You’ve heard a lot about having a non-toxic home, but you’re not sure what that means. Are there really toxins in my home? What can I do to get rid of them?
Having a non-toxic house is easy! It’s all about making small changes and taking some time to learn more about the products you use every day. Start by learning how to identify common household toxins, and then begin replacing your everyday products with healthier alternatives.
Your surroundings have an effect on your health, so it’s important to create a healthy environment at home where you spend the most time. If you make simple changes around your house today, tomorrow will be much easier!
The Key Elements of a Healthy House
The following are some of the systems that contribute to a healthy home environment.
Is your home damp?
Leaks in the floor, walls, or foundations of your house can lead to mold, rot, mildew, and structural damage.
It’s vital that your house remain dry since mold and mildew can harm both children’s and adults’ respiratory and immunological systems.
Room Air Quality
To improve the quality of air in your house, you may take a number of actions. There are several elements to consider.
The first is your ventilation system. Your vents should be clear of obstructions and clean.
It’s essential to make sure your heating and cooling systems are effective and efficient. This can be achieved by regular maintenance.
When you create a well-ventilated house, you eliminate pollutants such as chemicals, allergens, and potentially harmful gases from the air in your home.
One approach to help improve the indoor air quality is to simply open the windows during the warmer months.
Contaminants and Toxins
Many kinds of pollutants and poisons may be found in your home. These chemicals are often present in most homes.
For example, homes that were built before 1978 may have lead in the paint, and older houses frequently contain asbestos in the insulation surrounding pipes and walls.
Synthetic fabrics, adhesives, paints, and even furnishings all contain pollutants that can seep into your house.
Did you know that formaldehyde gases are given off by fiberboard and foam for a considerable time after they’re produced?
Many home cleaning products and bath and body items hazardous chemicals you might prefer to avoid.
A clean house is also a pest-free one.
Mice and other vermin can harm your home, so you’ll want to safeguard it against them as well.
However, rather than employing poisons and harsh chemicals to get rid of vermin from your home, you should use non-toxic preventative measures.
Safety Features all Homes Should Have
Every home should have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a safe electrical system.
Also, the householder should be vigilant of any potential safety hazards. Keeping people safe from falls, drowning, burns, and injury.
Benefits of a Healthy Home
Some of the benefits of a healthy house are self-evident. When a home is in good shape and toxin-free, its inhabitants can stay well.
However, you may be surprised to discover that having a healthy house has additional advantages.
A healthy house is one that is well-maintained and free of pollutants. You can avoid expensive problems by keeping your home in good working order.
For example, getting your water heating system properly maintained every year may prevent costly water leaks and mechanical breakdowns.
Sustainability is another component of a healthy home environment.
Using environmentally responsible products to clean the home will improve the environment of both the planet and your home.
Choosing green eco-friendly materials to build or renovate your house is a great way to conserve natural resources while also improving both the environment and your health.
The same may be said for recycled and sustainable construction materials. They’re frequently manufactured from safer materials, and the noxious gases have long since dissipated, making them safer to use in your house.
Bath products that biodegrade, are excellent for your skin and are usually safer for children and adults. Also, they are healthier for our water supply and therefore better for the environment.
Less Illness, More Energy
Every aspect of your home should be designed to help you relax and enjoy a calm, stress-free lifestyle. You don’t need to put up with illnesses and allergens. You can sleep well and eat healthy food, which gives you more energy. This results in a more fulfilling life where you can be productive and successful.
These benefits are life-changing. A healthy home can improve your life and the lives of the people you love. Family members and guests can feel safe in your home when they know that they are protected.
Beware of Toxins and Pollutants in Your Home
Hidden pollutants in your home can cause a number of health and even behavior problems.
You know that lead paint, carbon monoxide from heating systems, and toxins from household cleaners can harm you. But you will be surprised to learn that other types of pollution can too. They are biological, electrical, and chemical.
The average American spends around 90% of their time indoors. Meaning pollutants if present may cause serious health problems and unpleasant symptoms.
