10 ways to create a healthier home
A healthy home is a place that promotes wellbeing – both for people and the planet. It includes things like keeping the house clean and maintained, ventilated for air quality, contaminate-free, and a whole range of other things that benefit people and the planet.
In the process of buying a house, there are questions that can be asked about the design and construction that contribute to making it healthier. For example, if you purchase a LEED Certified home (like many of Minto Communities’ new homes), it’s guaranteed to have features, like low VOC paint, that are better for indoor air quality and the environment.
But if you already bought a house (and design features are already in place), it’s not too late. There are lots of simple ways you can improve the health of your home – let’s take a look at 10 easy ways to start!
1. Go greener (literally) with air purifying plants
Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash
Indoor air pollution can be 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution (and it’s more serious, given we spend around 80% or more of our time inside – ah!). One effective, eye-pleasing and stress-relieving way to improve your indoor air pollution is to (literally) make your home greener with air purifying plants.
Say what? Yup! House plants like English Ivy, Aloe Vera, Peace Lilies and many others actually remove the toxins from your home, and filter the air by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen. They’re also proven to reduce stress and look pretty, so you can’t really lose.
More ways to improve indoor air pollution include:
• Keeping your home dry with a humidifier (this prevents mold)
o Tip: Leave the bathroom fan on for 20-30 minutes after you shower, and keep the door cracked a couple of inches for air flow.
• Installing a range hood over your stove to capture chemicals that get produced while cooking
• Avoiding smoking inside
• Refraining from using unnaturally scented products
• Cleaning regularly (cleans contaminants and clears dust build-up)
• Opening the windows to let fresh air in
2. Take your shoes off at the door
Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash
Does your house have a no-shoe policy? The bottoms of shoes carry chemicals, bacteria and dirt from outside that you probably don’t want tracked around inside the house. Consider keeping a basket of slippers by the front door and a mat (and bins) to hold shoes when you get home.
3. Declutter with every new season
Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash
Four times a year – that’s not so bad. If decluttering sounds scary to you, that’s okay. Start small and tackle one room at a time.
The act of decluttering can truly be therapeutic. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind (and save time) knowing that you have only what you need and know exactly where to find it. And if you’re doing it four times a year, it’ll get easier every time – we promise!
It can be a big job, though. So we’re taking The Spruce’s advice on tackling the process in stages – one room, one space, or even one zone at a time.
Here’s more great decluttering tips and advice we found online:
• Have four bins as you declutter and reorganize: One for recycling, one for trash, one for items that need to be repaired, and another for items you’d like to donate.
• Don’t bite off more than you can chew: Apartment Therapy makes a good point – nobody has enough energy to spend an entire day reorganizing and decluttering. Spend a few hours on certain spaces and break it up across multiple days. You’ll be more motivated and focused that way.
• Ask yourself three questions as you go: (1) Do I truly need it?; (2) Do I truly adore it?; (3) Would I trade inner peace for this?
o To expand on question three – will this item keep me from achieving peace, space and freedom? Thanks HuffPost, we love this advice.
• If the above three questions don’t work, ask yourself: Have I used this in the last 12 months? If not, you likely won’t and it is therefore unneeded clutter.
4. Clean your carpets properly
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First of all, cleaning your carpet effectively and regularly increases its lifespan. Secondly, surface-level carpet cleaning doesn’t always cut it (you know, a quick vacuum here and there).
Deep cleans (once or twice a year) are pretty much required. So here are different ways to deep clean a carpet:
1. Hire a professional – but do your research to ensure they know what they’re doing. Even better, hire a green carpet cleaner who knows how to do the job chemical-free.
2. DIY using baking soda or dish soap and some tools. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
3. Buy or rent a carpet cleaner.
5. Burn soy candles or use a diffuser
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Scented candles are inexpensive and can smell so nice, but they’re not great for our air quality (in and outdoors). It’s worth the extra cost to invest in soy-based candles that are scented with natural oils.
Why are soy candles better for you?
• They’re naturally derived from soybeans (a renewable resource) – unlike paraffin wax that comes from petroleum (a non-renewable resource)
• They’re non-toxic – better for us and the environment
o They produce as much as 90% less soot than paraffin when burned, which means reduced indoor air pollution
• They burn cleaner and longer
An even more affordable option for a pleasant smelling home is using a diffuser and essential oils. The initial investment is pricier at first, but the diffuser and oils last a long time, so you get hundreds of uses versus candles that burn for a limited number of hours. Plus, there are so many benefits to using essential oils that we decided to write a whole post about it.
6. Use a water filter
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If you live in a Canadian city, your tap water is generally safe to drink. If you aren’t sure, you can research how often your city tests the water and even request results for yourself.
