- First Steps to a Healthy Home
A healthy home has many components that are based on preferences as well as health concerns. Health can be directly affected by the indoor air quality in your home.
Indoor air quality can have a significant impact on the immune system, allergies, and overall health. A first step to improving the air quality in your home is the following:
Evaluate the relatively easy-to-fix sources of pollutants in your home.
Look around you house and answer the following questions:
A. Do you have a lot of clutter that collects dust? Simplify where you can, and remove unnecessary magazines, newspapers, mail, and trinkets. This step does not cost anything and can leave more space for beneficial and beautiful things in your home.
Is your bedroom cluttered? Your bedroom is where you spend time sleeping while your body regenerates and rejuvenates from the day. Keep it particularly clutter-free, and place items in drawers or closed cabinets when possible. If you have a child with allergies or asthma, pay particular attention to stuffed animals and pillows. They are also a source of fibers and dust in the air.
B. What type of cleaning products do you use? You can make different choices for cleaning products that are not only healthier in not releasing chemicals into the air, but also can be cheaper than many cleaning products. There are many commercial products available in stores, such as Seventh Generation products. You can also create you own cleaning products from vinegar and other common household items. One good book on this topic is: The Naturally Clean Home: 101 Safe and Easy Herbal Formulas for Nontoxic Cleansers. This book includes recipes for many household chores, from scrubbing sinks to cleaning the floors.
After you have looked at loose items around your house as well as cleaning products in your home, it is time to evaluate the more permanent elements. One good place to start is furniture.
The Basics of Furnishings
If you want to create a healthy indoor environment, you can make smart choices in purchasing new furnishings or refurbishing old ones.
Furnishings, drapery, and carpeting can be a significant source of indoor air pollutants. These pollutants can potentially have a variety of affects on health, including allergies; skin, eye, or throat irritation; headaches and more. Many furnishings contain contaminants such as formaldehyde, irritating fibers, synthetic dyes, resins, volatile organic compounds, and anti-stain coatings.
Avoid synthetic upholstery and opt for natural fibers that have preferably not been treated with anti-stain or other coatings.
Strive for coverings and pillow covers of cotton or similar natural material that can be periodically washed. Throws can cover cushions and washed frequently, particularly if you have pets.
Select natural wood furniture and furniture with hard surfaces such as metal. These hard surfaces are good for minimizing dust and fibers in the air. Hard surfaces are also easier to clean. Avoid particle board, chip board, and plywood that often contains formaldehyde.
Select water-based or natural finishes over synthetic oil-based finishes and stains.
Avoid soft-plastics that can release volatile organic compounds into the air.
Select natural materials, such as cotton drapery, that can be washed.
Venetian or wood blinds are a good option to minimize dust.
Tile, hardwood, and marble are preferred over wall-to-wall carpeting. Formaldehyde is often used in carpet backing and padding as well as adhesives. Synthetic carpets are often a source of volatile organic compounds. Hard surfaces are easier to clean and don't trap dust, pollens and other allergens.
If you prefer throw rugs, select natural fibers, such as sisal or cotton.
Books to Read:
Healthy House Building for the New Millenium
Better Basics for the Home
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- Healthier Cleaning Products: Help Yourself and the Planet
As interest grows in improving indoor air quality, there is also increased interest in household products to help our health and the environment. Among these products, from recycled paper to solar outdoor lights, are less-toxic cleaning products.
Chain health food stores across the country, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's feature a less-toxic cleaning section. The popularity of health food, organic food, nutritional supplements and less-toxic cleaning products as well as an awareness of indoor air quality is largely a result of much greater awareness of holistic living and complementary health.
Furthermore, numerous books and articles are available on indoor air quality and "green" cleaning products. Such books as Clean and Green (Berthold-Bond, 1994), Home Safe Home (Dadd, 1997), The Healthy Household (Bower, 1995), Less-Toxic Alternatives (Gorman, 1997), and Better Basics for the Home (Berthold-Bond, 1999) all discuss recipes and/or sources for greener cleaning products.
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You can easily and inexpensively begin to incorporate less-toxic products into your cleaning routine. Here are some of our favorite green cleaning tips:
1. Use vinegar and water(about 50-50) to clean windows and mirrors.
2.Use "Bon Ami" to scrub countertops, stainless steel, and bathroom fixtures. It is phosphate-free, chlorine-free, perfume- free, and dye-free.
3. Use more earth friendly laundry detergents, such as Seventh Generation or Ecover, instead of other commercial products. Also, a 50-50(1/8 cup each) combination of washing soda and borax is a good fragrance-free, natural whitener. You can purchase Seventh Generation Products in bulk at Gaiam.
4. Use plant enzymes, such as Natural Chemistry's "Smells and Stains"(http://www.naturalchemistry.com/pet/Default.asp), to clean up animal urine and other biological cleaning challenges.
5. Seventh Generation's
Automatic Dishwashing Detergent is phosphate-free, fragrance-free, and biodegradable. You can buy this from Gaiam.
6. Baking soda is also a good all-purpose deodorizer and cleaner for light jobs.
If you have any further questions about cleaning products, consult the books found in the "Resources--Bibiography."