Types of Pollution Commonly Found In Your Home
Many types of pollutants found in homes can produce health issues.
There are three main categories of home pollutants.
Let’s look at the pollutants in your home and how they might affect your health.
Biological pollutants come from living organisms. Regardless, biological pollutants might lead to serious health problems.
Common indoor biological pollutants include:
- Animal Dander
- Dust Mites
- Bacteria and/or viruses
So what happens if they’re present in your home? For many healthy people, the signs and symptoms may be minimal and can include fatigue, sinus problems, and headaches.
However, if you spend a significant amount of time indoors, are sensitive to the pollutants, or have compromised health then the reactions can be quite severe including asthma, fever, and severe illness resulting from a compromised immune system.
Your body is so exhausted from fighting the biological pollutants it can’t compete when something else comes along.
Electrical pollution, unlike biological pollution, is relatively unheard of by most people and in fact, the results of this type of pollution are only recently being recognized.
We’re exposed, almost everywhere we go, to electricity. In our homes, we have currents running through the walls, sitting on our laps, under our floors, and so on. This electrical current releases energy, that is harmful to our bodies.
Scientists have learned that chronic exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields can affect our development, our reaction and ability to deal with stress, our body’s immune response, and studies have connected electromagnetic fields to birth defects and cancer.
Other symptoms of Electrical Pollution include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
Sounds pretty horrible, right? There is good news. There are relatively easy ways to filter out this pollution and we’ll show you how and where to get these filters in the next sections.
Next, let’s take a look at the final and perhaps most pervasive type of pollution, chemical pollution.
Chemical pollutants come in a number of forms. Many of them are airborne however, some of them leach from common household products like water bottles and non-stick pans.
Here are some of the most common household chemical pollutants.
Also called BPA, it’s found in some plastics and is linked to cancer, infertility, obesity, and behavioral effects in animal studies. In addition to common plastic bottles, you can also often find BPA in baby bottles and on the linings inside canned foods.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Occurs in the home when gas appliances, fireplaces, and wood stoves are not properly ventilated. It can cause eye problems respiratory infection and chronic bronchitis.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Like Nitrogen Dioxide, it comes from improper ventilation in the home in relation to heating sources, gas appliances like furnaces, and so on. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, nausea, and dizziness and prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can be deadly.
Every year around 430 people die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the USA.
Formaldehyde is found in a number of household products including the resins in particleboard, fiberboard, and plywood paneling as well as adhesives, carpet backing, upholstery, and drapery. It’s also found in cigarettes.
Today, most household products are made with low formaldehyde ingredients. However, older homes will still have formaldehyde.
Effects include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, rashes, nausea, asthma, and respiratory troubles.
Is emitted by soil or rock surrounding a home. Radon gas from the soil can enter your home through cracks in the foundation floor, drains, and walls. Indoor radon exposure is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the United States.
Many household products including cleaning products, bath and body products, pesticides, paints, and solvents contain a number of chemical pollutants.
Here’s a small list of just a few of these common pollutants:
- Potassium hydroxide
- Methylene chloride
- Lead arsenate
Like many chemical pollutants, common health effects are dizziness, allergic reactions, and nausea. Prolonged exposure can lead to respiratory complications and some have been linked to cancer.
The long and the short of these common household pollutants, whether they’re biological, chemical, or electrical, is they affect your health. From minor symptoms like runny nose and fatigue to lifelong complications like asthma and cancer, household pollutants have an adverse effect on your health and your life.
However, you have the power to change what you’re exposed to and positively affect your health. The next section takes a look at how to eliminate the pollutants we’ve just discussed.
21 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Household Pollutants
Prevention as they say is worth a pound of cure. But what about the pollutants in your home?
Between the wonderful things nature provides us and a few handy inventions of our own, you do have the power to eliminate household pollutants.
Here are 21 ways to get rid of and prevent future household pollutants.
