn’t the only active constituent in St. John’s wort, Tillotson (2001) suggests that the hypericin content (and associated red color) can be used to evaluate the strength of St. John’s Wort preparations.

St. John’s Wort is a relaxing nervine well-known for its ability to relieve anxiety and tension and uplift the spirit. It has been researched extensively as an antidepressant, and is prescribed throughout the world for mild to moderate depression. St. John’s wort can also help those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to lower sunlight exposure in the winter months. Its anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, astringent, and antimicrobial actions make it a powerful healer for wounds, bruises, burns, sprains, and muscle pain. Learn more about St. John's wort here.

How to: Harvest the upper 2-3 inches of fresh flowers and leaves from the plant. Follow instructions to make an infused oil or fill jar 2/3 full with St. John’s wort tops, cover with vodka (at least 80 proof), and let macerate for at least 4 weeks before straining.

5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh - Milk Oats by Herbal Academy

Milky Oats (Avena sativa)

Oat grows to four feet tall with narrow, lance-shaped, flat, rough green leaves on a smooth stem. The flower consists of two-flowered spikelets that hang downward and develop into two husk-wrapped grains.  Milky oats are the oat grains harvested when they are in their milky stage, during which the oat grains release a white, milky sap when squeezed. This stage, which lasts approximately one week, occurs after the oat begins flowering and before the seed hardens and becomes the oat grain.  Once the seed heads appear and become plump, squeeze the tops daily to make sure you don’t miss the milky stage. Harvesting the tops is easy and fun – just pinch the stem between two fingers, slide up the stem, and the grains will pop off one at a time. Milky oats can then be dried for teas, but can also be tinctured fresh in alcohol to preserve its bioactive components.

The rich Vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium content in oats help soothe and strengthen nerves. As a tincture, milky oats are helpful for nervous system conditions such as exhaustion, depression, insomnia, anxiety, or sexual debility. This preparation can be especially supportive in more acute cases when the symptoms are more severe, or in cases of drug and alcohol withdrawal (Bennett, 2014). Read more about milky oats here.

How to: Fill jar 2/3 full with fresh milky oats, cover with vodka (at least 80 proof), and let macerate for at least 4 weeks before straining.

5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh - Lemon Balm by HANE

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

This lemon-scented mint family plant grows enthusiastically in the garden, producing lush growth throughout the summer. Harvesting the upper several inches of the stem and leaves by pinching it back just above a set of leaves keeps lemon balm from flowering so it will keep producing foliage. While dried lemon balm makes lovely herbal preparations, the fresh leaves have a lighter, brighter, and even more refreshing energy. A cup of lemon balm tea prepared with freshly harvested lemon balm is a favorite in our house, and adding a handful of lemon balm to a pitcher of water chilling in the fridge makes a wonderfully refreshing and cooling summer beverage. The essence of fresh lemon balm can also be captured in a glycerite for later use to flavor and sweeten fizzy water, teas, or tinctures.

Lemon balm has a wonderfully uplifting energy. As a trophorestorative (Hoffman, 2003), it tonifies and repairs the nervous system over time. It soothes anxiety, depression, and nervousness and brings with it a sense of lightness and joy. Its gentle nature also relaxes tension.

Combining lemon balm glycerite with St. John’s wort tincture makes a delightful, uplifting blend. Lemon balm’s carminative action helps relieve digestive upset stemming from anxiety or depression (Hoffman, 2003). Learn more about lemon balm here.

How to: Harvest the upper several inches of leaves from plant prior to flowering, pinching off right above a set of leaves. Follow instructions here to prepare a glycerite.

Mullein - 5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh

Mullein Flowers (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein grows along roadsides and embankments and prefers sunny, open spots on disturbed soil. It’s a biennial plant, producing a rosette of fuzzy leaves in its first year and the distinctive tall stalk covered in yellow flowers in its second year.

While the saponins and mucilage in mullein leaves indicate it for the respiratory system as an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic for bronchitis and coughs, mullein flowers are also prized as an herbal remedy. An oil infusion of the wilted flowers soothes earaches and is a common folk remedy for ear infections. Mullein oil is often combined with antimicrobial garlic oil, producing a very useful remedy for earaches and ear infections.   

