36 Ways To Make Your Home Cleaner And Safer
Written By: Shannon Sweeney
A new report from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows just how much our homes influence the health of those that live in them. The study was authored by Joseph G. Allen and John D. Spengler, who are experts at studying homes and their relation to our health.
The result? Thirty-six actions that you can take to contribute to a cleaner, safer home. Their actions are meant to keep your home non-toxic and more health promoting, so when you head home after a long day of work, you can truly relax. So how do you make a healthier home?
Below, we dissect their 36 actions that you can easily implement where you live.
1. Kick your shoes off at the door. What you step on outside comes in with you — kick those bad boys off! This will limit tracking dirt and dust.
2. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Every home must have these on every floor. These are literal life savers, and make sure you change the batteries at least twice a year.
3. Bring the light in. Open the windows up in the morning for natural light. This will help your natural circadian rhythm stay on track.
4. Connect with nature through biophilic design. This is done by the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. Bring nature indoors with you to connect with nature — bring in plants, natural-looking decor, and keep those windows open! Open your windows for fresh air!
5. Test for lead paint. If your home was built before 1980, the Harvard team recommends testing the interior and exterior paint for lead.
6. Control moisture. Trapped moisture in a bathroom causes mold and other mineral build up that’s hard to clean. Make sure to run your ventilation fan while using the shower and right after, or open a window to release moisture.
7. Limit the use of air fresheners. Air fresheners deliver a constant stream of volatile organic chemicals into the air. Instead, trade them in for sprays when you need it.
8. Get rid of the harmful chemical cleaning products. Look for effective green cleaners, and avoid harsh disinfectants and aerosol sprays.
9. Say goodbye to antimicrobials. Soaps and facial cleansers a lot of the time include antimicrobials, which can be harmful for your health and contribute to drug resistance. Look for products that don’t use antimicrobials instead.
10. Non-slip mats are your friend. Falling in the bathroom is a leading cause of injury. Add these in your shower or on your floor to avoid any accidents.
11. Vacuum regularly. Carpets and floors hold onto dust, dirt, and chemicals. Vacuum as much as you can, and use a HEPA vacuum for the best results.
12. Don’t smoke indoors (or at all). This one is obvious. And there’s more evidence than ever that thirdhand smoke — the smell that sticks to furniture, your walls, etc. — is also hazardous.
13. No more candles or incense. These cause an increase in airborne particles, reaching levels higher than what is typically measured outside.
14. Choose furniture and carpets without harmful chemicals. The chemicals used for flame retardancy and stain repellency have a long track record of being toxic.
15. Properly vent fireplaces and woodstoves. Fires pose a risk to air quality, so make sure you have a strong draft sucking fire smoke up the chimney. Leave the flue open for 12 hours after the fire has gone out.
16. Train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleep. This helps you to sleep better and wake up feeling well-rested and ready to go.
17. Blackout the room. If you live in an area with a lot of light, use blackout curtains to block out light at night. Swap for bulbs that are dimmable, and keep electronics (blue light) out of the bedroom as much as possible.
18. Get an air purifier. An air purifier will capture airborne dust, which makes a huge difference. One-third of the air we breathe every day is in our bedrooms.
19. Keep it cool. Our bodies rise in temperature at night, and sleeping in a stuffy room no doubt affects our sleep. Keep the temperature of your room between 65 degrees and 70 degrees.
20. Block out noise. Hiding background noises with white noise machines, fans, or other tools will help you sleep better. Consider sleeping with ear plugs.
21. Cook with the exhaust hood on (and vented outdoors): Cooking generates particles that get distributed around the house and generate CO2. Use proper ventilation to release pollutants!
22. Keep a fire extinguisher within reach. Make sure they’re up-to-date, too!
23. Filter your drinking water. Consider installing a whole-house water filter system, or a smaller water filter for your faucet. If you have a well, test your water.
24. Control pests using IPM, not pesticides. Integrative pest management means taking the trash out more often, putting food away, and using traps instead of chemicals.
25. Choose glassware and cast-iron or ceramic cookware. Plastic-lined pans and food storage containers (even BPA free) could leech chemicals onto your food.
26. Measure and control radon. This is the leading cause of lung cancer. Buy tests if you don’t have any, and consider installing a radon mitigation system.
27. Do not disturb signs of asbestos. Asbestos can be used in insulation, floor tires, and more. Hire a professional if you think you’re seeing signs of asbestos, and don’t touch it.
28. Dehumidify and inspect signs of water issues. Basements are typically more damp, so pay attention for signs of mold, and consider a dehumidifier to control moisture.
29. Choose a hard floor. Carpets act as a nutrient source for mold, which comes as a result of dampness.
30. Solve the solvent storage issue. Placing leftover paint, paint thinner, gasoline or other solvents out of sight doesn’t mean we are totally safe from them. Avoid keeping these in your basement.
31. Ditch the pesticides and herbicides. Many of these are toxic. Avoid or limit the use of these in order to keep exposure low.
32. Beware of air from attached garages. Air in attached garages can sneak into your house, so make sure you’re circulating air out of your garage. Don’t let your car idle inside your garage!
33. Secure the perimeter. Make sure your space is secure — install motion-sensored lights, check your locks and deadbolts regularly, and make sure your home is protected.
34. Check your foundation. Regularly check to make sure there are no leaks or drafts in your roof and foundation.
35. Be prepared for your area’s weather. Whether that’s hurricane shutters or emergency supplies in your basement, make sure you’re always prepared for a natural disaster.
36: Trust your senses
The report’s authors say their No. 1 tip is to trust your senses no matter what — if you feel that something is wrong in your home, get it checked out. It’s better to be safe than sorry!