#1 House Plants
Mother Nature is wonderful. Plants are natural air filters and are quite successful at eliminating harmful household pollutants. NASA has actually conducted studies and lists the following plants as excellent natural air filters:
- Aloe Vera
- Chinese Evergreen
- Bamboo Palm
- Green Spider Plant
- Gerbera Daisy/African daisy
- English Ivy/Common Ivy
- Mother in law’s tongue
- Golden Pothos
- Peace Lily/Mauna Loa
Plants filter harmful chemicals from the air including formaldehyde and other toxins. Place them throughout your home to keep your air fresh – a standard rule of thumb is two plants per 100 square feet.
#2 Air Filters and Air Cleaners
If plants aren’t your thing or if you’re looking for a little extra pollution clean-up, then you can take two strategic steps.
Replace your furnace/air conditioner filter regularly. A HEPA filter will help ensure biological pollutants like dust, dander, and pollen are filtered as well.
Couple that with an in-room air filter and you’re eliminating many of the biological and chemical pollutants commonly found in your home. Air filters can be placed in your bedroom and in your main living space.
#3 Moisture Control
Because many biologic pollutants thrive on moisture, it’s imperative, particularly if you live in a humid environment, to control moisture.
Dehumidifiers are a great start but often don’t solve the whole problem. Moisture likes to hide in bathrooms, basements, and even in kitchens. Hardwood or tile floors are better than carpets for moisture control.
#4 Open Your Windows
Ventilation is a great way to whoosh the indoor pollutants right out the window. Open the windows on cool breezy days and let the fresh air in.
#5 Wash Bedding Frequently
Many biological pollutants like to hide in our bedding. Mites, pollen, and even dander can collect there and cause severe reactions. Wash your bedding materials regularly in hot water.
#6 Home Heating
Homes are typically heated via gas or electricity. If your home is heated with gas, make sure it’s properly ventilated to the outside and exhaust systems are leak-free.
Make sure any new gas appliances use spark ignition rather than pilot lights for fewer emissions.
#7 Properly Maintain Your Gas Appliances
Check your gas burner flame. If the tip of the flame is any color other than blue, hire a trained service representative to adjust it. Also, schedule annual inspections of your furnace, gas water heater, and gas clothes dryer.
When doing any sort of remodeling, choose low formaldehyde-emitting pressed wood products.
#9 Test for Radon
Radon can only be found in your home if it’s tested for it. You can find test kits at hardware stores or home stores however, it’s important to make sure they’ve passed the EPA’s testing program or are certified by your state. You can also hire someone to come out and conduct the testing.
#10 Filter Electrical Pollution
Unless you go completely off the grid and do not have electricity in your home, it’s difficult to eliminate electrical pollution however there are filters and meters you can purchase.
Meters will tell you the level of electrical pollution being emitted in your home and filters will reduce the high-frequency currents. Filters have been shown to lessen the intensity and thus lessen the occurrence of health problems caused by electrical pollution. Filters can be found online and in some home stores.
#11 Dry-Cleaned Items
Dry cleaning emits harmful chemicals. Rather than store dry cleaned items, remove the plastic and allow them to air out in a well-ventilated room.
Some dry-cleaning companies offer eco-friendly options.
#12 Reduce Commercial Cleaning Products
Cleaning products, personal care products, aerosols, paint, glue, and so on often all contain a number of chemical pollutants. In the effort of being green and of protecting yourself and your family from household pollution it’s important to do what you can to eliminate these products from your home.
Paints and solvents are now made with ‘green’ ingredients and personal care products and cleaning products are also being sold with natural ingredients.
Read the labels on the products you’re purchasing and if you have questions about the products, do a bit of research. It’s impossible to list all the toxins commonly found in household products but chances are if you don’t recognize it, it’s not good to have in your home. Phosphates are one ingredient you can be sure you don’t want in your personal care products, or detergents.
#13 Choose Environmentally Friendly Soaps
Skip phosphates, bleaches, and petroleum surfactants. Instead, choose biodegradable soaps. You can also have fun making soaps and detergents for your home.