How to: Harvest flowers and let wilt for several hours to reduce moisture content. Follow instructions to make an infused oil.

violet - 5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh

Violet (Viola odorata)

While spring is an ideal time to harvest violet leaves, the plant puts out new leaves throughout the summer as well. Harvest the small, tender leaves of the fresh growth for eating fresh in salads, drinking as an infusion, and for making an infused oil.

Violet is cooling and moistening so is an ideal ally in the hot, dry summer weather or for hot and dry ailments. Internally, violet leaf’s expectorant, demulcent, and anti-inflammatory (Hoffman, 2003) qualities are used for respiratory conditions including dry, inflamed coughs. Externally, an oil infusion of violet leaf is used to cool and reduce swelling for inflamed skin conditions.

Massaging the breasts with violet leaf oil is also a folk remedy for inflammation of the lymphatic tissue in breasts, helping to move lymph and clear toxins. Violet is a very sweet and loving plant, and this physical act of self care conveys kindness and much needed support to not only the breasts but also our hearts. Read about additional benefits of violets.

How to: Harvest young violet leaves and a few flowers. Chop leaves into smaller pieces and let wilt a bit to reduce moisture content. Follow instructions to make an infused oil.

Want to Learn More?

Learn more about the actions, energetics, and benefits of these plants and many more in the Herbal Academy of New England’s plant monograph database, part of The Herbarium membership website.

5 Summer Herbs to Preserve Fresh - The Herbarium at HANE


The Herbarium. (2015). 

Bennett, Robin Rose. (2014). The Gift of Healing Herbs. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Hoffman, David (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Tillotson, Alan Keith. (2001). The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Group.

Jane Metzger is the Assistant Director at the Herbal Academy of New England, home of the online Introductory Herbal Course and Intermediate Herbal Course. HANE recently released its affordable membership program, fittingly called The Herbarium, featuring one of the most complete plant monograph databases to date. Learn more about all of HANE's herbalism classes and offerings.

Images provided and copyright by Jane Metzger and the Herbal Academy of New England. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 



As presidential election season starts, eighteen months before the election, I start to listen, collect data, and have impassioned discussion about the merits and liabilities of the candidates. At this point I am very clear on who I trust, has the track record of integrity I like to see, and the social ethic that I think our country needs. I am thankful he stepped up to give himself as an option.

Because I live in a state far from the the nations Capitol, I often look to our local elections to satisfy my need for being part of the democratic process. When I was recently invited to go to a live debate for the Port of Seattle Commissioner Position #5 I was all in. At this debate there were eight candidates and only an hour and a half to get the most important topics covered – so little time for conversation on potential transformative work.

In Seattle our city is full of a diversity of opinions and action plans for our busy airport and seaport. The debate centered around these plans for our ports, as this is the job of the Commissioner. Thanks to a great moderator and the brevity of most of the candidates I was able to narrow my choice down to three options, with one stand out candidate. I noticed that as I watched these folks field direct and pointed questions, I was looking for the one with the same conviction and passion that I have towards living lightly on the earth – someone I thought would be a good leader and a person who would answer honestly and directly to their democratic electorate. The last part may seem simple but as the time ticked on it became clear that some were not there to answer the questions posed to them and others needed to be constantly reminded of the question at hand.

At the end of this process I paused to think about how awesome it would be if more people attended live political debates. While watching these folks I got to read their body language, listen to what they would do if elected, and see who naturally took the lead. What if we could gather the same amount of fans for a live debate that a professional football game gathers?! What if we could see how all candidates think on their feet, listen to the moderator in order to answer the question, and tell us what matters to them. Recently someone told me that they didn't like the idea of mandatory voting because he thought that the folks from his part of the country were too stupid to vote. My response proposal was mandating a level of understanding quiz along with each vote. What if in order to vote you had to name 3-5 issues that your desired candidate stood for and what they proposed to do to fix each issue? Maybe repeating what a candidate standards were would give us the pause we need to evaluate our choice.

Are you having conversations about the presidential elections? Can you name five things that aline you with your candidate of choice? What do you think about mandatory voting?

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


You use a reusable bag to bring home your food, a sponge to clean your dishes after you cook, and a kitchen towel to dry those dishes off. But did you know that each of these items can be an unseen source of germs and bacteria?

