Sometimes the thought of making your whole home environment healthier can feel REALLY overwhelming. I always felt like I didn’t know quite where to start and if I wasn’t changing the WHOLE house, then my small changes really didn’t matter. I want to tell you my old thinking was completely flawed. Any change you make to your home is a step in the right direction. And for me personally, I found that my small changes (like removing scented candles, changing my cleaners over, etc.) snowballed into bigger changes (like removing electronics from my room, switching over to glass from plastic in the kitchen, etc.)
I’ve got ten of the simplest ways you can begin to make your home a non-toxic, healthy environment. This environment around us and our kids makes a huge impact on the overall health of our body as a whole. Health is NOT just about what we put in our bodies for food, it’s also about what surrounds us. What changes and switches can you make?
1. Switch Your Hand Soaps
Many regular, everyday hand soaps contain toxins that we’ve come to accept as “the norm”. Triclosan, while it has been banned, still lingers in the soaps on shelves. It’s most often found in antibacterial soaps and can cause disruption to the endocrine system. Foaming soaps often contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) which is harmful to the skin itself and other organs within the body according to Environmental Working Group’s study.
And in case you’re wondering, the list of chemicals you should avoid that are found in hand soaps is pretty extensive. You should try to avoid products that list ingredients such as sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me, or aquarex methyl.
But the good news is there are plenty of safer and healthier options that are a simple, more economical switch. My family goes through PLENTY of hand soap, so I purchased these reusable foaming soap dispensers and started filling it with my own solutions.
2. Check Your Exterior
While this one isn’t really a switch, it’s a great habit to add to your home-care routines. At least once or twice a season, take a walk around your exterior. Many of us forget to really inspect and watch areas of our home’s exterior and before we know it, a problem that’s costly has started to get worse.
The great thing about this little preventative check is that you don’t need anything except for a pair of shoes and your phone. Our family shares a Google Keep list where we have a running list of home repairs and updates we want to take care of. Anytime we see something that needs a little attention, on the list it goes. And a picture is super helpful so you don’t forget where it is your needing to check.
As a home inspector, I walk through the exterior with a fine tooth comb. I’ve made an abbreviated list for you to download so you can walk through your own exterior as well.
3. Toss Those Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets are not only filled with synthetic fragrances and chemicals, but they are also harmful to the environment as they don’t decompose and are harmful to wildlife. The other problem with dryer sheets is the sheer volume that is being used. Often times a few go in each load of laundry and then get tossed. Those chemicals and synthetic fragrances become embedded into the fibers of our clothing. Once the clothing is on our skin, our largest organ, they become absorbed into our bloodstream. Most of us don’t think about our fabrics this way, but it’s why our laundry routine is extremely important.
A much more economical and healthier option for laundry is to use all natural wool dryer balls. To reduce static cling you can add a safety pin to them and for that fresh laundry scent you can add a few drops of Lavender or Stress Away, which will last a few loads.
4. Replace Furnace Filters Often
Dust and debris is just a normal part of living in a home. The problem is dust and debris often times contain bacteria, chemicals and pesticides from the outdoors. Dust can also contain tiny particles from carpets and rugs that hold toxic materials like Formaldehyde or VOCs. By replacing your furnace filter often, you can filter out a lot of this dust and debris from your HVAC system.
My best advice is to purchase a box of filters that you can keep around so whenever you’re ready to change the filter, you can simply go do it. If you can find a filter with a Merv 10 or Merv 12 rating, that’s usually best. This allows air to flow through the filter without making your HVAC system work harder, but catches small particles of dust and debris as well.
5. Ditch the Plastic in Your Kitchen
Don’t panic, you don’t have to get rid of EVERY plastic item you have stored in your kitchen. But I encourage you to take a look inside those cabinets and see if there are any plastic containers or dishes you’re willing to part with. I’ve been slowly changing my kitchen over to glass and other safe materials, and it’s been an easier switch than I thought.
The other thing I found through this process of getting rid of plastic was I had WAY more than I needed in my kitchen. I’m only using one water bottle at a time, so there’s really no need to have six water bottles lined up in my cabinet. I replaced them with one glass and one stainless steel water bottle. I’ve been so happy with this switch I’m moving on to other areas of my kitchen as well.
Plastic that is scratched can leach the harmful plasticizers and petroleum based products into your food and drink, which is why getting rid of worn and scratched plastic is a MUST. Then slowly work through the rest of your kitchen.
Life Without Plastic is one of my favorite spots to find kitchen products made from safe and non-toxic materials. THere are so many wonderful options when it comes to dishes and cookware, yet we often times don’t even know about them.
6. No-Shoe Policy
We’ve already talked a bit about dust and the bacteria and pesticides dust contains, but the fact of the matter the dirt and grime originally comes in off of shoes most of the time. Our shoes track through public restrooms, our kids schools, parks that may use pesticides, grocery stores, parking lots…..the list could go on. Our shoes pick up everything they touch and bring it back to our homes. If you choose to wear your shoes into the house, then you can plan on all those bacteria and chemical toxins being tracked all over your house, embedded into the carpets and ending up in your dust particles and affecting the indoor air quality.
An easy fix and simple solution is to have a no-shoe policy in place. Create a spot by your doors where your family and your guests can leave their shoes. Shoe trays are a great option and you can get some really nice looking ones that will also align with the decor in your home.
I pinned some great ideas from other bloggers and websites on my Pinterest Page if you’re looking for ideas.
7. Get Rid of Dust
8. Toss Those Air Fresheners
Most any air freshener that’s purchased from a store has synthetic and chemical fragrances added to the product. Many of them are not safe to add to our indoor air and actually mask an odor and don’t safely neutralize the air. Some of the biggest offenders for added fragrances are:
An easy switch is to try out a few essential oils and a diffuser. Not only is this a great option for some air freshening options, but the benefits of diffusing certain oils can actually improve the immune function and give emotional support.
Some of my favorite blends and their benefits are below:
9. Monitor Your Indoor Air
This is a great way to keep tabs on WHAT exactly is going on in your house. And the great part is it really isn’t anything you need to add to an already long to-do list or anything you need to do on a regular basis. An indoor air monitoring tool can do all of this for you. All you need to do is plug it in and download the app. From there, you’re ready to start monitoring your indoor air.
Awair can tell you when your CO2 levels are rising or if there’s a high amount of dust in your air. The app then gives you some remedies to try and fix the problem. I love that there are helpful tips that will help you to continue to improve YOUR indoor air quality based on what the device detects.
10. Ventilate on a Regular Basis
The whole reason that indoor air is so much more polluted than outdoor air is the sheer fact that our homes get very little fresh air inside of them. Most homes now have excellent insulation, have high-performance windows and have very little air leaking in through drafts, cracks and gaps. This means that the air inside is staying inside and very little is coming indoors to dilute the air.
This means for the average homeowner we need to be opening up windows and doors on a regular basis to allow fresh air inside our homes. There are other things you can do as well, such as install an air to air exchanger. These devices do exactly what you might think, they exchange your indoor air with your outdoor air. Many new homes have them already, and if your house DOES have a system such as this, just make sure you’re washing or changing out the filter and you’re a step ahead of many homes in terms of environmental health.
In addition to opening windows and doors on a regular basis, you can also run ceiling fans, vented fans and HVAC systems while the windows are open. This helps circulate the air from space to space and speeds up the process of bringing the fresh air in and sending some indoor air outside.
If it’s wintertime, you can also go through and do one room at a time for just 5-10 minutes every day, this way you won’t be wasting as much energy while bringing fresh air inside.