YES! But How? :: Diesel Trucks, Soap V. Detergent


Diesel trucks, Brown spots on skin, Dust Mites, Brass Cleaner, Soap vs Detergent, Moth ball odor, Stuff-free gifts


Dear Doug & Annie,

I know that SUVs with their awful gas mileage are definitely not “green.” But a vehicle that could handle the occasional large load or sheet of plywood would be really handy. How about a compromise — a diesel truck? I understand they get great mileage. —Galen 

Dear Galen:

Attempting to justify buying a large pickup truck by going with diesel instead of gasoline is a bit like justifying hitting yourself in the head with a brick by saying, “It's a rather small brick.”
An article touting the wonders of diesel engines says that, properly geared, you'll get up to 23 mpg out of a diesel truck (or as little as 17 mpg). That's about the bottom end of what you'll get from a passenger car, and what you'll get from a small car will nearly double that.

As a bonus, truck emissions are regulated less strictly. If you drive a truck or an SUV, you are not only consuming petroleum products at almost twice the rate of the little car you're looking down at, but you're also belching out extra pollutants for each of those gallons.

The simple fact is, unless you actually use a truck, as in hauling large objects on a regular basis, there's no justification for owning one. Buying one that runs on diesel doesn't change that.
Before you convince yourself that all those weekend projects really do justify buying a truck, do this exercise: Find out what it costs to rent a truck. Balance that against the price difference between a truck and a car, plus the fuel cost difference for all the times you drive the truck when a car would do as well. You may be surprised at just how much hauling you have to do to amortize those additional costs.


Dear Annie & Doug,

Help! I'm only 25, but I've already begun to develop brown spots on my face and wrinkles around my eyes. Is there a natural remedy? —Monica

Dear Monica:

Brown spots — age spots, or liver spots, as they are sometimes called — are the result of sun exposure. The remedies usually recommended for this problem include vitamin E, aloe vera gel, fruit acids such as lemon juice and organic apple cider vinegar, enzymes such as papaya and pineapple, witch hazel, and horseradish mixed with lemon juice or milk. I've seen my age spots significantly diminish over a number of months using lemon juice as an astringent and an aloe vera gel and glycerin moisturizer (3/4 parts aloe vera gel, 1/4 part natural vegetable glycerin).


Dear Annie & Doug,

Any suggestions for killing dust mites? How about a natural recipe for brass cleaner? —Andy

Dear Andy:

Tannic acid neutralizes the allergens in dust mites and animal dander. There are tannic acid powders on the market (check out Real Goods at, but you can easily make your own with tannic acid–rich tea. (Be sure to test this on the material you are going to spray, since tea stains). Make a very, very strong cup of black tea. Strain, cool, and place in a spray bottle. Spray over problem areas.

As for the brass cleaner, look no further than your kitchen cupboard or refrigerator. Foods that contain a natural acid, such as vinegar, Tabasco sauce, ketchup, tomatoes, milk, and lemon or lime juice, will remove tarnish. The tarnish washes away with an acid rub or soak.

If the brass is new, you might have to remove the lacquer cover. Do this by submerging the brass in boiling water with a few teaspoons each of baking soda and washing soda (available in the laundry section of the supermarket). Once the lacquer has peeled off, polish dry.


Dear Doug & Annie,

I'm confused about the difference between soap and detergent. When I go to the store to buy ingredients to make your recipes, what should I be looking for?  —Janice

Dear Janice:

Excellent question. Soaps and detergents are not the same thing, although both are surfactants, or surface active agents, which basically means a washing compound that mixes with grease and water.

Soaps are made of materials found in nature. Detergents, on the other hand, are basically synthetic, although some of the ingredients are natural. They were developed during World War II, when oils to make soap were scarce.

Since detergents are toxic to fish and wildlife, there's little doubt that soap is better than detergent when it comes to your health and the environment. Nonetheless, soap has its drawbacks. Minerals in water react with those in soap, leaving an insoluble film that can turn clothes grayish and leave a residue like that found on shower stalls.

Detergents react less to minerals in water and for all practical purposes are the product of choice for laundry, unless you have very soft water. (Those of you with hard water, which has a high mineral content, will already know about this.) If you choose to wash your clothes or dishes with a detergent, you can ensure the least possible damage to the environment by selecting the most biodegradable products. Health food stores sell detergents that are made with renewable materials instead of petroleum-based ingredients, and with natural essential oil fragrance and no dyes. They also sell liquid vegetable-oil soaps called castile soap.


Dear Doug & Annie,

I'm anxious to remove moth ball odor from baby clothes that have been stored in them for a few years. I've tried everything I can think of, including baking soda and white vinegar in the wash. Nothing seems to work. Each time I think the smell is gone, the warmth of the dryer (or of the baby) makes it return. I'm fresh out of ideas! —Brian

Dear Brian:

I posed the question to an indoor air quality list serve. One professional carpet cleaner observed that for reasons nobody quite understands, possibly because of natural ozone, placing carpets (and presumably other items) outdoors in the sun for as many days as necessary will remove the smell of moth balls. (She claims that using commercial ozone machines inside will not do the trick.)

You might try placing the clothes outside in the sun every day (bring them in at night) until the smell is gone. Let me know how this works.


Dear Doug & Annie,

I love the tradition of holiday giving, but most of my friends already have more “stuff“ than they want. Any ideas for stuff-free giving? —Sally

Dear Sally:

A membership in a nonprofit organization that does hands-on work to protect the Earth is a wonderful present — a gift to all living things.

But be prepared. You may be overwhelmed by the choices! Simplify the process by matching the organizations to the hobbies and interests of the recipient.

Here are a few possibilities. If your list includes gardeners, a membership in a wildflower society will show them how to introduce native wildflowers to their yard while restoring a bit of natural habitat. The chance to “adopt” a whale, wolf, or wild creature is an exciting, educational gift for child, and it's offered by several wildlife conservation groups. People who are house-bound often enjoy watching birds at their feeders. For them, membership in the local chapter of the Audubon Society offers the chance to learn more about the birds they see, to connect with other birdwatchers, and to provide a valuable service as an official feeder watcher during the Christmas Bird Count and other bird censuses.

[And of course you can't go wrong with a gift subscription to YES! –Editors]

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