Creating a healthier, less toxic home doesn’t have to be difficult. Get a good start by selecting a couple of the best ways to a healthier, less toxic home because it’s easy and you’ll feel better.
Create a Healthier, Less Toxic Home
1. Switch from perfume scented paraffin candles to pure beeswax candles. Perfume scented paraffin candles have a few strikes against them.
First, most candle makers use paraffin, a petroleum by-product that is chemically bleached and hardened. Burning paraffin pollutes your air. Second, these candles are typically synthetically scented. These synthetic perfumes are not well-regulated so you have no way of knowing what substances are released into your home. Perfumes can contain any one of 3,000 or more ingredients many toxic, unregulated and synthetic. Third, some candle wicks contain lead. Enough said.
You’ll love the natural scent of pure beeswax or you can enjoy scented beeswax with essential oils.
2. Opt for glass storage containers and not plastic. This is an easy change that you will love. The glass containers clean up more easily (no more oily residue), and you can easily see what’s been stored.
Using glass is especially important if you like to microwave leftovers because when plastic is heated, it’s more likely to leach into your food.
You may think that your tap water is healthy, and your local water department has you covered.
But, do they?
A couple hundred common contaminants aren’t regulated yet. And, your water department isn’t perfect, so even regulated contaminants exceed safe levels from time to time. Learn why you should drink filtered water.
4. Rethink your use of plastic wrap by using it less often or not at all. Plastic wrap can be made with PVC or BPA. Neither is good.
Try Bee’s Wrap. It’s the perfect way to cover bowls and wrap cheeses, produce, sandwiches and nuts. Really anything. It’s made of organic cotton and bee’s wax.
And, it lasts. Up to one year. Wash it in cool water with mild soap.
Watch this short demo. The wraps are so versatile. The warmth of your hands molds the beeswax to whatever you are wrapping.
Read more about which plastics to avoid.
5. Fire your pest exterminator. Instead, use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to control ants, roaches, and spiders. Sprinkle DE in problem areas under sinks, garages, basements, attics, and behind appliances. Never heard of DE?
DE is a white powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When a roach (or any bug with an exoskeleton) comes into contact with DE, it gets under the shell, punctures the body, and kills the bug.
Sounds like just what you need, right?
But, admit it. It also sounds dangerous.
You don’t have to worry though because DE is completely non-toxic. While it certainly is dangerous to bugs with exoskeletons like roaches, all mammals are safe from its effects.
More good news.
There is no buildup of tolerance like poisons because the killing method is physical, not chemical.
Keep these things in mind:
- Remember to keep the DE dry
- Although you can eat food-grade DE and rub it on your skin, do not inhale DE because the silica is bad for your lungs (wear a mask when applying)
- Buy it at your local natural gardening store or order from arbico-organics.com
- Always use food grade DE and not pool grade DE
It’s the perfect all-natural insecticide. No harm to humans, your pets or the environment, but deadly to bugs.
6. Reduce dry cleaning chemicals in your closet. Most dry cleaners use Perchlorethylene (PERC). Did you know that PERC is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin?
It’s true. And to make matters worse, a Georgetown University study proved PERC is not only retained in dry-cleaned clothes, but also builds up with repeat cleanings.
You can get PERC out of your bedroom by following a few quick tips.
- Remove the dry cleaning bags and air out your clothes before hanging in your closet.
- Reduce dry cleanings by opting for the “press only” option.
- Find a green alternative like a wet or CO2 cleaners–try nodryclean.com for details.
7. Replace toxic dryer sheets. Dryer sheets have two problems. They contain harmful chemicals that adhere to your laundry AND filter into your air. What should you use instead?
Try dryer balls. You can either make your own or buy them. Dryer balls made of 100% wool naturally soften your laundry in the dryer. They last for months.
Add a couple drops of lavender essential oil to the dryer balls so when you slip into bed at night, your sheets will smell great.
8. Dust more! You may want to move dusting and vacuuming closer to the top of your housekeeping list.
Many products in your home contain flame retardants including:
- Electronic devices – computers, TVs, and clocks
- Polyurethane foam – mattresses and pillows
So what do flame retardants have to do with dusting and vacuuming?
Chemical flame retardants escape from your home products and become household dust. You can inhale flame retardant dust or ingest it. Ingestion happens primarily with small children who put everything into their mouths.
The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.”
It’s scary, right?
