Be careful what you breathe. We all know the air outside is (sadly) polluted, but did you know that the air you breathe inside your house is most likely a concentrated version of it? Most articles always add “mostly in winter” under the pretense that people keep their windows and doors closed with the heater on during that time, but the reality is that most people switch from heat to cool, and basically barely ever open their windows to let fresh air and sunshine in.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), your home could be up to five times more polluted with common chemicals than outdoor air. You could be breathing a concentrated mix of chemicals found in products like air fresheners, cleaning supplies and others. Here are some simple solutions to help your indoor air quality.
Get rid of your toxic chemical cleansers, sprays, stain removers, laundry detergents, dishwasher detergents, oven cleaners, etc. that are not only bad for the environment but also for humans and pets (you don’t have to throw all of them out, but whenever you’re done with one, replace it with a non-toxic one). According to a 2012 research on over 2,100 common cleaning products, by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) (a nonprofit research organization), 53 percent contained chemicals like sodium or potassium hydroxide, which may damage the lungs, and 20 percent of these products include carcinogens like formaldehyde. Even some commercial “green” cleaning products might contain some of these harmful substances because they don’t have to list all of their ingredients. Do your own research for each brand you plan to use, consult the EWG website, or even better: make your own cleaning products. Clean is clean, bacteria and dirt do not make the difference whether it’s your floor or your countertop or your bathroom sink. Why should you have a different cleaning product for each?
These simple cleaning solutions will not cost a lot, are totally safe, smell good, and clean and disinfect just as well as chemicals, but without the toxic fumes and runoffs in the environment. Using simple pantry ingredients like: lemon, white vinegar, baking soda, thyme oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s), olive oil.
- Easy tip to sanitize your cutting board: simply run a slice of lemon over the surface.
- Window & mirror cleaner. Mix in a spray bottle: 1/2 cup white vinegar, 2 cups warm water.
- All-purpose cleaner (great for kitchen and bathrooms – except on marble and stainless surfaces): 1 cup white vinegar, 2 cups water, 1/4 cup lemon juice (you can leave the rind in the bottle too), 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3-5 drops of thyme essential oil.
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to your laundry detergent for a fresh and clean smelling laundry.
- To brighten whites, add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to your laundry. Drying outside in the sun (in the summer) is also a natural ‘bleach’ for your whites.
- Wood furniture: Make your own polish by mixing 2 cups olive oil with the juice of 1 lemon; work it in with a soft cloth. To smooth out scratches in light-colored wood, rub them with a solution of equal parts olive or vegetable oil and lemon juice.
- Polish and clean stainless steel: Pour a little bit of olive oil onto a soft cloth and buff.
- To wash floors: 1/4 cup pure Castile soap mixed with 2 gallons warm water (approx. 7.5 L).
If you’re not ready to make your own cleaners just yet, make sure to buy non-toxic ones instead. I like Nature Clean, Simply Clean, Ecover and Bionature, to name a few.
If your house smells musty or bad, figure out the cause first and fix it instead of masking odors with air fresheners. These contain phthalates, a multipurpose chemical that is used to disperse a scent throughout the room, and synthetic fragrances that may disrupt the endocrine system’s control of hormones, linked to reproductive issues and breast cancer. A 2012 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which looked at chemicals found in more than 200 common household products ranging from laundry detergent to hand sanitizers, found that air fresheners were among the highest in levels of synthetic fragrances. Use natural scents in your home, like real rosemary, or essential oils like lavender (which can be used in your natural cleaning products).
Make sure you open your windows regularly, even in winter. Only 10 minutes will help (if you live in a high-traffic area, do this at night). Air purifiers and filters might be good at eliminating small particles like smoke and dust, but not as effective at removing harmful gases.
One more item to help your indoor air quality: plants! These will do even more than just make your house look more alive and welcoming. Based on a research from NASA, it was found that some plants not only absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen, like all plants do, but also remove toxic chemicals from the air, such as formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia.
Boston ferns, pot mums, peace lilies, spider plants, philodendrons and dracaena are all good choices.
(see complete list on Wikipedia)
(source: Alive magazine)
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Kim Edwards (@kimmm_edwards) says
I just checked out your post. Love it! That is funny that we both posted about cleaning 🙂
Jo-Ann Blondin says
Great tips. I just tried the olive oil and soft cloth on my stainless steel appliances and it worked great. I keep looking at the stainless cleaners and this is a wonderful alternative.. Thanks.
Glad you found it useful! Most of the times we have everything we need in our pantry, and at least it doesn’t stink! haha 🙂