In an ideal world, your home should be a safe haven where you can relax and recharge after a busy day. It’s the place where you make happy memories laughing and playing, and share fresh meals with your loved ones.
A healthy home can be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, there could also be hidden health hazards lurking around the house, from dangerous pollutants to dust-collecting clutter.
Spring is the traditional time to freshen up your living space after a long winter of being stuck indoors. And while you’re in the cleaning spirit, it’s also a perfect opportunity to create a healthier home for your family, with a few adjustments and some new routines.
Follow this short step-by-step guide to eliminate common household toxins, make your home sparkling clean and turn your brownstone into the cornerstone of a healthy life.
1. Limit Household Health Hazards
Chemicals in home materials, pesticides, molds, lingering tobacco smoke and even seemingly innocent dust on the shelves can pose a risk to your health. Reducing your exposure to these pollutants is the first – boring but necessary – step to a healthy home.
Avoid Common Household Toxins
- Fix plumbing leaks or (hidden) water damage as quickly as you can to prevent mold from growing. Breathing in mold spores can irritate your eyes, skin and air ways or cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. Also make sure you ventilate damp areas like the bath room and toilet daily.
- Avoid using pesticides in and around your home. (Chronic) exposure to weed, fungus and bug killers is linked to neurological health problems, cancer and hormonal disruption. Explore non-chemical ways to get rid of indoor and garden pests instead.
- Check your home for other common household toxins, like lead plumbing pipes in older homes or leaks in gas stoves, water heaters or chimneys that may cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Improve Indoor Air Quality
Did you know that indoor air is usually far more polluted than outdoor air? Shocking right, especially since most people spend 90% of their time inside buildings. Indoor air pollution is actually ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. So what can you do to improve the air quality inside your home?
- Ventilation is key. Open your windows every day, preferably on opposite sides of the house. If possible, keep air grates or vent windows open day and night. A stagnant indoor environment allows pollutants and toxic particles to build up, particularly in well insulated houses.
- No smoking indoors, ever. Even third-hand smoking – when you’re breathing in the toxins that remain in the curtains, sofa or car seat long after a cigarette has been put out – can pose a health risk for children.
- Air out your dry-cleaning before you hang your clothes back in the closet.
- Keep dust under control. Ah dust, the bane of many homemakers’ existence. And yet, vacuuming twice a week, washing your bedding regularly and clearing away clutter slow down the accumulation of mites, bacteria and household chemicals found in dust around the house.
Healthy Kitchen, Healthy Family
The kitchen is often the heart of the home, where your family gathers around for a healthy meal. So how can you make your food preparation and consumption as safe as you can?
- Get informed about the quality of your tap water. If it’s not optimal, you could consider installing a water filtering system.
- Make hygiene in the kitchen a priority to reduce your risk of foodborne diseases. Wash your hands for 20 seconds in warm soapy water before cooking and after cooking. Keep preparation surfaces clean and use separate cutting boards plus cutlery for raw meats and vegetables to avoid cross – contamination.
- Limit your use of plastic bottles and canned foods. These products may contain bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical that could seep into food and beverages. There are concerns about the possible health effects of BPA on the brain and behaviour of (unborn) babies and children, but its safety is still being debated.
- Wash fruit and vegetables before serving them. Fresh produce can be heavily sprayed with pesticides to keep insects and diseases at bay. You can lower your intake of harmful chemicals without breaking the bank by buying these Dirty Dozen products from organic sources.
Lower Your Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (At Night)
Electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) radiated by cell phones and wireless internet have become an unescapable part of modern life. If and how the constant exposure affects our health is still unclear, but it’s still a sound idea to lessen the potential impact of EMF’s by creating a sleep sanctuary. Turn off your wifi at night and put your cell phone on airplane mode, preferable not next to your head for 8 hours straight. If you use the alarm on your phone to wake up, consider buying an old fashioned alarm clock or kick your snooze habit by laying your cell in another room.
2. Declutter, Dump, De-stress
Clean house, clean mind. Don’t tell your mom, but she actually had a point when she told you this growing up. Neuroscientists at Princeton University found that having clutter around you distracts your mind, making it harder for you to focus on your work and leaves you feeling stressed.
Decluttering and re-organizing your home demands some effort at first, but saves you a lot of time and energy cleaning, tidying up and searching for lost items in the long run. You could use William Morris’ quote as your motto for deciding which belongings you should keep or throw/give away: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Some declutter tips for a healthy home:
- Clear away stuff that collects piles of dust.
- Clean out your medicine cabinet and safely dispose of any expired medications. Maybe you want to buy some new over-the-counter drugs or bandages to update your personal first aid kit.
- Purge your pantry. Check the dates of perishable goods and stock up on healthy staples, like wholegrain (pseudo)grains, nut butters, extra virgin olive oil or disease-fighting spices.
3. Ditch The Dirt
Time to get your rubber gloves on for some traditional Spring cleaning!
- Try using chemical-free products like baking soda and vinegar to get rid of dirt and germs in a healthier way. Harsh cleaners like ammonia or certain drain openers can irritate your eyes, skin and respiratory system. Greatist shares 27 non-toxic cleaning recipes for every surface.
- Not a domestic goddess? Don’t overlook these surprisingly germy places when you’re scrubbing the house, like kitchen handles, door knobs and TV remotes.
- Keep dirt and pollutants out of your home by taking off your shoes by the front door.
4. Make Your Home A Healthy Haven
It takes more than clean surfaces and organized cupboards to make a healthy house a home.
Have one living area where you can relax and recharge – a room, a corner or just a comfy chair with a blanket and a side table to put down your cup of tea. Hang photos of cherished moments, inspiring art or motivational quotes where you can see it every day.
Bring the outdoors indoors. Open your windows for some fresh air. Adorn your living room with flowers and air-purifying plants. Let the light in. Move your couch into a “summer position”, so you can stare outside instead of facing the TV or fire place.
Swap synthetic home fragrances for naturally scented candles or use essential oils in a diffuser. Lay a lavender sachet in your linen closet to give your sheets that lovely smell.
But mostly, make your own upgrades to freshen up your home in any way that boosts your emotional and physical well being.
Perhaps this guide to create a healthy home has made it sound like you can safely eat off the floor at my house. Uhm, no. Sadly my mum has not passed on her domestic goddess genes to me. And trying to tidy up or getting any chores done with a little one around looks exactly like this.
But I am aware of how my living environment can affect my health and mood in either a good way or a bad way. So this article was written as part of my own step-by-step Spring cleaning. I may have to tackle this process one area or 20-minute session at a time, but hopefully I’ll end up with a shiny and healthier home before Summer arrives.
So tell me, what have you done recently to create a healthy home? Do you know any cleaning or organisation hacks to save some time and energy?
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