Many of us put a lot of thought into living a healthy lifestyle. We eat well, we exercise and we drink out of our stainless steel water bottles. What we don’t realize is our house or apartment can be also harmful to our health. The truth is, many of us are exposed to harmful chemicals every day in our homes. From the tupperware we use to the mattress we sleep on every night, there are toxic ingredients hiding in products that we would never think twice about.
Freaked out? Fear not, there are many easy household swaps you can make. Here are eight ways to lower your exposure to chemicals and transition your house into a non-toxic haven:
The paint in your home can be off-gassing chemicals into the air in the form of toxic VOC, or volatile compound. VOC’s are released into the air when you paint, and many VOC’s are known carcinogens, aka chemicals that cause cancer. A typical bucket of paint also contains chemicals such as benzene, methylene chloride and others that have been linked to cancer and can cause asthma and allergies. Plus, paint can offgas for up to 3 ½ years! Always look for low VOC or zero VOC paint when thinking about sprucing up your home or apartment.
The good news? You don’t have to compromise quality or your favorite brands for VOC-free paint. We used Behr ZERO VOC in our son’s nursery and it worked just as well as any other paint.
Pots and Pans
The cookware you are using might be leaching toxic chemicals into your food and into you. Avoid aluminum, ceramic-coated pans, non-stick cookware (Teflon) and copper, all of which contain synthetic coatings and ingredients that can leach chemicals. Aluminum toxicity is linked to all sorts of issues like muscular dysfunction and memory loss. Too much copper in your body can create an imbalance internally which lowers your immune system.
When buying pots and pans, choose items made from safe, non-toxic materials like stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain enamel, enameled cast iron or tempered glass. Again, you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite brands! There are many safe cookware brands – Pyrex glass, Lodge cast irons, GreenPan, GreenLife, Le Creuset, Zwilling are a few that work great and are safe to cook with!
Plastic is everywhere, and that isn’t necessarily a great thing. It’s bad for our health and it’s worse for the environment, soil and wildlife. Almost all plastics contain chemicals that have a negative effect on immunity and hormone regulation, both of which directly affect fertility. Even BPA free can contain BPS which can be harmful. The best option with plastic is avoiding it all together when we can – even in the kitchen.
Switch plastic tupperware to glass, use reusable options like Stasher bags instead of Ziploc bags. Use stainless steel k cups for your coffee instead of normal k-cups and avoid plastic water bottles. Use bees wrap instead of plastic wrap. Most kid plates, cups and utensils are made from plastic so look for bamboo, silicone or stainless steel instead.
Swapping out conventional cleaning products to safe non-toxic products is an important step in going non-toxic. The nasty little buggers known as VOC’s show up in most conventional brands. When looking for safe cleaning products, avoid ammonia and bleach and choose products that do not contain VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. Skip all aerosol sprays like Lysol, Febreeze and Pledge.
It’s super easy to make safe and effective DIY cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda and antibacterial essential oils like tea tree and lemon. There are also many great cleaning companies like Branch Basics, Seventh Generation and Honest that work well and make all the non-toxic cleaning products you need!
We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping, so the quality of your mattress matters. Most mattresses, especially older ones, contains many chemicals like VOCs and formaldehyde, and flame retardants. Scary fact: flame retardants are known carcinogens (aka what can cause cancer).
When looking for a new mattress or mattress pad, look for ones made from safer materials including natural latex, organic cotton, organic wool and organic bamboo. Check out safer brands, including Spindle, Intellibed, Plushbeds, Loom and Leaf, Obasan, Essentia, Happsy and My Green Mattress.
This one always makes me sad, but most candles are full of yucky chemicals. During my research, it was honestly very hard to find brands that are safe and none of my favorites made the cut. As always, do your research before bringing anything into your home. Ingredients to avoid in candles include paraffin wax, lead wicks (most candles are now made with cotton wicks but be sure to check), and artificial and synthetic fragrances.
Safe ingredients to look for in candles? Beeswax is the cleanest, but also it’s harder to find, so try coconut or soy wax. Look for natural fragrances like essential oils. The tricky thing about finding safe candles is not many are made with safe wax AND natural fragrances. Some safer brands I found are Honey + Fern, Beehive Candles, Honest Candles, Phlur and some from Williams Sonoma (only the ones made with essential oils).
If you’ve been eyeing those macrame plant hangers like I have, here is a reason to snatch one up. Adding plants to each room can help cleanse the air. Many plants improve air quality, and certain plans are exceptionally effective at removing specific chemicals. Spider plants, chinese evergreen, boston ferns, weeping fig tree and warneck dracaena have all been shown to remove formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. All of these are VOC’s, all potential carcinogens that can be off-gassed from materials used in constructing homes and buildings.
These seemingly harmless pieces of fluff are among the worst offenders for harboring harmful chemicals. Dryer sheets contain ingredients linked to hormone disruption, asthma and skin allergies. Many contain chemicals that react with the air to create carcinogens and most have artificial fragrance which affect our hormones. Switch to wool dryer balls, reusable dryer sheets, or use safer brands like Seventh Generation, Honest and Stoneworks. The scented ones from these brands use essential oils for natural fragrance.
I hope this list will help you get well on your way to making your home a safe place for your entire family!
What’s your favorite non-toxic home product?