Published on October 2nd, 2017 | by Andrea Bertoli
10 Tips for a Healthier Home
You have probably made changes to make your diet a bit cleaner, or you have invested in energy efficiency to ensure your home is greener, but have you taken any steps to ensure that your home is safe and healthy for your family?
Creating a healthier home means reducing the amount of toxic products in the home, ensuring that indoor air is clean of chemicals, and choosing safer products. This list includes 10 tips for a healthier home includes some of our favorite solutions for a cleaner, greener home.
1. Cook with Non-Toxic Cookware
Most non-stick cookware is coated in Teflon, a known toxin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explains why: “toxic fumes from [Teflon pans] at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms.” Instead, you can opt for stainless steel, ceramic, or (my favorite) cast iron cookware. Cast iron is naturally non-stick, and it heats evenly for well-cooked food every time. Enameled cast iron is another excellent (but often pricier) option.
2. Choose Glass over Plastics
Once you cook up all that great food in your cast iron pans, it’s recommend to store in glass containers. Chemicals like phalates can leak from plastic containers into food that is hot or oily, and is worsened if you microwave it. Pyrex, Anchor, and other brands offer excellent glass storage containers. You can also use stainless steel for storage, but the drawback is you can’t see what yummy leftovers are hiding in there!
3. Choose Cleaner Body Care
Unfortunately, there is limited regulation on ingredients in body care products in the US (Europe has much stricter regulations). There are lots of resources to help you learn more, but our favorite is Vibrant Wellness Journal, where you can browse by product (soap, shampoo, sunscreen, makeup, and more) to find which unsafe ingredients might be hiding in your favorite soap.
4. Choose Greener Cleaners
Cleaning products are not well-regulated either and most are overkill in terms of how much germ-killing we actually need in our homes – and this includes antibacterial soap, which we don’t need and can actually cause more harm than good (triclosan, a common ingredient, is linked to hormone imbalance, and potential increased risk of breast cancer). Many of us are accustomed to using chemical-based cleaners around the home, but these sprays, foams, and gels come at a high cost.
Chemical cleaners are linked with asthma, respiratory issues, skin irritation and eczema, and skin allergies. It’s likely that many of your favorite cleaning products contain harmful ingredients that we touch and breathe each time we clean: review them here in the EWG database for cleaners. Review this important post here about 35 cleaning products to avoid in the home.
5. Natural Cleaning Solutions
If you’re switching from chemical cleaners, there are lots of great options to choose from, and they are no longer hard to find. We always encourage people to buy local, and to shop at natural foods co-ops, where you’ll find (hopefully) no greenwashing, because it can be confusing when you see products labeled “Natural” or “Eco”. Many times these labels are meaningless! But if you know the brands to look for, even big name stores like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond have started adding safer products to their stores. Brands like Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyers offer excellent cleaning options with no chemical afterburn.
6. Homemade Cleaning Solutions
If you are super ambitious, you can skip buying the products mentioned above and make your own natural cleansers – it’s easier than you’d imagine! Most homemade cleaners rely on a few everyday products like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon keep your house squeaky clean without chemical residue. And better yet, many of these natural solutions, especially vinegar and homemade drain cleaner, work better than the chemical versions!
7. Wash your Laundry Clean
Have you ever wondered why your laundry detergent is blue or why the smell of the laundry aisle at the store gives you a headache? That’s right, more chemicals. Laundry soap is known to have petroleum compounds, surfactants, phosphates, and ‘optical brighteners’ – used to make clothes seem brighter (that’s the blue stuff). Many of these ingredients are known irritants to skin, but they also have terrible downstream consequences for waterways and aquatic life. But there is now a variety of safer laundry products available to you. Seventh Generation, BioKleen, and many others are easily found, and even Costco has a Kirkland brand of biodegradable laundry soap.
8. Dry your Clothes Naturally
You knew this was next, right? If you want cleaner laundry, you also have to ditch the dryer sheets and fabric softener. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets both contain chemicals known to be toxic to people after sustained exposure. But you know what works best for a natural fabric softener? Vinegar! I use about a half cup of regular white vinegar in my wash load, then wash and dry as normal. The vinegar gets rid of that musky/funky smell of gym clothes or damp towels, and acts as a natural fabric softener.
9. Remove the Fragrances and Fresheners
We all love to have our home smell fresh and clean (or pumpkin spicy), and there are zillions of home fragrances, Febreeze, scented candles, and plugins to help you do so. But these scented goodies all have one thing in common: they are usually not good for you. Candles can emit dangerous chemicals, and gels and other fragrances are linked to asthma, cancers of lungs and throat, and many produce dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Use a natural essential oil diffuser, or make a natural room spray with essential oils and water.
10. Sleep Sustainably
We all know we’re supposed to spend at least 7-8 hours in bed in night, and you should be sleeping in a bed that is non-toxic to keep your skin and your lungs happy. Mattresses often off-gas volatile organic compounds for years from the petrochemical based foam, formaldehyde in the adhesives, along with fire retardant chemicals and pesticides from the cotton – and that means you’re immersed in these chemicals every night. When it’s time to choose a new mattress, find organic and natural mattress brands that are certified with these certifications to help you sleep a little easier.