Our homes in the winter can be a totally different place and vibe in comparison to the rest of the year. Depending on your climate, most of the time the winter means closed up homes with very little air filtering in or out through open windows and doors. The amount of inside air our home is trading for outside air is called an air exchange, and typically in winter, we have less than one per hour depending on how energy efficient your house is.
Winter is also that dreaded time of year when germs, viruses and bacteria make themselves VERY known and present. This is why I personally try to keep our home filled with products that don’t introduce us to more toxins. The more toxins your body and family come into contact with, the more our bodies become burdened and bogged down.
This concept of body burden is similar to that of a cup. Once your cup is filled to the top, it overflows. When our body is over filled with toxins, systems start to malfunction and we see symptomatic problems like fatigue, skin issues, immune function decreases and other life-altering ailments.
Decreasing the number of toxins within your home can be done in many different ways. I think the trick is that when you feel comfortable enough with your habits and products, add another item you could change. There’s no use in changing everything at home time. For one, you’ll get overwhelmed and to be honest, this really defeats the purpose of creating a healthier space anyways. If you’re stressed and overwhelmed, you probably won’t be reaping the benefits as fully as you would if you were at peace with the changes you were making. Second, if you make tons of changes all at one time, chances are those habits won’t really stick in the end.
This is why I like the layering approach to changing your habits and products. Work just one thing at a time and once it’s a solid change and a normal part of your life, add on the next thing. Eventually, you’ll get to where you want. But doing a major overhaul of your life can defeat the purpose of implementing healthier habits and products.
I encourage you to use this mini winter detox plan in the same way. Just change one thing at a time and then move on. If you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed, break the detox down into really simple steps and go from there.
OUR UNHEALTHY HOMES IN THE WINTER
Winter can be an especially hard time on our bodies and homes. For one, we likely are getting fewer hours of sunlight, resulting in lower levels of vitamin D in our bodies. Second, we are probably spending more hours inside, and less time outside in clean fresh air. If you’ve been reading up on creating a healthier house, you know that the inside air is actually much more polluted than the outdoor air due to the products we use, our sealed up homes and the habits we have.
Undiluted Air: Air that has very few transfers of fresh air from outside has a very low quality to it. Homes used to get 5 air exchanges per hour just from the drafts in the home’s structure. Our homes are much more energy efficient now, meaning we typically only have 1 air exchange per hour, if that. What’s happening is that our indoor air is staying stale and stagnant with hardly any fresh air coming in to dilute it. The goal is to have fresh outdoor air filtering through our home at all times. While this may not be as likely in the winter, I’ve got some ideas later in this post that will help you achieve healthier indoor air.
Viruses: Winter is the time for viruses, bacteria and germs. If you have school age kids you know this is ESPECIALLY true. It seems like there is a constant stream of kids out in classrooms due to colds and flues. The inside of our houses is no exception to this winter-time treasure. Cleaning and getting the dust out as efficiently as possible is going to help with this. I also implement a hand washing policy that requires a hand wash when we get home from ANYWHERE.
Added CO2 from heating: Heating systems and appliances that use gas (think fireplace, furnace, water heater, boiler, gas stove, etc.) have the potential to give off CO2, a deadly gas. Carbon monoxide is also dangerous to the neurological system of the body in small, frequent amounts. Getting fresh air into your house is key to diluting this gas while you’re using gas systems and appliances. It’s also vital that you have a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home.
Increased Moisture from Condensation: The winter time also leaves us with added condensation on glass windows and glass doors. It’s important to keep excess moisture out of the house as it increases the relative indoor humidity levels quickly. High levels of humidity indoors can increase potential mold and mildew growth, dust mite reproduction and reduce overall immune function. By keeping moisture cleaned off of windows and moving furniture away from windows, you’ll prevent this problem from occurring in your own home.
The good news is, there is a simple solution to all of these problems that won’t have you turning your life upside down. This super basic detox plan will help improve your indoor air quality and make your environment inside a healthier space.
Open Windows when Possible: My plan for the winter months is to rotate through my house and open windows on a fairly consistent basis. Bedroom windows I like to open for about 5 minutes a day when my kids are at school. The rest of the house I open up about once a week for 5-10 minutes or so to let some fresh air inside.
While I have my windows open I turn my thermostat off of heat and have JUST the fan running. If you have a nest thermostat, you can just turn the heating temperature lower in order to prevent it from heating your house while the windows are open for a few minutes.
I don’t make this a huge deal, I just open the windows when I remember and then close them after a few minutes. You can even close the bedroom doors to prevent cold air from infiltrating the rest of the house if you want.
Use a Plant Based Cleaner: This one is HUGE. Cleaners contain chemicals and harmful components that get over-sprayed onto surfaces you didn’t intend, and end up being ingested or on the skin. Chemicals from cleaners are also commonly found in house dust, where they stay in our homes for long periods of time. This doesn’t even mention the fact that if you’re the one using the cleaner, you’re likely breathing the airborne particles, giving them a direct trip to your bloodstream.
I truly feel like my whole life has changed using a safer cleaner. I used to feel guilty every time I cleaned, knowing it wasn’t safe for my kids or my family. But at the time, I didn’t know of a better option. Once I discovered Thieves, my whole cleaning routine was simplified.
