A Healthy Home: 5 Unique Ways to Reduce Chemicals and Toxins in Your Home (Guest Blog)

reducing toxins in the home

Sure, you've heard of a "detox," often from some celebrity on instagram selling you a "tea-tox." While we definitely don't recommend those (read an article about why here), what we can recommend is detoxifying your house. Think about the harmful toxins we encounter every single day through the air, our favourite products, food and water... it's limitless. These household toxins can have highly negative effects on our internal health, hindering or hurting vital systems such as our cardiovascular, immune, and reproductive systems. So what are we to do? Read on from our guest blogger and expert interior designer how you can create a healthier home by reducing chemicals and toxins from your life.

1. Improve the Indoor Air Quality of Your Home

The indoor air quality (IAQ) of your home may be up to five times more polluted than the air outside your home according to the Environmental Protection Agency (USA). When you consider the types of chemicals and pollutants that unfortunately surround us as we go about our day - the last place we need them to be is in our home! In order to mitigate this problem, there are a number of easy changes you can make to your home to improve the air. Adding something as simple as a few houseplants can remove dangerous toxins such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene from your home, while also increasing the amount of oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide. These benefits serve to reduce the number of headaches, colds, and aid in preventing the development of allergies. Some of my personal favourites include: the Snake Plant, Peace Lily, and Pothos (just remember to be careful of pets and children as many plants are toxic if eaten). Adding an air purifier with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) filter also serves to clear out dangerous pollutants and improve the IAQ of your home as well.  

detox your home and clear it of chemicals

2. Decrease the Chemicals in Your Home

One way to improve the overall health of your home is to decrease the number of chemicals you bring inside of it, rather than work on removing them after they are already there! There are a number of ways to do this that require very little cost and can be accomplished in a weekend! One of the first things I recommend is to swap out your plug-in air fresheners for all-natural versions! Take your leftover orange peels and apple cores, add in a few cloves and cinnamon sticks and simmer them in a pot of water on the stove for a healthy fragrance. And while you’re in your kitchen gathering the supplies for your fragrance - go ahead and ditch the unhealthy chemical-laden cleaners under your sink and replace them with all-natural versions. You will be amazed at what castille soap, vinegar, salt, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and lemons can do for cleaning your home! One of my very favourite cleaners is to take a jar, fill it with orange peels and pour white vinegar over them. Leave it alone for a few days and then strain the vinegar. It makes a wonderful (and fantastic smelling) general cleaner that you can even dilute and use on your windows!  

There are also many innocuous things that we don’t think twice about bringing into our homes - dry-cleaning and using dryer sheets being two culprits that have easy solutions. Dry-cleaning utilises a shocking number of chemicals that cling to your clothing after the cleaning is complete. Due to the need for dry-cleaning certain materials and clothing items, it is understandable if you need to utilise the dry cleaners - just remember to take the plastic off (recycle it) and let the item off-gas outside. Dryer sheets are the second easy-to-correct culprit! Swap out your dryer sheets for wool dryer balls and see an instant improvement in your clothing! In addition to being chock full of chemicals, dryer sheets don’t actually make your clothing softer - they simply coat it in a chemical that makes it appear as if it’s softer. Wool dryer balls mechanically soften your clothing and linens (and last for a very long time)!  

Finally - carefully consider what furnishings you bring into your home. For example, leather is heavily laden with chemicals to prevent its decay, with some of the most dangerous being formaldehyde, chromium, and lime. When in doubt about a material or furnishing that you want to bring into your home - give it time to air out in the sunshine outdoors and off-gas to decrease the chemicals that would be potentially entering your home.  

3. Keep the Allergens, Chemicals, and Germs at Bay

There are four main routes of exposure to harmful chemicals, allergens, and bacteria - breathing, ingesting, in-utero, and through your skin. While we cannot combat every harmful molecule out there, we can do a few simple things to help mitigate how many of them get into our home or develop there. To stop as many outdoor allergens, lawn chemicals, and foreign bacteria as possible, add door mats to both sides of your door to increase the amount of nastiness that gets caught before it gets any further into your home. While very few people absolutely love cleaning - keeping your floors swept, vacuumed and mopped goes a long way to cleaning up dust harbouring dangerous chemical particles such as lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Mold and mildew are two nasty culprits that trigger asthma and allergies in the home and are easily thwarted by installing vent fans in crawl spaces and bathrooms. Be sure to run the bathroom fans for roughly 20 to 30 minutes during and after your shower to ensure excess moisture is ventilated out. In the same way - make sure that you thoroughly dry your clothes and clean your washer and dryer periodically.  

detoxify your house

4. Remodel and Renovate With Care

One of the easiest ways to update a room, is to change the wall colour. Did you know there are 150 substances in most common paints? Most are not even listed on the can! When selecting a paint, be sure to look for traditional mineral or lime paints instead of acrylic paints that contain the above mentioned harmful chemicals. Another aspect to keep in mind regarding paint, is to select a flat or eggshell paint rather than a semi-gloss paint. Semi-gloss paints are non-permeable and prevent moisture from moving back and forth through the walls. This means that any moisture from construction is trapped inside the walls and can easily lead to hidden mold growth.

Flooring is another heavily chemical-laden material that is commonly replaced to update a room. The safest options are materials such as marmoleum or reclaimed hardwood. Luxury vinyl plank, engineered hardwoods, and carpet (to name a few) are less sustainable options and must do a large amount of off-gassing prior to being brought into your home.  

5. Treat Yourself Better

And the number one way to make your home healthier for you? Treat yourself better! We can make all the changes to our environment possible, but if we don’t follow the basic tenants of eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and exercising - nothing we’ve changed in our homes will do the least bit of good.  

Do you have to do everything I’ve mentioned? Of course not! But I sincerely hope you implement a few of them! You’ll be amazed at the difference in your overall health and well-being, and help ensure that ethical and sustainable options for your home continue to be developed as our demand for them increases.

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Visit Catherine Marie Shuman, owner of The Intentional Design Studio at her Facebook or Website (coming soon).