Tips For A Healthy Home
As a certified green re-modeler, I’ve learned a lot over the years about designing and building healthy living homes. Green building and remodeling is not just about using less resources to build or building energy efficient structures– it’s also about building happy and healthy living spaces. While this is fairly easy with new construction, it’s a lot more difficult when remodeling existing homes.
There are millions of existing single family homes in the United States that were built anywhere from the 1700’s to the last couple of decades. The last thing most of us want to see is for the materials used for those homes to end up in landfills, so preserving and improving existing housing stock for future generations is an important job for homeowners and remodeling contractors alike.
Planning a green remodeling project or home addition is a big job, and we’ll focus on that in another article. In the mean-time, there are many easy things you can do to ensure your home is as safe and healthy as possible.
Don’t wear the shoes you wear outside inside your home. The germs and chemicals you’ll track in are just awful. The growing popularity of mudrooms has helped a lot with this, but even if you don’t have one, have an area to leave your outdoor shoes. It’s a good idea to have a few sets of indoor shoes or slippers, especially if you have any back, leg, or foot problems. Added bonus: Your floors will lasts a lot longer if you are not tracking dirt into them, which destroys the finish.
Use natural cleaners and laundry detergents.
Just read the label on most cleaners and you’ll be blown away by the number of chemicals you can’t identify—or even pronounce! Plus the warnings alone are enough to make you call 9-1-1 right away! Most folks overdo it with cleaners and other house hold “chemicals” such as clog remover or insecticides. There are great natural alternatives, so use them!
Use natural toiletries.
It’s bad enough we use toxic chemicals for cleaning, but to bathe ourselves in chemicals and then put them all over our body each day is not a smart decision. Deodorants, toothpastes, hair products, shampoos, soaps, makeup, the list goes on! Consider products like Ava Anderson (avaandersonnontoxic.com). for all natural alternatives.
Create a routine safety check list.
Make a yearly checklist and add it to your calendar or your computer schedule manager of choice. At the very least, add these items: Change batteries in all detectors in your home, make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors, have your heating and cooling system serviced at least once per year or more as needed, change the filters on your heating and cooling system per manufacturers recommendations (so many people neglect this!), have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis, and clean your gutters several times per year.
Think about indoor air quality. Always.
There are so many toxins in the air in most homes that it’s hard to know where to start. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be found almost anywhere, from various paints, chemicals, and house hold items, to toys, foam in carpets and furniture– the list goes on. Add to that mold which can vary greatly from home to home depending on conditions, and you’ve got toxic air soup. To top it off, if your home was built before 1978, there could be lead paint in the home and even small amounts can be dangerous for small children. What to do? For starters, see the list above and get the chemicals out of your home. More importantly, have an indoor air quality expert visit your home for a thorough analysis and home check up. A qualified inspector can help you find trouble spots in your home ranging from damp basements to carpet and furniture that could be off-gassing dangerous chemicals. Contact me for a referral if this is something you need for your home.
These are just a few tips to help you on the way to a happy and healthy home. There are myriad other things you can do, so this is really just the tip of the iceberg. For more good ideas check out this great spot on the CDCs website: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyHomes/
Q and A
I enjoy your articles in the Needham Hometown Weekly newspaper. In your article, “Tips for a healthy home”, you mentioned not wearing your outside shoes indoors for several reasons including germs and chemicals..we already do this. Also, we don’t own a dog, but would dogs track this in as well? What are your thoughts? Look forward to hearing from you.
That’s a great question. We’re a dog family too, so that presents a real challenge. Obviously, dogs are not going to wear shoes. I probably should have covered this in the article, but a good start is having a chemical free yard. So many people put all sorts of pesticides and fertilizers in their yard, and many are toxic to dogs and humans. Organic/natural alternatives are the way to go. I have discontinued all use of these products at my house, and have settled for not having the best lawn on the street. J
One area of concern is when we go hiking in the woods with our dogs. We use natural repellents, and always wash our dogs and brush them after each hike. I also wash their feet a lot, but, alas, they will track in some dirt and whatever else they pick up on their feet. We’re fortunate to have a mudroom and we have three carpets, one outside the door, one inside the door, and one at the door that goes from mudroom to main house. It’s not perfect, but helps reduce what is tracked in.