So much of my work is actually focused on the home buying experience and a lot is tailored to individuals who own a home. But, even if you’re a renter, there are some really great healthy habits you can put in place to reduce toxins whether you rent a house or an apartment.
If you’ve been around Healthy House on the Block for any period of time, you know that the main focus here is to create an indoor space that works FOR your body and supports your systems. And as a renter, there are obviously some things you don’t have control over like a homeowner does.
And while this might be frustrating, there are PLENTY of ways you can impact your space in positive ways that will have a HUGE impact on your health, even if you’re a tenant. And the truth is, some of the more impactful changes around creating a healthy space are the ones I’m going to outline in this post.
Plus as a tenant or renter, you have less responsibility over those big areas that can be really costly if there’s a problem. And if there is a big problem, whether you rent a house or an apartment, there are ways you can make sure that you’re taken care of.
This post will give you all the information you need as a renter to create healthy habits at home, including:
- Understanding how a healthy space affects your health
- Hunting to rent a house or an apartment and what to look for
- Changes you can control in any rental
- Healthy habits in a rented space
A HEALTHY SPACE AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH
A healthy indoor space is created through habits and through intentional choices that we make in our homes. Many times what we bring into our home can have a huge impact on the quality of our indoor air as well as large impacts to our health and wellness.
Without paying attention to purchases that we make, we can easily sabotage our indoor space and compromise our own health both short term and long term.
Here are some of the ways a healthy indoor space can benefit your body:
You’ll benefit from a stronger, more robust immune system. Many of the toxins we bring into our home not only burden our bodies, but reduce the strength of various systems. Toxins such as mercury, aluminum and pesticides have all been shown to be quite common within our homes and ultimately within our bodies. These toxins both mimic hormones and cause systemic inflammation in our bodies, which triggers an immune response, making our immune system work harder. And an overworked immune system isn’t going to be as strong when it comes in contact with viruses or bacteria, which is when your body needs it to kick in. (SOURCE)
Your body will also benefit from complete endocrine function. The endocrine system is becoming a HUGE focus of our health and wellness, because it’s such a complex system that ultimately affects SO many other systems within our body. Our hormones control our sleep (more on that later), our fertility, our thyroid and metabolic function, and so much more. The endocrine system is fine tuned to YOUR body and your needs, but when it becomes disrupted through toxin exposure, it trickles down into ALL kinds of health effects.
One of the biggest and scariest effects of endocrine disruptors has been an increased risk of different types of cancers, including breast cancer. But on the opposite end, when the endocrine system is functioning properly, it means that immunity response is high, the metabolism functions at an optimal level, children don’t have an increased risk of ADHD or developmental delays and the reproductive system is functioning properly. (INFORMATION)
Great sleep is actually necessary for our brain to flush out the toxins that we are exposed to during the day (STUDY), but with an overwhelming amount of exposure, our brains can also have trouble settling into sleep and staying asleep. So this health benefit and healthy habit are a two-parter.
For starters, the more toxins we come in contact with, the more disruption is caused to our hormones, and yes, the ones that regulate our sleep can become affected too. When our body’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep for a healthy length of time becomes affected, our body actually doesn’t reduce toxins as quickly as it needs to each night. This in turn can lead to toxin build up in the body, and particularly, the brain, where neurotoxins can build up. (STUDY).
So the more sleep we get, the better our body can reduce toxins. But in order to get that GOOD sleep we’re talking about, we need to reduce toxin exposures that disrupt the endocrine system and mold within our spaces. Mold toxicity is often an overlooked common cause of sleep issues, but it’s a big one.
By eliminating toxins you come in contact with, you’ll reap the benefits of a healthy and restorative night sleep.
A healthy liver is such an important part of our body’s overall health and wellness because it reduces the toxins we come in contact with every day and protects our other systems from overload. But the harder the liver has to work, the less healthy it becomes over time. It’s important to take any step you can through healthy habits to reduce that stress on the liver and ultimately the whole body.
Liver disease is a MAJOR risk factor worldwide. The liver is responsible for removing SO may toxins from our bodies, including environmental toxins that we come into contact with. A study from 2021 shows that environmental toxins are a risk factor for liver disease that we may be able to reduce with a healthier home environment. (STUDY)
The environment that we spend the most time in is important to our body in a variety of ways, but essentially the easier we make it on our liver, the more efficiently it works, and less it becomes overworked, which can lead to disease.
HUNTING TO RENT A HOUSE OR AN APARTMENT
If you’re just starting out on your hunt to rent a house or an apartment, knowing what to look for is key when it comes to your health. Here are some things you can look for in a rental:
Age: The older the home, the more potential there is for hazardous toxins such as lead and asbestos. It doesn’t mean you have to forgo any older home, but ask questions of the landlord or management company and confirm that there is no asbestos present. You can also watch for chipping paint in older homes and apartments, which is an indicator of lead paint.
Signs of Moisture Damage: Look under cabinets, around window sills and around the bathroom for any signs that there has been moisture damage. A lot of moisture damage around the home or apartment can mean that there is unseen mold or moisture issues that are recurring and you may be the one that has to deal with it when you move in.
Carpet: You don’t have to miss out on any place that has carpet, but just know that many landlords do not have carpets cleaned in between tenants. This means that you could be exposing yourself to a variety of toxins that the previous renter brought inside. If you’re sensitive to pet dander, this could be a whole issue in and of itself. I like to try to avoid rentals with carpet, but if you can’t find one, or it’s important to you to have carpet, request that they be cleaned by a company that doesn’t use toxins.