#14 Choose Eco-Friendly Household Cleaners or Make Them Yourself
Skip ammonia, bleach, lye, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, phenol, and other toxins. Instead choose household cleaning tools like lemon, baking soda, and vinegar.
In fact, you can make many household cleaners quickly, easily, and cost-effectively.
For example Baking soda and lemon juice is great for scouring tough stuff, deodorizing, and club soda works well to remove many stains.
#15 Choose Solar
Lighting and heating often run off of electricity, which causes electrical pollution in your homes. Utilize the sun’s power, even if it’s passive solar, to light and heat your home.
Good southern exposure and thermal drapes will go a long way to keep your house warm and well-lit when you need it and cool and comfy when you don’t.
#16 Storing and Cooking Food
Teflon, plastic bottles, and aluminum all have a bad reputation for emitting toxins. Stick to non-toxic food storage containers made from glass or BPA plastic.
#17 Keep Pets Clean
We love our pets, but they can be troublesome especially when it comes to pesky biologic pollutants.
Dogs and cats easily bring mites, dander, and pollen into the home where they can multiply, get into our bedding and clothing, and cause trouble.
Regularly wash and groom your pets and keep them off your bed and other furniture.
#18 Vacuum Frequently
Vacuuming often with a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter is a great way to get those dust mites, dander, and pollen out of your carpet.
#19 Skip the Air Fresheners
Air fresheners often use aerosols to distribute the chemicals. And often those chemicals are either used to numb your olfactory nerves or to cover up existing smells.
Neither is good for you. Instead, use essential oils to fragrance your home and open the windows when you have a chance.
#20 Burn Soy or Beeswax Candles
People love to burn candles; however, standard candles emit chemicals when they’re burned. They’re often made from petroleum and some wicks even contain lead.
Skip that and go for soy candles and beeswax candles, which burn more slowly and emit only good things.
#21 Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide can be deadly, and a simple detector can protect you and your family from the harmful side effects this chemical causes. Grab a detector at your local hardware store and install it per the manufacturer’s suggestions.
There are different types of detector models. They can be either battery operated or can be connected to your electrical system.
Quick Summary of Ways to Reduce Toxins in the Home
We’ve just provided you with a lot of information including 21 things you can do to prevent and eliminate pollutants from your home. Many of these tips require regular checking and/or maintenance.
Schedule gas appliance inspections, air filter replacement, air purifier, and humidifier filter changes.
Get into the habit of washing those pets, linens, and vacuuming to eliminate biological pollutants and bring plants indoors to help keep your air clean. Install electronic filters to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic waves and sit back and relax.
You don’t have to suffer from potential pollutants in your home. You have control over your health and what you’re exposed to. You have control over your home environment. Take these simple steps to create an environment that is healthy and safe for you and your whole family.
Use the following checklist to create a schedule to help you get it done.
Checklist for Creating a Healthy Home Environment
- Install water filtration systems in your kitchen so you always get the best quality water possible. Look for systems that remove lead, sediment, chlorine, and other chemicals from your family’s drinking water.
- Install low-flow toilets in your home to conserve water.
- Add a rain barrel to your yard to water your garden, trees, plants, and lawn.
- Take shorter showers to conserve water.
- Use cold water to wash your clothing. It helps them last longer and reduces energy consumption. Dry on a line if possible.
- Have your water heater serviced annually.
- Install insulated windows and doors.
- Have your heating and cooling systems maintained annually.
- Install a programmable thermostat to conserve energy.
- Use low- or no-VOC paint when painting walls.
- Open windows when possible.
- Keep air-cleaning plants inside the home.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
- Don’t smoke inside the home. And if you burn candles, make sure they’re made from soy or beeswax. Make sure they have natural fragrances and that the wick isn’t made from lead.
- Install a HEPA filter in your furnace to remove allergens, dust, and debris from your home’s air system.