However, not everyone likes to drink tap water, so before you head to the store to buy plastic water bottles, think about all your other options.
What to use instead of plastic water bottles:
• Buy a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter.
• Boil your water before drinking it. Every night before bed, fill your kettle, boil it, and use the water the next day.
• Buy a water filter that attaches to your faucet.
• Keep a filtered water pitcher in the fridge.
• If none of the above suit your fancy – buy bigger. Instead of individual water bottles, buy water jugs.
7. Don’t clean your air ducts, change your air filters
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As a homeowner, you’ll often hear that you need to get your air ducts cleaned. Interestingly enough, Washington Post did a study on how cleaning your air ducts will not benefit your health or lower your power bills. In fact, independent research has found that the process actually stirs up so much dust, it can cause more problems than it’ll solve.
There isn’t much research out there on whether duct cleaning is good or bad, but what has been done doesn’t recommend against or endorse it. It does suggest that if you have mold growth, infestation of insects or rodents, or substantial deposits of dust or debris, air duct cleaning should be done. Overall, it’s up to you.
However, you do need to regularly change your air filters. It’s the best way to keep dust, allergens and particles out of your house. Washington Post suggests that most air filters should be replaced every two to three months, but it varies depending on what type of HVAC unit you have.
8. Know how to spot, prevent and treat mold
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Mold can physically make us sick – so it’s important to learn about how to spot, prevent and treat mold and mildew in our homes.
Using a dehumidifier, leaving the bathroom fan on after showering, sealing bathroom grout lines once a year (if you have tiling), and washing your shower curtain and liner regularly are a few ways to prevent mold in your home.
According to The Spruce, the most common mold found in homes is mildew, which grows in warm, damp places (like the bathroom) and begins as a gray or white powdery colony.
If you do spot mold or mildew in your house, here’s what you should do:
• If it’s caught early, you can clean it yourself. The Spruce takes you through what to use depending on the area of your house.
• If it covers a large area or there’s an odour, hire a professional!
9. Use natural cleaning products – and bleach where you need it
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash
Cleaning with natural, homemade ingredients is healthier for all involved. It’s also fun to try out different cleaning product recipes and experiment with essential oils and what scents you like to add for cleaning your bathroom versus kitchen versus living room.
Bleach is a tool that when used properly, really works. Washington Post recently did a study on whether or not bleach is bad for you and the results prove that it’s effective for household cleaning and doesn’t need to be bad – as long as you’re using it properly.
Ways not to use bleach:
• Don’t mix bleach with other household cleaners (like toilet bowl cleaners and ammonia) – it’s a big no-no.
o It can result in the release of chlorine gas, an asphyxiant, which can be fatal if it makes contact with your eyes or lungs, according to a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Des Moines University.
o To avoid this, make sure to allow any cleaner to dry completely before applying a bleach solution. Simple enough!
• Don’t use bleach as a cleaner – it’s a disinfectant.
o Dilute it with water (1.5 cups per 4 litres), and bleach can kill harmful germs and bacteria. But it’s not a cleaner.
o Bleach rapidly loses effectiveness in the presence of dirt (who knew?) – so before you disinfect something, remove the dirt first using a cleaner (and then allow it to dry completely!).
o In summary – clean surface, allow to dry, apply bleach and water mixture, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe it down with clean water.
• Don’t use bleach to wash spandex, wool, silk, mohair or leather.
o However, when the bottle’s directions are followed properly, it will sanitize sheets, towels and clothing properly.
o Washington Post reports that the biggest mistake we make when adding bleach to laundry is using the wrong amount. Use ½ cup for a normal load and 1 cup for an extra-large load (of course read the directions and adjust based on the specific situation).
Something really fun we learned from the Washington Post’s bleach investigation: If you add ¼ teaspoon of bleach to 4 cups of water in a vase, it will fight bacterial growth and keep flowers fresh longer. Who knew?
10. Create a “no electronics oasis” – your own Zen zone
Photo by Mandy Liz on Unsplash
We’re always online these days. And we don’t know about you, but we think it’s pretty healthy to get away from it every once in a while.
That’s why we suggest creating a “no electronics” zone as a way to make your home healthier. It doesn’t even need to be an entire room – it can be a chair or a corner or a floor pillow – but whatever it is, no cellphones, laptops, tablets or video game consoles allowed.
Where you wake, fall asleep, and spend approximately 80% of your time (or more, given Canada can be collld), should be a healthy space, so we hope you enjoyed these simple steps to creating a healthy home. There really aren’t rules or parameters on what a “healthy home” means – it’s about your wellbeing (mind and body) and doing what you can to be kind to the planet.