9. Change your hand soap to a Triclosan-free soap. Read the label on your liquid hand soap. Does it contain Triclosan and triclocarban? They are antibacterial chemicals commonly added to consumer products. Laboratory studies show they disrupt hormones and can encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs.”
It’s a challenge finding a hand soap without these harmful ingredients. What to use instead? Try this foaming hand soap or this liquid soap that are free of parabens, phthalates, and triclosan. The Environmental Working Group rating is a 0 out of 10 meaning these are the safest products you can use.
10. Stop using air freshening products. The Environmental Working Group tested Febreze Air Effects and found 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde which the EPA considers a likely human carcinogen.
In 2010, a University of Washington study found that eight widely used air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances.
Half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.
Kinda frightening, isn’t it?
By using air freshener chemicals, you are releasing carcinogens and hormone disruptors into your home.
11. Ditch your vinyl shower curtain. Plastic shower curtains made with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) are toxic to your health. You may have noticed a strong smell when you opened a new vinyl shower curtain or had a vinyl shower curtain in your hotel room.
A study showed these PVC shower curtains release as many as 108 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) some of which cause developmental damage as well as damage to the liver and central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems.
In addition to VOCs, the shower curtains were also found to contain phthalates and metals. The study found some of these chemicals lingered in the air 28 days after a curtain was hung. Clearly, this is a significant contributor to indoor air pollution that is easily avoided.
Your best bet is to look for shower curtains with a vinyl-free or PVC-free label or ones made of organic cotton. Also, many bath mats are made with vinyl, so shop for mats made with silicone instead.
12. Use Zero VOC paints and stains. Here are a few facts you need to know about paint.
– Low VOC paints actually have a lot of VOCs, so don’t buy low VOC paints.
– Zero VOC paints only have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs, but these paints may include other chemicals that simply aren’t good for you.
Look for Zero VOC and the Green Seal 11 -2008 certification.
It’s not just about the odor. Paint releases VOCs long after the paint is dry and you can no longer smell the odor. So, buying zero VOC paints is a healthy choice.
Finding paint without carcinogens, reproductive toxins or ozone depleting compounds was a chore. It’s easier now. Benjamin Moore Natura™ and Aura™ interior latex paints are good choices because the paints are Zero VOC as well as Green Seal certified. And, they are readily available.
Get information on other safe paint brands. And, remember to choose zero VOC primer.
12. Limit use of bottled water. Aside from the astounding waste problem, there’s another problem with bottled water. The bottled water industry is completely unregulated, so no one is watching out for you.
The water quality might be better or worse than your tap water. No one really knows.
In a Natural Resources Defense Council study, 22% of bottled water brands contained chemical contaminants at levels above health limits. That’s almost a quarter over the limits for what’s deemed healthy.
Also, phthalates can leach from the plastic bottles or lids on glass bottles after being stored for just ten weeks. Unlike tap water, no one regulates phthalates in bottled water. (source: NRDC: bottled water)
13. If you are using a pillow made with synthetic materials, you could be sleeping with any number of dangerous chemicals like toluene diisocyanate, formaldehyde, PBDE’s just to name a few. Toss that old chemical-laden synthetic pillow and start sleeping with a chemical free natural pillow.
You have many options for all natural pillows without flame retardants like natural latex, lambswool, buckwheat, and kapok. You may even find you have less neck and shoulder pain sleeping with a new all natural, well-made pillow.
14. Try an all natural deodorant that really works. If you’ve tried other all natural deodorants, you know how difficult it is to find one that really works. So, if you’re like most people, you revert back to your original brand with the questionable ingredients. After all, you’re not interested in offending people.
Here’s one deodorant with safe ingredients that works. It’s free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and aluminum. So if you’ve got it in you to try one more, this is a good bet.
15. Instead of liquid fabric softener add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your laundry final rinse. Many washers have a special rinse cycle setting that you can use.
Why switch? Many liquid fabric softeners can harmful ingredients that you should avoid.
16. Use safe kitchen cleaners. Many kitchen cleaners contain harmful ingredients. The Consumer Products Safety Commission regulates these items and has lax guidelines for ingredient disclosure.
So lax, in fact, that manufacturers can disclose all, some or none of the ingredients. So, even if you do a good job of label reading, you could still be using a product that produces harmful fumes.
It’s disturbing, isn’t it?
