4 ways to breathe cleaner at home
I’m a huge home-body. My apartment is, for me, an oasis from the rest of the world, a place where I can relax. Many of us who live in busy cities have no choice but to walk around all day, breathing in unavoidable toxins from pollution, exhaust fumes, that weird steam that comes out of the drains in the street – among other things I’m sure. But at home, for the most part, you can at least have some control over the level of toxic substances in the air. Here are some ways you can improve your air quality inside your home without having to spend a lot of money or drastically change your habits.
1. You can start with using biodegradable non-toxic detergents and cleaning products or making your own cleaners from simple things you have around the house. This not only is better for your health, since you don’t have to breathe in all the harsh odors and chemicals, it’s better for the environment too. (All those chemicals have to go somewhere after they get washed down the drain; they don’t just go away). Products like chlorine bleach and ammonia are very irritating to mucous membranes and can cause burns. Many conventional cleaning products contain fragrance to cover up the strong chemical odors. And what if you used one product with ammonia and another with bleach at the same time? You might not even smell it, but the combination results in chlorine gas, which can be fatal. There are so many non-toxic, green cleaning products available now, so you have lots of options and most every supermarket carries at least one brand. My favorites are Method, Ecover, Seventh Generation and Earth Friendly Products.
2. Have a “no-shoe” policy: I used to think this was more important in the city than the suburbs, but now I just think it’s a good idea especially if you have carpets (which are like a sponge for dirt and debris) and/or small children (or adults) crawling, lying or playing on the floor. We have wood floors, and I find myself constantly sweeping up dirt and debris from outside. Removing shoes at the door prevents all sorts of unwanted things from being tracked all through your home. For me, it was mostly about the dog poop in the street. That’s what initially grossed me out enough to actually really do it and make it a habit. Don’t get me wrong, I do my best not to step in in at all, but you just never know what’s been on the sidewalk! And it’s not just the visible dirt – there’s urine, pesticide, and fertilizer residue, toxic cleaners and chemicals, old food residue, and I can only imagine what else. It helps if you have a designated spot for shoes near the door. The next best thing is to have a doormat right near the entrance to your home so that the majority of the debris and germs gets deposited on that rather than tracked through the house.
3. Use only soy wax or beeswax candles. Most regular candles these days, unless otherwise specified, are made from paraffin. Paraffin is a petroleum waste product, so it’s really cheap and that’s why so many manufacturers use it. The black soot they produce is toxic if not carcinogenic. Soy and beeswax candles are natural, non-toxic, biodegradeable, and renewable. They also last up to 50% longer than regular candles, and the wax cleans up easier (won’t ruin your tablecloths). They might be a little more expensive, but well worth it.
4. Do less drycleaning
This is scary: You might be getting more than just stain-free clothes back from the drycleaner. Check this out: Alexa Dantzler, a high school sophomore, came up with a science project ideato test to see if chemical residue stayed in clothing after dry cleaning. She called a chemistry professor at Georgetown University to ask for help, and inspired a research study. The researchers found that perchloroethylene, a harmful chemical linked to cancer and nerve disorders as well as groundwater contamination, actually does remain in polyester, wool, and cotton clothing and levels increase with repeated cleanings. I’ve noticed several dry cleaning businesses around the city that claim to be “organic”, but apparently this means nothing since dry cleaning is not regulated by the government. Actually a process called “wet cleaning” is the best, least toxic option. I found this website while I was searching the web for more information on this. http://whatisorganiccleaning.com/learn.html.
5. Get some houseplants: They actually humidify and recycle the air, making it fresher and cleaner. They take carbon dioxide (what we breathe out) and turn it into oxygen (what we breathe in). Plus, they help remove other common toxic chemicals like formaldehyde (found in carpets, pressed wood) and trichloroethylene (found in paints, and drycleaning) and carbon monoxide (produced by smoking.) Bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, chrysanthemum and philodendron are some of the most air-purifying plants. Personally, I like spider plants because they are easy (and hard to kill) and fresh basil to use in my cooking. Check out my windowsill…