10 Ways to Detox Your Home
by Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND
Opening the windows is one of my favorite things about spring, especially after a long winter. Reveling in sunshine and warmer temperatures, and exchanging and circulating the air inside our homes, is as good for our bodies as it is for our spirits. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be “more seriously polluted” than outdoor air, even in the largest and most industrialized cities.1 While opening the windows helps reduce exposure to environmental toxins in the air, it’s just a start. There are many other ways to minimize toxic exposure inside our homes and these ten tips will help you get started.
#1 | Take off your shoes.
One of the easiest ways to prevent outdoor chemicals from becoming indoor toxins is to leave your shoes at the door. Insist that everyone else does too.
#2 | Filter tap water.
Activated carbon filters can remove chlorine, lead, mercury, copper, pesticides, solvents, radon, parasites, some volatile organic compounds, and bad tastes and odors from tap water. Reverse osmosis also removes fluoride, cadmium, asbestos, bacteria, arsenic, barium, nitrates, nitrites, and perchlorate. Reverse osmosis filters use thin membranes to remove 99.97 percent of contaminants 0.3 microns or larger, while ulta-HEPA filters reportedly filter out 99.99 percent. Before you buy, check out the Updated Water Filter Buying Guide from the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide.2 After you buy, change the filters regularly.
#3 | Nix non-stick.
Replace non-stick cookware with cast iron (enameled or not), stainless steel, copper, glass, or ceramic cookware. If non-stick pans are your only choice, follow these four rules: Never preheat them when they are empty. Use them over low heat only. Never put them in the oven. And discard them as soon as the surface becomes scratched.
#4 | Get the plastic out.
Replace plastic food and beverage containers with glass, stainless steel, or ceramic varieties. Avoid foods and drinks that have been packaged in plastic containers, cans, and cartons unless they specify “BPA-Free” and “Phthalate-Free” (look for Vital Choice and Eden Organics). Avoid foods that have been packaged in foam (polystyrene) materials like disposable cups, take-out containers and egg cartons (look for cardboard cartons instead). Replace plastic wrap with aluminum foil or parchment paper and eliminate your need for plastic bags by bringing your own reusable organic cotton bags whenever you go shopping.
#5 | Use cleaner cleaners.
Replace chemical cleaners with essential oils, baking soda, and vinegar. Pure essential oils are naturally anti-bacterial and tea tree essential oil is especially effective at removing mold and mildew. Baking soda acts as an abrasive agent to remove residue and stains from glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and silver. Add a few drops of water to make a baking soda paste for cleaning the stove, sink, counters, toilet, and tub. Use white vinegar to polish mirrors and wash windows and floors. On non-carpeted floors use a steam mop, which uses only water and steam to clean. Polish wood furniture with a mixture of three parts olive oil to one part freshly squeezed lemon juice, applied with a soft cloth, rubbed briskly, and allowed to air dry (test a small area before you apply it to an entire piece of furniture).
#6 | Make it yourself.
To make your own non-toxic all-purpose cleaner, add the following ingredients to a clean glass spray bottle: one cup white vinegar, five drops pure tea tree essential oil, five drops pure lavender or orange essential oil (avoid synthetic and perfume oils), and half a cup of water. Label the bottle with the ingredients and date. Shake it gently to distribute the essential oils, then spray the cleaner on dirty surfaces and wipe it off with a clean, moist cloth or sponge. For tough cleaning jobs, omit the water and allow the solution to sit for a few minutes before wiping it off. This cleaner can be used on counters, sinks, stove tops, appliances and tiles, but don’t use it on surfaces made from wood, natural stone, or other delicate materials.
#7 | Avoid fragrances.
Manufacturers are not required to disclose additives regarded as "fragrance" and a single fragrance can contain several hundred ingredients. Furthermore, “unscented” doesn’t necessarily mean fragrance-free because chemicals can be added to cover odors. As an alternative to air fresheners, use pure essential oil diffusers. In the laundry room, replace liquid fabric softener with a half cup of white vinegar (mixed with 5 drops of pure lavender essential oil if you wish to scent your laundry) and substitute organic wool dryer balls for fragranced dryer sheets.
#8 | Research your personal products.
According to the Environmental Working Group, the average woman uses twelve products containing 168 unique ingredients every day, while the average man uses six products daily with 85 unique ingredients, and most of them have not been tested for safety.3 Use the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database (www.ewg.org/skindeep/) to learn what you’re putting on your skin.4 Search by product, ingredient, or company to read safety reviews and make good choices when selecting items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, bubble bath, moisturizers, hair styling products, makeup, sunscreen and baby products.
#9 | Avoid dry-cleaned clothes.
Find a cleaner who uses wet-cleaning, a water-based alternative to solvent-based dry-cleaning. Wet-cleaning uses biodegradable detergents and a humidity-controlled drying environment to preserve “dry-clean only” clothes. If you can’t avoid dry-cleaned clothes, store them in a well-ventilated spot away from your living area (like the garage) and each time they're treated, allow them air out for several days before wearing them.
#10 | Use plants to clean the air.
One six-inch houseplant per one hundred square feet of living area can greatly improve indoor air quality. Several species have been shown to filter harmful chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene. These include the snake plant,5 spider plant,5 English ivy,6 grape ivy,6 peace lily,6 golden pothos,5 and weeping fig.7
References are available upon request.
Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City and author of the book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings (www.prediabetesdetox.com). Follow Dr. Cimperman on Facebook, Twitter and her blogs, A Different Kind of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet. Find her at .www.drsarahcimperman.com