With a career that spans almost 30 years…most of which in the healthy home realm…Ive pretty much seen it all. Ive worked with close to 20,000 people around the world who either suffer from severe sensitivities, have allergies and asthma, have kids with Autism or just have a deep desire to live in a healthy home.
Without hesitation, I can tell you that the number one question I get is “what can I do in my home to make it a healthier space?” So with all those years of experience under my belt, I’ve put together my top 7 tips to make your home healthy. Not tomorrow, or next week, or next year…today. Right after reading this. Heck, while you’re reading this!
#1 Remove Your Carpet
I’ve personally tested carpet thats over 25 years old that is off gassing 400 ppb of formaldehyde. Even higher in some cases. The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) uses a level of 17 ppb in their LEED program as the “acceptable” level for the entire home. Industry experts deem any levels over 50 ppb as “extremely hazardous”.
Carpet can contain hundreds of other chemicals that can offgas for their lifetime. Sure, there are a couple healthier carpet brands on the market, but even so, carpet becomes a sponge for everything else in the home that off gasses, so by removing the carpet completely, you eliminate the risk.
I’d personally rather live on sealed plywood subfloors (see tip #6) than most carpets. I remember a commercial from a few years back that some carpet manufacturer did, that showed a crying baby who just couldn’t calm down and fall asleep until she was placed on a soft carpeted floor. What they didnt tell you, is that the baby probably passed out from the noxious fumes. I shouldn’t joke about this, as the chemicals used in carpets have been linked to cancer, Alzheimers, Dementia and even substance abuse. Horrible, horrible stuff. So get rid of it!
#2 Household Humidity
Both extremely low humidity and very high humidity levels in your home can be problematic for anyone, whether you have allergies and sensitivities or not. Keep the humidity between 40-50% for optimal indoor air quality. Low humidity can cause skin irritations, dry eyes, itchy throats and a whole host of other allergy issues. High humidity can support the growth off mold in your home, and we all know how dangerous mold can be.
#3 Cleaning Materials
The majority of cleaning materials on the market today contain dozens of chemicals that can be irritating at best…toxic at the worst. These chemicals dont just have an immediate effect of the health of you and your family, but can linger for days…years…in the soft surfaces in your home. Carpet, fabrics and furniture…even a painted wall…can absorb and slowly release these chemicals, causing problems for quite a long time. Be very careful about the products you bring into your home to clean your floors, counters, clothes and yourself.
#4 Airflow and Air Purification
This one is simple, but does require a little preparation to complete. Obviously, opening up windows, buying some plants and making sure to run the bathroom exhaust fan for 15 minutes after a shower or bath, are all really easy things to do. However, my best recommendation is to install a good whole house air purification system and/or use high performance portable air cleaners. If you have already completed parts 1-3 of this lesson, your home is certainly much healthier than it used to be. However, there are chemicals off gassing from just about every surface of your home. Not to mention, your clothes, personal care products and so on, are all contributing to poor air quality. So using really good purification systems will help catch a great deal of these other pollutants that we haven’t addressed yet. Oh, and buy a few plants to aide in this process. Studies show that many household plants not only increase the amount of fresh oxygen in the air, but also reduce formaldehyde.
#5 Use Scents That Make Sense
My favorite new phrase with all my clients these days. Mainly because of the way overuse of fragrances in our lives. Folks, essential oils are not necessarily safe. First of all, they are usually used as masking agents to hide bad smells in the home. All the previous tips I’ve given can explain why folks are using essential oils at an alarming rate. The smells that are released from old carpet, mold and bleach, combined with the lack of quality air purification, can lead someone to using these essential oils to mask the real problems. Plus, for folks with asthma, allergies and chemical sensitivities, essential oils can be extremely dangerous. Im not 100% against essential oils, but I always caution folks to use them very sparingly, if at all. If you really need to use something to remove unwanted odors, then try zeolites or use a tea tree oil gel to actually get rid of mold spores.
#6 Seal or Remove All Manufactured Wood
Plywood, particle board, oriented strand board, medium density fiber board…most homes are loaded with this stuff, and most of it is releasing formaldehyde at some alarming rates. If you can see it…SEAL IT. If its in your furniture and you can afford it…REMOVE IT. And lets say you followed my advice and you removed the carpet in your home and you’re walking on the wood sub flooring, this is what Im talking about. Apply a few coats of one of the AFM sealers on the subfloor to seal up the formaldehyde off gassing and you’ll make a world of difference.
#7 Purchase Healthy Furniture, Area Rugs and Other Furnishings
Most home furnishings these days are loaded with chemicals to make them stain resistant, anti-microbial and flame retardant. These chemicals are adding tremendously to the toxic soup inside your home. While more expensive, home furnishings that are made with healthier ingredients are typically going to last longer, as well as being healthier for you and your family.
Before you say it, I KNOW there are many more things to be concerned about in the average home. And I’m quite aware that some of my tips are a little extreme. However, based on the years of experiences in my career, I am certain that these 7 tips will improve the indoor air quality of your home.
Can I guarantee that your home will be healthier? Yes. Am I a physician giving medical advice? Of course not. Ultimately, you need to use your best judgement. Also, your own personal tolerances need to be taken in consideration here. And as always, feel free to reach out to me with your comments and personal experiences.