In some way, all of us are likely trying to improve areas of our home and more importantly reduce environmental toxins at home. I know that I have a running list of DIY home ideas, small and major improvements we’d like to make to our house in order to maintain it, keep it healthy, and make it more inviting. The reason I have such a lengthy list is that a lot of these tasks take some saving up for before we decide to tackle them or they just plain take a lot of planning.
But what I’ve learned is that there are some really great, healthy improvements you can make to reduce environmental toxins at home that are completely free. Most of the time something that has no cost is because it’s more about a habit change and less about a DIY home idea or purchasing something for your home. I like to use these to get the ball rolling with my healthy house clients because these habit changes have the most impact on the health of your space.
And sometimes, these habit changes can be the most positive thing for our health and our homes and reducing environmental toxins. I have been working towards implementing a lot of these ways you can improve your home environment, and I almost have them down to a habit that I don’t even have to think about.
A lot of these habits and improvements have really helped create a home that offers restoration to my family’s bodies. It helps to create an environment that allows our bodies to heal and retreat from our world of toxins, stress and unhealthy habits.
1. Open the Windows: The BEST Way to Reduce Environmental Toxins
That’s right; the best way to improve your home and reduce environmental toxins literally takes 2 minutes and costs you absolutely NOTHING (unless it’s cold outside and you have your heat on). Why is opening your windows so great for the environment inside your home? There are a couple different reasons. The first is that it allows the fresh air from outside, which usually contains fewer toxins than inside, into your space. When your home has fresh air coming into its space it dilutes any toxins, carbon dioxide from breathing and other chemicals in your air.
As you dilute these toxins, they become less and less concentrated in your home. It’s also important to know that the air outside has been filtered by plants and trees, which is incredibly beneficial to our bodies. This is the same reason it’s recommended you add houseplants to your home.
Taking this into consideration, the more fresh air from outside that enters your home, the more benefits you are reaping from the outdoors, inside your house.
Check out this post from last week which walks you through my four step process to properly ventilating your home.
2. Take Off Your Shoes
Some people are big proponents of wearing their shoes in the house. I really am not. And I’ll tell you why this icky habit introduces environmental toxins to your home. When you wear your shoes inside your house you’re bringing inside all the public places you walked through during the day. Did you go to Target? Your kids’ school? How about a public restroom? Grass that may have been treated with chemicals? The list is endless when you think about it.
Our shoes easily pick up bacteria, environmental toxins, chemicals and herbicides from being outdoors. When you come into your house, you’re depositing these microscopic hazards onto your carpet and floors.
Even if you scrubbed your floors down immediately after coming inside, the particles would likely be somewhere in your home. Now let’s talk about where these contaminants go from there. Likely they get tracked around your home and either settle into dust somewhere or they end up entering your air.
If you have kids who play on the floor or babies crawling around, a no-shoe policy is best. Especially as these ages are notorious for poor hand to mouth habits. Ingesting these toxins, chemicals and herbicides is a whole different ball game when it comes to the health and wellness of our bodies.
The great thing is slipping your shoes off before you go in is a completely free way to reduce the number of environmental toxins that enter your home.
3. Run the Fan While Cooking
Here’s another freebie for you. Use that fan in your kitchen. Unfortunately some homes just have the recirculating fan on your microwave, which can be somewhat useful. If you have a fan in your kitchen that vents directly to outside, consider yourself blessed! This is a really great option to have. You might be wondering why it even matters?
Well, it matters because our kitchens tend to be environments rich in moisture. Think of some of the habits in our kitchen for a second. All of the following habits introduce a lot of extra moisture into our air: Boiling water, cooking food on a stovetop, brewing coffee, running a dishwasher, doing dishes by hand, wet-mopping the floor and wiping down the counter and table and allowing them to air dry.
That’s a pretty lengthy list that I’m going to guess most of us do almost every day.
By adding moisture to your air, your kitchen now becomes an ideal environment for dustmites to reproduce, mold and mildew to begin growing and the most important one: toxins to off gas at a higher rate.
Any VOC or environmental toxin that off-gasses (which is most of them) produces their byproducts at a much higher rate when the air surrounding them is warm and humid. Cooler and drier air is better for our home environments as a whole. You can control this a little bit in your kitchen by running the vented fan, cooking with lids on and wiping down surfaces instead of letting them air dry.
4. Wash Towels in Baking Soda
I know that this isn’t a completely free idea, but a box of baking soda is somewhere between $.50 – $1.00, so I’ll include it.
Do you ever notice how your towels start to feel less soft the more you use them? This is usually because the fibers of the towels are starting to become coated and embedded with our personal care products and laundry detergent. If any of the products you use don’t necessarily use organic or safe ingredients, these are being left embedded into the fibers of your towels.
Baking soda is dual purpose in regards to laundry. First, it neutralizes many chemicals and environmental toxins that may be embedded in the fibers from products or during manufacturing of the towels themselves.
Baking soda also helps to scrub and remove anything on the towels (or any laundry for that matter). It’s not a soap, and so it doesn’t wash the towels necessarily, so this is something I do every so often and not every time I wash the bathroom laundry.
