Published on June 13th, 2013 | by tmgadmin0
5 Best Ways to Detox Your Home: Healthy Mattress Tips & More
As the “green revolution” continues gaining momentum, many people are opting to detoxify their homes of items suspected of being toxic or not environmentally friendly, including swapping out their bed for a healthy mattress. For people new to the idea, the sheer amount of green products and information can be overwhelming – so much so that many people brush it off as too expensive or time consuming. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Big changes can come with relatively little effort, and can be made over time.
Of course, this blog is all about beds, but we also wanted to find out what other changes could make the biggest impact in the average house. If you have been thinking of making some changes, keep reading to learn about the five best changes you can make for healthier, greener living space.
How to Pick a Healthy Mattress and 4 Other Tips for a Greener Home
Going green doesn’t have to mean a major overhaul of your home or lifestyle. While it is easy to find a green version of nearly every product, focusing on the most hazardous items is a good starting point and easier to take in. Start making your home healthier by identifying the “dirtiest” products. By swapping out the items most likely to bring dangerous chemicals into the house, you can make a big difference with minimal effort. Keep in mind that every change doesn’t need to be immediate – you can replace previous products with healthier options as they wear out or run out.
1) Make the Healthy Mattress Exchange
Where do you spend the most time in your home? If you are like most people, than the answer is probably your -bedroom. Ideally, we get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, which means 1/3 of every day is spent on a mattress. Unfortunately, many mattresses are also significant sources of indoor pollution and toxic chemicals. Nearly every type of bed contains adhesives, petroleum-based foams, flame retardants and other additives of potential concern. The biggest red flags are brominated flame retardants and PBDEs (flame retardants), and chlorofluorocarbons, pthalates and volatile organic compounds (found in foams and adhesives). These have been linked with a host of issues from allergies to cancers to endocrine disruption to behavior disorders. While the most toxic PBDEs and formaldehyde have been officially banned as of 2004, other versions are still in use and even banned ones pop up in recalls from time to time.
When it comes time to pick a new bed, a natural mattress provides the peace of mind of knowing that you are not subjecting yourself or family members to any potentially dangerous chemicals. A healthy mattress does not require you choose between being green or comfortable. In fact, many have better reviews for comfort than chemical-laden counterparts. One of the best options currently on the market are natural latex beds, which we discussed in greater detail in the article “How is a latex mattress created?“. Other healthy mattress options include plant-based memory foams (that have been certified free of the above toxins), and beds made with organic cotton and wool.
2) Choose Greener Cleaning Products
Many of us have been led to believe that bacteria must be banished from counters, hands and bathrooms with the harshest solutions available. As your toxic, chemical-based cleansers run out, swap them with natural alternatives that skip the harsh chemical agents and excessive anti-bacterial additives. The biggest offenders in your cleaning arsenal to replace: antibacterial soaps and cleaners (reserve for spot cleaning after handling raw meats), aerosol sprays and polishes, conventional laundry detergents and fabric softeners, and corrosive oven/toilet cleaners.
Some of the best natural cleaners include vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, rubbing alcohol, citrus oils and natural enzymes. Even mainstream brands have begun introducing healthier alternatives if you don’t want to mess with making your own, just pay attention to the labels. Not only are these options better for the environment as they reduce chemical runoff in waste-water, they are also better for your skin, clothes and immune system.
3) Opt for Healthier Bath and Body Products
Many people may not consider what all goes into the creation of bath and body products, but there are actually several common ingredients that have been proven to be bad for the environment as well as your skin. Some of the worst offenders are anti-bacterial agents, parabens, sodium sulfates. Anti-bacterial soaps can actually do more harm than good when overused. In addition to harming ecosystems via wastewater, they can also reduce your immunity to bacterial illnesses. Take care to avoid triclosan especially, which may be found in hand soaps, dish soaps, body washes, and face cleansers, as this has been shown to impair muscle function and possibly alter hormones.
Parabens (usually with the prefix prefix methyl-, propyl-, ethyl-, or butyl-) are a preservative that is used in many bath and body products in order to extend shelf life. While parabens make the product last longer, they have also been linked with premature aging and have been detected in tumors. Natural preservatives like vitamin E and citrus extracts are much better. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a harsh detergent that dries out your skin and hair, builds up in your tissues, and has been linked with neuro- and organ toxicity, among other side effects. It is extremely pervasive in bath products, from shampoo to toothpaste because it is cheap and provides a pleasing foamy texture. SLS-free products are usually not much more expensive (if it all) and are better for the environment and your body.
4) Select Safer Scents
Nothing feels more welcoming than a great-smelling home. But, don’t treat your guests and family to chemical-laden air just for the sake of pretty smells. Conventional air fresheners and candles have many toxic additives that contribute to indoor and outdoor pollution. Instead, buy a natural air fresheners and plant-based lead-free candles.
You can even make your own easy and cheap sprays with essential oils and water – simply add distilled water to a spray bottle with drops of your favorite smells (lavender, rose, jasmine, mint, vanilla and orange are all good options). These can be used in the air and most linens. For extra oomph, add a few capfuls of alcohol or vodka to the mix – this will help kill bacteria-causing odors without introducing undesirable chemicals. Reed diffusers can be refreshed with a solution of equal parts mineral oil and vodka plus drops of essential oils. Plug-in diffusers can also be refilled – remove the wick, fill 1/4-1/2 full with essential oil then top off with distilled water and replace the wick. (Bonus – many essential oils work as natural bug repellants, too!).
5) Choose Remodeling Products Wisely
Ripping up potentially toxic parts of your home is not a practical endeavor for most people. Besides, the longer VOC-containing products are around, the less chemicals they emit. But when you have to replace furnishings or do remodeling, consider opting for healthier, green options. Look for low-VOC paints and varnishes to minimize a big source of pollution when redecorating. Carpeting and flooring is another source of chemicals to watch out for due to adhesives and plastics utilized in manufacturing. Particle board furnishing products and items with foam padding can also be strong sources of VOCs and undesirable chemicals, so avoid or look for eco-friendly alternatives when it is time to replace these objects.
If you are really serious about detoxifying your home you should start reading labels on all products. What you will find is likely to be surprising. The Environmental Working Group website offers a good starting point; you can search a product for a breakdown of its risks or search chemicals to learn more. They compile information on beauty products as well as home cleaning products.
Gradually, as you make these changes, the green lifestyle will become second nature and you can transfer your knowledge to other items in your home. For instance, if you have transitioned from a regular bed to a healthy mattress, you may also want to reconsider the type of sheets that you use or detergent that you wash those sheets in. Making small, gradual changes like picking a healthy mattress and learning to read labels can make detoxifying your home fairly easy, and lead to big differences down the road.