5 Things Thursday: 5 Simple Things for a Healthier Home
These days, health and wellness are at the top of everyone’s brain. Our skin is cracked from all that hand washing, we're sanitizing our countertops every 5 minutes, and face masks have become the fashion accessory of the moment. Although these types of more extreme actions have become a de facto part of our everyday lives for the time being, the desire to incorporate health and wellness into our normal routines is nothing new. We try to eat right, exercise and get rid of our unhealthy habits, right? Where we live is just as important as how we live. No, I don’t mean uprooting yourself to seek solitary confinement in an organic, eco-friendly commune in the middle of a dirt-free nowhere. Our homes are our homes and there are a multitude of ways we can capitalize on health- and wellness-friendly design and home-improvement trends. So, for 5 Things Thursday I bring you five great, EASY ways to give our homes a little wellness boost.
CLEAR THE AIR: Did you know that indoor air can be 2-5 times higher in pollutants than outdoor air? So says the EPA! Children are more likely to be exposed to lead, radon, asbestos, cigarette smoke, VOCs (see #2 below), and other toxic substances in higher concentrations inside our homes than outside. Gross, right?!?! Air purification systems then are an easy, economical way to start improving our home’s health. These systems come in all shapes and sizes from small table-top versions, like the Molekule Air Mini to room-size versions like the Alen BreatheSmart Classic or whole-home systems installed by HVAC companies. (For other ideas, check out the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America's website and AchooAllergy which specializes in controlling indoor air pollutants). A couple of other tactics: avoid air fresheners as these can hide odors (not get rid of them) with chemicals such as phthalates and may contain VOCs, clean your furnace filters which can be a huge source of recirculating allergens and pollutants, and banish smoking from your house.
ADD A DOOR MAT: Our front doors, back doors, garage doors are our barriers to the outside world. We come home from a long day and shut those doors on the world beyond them. But just how much of the world have you or your kids or your pets just tracked in before shutting said door??? Our shoes track in dirt and mud, along with countless allergens, microbes, germs, chemicals and other toxins, every time we come in. A great solution is to up your doormat game! A good doormat can trap 80% of the muck and mire before it can be tracked inside. Some doormats, such as those by Dr. Doormat even come with an antimicrobial treatment! Once inside, a no-shoe policy indoors is always a good policy for all involved.
GO GREEN: In nature, trees, grasses and plants are the earth’s natural carbon filter…that’s why cutting down forests is so detrimental to the globe’s air quality. And what works outside works just as well inside! Not only are they great little pollution sponges, they also provide a “biophilic effect” (any of a number of positive impacts experienced through experiencing nature) that can reduce stress and improve the body’s natural ability to heal. So bring in some plants to clear out some of the nastiness that gets into your home. A potted plant, a terrarium, a green wall can all contribute in a very substantial way to our health and wellness. Besides, they’re just dang pretty to boot. HGTV has a great list of the 20 Best Plants for Cleaning Indoor Air and Treehugger.com can show you some of the easiest plants to care for...if you do not have a green thumb.
KEEP IT VENTILATED: No one wants pests and the mess and potential for disease and illness they can bring. Pests come in all shapes and sizes from microscopic to rodent-sizes. But all pests, regardless of size, look for the same three things – food, water/moisture and a place to hide. Keeping them at bay can be as simple as denying them what they are looking for. Of course we all know that numero uno is to keep a clean home, free from debris and detris. What you may not know is that ventilation and light are just as important. Moisture and darkness create favorable environments for mites, rodents, molds, mildews, roaches, all kinds of nasty things which can lead to a wide range of health problems from respiratory problems to lead poisoning to asthma. Additionally, studies show that respiratory health is also proportional to access to fresh air - increasing a home’s fresh air supply reduces moisture, improves air quality, and leads to increased respiratory health. Open the curtains, install a skylight, let fresh air in, run the bathroom fans after every shower, turn on your range fan, use pest traps – all these and many, many more fight off unwanted pests and foster better respiratory health. I am also a huge proponent of using dehumidifiers in places where the sun and breeze just do not reach. Check out The Buyers Guide for a great rundown on home dehumidifiers. The more you can keep your home clean, dry and light-filled, the healthier it will be.
WATER FILTERS: Here in Park City, Utah we cannot live without water filters. Our water is just too darn hard living in these mountains. In general, culinary water systems (the water that comes into our homes that we drink and cook with) have to meet pretty stringent health standards. But no matter where you live, installing water filters, whether on individual faucets themselves or on your home water system as a whole, can provide you with increased peace of mind that you are potentially filtering out some not so healthy things from the water you are drinking. Activated carbon filters (the kind that go on a pitcher, a tap or under a sink), can dramatically cut levels of lead, chlorine, and other contaminants (think Brita or Aquasana). And when’s the last time you changed your refrigerator’s water filter? Just saying.
And there you have my five easy things for a healthier home. It's certainly not an exhaustive list! I’m sure you have things that you do to that I have not included. I would love to hear about them!