It’s a great way to get those towels fluffy and soft again too (just an added bonus!)
5. Get Rid of Dust Bunnies
Remember just above when we talked about the plethora of contaminants your shoes can introduce to your home? Well, there’s more to that story. The dust in our home often contains chemicals, pesticides and bacteria in it from our daily habits.
I’m not going to even pretend that my house is sparkling clean and that I dust my house every week. Dusting is lowest on the list when it comes to chores at my house. I would honestly rather clean bathrooms than dust. But, dusting is a really important part of a healthy house.
Dusting with a wet cloth will help you remove some of the toxins that have settled around your house. These toxins can range from things you’ve brought in on your coat, shoes or purse to a chemical that you used to clean something with.
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.
Want even more ideas about reducing toxic dust at home? This list will walk you through some of the best ways.
6. Dispose of Chemical Cleaners
Chemical cleaners, even the ones we use just once in a while, are harmful to the indoor environment of our home. Deep cleaners especially, are harmful as they often contain a greater amount of chemicals in them. The strong smell of these products is more than just annoying, it’s the smell of chemical solutions that are blended together in order to clean or “sanitize” a surface.
These problematic cleaners actually end up in your home’s dust and in the air of your home, spreading environmental toxins everywhere. Overspray from chemicals also leaves it on surfaces we didn’t intend for it to reach. You wouldn’t put this cleaner in your mouth, would you? You’d probably take every measure possible to avoid getting any of it in or near your skin or mouth.
When it’s sprayed in your home, ultimately it ends up within our bodies and affecting our internal systems. The best way to avoid this is to get rid of them. You can switch to a plant based cleaner that doesn’t house any chemicals, synthetic fragrances or toxins.
I love using ONE main cleaner for most of the cleaning in my home. I have fallen in love with AspenClean, which is extremely cost-effective and can be used on just about any surface of your home. It’s been a game-changer for me and my family in terms of how we clean. And while I felt like I was going to be spending more on this natural cleaner, I can brag to you that we spend WAY less than we ever have on cleaning supplies since switching over.
7. Move Electronics Away from Your Bed
Do you keep an office’s worth of electronic cords around your bed to charge your phone, smart watch or other gadgets? I used to be like this too. I had all kinds of electronics sitting on my nightstand, next to my head. Things like the baby monitor, my phone, my kindle. Suddenly I wondered if by moving these items I’d sleep better. I’m a huge proponent of getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and every since I was young, it has made a world of difference for me and my outlook on the day.
I moved everything from my nightstand into our bathroom (so I could hear alarms and the baby if need be) and wouldn’t you know it my sleep improved. I was fascinated by this and started researching WHY this worked.
The 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.
By moving whatever you can away from your bed, you’ll likely sleep better and unburden your body from the stressors that surround it all day long. If you can even move your alarm clock away from your night stand, it’s an improvement.
The other thing you can safely remember when you’re creating a sleep sanctuary is that these electronic waves generally drop off rather quickly and so a safe distance could be just on the other side of the room from where you’re sleeping. Learn more about a truly restorative sleep sanctuary here.
8. Wipe Down Bathroom Surfaces
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.
Bathrooms are a particularly humid environment just due to our daily habits in the bathroom. A shower or bath produces a large amount of moisture that evaporates and stays in the air for a long period of time. This creates a humid environment that often times does not dry out enough before the next round of showers or baths.
The great news is that you can really easily dry out your bathroom with just a few simple habit changes. One of them is to wipe down your surfaces after a bath or shower. You can simply squeegee your tub surround and/or shower door to minimize the amount of moisture left on these surfaces. You can also wipe down the floor or base of the tub to dry it up as well.
Other habits you can implement are running a bath fan during and up to 20 minutes after a shower and hanging up your towels and rugs to dry quickly afterwards.
9. Get Rid of Plastic Food Containers, Plates & Cups
Maybe your house is how mine used to be: Stacks and stacks of plastic food containers. You know those reusable plastic containers you can buy in a pack? I had more of those than I knew what to do with. They cluttered my cabinet and to be honest, I didn’t even use them that much. I just kept them “in case.”
Then one day I took the plunge and ditched almost all of them. I thought I might miss them, but I don’t. We just use our glass containers and if we run out, a bowl with some wrap on the top is good enough to store our leftovers.
As for lunches, we use metal containers or the glass to-go containers. I already had these things, so for me I didn’t end up spending any money at all.
We know that plastics, especially the soft, moldable kind are full of environmental toxins and are toxic to our bodies and our internal systems. These plastics have been known to disrupt hormone production and the chemicals from the plastics stay in our systems for long periods, building up over time.
What’s especially important to remember is that plastic that’s around our food actually leaches into the food we are eating. The more greasy the food, the more plastic toxins leach on to it. When plastic is heated up it also releases more toxins into our food.
By taking on this DIY home idea of removing the use of plastic utensils, cups, plates and containers, you can not only save money by not purchasing them, but your kitchen will be much healthier in the end.
Here are some resources to help you ditch plastic in your kitchen:
Do you practice any of these habits, or have you made any of these improvements in your own home?