We support our health in many ways—such as eating healthy, exercising, and self-care—but often, we forget our environment’s role in the well-being of our minds and body. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors and 62% of their waking hours in their home…homes that are typically found to contain more than 500 chemicals. Yikes! With those stats, it’s clear that cleaning up our home should be a priority.
The thought of detoxing or cleaning up your home can be overwhelming, but you can impact the health of you and your family by taking small steps, just as you do on the journey of eating healthy or starting a new exercise regime.
Are You Ready to Detox Your Home? Here’s Your Smart First Step
First and foremost, create a NO shoes policy. Scientists have found that toxins are regularly present on our shoes. Bacteria such as E. coli, pesticides, and lead contaminants have all been found on a typical shoe in our home! The practice of no shoes in the home can reduce the toxins we usually would find by 60%.
Design tip: Leave a stylish basket or bin for an easy solution to corral those shoes in your entrance. In wet weather, a good tray to leave damp footwear is a great solution, too.
That quick, smart step is simple but hugely beneficial. Now let’s talk about five more areas we should look at when detoxing our home.
1. Improve Your Air Quality
- Ventilate your home: Open those windows and use mechanicals to get fresh air and toxic air out of the house. Bonus detox points if you check the bathroom, laundry, and cooking vents to confirm they are working correctly.
- Get rid of dust: Start with a good old-fashioned wet/damp mop and dust off all surfaces. Keep this up regularly to prevent dust build-up containing toxins like lead, mercury, asbestos, and flame retardants. Plain water is the perfect answer for weekly cleaning. White vinegar and water are great natural cleaning solutions when needed.
- Use an air purifier: A good air purifier in your home makes a huge difference. A good filter will capture and remove germs from your air, which helps during cold and flu season, and can also help to reduce and even remove harmful pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and reduce chemical particles.
- Change your filters: Furnace filters, whole home filters, and air purifiers must be changed and cleaned regularly to ensure they can do their job. A simple reminder on our calendar, just like making a yearly doctor checkup, can be a game changer. Bonus points if all vents and grills are wiped down regularly to avoid the expelling of dust while in use.
- Get your air tested: If you’re concerned about your air quality, there are tests that can be done with home kits and professionals if you suspect radon, toxic off-gassing by Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), or formaldehyde, to name a few.
- Source healthier products to clean your home with: As you reach the end of a bottle of cleaner, be conscious about the next one you buy. Use verified databases such as EWG to find products and educate yourself about what’s in the products.
2. Make Sure Your Water Is Clean
Do you drink enough water every day? It seems like the doctor always asks us this. Water is essential for the healthy operation of our body. Our water comes to us via a private well or city water, and we use it for everything—drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning. Getting to know your water and selecting a filtration system accordingly are essential, and here are suggestions on how to go about that.
- Get your water tested by a professional or reputable home test.
- Do some research and leg work to get to know your water.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) to get you started on its website. It has an Annual Drinking Water Quality Report from your water supplier. Based on your location, it will let you know where it comes from and what is found.
- The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a simple Tap Water Database where, if your home has city water, you can enter your zip code and get research on your water. When inputting my zip code, I found 26 Contaminants, 11 exceeding the EWG Health Guidelines.
- When selecting a water filtration system, base your decisions on what’s in the water and if it meets your needs and goals. Based on your findings, you can decide the type of water filtration you may need.
- Options can be as simple as a stand-alone system to a whole home system. Don’t forget your shower when thinking about water—most city water contains chlorine, and the way we ingest the most significant amount of chlorine is through that shower we take daily to wake us up or relax us after a hard day. Chlorine is linked to nose, throat, and eye irritation, exacerbating asthma to impaired neurobehavioral functions and hyperactivity.
3. Say No to Synthetic Fragrances
We all love a good-smelling or clean house, but that doesn’t have to be created artificially. What needs to be avoided:
- air fresheners
- paraffin candles (yes, those scented candles need to go) and wax melts
- plug-ins and air freshener sprays
Why? Most scents are created with a petroleum base. These chemicals contain phthalates, which are found to be endocrine disruptors that disrupt our body’s hormones. Many also have carcinogens, such as benzophenone and styrene.
4. Basic Cleanups in the Kitchen
The kitchen can have its own miniseries on how to clean it up, but for now, let’s dive into a few easy cleanups:
- Replace your old plastic food storage with glass containers.
- Look at your pots and pans: Avoiding all non-stick pans is a good rule of thumb. Scratched or not, PFA or some new chemicals are just a no-no to your health.
- Options for replacing pots and pans: Stainless, cast iron, or glass. And yes, before you ask, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet can be used for eggs.
- It is not just the pan but what you cook in or on. Swap your tin foil and plastic wrap with parchment paper (if needed).
- If you are looking for new dinnerware or glassware, check if they say it is lead- and cadmium-free.
5. Be on the Lookout for Mold
Mold is a huge health problem we must be aware of. It can cause allergic symptoms such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itching, and coughing. It can also lead to difficulty breathing, headaches, and fatigue. Extended exposure can lead to an even more severe reaction, so it needs to be taken seriously.
- Be conscious of areas with too much moisture, whether from a leak or a primary bathroom without proper ventilation.
- A dehumidifier is helpful in damp areas where the relative humidity is above 60%
If you are concerned about mold, have a professional test this. This way, you can double-check the results. With mold, you always use one company to test and a different company to remediate if needed.
It’s essential to remember that our homes will never be toxin-free, but we can make a significant impact by reducing toxins that will benefit our bodies and mind!
Carolyn Tierney, CSBA, GREENleader AP, is a Holistic Interior Designer and Wellness Specialist. Ms. Tierney guides families seamlessly through the design experience, from construction to decoration, creating a non-toxic and stylish home. She leads studios in Simsbury, CT, and New York City.