Moving forward, I’m going to focus all of my Monday Motivation posts on topics that will help us right now, since most of us are confined to our homes. There are a few simple things you can do now within your home that will make an impact on your heath long-term, and they can be as simple as adding a water filter to your shower or switching from paraffin candles to soy. Today I wanted to focus on indoor air quality, since the air within our homes can be quite toxic. According to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants are often 2 to 5 times (and sometimes 100 times) higher than outdoor concentrations (source). This percentage might be even higher now, since we are all working from home!
The pollutants in our home can come from all sorts of things: the chemicals from the cleaning products we use, dust, and pet dander are a few (we have FOUR pets in our house right now… that’s a lot of pet dander!). A lot of our common household items are also off-gassing, which occurs when new, manufactured items in our homes release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals. Consider the last few furniture items your purchased – maybe your new carpet or leather chair had a strong smell for a few weeks. That odor is the result of finishes, paint, glue and other substances emitting chemical particles as they settle. If you look around your home, you’re guaranteed to find any number of VOC-emitting items. Some of the most common sources of off-gassing include carpets, mattresses, couches, printers, computers and keyboards, household cleaners, dryer sheets, nail polish remover, even your bedding! (source)
Instead of focusing on all the bad stuff that’s in our homes (seriously, I don’t have room for any negativity in my life right now!), let’s focus on a few easy things we can do to clean up our indoor air quality. I want the air we breathe in our home to be fresh and clean… especially since we’re spending so much time in our home right now! Here are a few things you can do to clean up the air in your home:
Switch your Cleaning Products and Detergents
The easiest way to clean the air is to start at the source. You can’t do much about the furniture and carpet already in your home, but you do have control over the cleaning products and detergents you use. This website makes it easy for you to find and buy products made without known toxic chemicals – they have analyzed thousands of products and only put their MADE SAFE (Made With Safe Ingredients) seal on products that are made with safe ingredients, without toxic chemicals. If you’re only going to change one thing, PLEASE change your laundry products like detergent and dryer sheets. This study found that when you use a “normal” scented detergent, your dryer vents emit more than 25 VOCs, with seven of them classified as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and two as carcinogenic HAPs with no safe exposure level. Those chemicals are going into the air within your home, and right into your lungs.
Improving the air quality in your home can be as simple as opening a door or window, since the air outdoors is actually less polluted than the air indoors. Most home heating and cooling systems do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house, so opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the amount of fresh air in your house (source). I personally love opening the windows in our home (especially in my office) to get some fresh air!
Switch out your Candles
This one pains me to write, since I’m one of those people that LOVES having a candle burning in every room. For years and years, I was a Bath & Body Works candle COLLECTOR – running to the store every season to pick out new candles (anyone remember the “Pumpkin Pecan Waffle” scent?). Unfortunately, paraffin wax candles like the ones from Bath & Body Works emit trace amounts of chemicals when they burn, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and naphthalene (source). Most candlemakers also use metal to keep the wick standing up (otherwise, it flops over and douses the flame), and these lead-wick candles are actually releasing lead straight into the air in your house (source). The good news is that you don’t have to give up on candles completely, since there are a few “safe” alternatives to paraffin wax candles, including beeswax candles, soy candles and essential oils. I like all three, but I typically use these 100% beeswax candles from Amazon. Rather than polluting the air, beeswax candles actually clean the air. Beeswax candles burn with almost no smoke or scent, and clean the air by producing negative ions, which bind with toxins and help to remove them from the air. I also like Le Labo candles – they’re expensive but they’re made of soy and contain 100% cotton wicks.
Invest in an Air Purifier
Portable air purifiers are designed to filter the air in a single room and work by removing allergens like dust, pollen, smoke and other particles while they’re floating in the air. Look for a HEPA filter, which is able to trap 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns (basically, teeny tiny haha). Studies have shown that air purifiers with HEPA filters improved cardiovascular health among participants (source), and another study found that air filters removed more than 70% (and as much as 95%) of pollutant particles in the air. If you’re going to pick one room in your house to have an air purifier, choose the bedroom since you spend half of your time sleeping there! And keep in mind that while the purifier traps particles floating in the air, you’ll still need to clean the surfaces in the room like flooring, carpets and furniture surfaces, since heavier particles sink and collect on those.
While Chris and I are confined to our home this month (and have a lot of extra time), I want to make our home as healthy and toxin-free as possible. We’ve been replacing our self-care products and I just purchased a small air purifier for our bedroom (which prompted the idea for this post!). If you have any requests for certain Monday Motivation blog posts this month, let me know in the comments! 🙂