Thieves can be used to replace EVERY cleaner in your house. Literally. It’s super concentrated, meaning you use just a small capful in your cleaning spray bottle. I broke down the cost and that means it’s just $.36 to make a spray bottle of cleaner with Thieves.
Another option for switching out your cleaners is to go to the Think Dirty App and do your own research if you want to switch out your cleaners if you want to buy them at your local store.
Dust Removal Plan: This one doesn’t sound like the most fun, but trust me it will be improving your space for the better. Dust has been found to contain not only chemicals from the products we use in our home, but also formaldehyde from upholstery fabrics, flame retardants from furniture foam and pesticides from outdoor use.
In my opinion, that’s a lot of junk in our homes that we could remove. With so many nooks and crannies for dust to settle, the best plan of action is to be diligent and remove it the right way:
- Wet dust surfaces with either a dusting spray or a damp cloth
- Vacuum corners and edges with a hepa filter vacuum
- Wet mop floors with a natural cleaning solution
- Change your furnace filter/air filters frequently (every 4 months or so)
Prevent Condensation: I mentioned removing condensation from windows earlier as a great way to prevent an increased level of humidity within your home. But preventing the condensation from forming is the first and most vital step in the process. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and headaches by creating habits that will help minimize window condensation this winter:
- Use a vented fan while cooking and showering and in the laundry room
- If it’s plausible to open a window while cooking, bathing or doing laundry, this will also help
- Move furniture away from windows to increase air flow around the window
- Open vents in rooms with excess condensation
- Keep shades open as much a possible to increase air flow
POSITIVE HEALTH BENEFITS FROM A DETOX
By taking care of these few items and changing your habits and products, you’re home’s indoor environment will be improved. But what’s more is that you’re family and those in your home will be improving their bodies as well.
Improved indoor air quality: The first and most apparent change is the improved indoor air quality. We know that our indoor air is often much more polluted outdoor air due to the fact that there is very little fresh air diluting our homes.
By bringing in fresh, clean air from outside, we are diluting the indoor air and allowing the toxic indoor air to be pushed out of the house. A complete air exchange is the healthiest thing for your house and for you.
You can purchase an indoor air quality monitor to help you keep tabs on your indoor air, or take a look at this post that talks about the best ways to improve your air inside.
Lessening Body Burden: I’ve mentioned it many times before, but body burden occurs when our bodies come into contact on a consistent basis with toxins and chemicals that are causing our bodies stress. Body burden can be avoided at home by reducing our toxic load and creating a low tox environment to enjoy
By reducing toxins at home, body burden drops off and your body is able to function as it was created – an immune system supporting the rest of the body instead of trying to combat unnecessary chemicals or toxins.
Reducing Moisture: Moisture in our homes creates an environment where mold and midlew thrive and where dust mites reproduce. Our bodies also function better in a climate that is moderately drier. Without mold and mildew around, our bodies can focus on protecting us from viruses and bacteria.
When our bodies come into contact with allergens such as mold or dust mites, unfortunately all our efforts are spent protecting us from these elements. Once these elements are out of the way, we sleep better and feel better, creating a positive domino effect of health.
Limiting Contact with Toxins: By limiting our exposure with toxins, so many positive things will occur. Often times skin conditions begin to dissipate and disappear as our immune system is not overworked and stressed out. Because of the reduced amount of toxin stress on our bodies, sleep too will improve, meaning our overall health is improved as well. Another benefit is fewer viruses take hold within our bodies due to the fact that we’re not spending our energy trying to decipher if a toxin is harming our body or not.
EXTRA DETOX ITEMS FOR THIS WINTER
Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to go the extra mile. If you’re already practicing the habits above and you want to do even more, these items are great “next step” tasks to help create an even healthier environment.
Switch to Organic Bedding & Mattress: We spend 7-8 hours in our beds every day. And because we are laying directly on this surface and our skin is contact with it, we are absorbing whatever toxins are in the mattress and sheets. This would be flame retardants, formaldehyde, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. We’re also breathing in close proximity to our beds, which is just one more way toxins can enter our body.
Ditch Plastic in the Kitchen: Plastics in the kitchen, where it comes in contact with our food is one of the worst places for plastic containers. Plastic that is warmed or heated, whether in the microwave or simply by the food it’s touching, leaves into our food. Plastics contain plasticizers that affect our bodies, including our endocrine system. By removing plastic from our kitchen (think storage bags, water bottles, dishes, storage containers, etc.), we can remove a huge source of toxins in our home.
Overhaul your Cleaning Closet: Cleaning products contain ammonia, bleach, synthetic fragrances and other toxins that affect the body negatively. Taking the time to ditch your current, toxic cleaners and replace them with a healthier, plant based option will help you create a home environment free of so many negative products.
You can simply download the Think Dirty App and check your supply. Then, start replacing. I personally replaced every single one of my cleaners with Thieves cleaner, but you could replace it with whatever healthy option you want.
Declutter Your Stuff: Decluttering and choosing a more minimalist approach to living not only relieves stress in your life (after all, you don’t want to be a stuff manager), but in the process you’ll most likely remove a lot of items that contain toxins like plastic.
Decluttering also helps reduce the amount of dust in your house because it no longer has a place to land and collect. Decluttering is a process, but by taking on one area at a time, you’ll have your home done in no time. Just make sure you’re not replenishing your items with more stuff!