17. Do not use your self-cleaning oven feature. You may think that using the self-cleaning setting on your oven is a great idea because you’re simply heating up the oven and not using any cleaners.
Unfortunately, when your oven reaches over 600 degrees, it can start emitting nasty fumes. These fumes come from your oven’s interior coating off-gassing or residual food burning and releasing carbon monoxide. Neither is good.
While it is well documented that pet birds can succumb to self-cleaning oven fumes, it’s unclear how toxic the fumes are to humans, with the exception of carbon monoxide.
Why risk it?
You know when you use the self-cleaning feature, your house fills with fumes that last for hours. Do you really want to breathe that?
Learn how to safely clean your oven without the dangerous fumes.
18. Opt for an organic, all natural mattress. Due to strict fire safety standards, conventional mattress makers use large amounts of flame retardants to meet safety regulations. While it is generally accepted that these fire-retardant chemicals are toxic at a certain level, the debate continues to wage about safe levels.
All natural/organic mattresses use naturally flame retardant wool coverings to comply with safety regulations. With organic mattresses, you don’t have to worry about inhaling or absorbing harmful chemicals.
When shopping for an organic mattress, look for 100% all natural latex.
Because man-made latex can release harmful chemicals.
If an organic mattress is not practical, you have other options. Consider an organic mattress topper. It can act as a safe, chemical-free barrier between you and your conventional mattress.
19. Open your windows. One of the simplest things you can do to make your home healthier is to open your windows.
Why? Because indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air. Airing out your house periodically will improve the air you breathe. EPA studies confirm that indoor air pollutants are typically 2-5 times higher than outdoor air.
How does indoor air get so polluted? It’s pretty simple. Your household furnishings and daily activities release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). And then to make matters worse, most of the time you’ve got your windows closed trapping pollutants inside.
So, what is to blame for all the VOCs in your bedroom?
Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, and showering.
One of the main indoor air polluting culprits is formaldehyde. Tests show formaldehyde in homes is 20-200 times higher than outdoor suburban air.
If it’s not practical to open your windows, then get an air cleaner that will purr gently, cleaning your air while you sleep. The top rated air cleaner is ideal for removing 99.97% of airborne dust, mold, formaldehyde, bacteria, viruses, pet dander and pollen.
20. Try a new perfume that doesn’t contain harmful substances. Perfumes can include any one of 3,000 or more ingredients that are synthetic, petroleum-based and toxic. Some formulations include formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) and phthalates which are increasingly linked to brain, behavioral changes, cancer and reproductive system harm.
Givescent is one brand to try. Its perfumes are free of alcohol, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and sulfates. The scents are lovely and alluring. And, they support wonderful organizations that aid women including Women for Women International and Every Mother Counts. Five percent of each sale goes to these worthy organizations.
21. Avoid non-stick cookware. You should try to avoid any type of non-stick cookware like pans, pie tins and cupcake tins. And, don’t forget the cookie sheets.
Non-stick cookware can release dangerous fumes if overheated. There’s actually a name for the flu-like symptoms. It’s called Polymer Fume Fever in humans. Overheated non-stick cookware fumes are sometimes fatal to birds.
Try these other great ways to cook without the worry or risk.
- Stainless Steel (actually better for cooking than non-stick)
- Cast Iron
- Ceramic Baking Dishes
- Glass Baking and Pie Dishes
22. Switch to safer personal care products. Research shows that harmful ingredients from your personal care products like phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and sunscreen ingredients are commonplace in the bodies of men, women and children.
So, how do you find safer products?
Use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. The site has over 70,000 product ratings. Start with one product type like hair and bath products, and then move on to other products. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so take small steps. After you enter the product name, the database will return a rating and risk information. The database also provides safer alternatives.
To get you started, try these highly rated brands.
- Avalon Organics
- Beauty without Cruelty
- Desert Essence
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Honeybee Gardens
- Hugo’s Naturals
- Lion Bear Naked Soap
- Juice Beauty
- ShiKai Borage
23. The last way to a healthier, less toxic home is to sign up for the 12-week email series called The Zen of Pure Living. Each week, you’ll cover a different topic.
The emails take about 5-6 minutes to read. If you’re a real overachiever, you can click on the “learn more” links within the emails, but it’s not necessary to get the facts you need. And, most importantly, you’ll get a short list of next steps.
Subscribers call it a “must read”.
Sign up today! You’ll be happy you did.