Most of us probably have some bad habits when it comes to keeping our homes free of contamination. You might think that your bathroom is the dirtiest place in your house, but think again. Studies show that the kitchen is often the most contaminated spot in a household.[1] Learn how to clean sponges and other unexpected germ-laden kitchen items to reduce your exposure.


At the top of the list of contaminated kitchen items is the dish sponge.[1] The very thing we use to clean our dishes and wipe off our counters is usually one of the most-germ laden items in the kitchen; sponges are porous, moist environments that make the perfect home for growing bacteria.[2,3] This means that we are often spreading germs to our dishes, our countertop, our hands, and the rest of the house when we use our kitchen sponge.

How to Clean Sponges

Use dishcloths instead of sponges when you can. They are less prone to contamination. But if you prefer a sponge (I personally prefer using a sponge over a dishcloth) make sure to sanitize it often to rid it of harmful bacteria. This can be done in numerous ways, but my favorite technique is simple and doesn’t require harsh chemicals like bleach: to effectively clean your sponge of bacteria, mold, and yeasts, put your sponge in the dishwasher and run it in a cycle along with your dishes.[4] Store your sponge in a place that allows it to dry in between uses, and replace your sponge often for a fresh start.

Kitchen Towels

A study conducted at Kansas State University observed people cooking fruit salad alongside a meat dish. The researchers found that more than 90 percent of the prepared fruit salad was contaminated with bacteria from the meat. One of the biggest behavioral habits that the researchers believed contributed to such high rates of contamination? Improper use of the kitchen towel.[5] For example, researchers saw participants wiping their hands on the towel (often after improper hand washing, or lack thereof) many times when handling the meat and the fruit. People also commonly wipe off the counter and dry clean dishes with a single kitchen towel. Mixing these tasks makes it easy for the towels to get contaminated with germs, and for us to spread those germs to supposedly clean surfaces.

How to Clean Kitchen Towels

First, be sure to wash your kitchen towels often (at least every few days, if not more). Throw your towels in the wash directly after any meal where you have prepared meat or poultry, which raises the risk for contamination. You can also reduce exposure by refraining from using one towel for multiple tasks; don’t wipe your hands, dry your dishes, and wipe off the counter with the same towel. Instead, have a separate towel for each task.

Reusable Grocery Bags

I love reusable grocery bags. I keep a stash of them in my car to have on hand whenever I end up at the grocery store. Aside from how easy it is to forget to bring them in the store (I end up having to either carry my groceries out by hand or return to my car to retrieve my bags on a regular basis), reusable bags present one major problem; they are a prime location for germs to accumulate.

A report published in 2010 found that almost all bags tested harbored large amounts of bacteria, with 12 percent of bags containing E coli. Meat juices, in particular, can be dangerous causes of contamination. The study also identified why such high rates of contamination are found; most people interviewed seldom (if ever) washed their bags.[6]

How to Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

I rarely bring my bags in to wash them, but that is a habit I am gong to change. Hand or machine washing your reusable bags can get rid of 99.99 percent of bacteria.[6] Put your bags in a load of laundry or hand wash them to sanitize them between uses, especially after carrying meat. Another important tip: try not to use the same bags for multiple uses. If you store your personal items like clothes, a phone, a water bottle, or others in the same bag you bring your groceries home in, you will increase the risk of cross-contamination.

No one wants to get food poisoning or another infection, especially if it can be easily prevented by proper cleaning techniques. Be sure to use these simple tips for how to clean sponges, kitchen towels, and reusable grocery bags effectively to keep your home clean and your family safe.

One final thing to keep in mind: avoid the overuse of antibacterial cleaning agents. These can be harmful to your health and can contribute to antibacterial resistance (read more about a the dangers of a common antibacterial agent, triclosan, here). Very hot water and plain soap are effective, safe sanitation tools, so stick to those.


[1] J Environ Health. 2012 Sep;75(2):12-9.

[2] J Infect Dev Ctries. 2013 Mar 14;7(3):229-34.

[3] Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 Aug 25;85(3):213-26.

[4] J Environ Health. 2007 Sep;70(2):57.

[5] Food Protection Trends. 2015 35(1):36-48.

[6] U of Arizona Tucson and Loma Linda U. 2010 June:1-14.

Contributing editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 


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