Contaminants and Toxins
- Use fragrance-free bath and body products or products fragranced with essential oils.
- Use products without dioxin and formaldehyde in them. You might not believe it but formaldehyde can actually be found in a number of products, including baby shampoo. Read the labels or make your own products.
- Look for mineral-based cosmetics.
- Buy home cleaning products that are made from natural ingredients or…
- Make your own cleaning products with white vinegar, essential oils, castile soap and more.
- Don’t use air fresheners. They’re known to cause neurological problems in people and animals. Instead, make your own with essential oils or natural elements.
- Buy only hardwood furniture that doesn’t contain formaldehyde.
- Buy organic cotton linens, mattresses, and cushions, and upholstery when possible.
- Finally, buy organic foods when possible and steer clear of processed foods because they’re usually packed with chemicals and ingredients that can be bad for your health. Look for safety hazards around your home and make sure you and your loved ones are protected.
A list this long can feel overwhelming. There are so many different ways you can make your home healthier. Let’s wrap it up by offering five steps to get started.
Five Steps for Getting Started – Making Your Home Healthier
Step 1: Conduct an Assessment
Take a look around your home. Explore each room and system and make a list of what needs to be done. For example, in your living room, you might want to replace the carpet with hardwood or natural fiber carpeting.
You might test the paint to see if it’s lead-free and swap out your foam couch pillows for cotton batting. You may have a long list but don’t worry. The next step will help you pull it all together.
Step 2: Establish Priorities
Taking a look at your list, what are your priorities? What seems like it might make the biggest difference in the health of your home? For example, if you have children with bad allergies then replacing your furnace filters and installing hardwood floors instead of carpeting can help.
What room do you spend the most time in? Often focusing on the kitchen or your bedroom can make a big difference in your quality of life.
Step 3: Set Realistic Goals
Trying to change everything all at once just isn’t realistic. Many of the changes you’ll want to make require changing habits and perhaps a financial investment. For example, a water filtration system for your kitchen sink can cost $1000.
Buying more organic produce or building a garden are both lifestyle changes that can take time to adapt. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Focus on one priority at a time and break it down into manageable pieces.
Step 4: Make Gradual Lifestyle Changes
Tackle your long list of healthy home changes one change at a time. You might not know this but experts say that it takes about two to three weeks to make a new habit. And if you are part of a family, it’s not just you that has to adapt – everyone does.
Allow yourself and your family members time to adapt and integrate the changes into their daily routine too. For example, if you’re cutting back on processed food that might require more family meal preparation and planning. And don’t forget to set money aside for the more expensive household changes.
Step 5: Smile and Take Pride
As you and your family begin to create a healthier home environment, take time to celebrate and appreciate the changes. It takes patience, persistence, and a real commitment to living a healthier life and to make changes in your lifestyle and your home.
Share your achievements as a family and reward yourselves for the effort. For example, if you take a weekend to plant an organic garden, treat yourselves to a nice family dinner and take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor during harvest time.
Keep in mind that a healthy home environment isn’t something that is ever complete. Systems need to be maintained, homes need to be cleaned and kept in good condition, and as long as you live in your home, you’ll be tending to it.
Whether you live in an apartment, townhome, trailer, or a single-family home, a healthy home is a good home and it’s worth the time, energy, and investment. Your health, happiness, and wellbeing depend on it.
What’s Next for the Toxin-Free Home?
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a project like this and think there is too much to do or that it will take years before we see results.
The truth is that taking small steps every day over time will lead us in the direction of our goals whether they are related to health or anything else for that matter.
In order to make these habits stick, focus on what needs attention today while building momentum towards change. And remember: when things get tough, take a deep breath and realize that the more you make changes now, the easier it will be to maintain those healthy habits as time goes on.
I’ll leave you with this famous quote from Charles Duhigg: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” By focusing on the important things first thing every day, your habits will develop in a way that takes you closer to your goal.
I hope this guide has helped you learn how to have a healthy home environment you will be proud of.