Windows that Open: Some apartments, for safety reasons, do not have windows that open, and some do not have windows that open all the way. Be sure that you check to make sure you get ample fresh air into your space by at least being able to open windows SOME of the way.
Proper Ventilation: Ventilation in any home is HUGE. Whether you’re looking at a house to rent or an apartment, you need to be aware of ways that you’ll be able to improve ventilation, as this is the most important part of a healthy space. Look to make sure that there is an HVAC unit that you can change the filter on. This is the most important item. It’s also great when the space has passive ventilation coming in from outside (through a make up air vent), or even better, an air to air exchanger.
No Signs of Mold: Unless you see just a little mold in the shower caulking, I would probably recommend steering clear of any rental that has visible mold. Mold is toxic in most cases and can be very difficult to get rid of. You don’t want to end up uncovering more mold after you move in and then get stuck trying to get your management company or landlord to look into it and foot the bill. You’ll save yourself a BIG headache if you can avoid this altogether.
CHANGES YOU CAN CONTROL IN ANY RENTAL
The great thing about ANY home, whether you rent or you own, is that there is SO much that is within your control. You have a lot of power in what you choose to bring into your home and what products you choose to use:
Reduce Plastic in the Kitchen: There are SO many places you can reduce plastic in the kitchen. From cups and water bottles to straws and one time use utensils. Anything that has plastic in it (like food storage bags, containers or to-go lunch boxes should be swapped out for a healthier material like glass, stainless steel or silicone. THis post about silicone in the kitchen is helpful when knowing HOW to use it safely. And this post has my list of healthy kitchen essentials.
Ditch Anything With Synthetic Fragrance: One of the simplest and yet most impactful changes I made was to stop using synthetic fragrance around my house. It started with getting rid of plugins and room sprays, but continued on to scented candles, scents in my detergents and finally fragrance in my personal products. I started removing it from anything I could. Synthetic fragrances are filled with toxic chemicals that disrupt our healthy endocrine function and production and some are even toxic to our liver and airways. Check out my synthetic fragrance replacement list to help you get started.
Invest in an Air Purifier: An air purifier is one of the BEST investments you can make for your space and your body. If you need to start small, opt for a smaller unit for your bedroom, where you spend the most time anyways. From there you can add one to a main living space or office as your budget allows. A good, high quality air purifier like Medify Air can reduce things like formaldehyde, pesticides, mold and some VOCs that are inside your air. (Be sure to use my discount code of HHOTB15 at checkout). This post will give you more information on air purifiers and what to look for.
Filter Your Water: While you can reduce toxins in your air by simply opening a window, you can only reduce toxins in your water by using a water filter (as explained in this video). Most of the time rentals only allow for you to use a countertop filter or a fridge pitcher, but these can still be very worthwhile options that will reduce a LARGE number of toxins from the water you drink and cook with. REmember toxins you ingest not only affect your body but also impact your gut health too.
Bring in Low Toxin Textiles, Furniture & Decor: If you’re on the hunt for new furniture or decor for your rental, do it with intention and caution. So much of the furniture out there is made with pressed woods that contain VOCs and formaldehyde. Instead of buying the cheapest or trendiest thing, make sure your purchases are driven by health and intention. Here are a few posts that can help you make healthier decisions:
HEALTHY HABITS FOR RENTERS
The good news about a rental is that you can make SO many healthy choices in your space that will drastically impact the health of your space and your body. Each of these healthy habits will improve your indoor air quality and reduce toxins that might normally be in your home.
- Open Windows: Allow toxins to escape your home and bring in fresh air to your space. VOCs can build up inside your home, which negatively impacts your immune system, cardiovascular system and endocrine system. By opening a window, you’re allowing them to safely leave your home.
- Take Off Your Shoes: Shoes bring in not only bacteria, but also pesticides, which can then be deposited inside your home. Toxic house dust actually contains a large amount of pesticides in most homes, and so by removing your shoes at the door, you can minimize this potential toxin right off the bat.
- Run Vented Fans While Cooking & Bathing: Our homes are often much too humid and the relative humidity is often MUCH too high. You might wonder why this matters at all, but the truth is that VOCs off gas at much higher rates in humid environments, mold grows in humid environments and dust mites reproduce more quickly in humid environments. Keep your indoor humidity levels right around 35% for the ideal level.
- Remove Dust Frequently: Dust particles are constantly floating through our air and they land on surfaces, creating a layer of dust. These particles contain a range of chemicals and then sit on our home’s surfaces, waiting to be disturbed or pushed around back into the air. By dusting and getting rid of dust on a regular basis, you can really improve the health of your home.
- Make Sure Electronics are Away from Your Bed: EMF waves that are produced from our electronics travel through the air. These waves are seen as a stressor to our bodies. This means our bodies see these waves and produce cortisol in order to protect our internal organs and nerves from these foreign objects. When the body produces cortisol, it disrupts our sleep patterns and can either leave us with night wakings, insomnia or difficulty falling asleep.
- Wipe Down Excess Moisture in Bathrooms: Humidity in our homes creates an environment that’s conducive to many different types of problems. An area with high humidity is often a place where mold and mildew can take hold and flourish. High humidity also promotes dust mite reproduction as well as creates a place where toxins and VOCs will off gas at a much higher rate compared to a dry environment.
No matter if you’re looking to rent or you already rent a house or an apartment, there are so many positive changes you can make to impact not only your space, but ultimately your health and wellness.