5 Ways to Detox Your Home
There is so much talk about detoxing our bodies, but one area that greatly affects our bodies is what we are being exposed to in our home. In fact, indoor pollution can be 2-5 times higher than outdoor pollution because of how air, and thus chemicals, becomes trapped inside. Paradoxically, greener buildings can often contribute to this pollution because the greener homes tend to be so tight for heat efficiency that there is no exchange with outside air. That is, what is inside stays inside.
The average home contains over 1,000 chemicals in it, many of which we are unable to see, smell, or taste. Because there are many different situations for renters and owners, sometimes detoxing our homes is not always in our direct control.
It is not likely that we can get all chemicals out of the home, but we can begin with a few simple steps to decrease our home’s total toxic load. Small changes yield big overall results. Here’s what everyone can do regardless of whether you are a home owner or a renter:
- Eliminate all fragrances used in the home. This includes plug-in scented room fragrance, candles with synthetic fragrance (this is a hard one for me), room fresheners, etc. Instead, use essential oil diffusers. Keep your windows open as often as possible.
- Eliminate all dryer sheets and fragrance in laundry detergents. This helps reduce the contact on our skin from these chemicals and reduces air pollution inside the home. Instead use 1/4 cup vinegar in the wash cycle of your washing machine. This will soften clothes and will eliminate odors. If our clothes do not smell like they are clean because they have a fragrance on them they will actually be cleaner! For a safer spot remover, look for a nontoxic undiluted castille soap and place directly on stains before washing. I have found that rubbing straight liquid detergent on the stain and letting it either soak or just sit for a day will take care of most stains.
- Air quality inside the home is one of the biggest causes of indoor pollution. Have your ducts cleaned regularly if you have an HVAC system. This can decrease dust and debris that has accumulated over a year and get recirculated when heating and air conditioning is used. Keep house dust to a minimum as more dust means more toxins. Mop all surfaces at least once a week with warm water and perhaps a touch of soap or vinegar. Purchase a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter which will minimize dust capturing dust down to micron-sized particles. HEPA-filters also aid in getting rid of allergens.
- Replace commercial cleaning products with natural products. With a little additional elbow grease, they are as effective as chemical-based cleaning products. The truth is warm soapy water will clean just about anything. It is not necessary to have 10 products under your kitchen sink to clean various rooms in your home. See below for alternatives.
- As discussed in many previous blogs, eliminate self care products that have fragrance, and especially those that are aerosolized (e.g., hair sprays).
- Leave your shoes at the door. This will decrease the amount of chemicals you bring into your home. As we walk on city streets and sidewalks, we pick up remnants of oil and gasoline and pesticides on treated lawns. Removing shoes at the door is a great habit to get into, and your guests will follow your wishes if asked.
- Not everyone has the ability to remove their carpet, but I highly recommend removing carpet, especially if you struggle with immune system issues, such as asthma, autoimmune disease, or chemical sensitivity. Carpet is just about the dirtiest thing in our homes. It harbors dust, mites, possibly mold, pet dander, not to mention chemicals made in the manufacturing of carpet and carpet pads. These chemicals can off-gas for years. If you are a renter ,you might not know the history of that carpet in terms of water damage and pet dander. If you do have your carpets professionally cleaned, the chemicals used in these cleaners will often add to a host of toxic elements in your carpet. If you cannot eliminate your carpet, make sure to use a zero-chemical cleaning company for carpet care. See below for more carpet care suggestions.
There are proactive steps we can take to reduce our risk of illness due to exposure to chemicals inside the home. As with all of my suggestions, take one small bite at a time, and within time, your home will be cleaner and safer than it is today.
ALTERNATIVE CLEANING PRODUCTS:
Basic Sink Cleanser — Combine ½ cup baking soda with six drops essential oil (such as, lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime, or orange). Rinse sink well with hot water. Sprinkle combination into sink and pour ¼ cup vinegar over top. After the fizz settles, scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse again with hot water.
Germ Killer — Try antibacterial, anti-fungal tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil and a tablespoon of vinegar with water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent.
Oven Cleanser — Put a heat-proof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease. Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar, and scrub.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CLEAN CARPET CARE:
- Spot clean by getting a 32-ounce spray bottle and mixing 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1 TBS liquid dish soap, and filling the rest of the bottle with water. Spray area liberally and let soak for 5-10 minutes. Then, proceed with blotting with a clean, dry towel until stain is removed.
- Mix 3 cups water, ¾ cup vegetable-based liquid soap, and 10 drops peppermint essential oil. Rub the foam into soiled areas with a damp sponge. Let dry thoroughly and then vacuum. Avoid using rented do-it-yourself carpet cleaners if possible- they allow too much moisture on the carpet, which can then encourage the growth of mold. Mold in carpets can be responsible for a host of immune system challenges. So, avoid cleaning your carpets yourself, if possible.