Everyday I walk into my not so minimalist closet and pick out my clothing for the next day. Everyday when I do this, I start running through closet ideas in my head to add closet organizers and make my space truly functional, toxin free and a pretty space all at the same time.
I think this is the ultimate goal for closets everywhere — the trifecta of a functional space, a low toxin or toxin free area and a space that makes you feel good and looks good too. In fact, maybe this is the goal for my whole house now that I really think about it.
But the closet is a great place to start for so many reasons. The closet is a small space, which means usually it won’t take much in time or money to update this space to be a low toxin room of your home.
Closets are also closed in space, which means there’s very little air flowing in and out of the room and there’s often almost no ventilation. Without air movement, the toxins in our closet can end up staying put instead of being filtered out of our house through mechanical and natural ventilation.
As I’ve pondered my closet ideas and closet organizers, I thought it would be a great topic to share with you. In today’s blog post you’ll get familiar with
- toxins in most closet organizers
- some healthy closet organization systems
- minimalist closet concepts for a healthier space
- my top picks for closet organization systems and accessories
TOXINS IN MOST CLOSET ORGANIZERS
Most closet organizers that you purchase in the store or that are DIY installations are made of particleboard, which as we’ve talked about time and time again contains VOCs that off gas into the air inside your home.
I would say unless you’re seeking out toxin free closet organizers, most of what you find either online or at a hardware store is going to contain toxins like formaldehyde and other VOCs. These toxins are not only harmful to your health,but often closets are small, unventilated spaces that can hold on to a lot of toxins. The air inside our closets has a very low number of hourly exchanges, meaning it is stagnant and filled with whatever toxins off gas into it inside our closet’s closed doors.
Some of the toxins you want to be aware of are:
Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is literally the glue that holds particle board and plywood together. The core of these manufactured wood products is made of a urea-formaldehyde resin that bonds the wood together in a very strong and effective way.
The problem is that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Specifically, it’s been linked to brain cancers, nasal cancers and possibly leukemia. It has also been shown to cause issues such as skin irritation, fatigue and upper respiratory irritation. Formaldehyde has also been linked to reproductive problems in women as well as development of asthma in children. It’s a toxin that is ALL over our homes, and any place we can reduce it is going to benefit your body.
VOCs: There are SO many VOCs in the world naturally and in our homes. There are so many VOCs I don’t have a post even listing all of them. But, in manufactured wood products, there are some of the big ones like benzene and toluene. Benzene has been linked to childhood leukemia and developmental delays. It’s been classified as a known carcinogen. Toluene is also a known carcinogen to humans and can harm the reproductive process
Fire Retardant Chemicals: Fire retardant chemicals are another chemical that is ALL over our house. It has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and specifically cause problems with the thyroid function. It also has negative impacts on the immune system and can cause neurological problems, especially in children. Fire or flame retardants are known to increase the risk of cancer diagnosis and negatively affect the reproductive system. (SOURCE)
Insect/Pesticide Treatments: Because manufactured wood is basically left over scraps and pieces of wood and sawdust, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s in the mixture. Most wood is treated with insecticides and pesticides to prevent pests from getting to the wood products. But what we know is that pesticides are a huge health risk to us and to our kids.
Pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of childhood cancer and increase the risk of developmental defects and stillbirths in pregnant women. Pesticides have also been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease as well as other nervous system disorders. In men, it has been found to alter the reproductive and endocrine function altering the mobility and quality of sperm.
HEALTHY CLOSET IDEAS
Block VOCS on Current Systems: Just a few weeks ago I wrote about AFM SafeCoat and their options for blocking VOCs in manufactured wood products. If you have a closet system you love or one that works really well, don’t wastefully start from scratch. Instead, seal up the exposed edges with SafeSeal and use Hard Seal to coat the tops. You can learn exactly how to use these products and how they block in VOCs so they stop off gassing in this blog post.
Solid Wood Systems: I chose this option in our old house to add closet shelves. I purchased all solid wood and created my own shelves in two areas of our house. I think solid wood is a great option for when you want to DIY closet organizers and you can find A TON of closet ideas that you can simply use solid wood for instead of cheap manufactured wood.
You’ll want to make sure any paint or clear coat you add is also toxin free, but natural wood is an excellent option for closets as it’s extremely durable and there are very few toxins.
You can also find solid wood systems if you hunt around for them. I’m sharing some of my favorite solid wood systems at the end of this post which you can look into as well.
Toxin Free Manufactured Wood: I’m happy to report that there are SO many more options now than ever before if you’re looking for manufactured wood, but toxin free. This post I wrote on plywood and plywood alternatives can give you some really good ideas of where to look if you’re trying to find a lighter, manufactured wood but without toxins.
Some options you can look for are
- SoyStrong Maple Plywood
- PureBond Birch Plywood
- RiceStraw MDF Boards
- Wheat Board Eco Board
PVC Free Metal Systems: Metal systems are another GREAT alternative for closet organization systems. I love that they are usually lighter in weight and they’re also relatively inexpensive. Make sure that you’re getting metal that is either powder coated or uncoated. Anything else can have PVC toxins in the coating, which is a toxin you want to avoid in your home.
ORGANIC, MINIMALIST CLOSET CONCEPTS
Let’s be honest, the fewer clothes you have, the less you need to reorganize and clean your closet on the regular. I have successfully paired down my closet several times and I always feel better when I have fewer items inside. I am SO far from a minimalist in the wardrobe department, but what I have learned over the last few years is that really, I don’t need a closet full of clothes. I typically wear the same favorites over and over anyways.
I have also learned that conventional clothing typically has formaldehyde and pesticides in the fabric fibers, which are so harmful to our bodies as we wear our clothing all day. This is why if you can opt for organic clothing — especially clothing that sits on your skin for long periods of time (undergarments, pajamas) — you can reduce a significant source of toxin exposure.
TOP PICKS FOR CLOSET ORGANIZERS & CLOSET ACCESSORIES
Next time you walk into your closet, think of all the ways you could reduce some of the toxins by either sealing in the system you have or by adding a new system that is low toxin. I’ve been thoughtfully planning out my own closet to redo later on this year with some of the products I shared here. Either way, any change you make to reduce toxins through your clothing or closet is a very positive step in the right direction.