In our last post, I discussed some big changes that you can make to support your health when you build or remodel a home.
In this second post, I want to highlight 10 ways that you can make better choices with some of the smaller, more common household items. What we breathe, touch, and come in contact with in our home every day can have a significant effect on our long-term health and well-being.
While many people are already aware of the dangers of hidden household toxins and the ways to prevent them, others may not be as aware—or may simply be overwhelmed with how to make the transition. Trying to achieve a healthier home environment doesn’t need to be overwhelming and it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing ordeal. However, it is a serious matter that deserves our time and attention.
Research shows that the air within our home is 2-5 times more toxic than the air we breathe outside. Isn’t that startling?! Inadequate ventilation (especially during the winter) is the primary cause of indoor air pollution. Other causes are chemical cleaners, beauty care products, synthetic fibers and materials, paints, glues….and even something as “simple” as a plastic baby toy that is “off gassing” chemicals.
Our intention is not to cause you to fret over this, but to empower you! By taking these proactive and preventative steps below, you can decrease the toxins within your home and reduce your risk of illness, allergies and more:
- Improve the Air Quality. There are many ways to improve the air quality within your home. On beautiful days, open your windows and allow the air within your home to circulate. Add plants to your home that will help to purify the air. Diffuse or spray essential oils (my favorites are Thieves and Purification). Purchase a Himalayan Salt Lamp; these lamps are supposed to help attract pollutants in the air, increase the negative ions that we need, and neutralize the effects of electronics around us. And lastly, invest in a good air purifier. We bought an air purifier for both our home and office this year and comment regularly about what terrific purchases they were!
- Avoid Teflon Cookware. Non-stick Teflon contains Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs). When those pans get scratched, these chemicals are released into our food. Bake with oven safe glass or ceramic. Cook with cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic coated pots and pans, and “green” non-stick cookware.
- Upgrade your Tupperware. Plastic food storage can be loaded with chemicals. Among those chemicals are Bisphenol A Plastic (BPA), Bisphenol S Plastic (BPS), and Phthalates. Plastics can be especially harmful if you heat your food up in them or place hot food directly into them, as the heat will allow the plastic chemicals to absorb into your food. Glass containers are affordable, non-toxic options. We use glass containers whenever possible and reserve using plastic food storage only with foods that are cold or have cooled down completely.
- Replace Candles, Plug Ins and Air Fresheners. These synthetic fragrances and ingredients are some of the most toxic items found within the home, with recent research pointing at candles producing toxins equal to someone smoking one cigarette! Air fresheners emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene; terpenoids such as linalool and alpha-terpineol; ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene) and semi-volatile organic compounds (such as phthalates). Choose natural options such as essential oil diffusers, homemade sprays made with essential oils, and beeswax or soy candles scented with oils.
- Ditch the Dryer Sheets. Dryer sheets are one of the most toxic things within the home. Dryer sheet manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients used in fragrance blends. Fragrance researcher Anne Steinemann, PhD, studied dryer vent exhaust and found seven hazardous air pollutants and 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Try wool dryer balls scented with essential oils.
- Replace the Shower Curtain. Ever notice when you pull a new shower curtain out of the packaging that it has that really strong, plastic type smell (some people like it?!). That smell happens to be all of the chemicals and toxins off-gassing into your home. Search for a PVC free shower curtain or spend a few more dollars to get a non-plastic curtain. They even make fabric shower curtain liners, which is what we use.
- Swap your Cleaning Supplies. As consumers we quickly become brand loyal and we trust what we see on the shelves at the local supermarket. Some people never even consider that what is sold to us to clean our homes may be dangerous to our family’s health. There are over 84,000 chemicals in the world of cleaning supplies and only around 200 have them have been tested by the FDA with only a few of them even regulated. The chemical safety law hasn’t been updated since roughly 1976, meaning that we have little oversight of the chemicals within our home. While there are many good, non-toxic brands these days, some of our favorites are Seventh Generation, Norwex, and biokleen.
- Consider Buying Used. Certain household items can off-gas their chemicals into our home for quite a long time. Strive for less plastic and more natural fibers such as wood, wool, etc. and consider buying certain household items and children’s toys used.
- Switch your Beauty & Skin Care Products. It may seem irrelevant to worry about your beauty products contaminating the air within your home, but they can. From hair sprays to perfumes and more, those scents can fill your home with toxins. In this post, I discussed the purchasing safe cosmetics for your body and health.
- Clean Regularly. Be mindful of certain things like not wearing shoes in the home, keeping a doormat near each door and cleaning regularly to reduce allergens and dust particles that enter and circulate in your home.
Striving for a non-toxic home can be within your reach if you educate yourself and become more mindful about what you allow into it. We hope that these tips help you begin!