You probably think of your home as a safe haven, especially if you've lived there for many years, but experts report that your house is likely where you're exposed to the most polluted air and toxic chemicals. Luckily it's much easier than you'd think to make your home healthier. Here are ten toxin-nixing moves you can do right away:
- Open the windows. Your grandmother had it right, throwing open the windows to let in fresh air is one smart move. It lets out the toxic fumes that accumulate in our houses and brings fresh air in. If it's so steamy where you live that you must run the AC all day, then open the windows and place fans next to them at night.
- Go barefoot inside. When you walk in from outside the soles of your shoes are coated not just in dirt but also in residue from car exhaust and other nasty stuff. Leaving them in a basket by the door, or at least rubbing them briskly against a thick textured door mat, will keep you from tracking toxins through your house and grinding them into your rugs.
- Dust right. Studies show that persistent chemicals (such as the flame retardants found in much furniture and electronics) stick to household dust, so it's important to dust well and often. When you clean, be sure to use a rag that's moistened with water or cleaning fluid. Dry dusting just stirs up dust and re-circulates it, but a wet rag will trap the dust.
- Filter your water. Although it varies from region to region, your tap water may contain everything from heavy metals to pesticide residue to rocket fuel byproducts. The good news is that filtering it is inexpensive and easy. Most experts say that all you need is a countertop pitcher (like the ones made by the brands Britta and Pur) to remove most contaminants.
- Use low-VOC paint. The strong "fresh paint smell" that many paints emit is a sign that hazardous Volatile Organic Compounds are being released into the air, which continues long after the smell fades. But these days many major paint brands are making low- or no-VOC versions of your favorite hues.
- Get a houseplant. Certain plants are known as natural air purifiers, so fill your house with peace lillys, English ivy, Boston ferns, or any of the ten clean air plants listed in this Care2 article.
- Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter. The best way to remove toxins and allergens from carpets and rugs is with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high efficiency particle air) filter. If you haven't replaced your vacuum in ages, then it probably doesn't have a HEPA, so consider shopping for one that does. The good news is that HEPA-equipped vacuums aren't horribly expensive.
- Avoid particleboard. Much inexpensive, mass produced furniture is made with particleboard, which is made up of wood shavings held together with glue that releases carcinogenic formaldehyde. If you feel the urge to redecorate, consider refinishing or painting a vintage piece (either one you already own or a find from a local thrift store). Not only is it healthier than buying a new piece of particleboard, but your unique refinished find will add much more character to your home.
- Stick to soy and beeswax candles. Standard paraffin candles, which are made of petroleum, emit lung-irritating soot into the air (and toxic chemicals too, according to at least one study) when burned. So if you love to dine by candlelight, switch to candles made of soy or beeswax, which burn much more cleanly.
- KO mold. Even if you can't see mold, it could be creeping into your home and releasing spores into the air that raise your risk of respiratory problems like wheezing, coughing and asthma. To catch mold before it becomes an issue, follow this advice from the American Lung Association:
Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from your home's foundation. Fix problems as quickly as possible to prevent unhealthy dampness from entering your home."