By Ann Sullivan
With today’s hectic world, and busy schedules, it’s easy to just grab ready made products without even thinking about what’s in them. Advertisers spend millions on packaging and catchy jingles to get you to buy their brand. What they don’t advertise is many of these products contain toxic chemicals which are bad for your health and the environment. There are ways you can rid your home of harmful chemicals and avoid adding more of them. If you take the time to really think about what’s in the products you’re using, you may consider changing some of these items. There are certainly alternative ways to achieve the same objective. Here are 11 ways you can stop using some of these harmful chemicals.
1) Toss your Air Fresheners
Artificial air fresheners are exactly that – artificial. Adding these chemicals to your indoor air may seem like a good idea, but it’s not. You may temporarily freshen the odors, but you’re also adding harmful chemicals in the process. There are ways to make your home fresh and clean smelling naturally. One way is to simply open the windows and let Mother Nature in. Exchanging the stale air for fresh air is the best way to rid your home of built-up odors. You can also make natural air fresheners by using dried flowers and placing them in jars around your home. Or, simmer some lemons on the stove and simply let them steep into the air. This will make your home smell fresh and eliminate the stale odors at the same time. Open boxes of baking soda in cabinets and your refrigerator will also absorb odors.
2) Make your own Cleaning Products
There are some basic household ingredients you can use to make natural cleaning products. An all-purpose cleaning solution is very simple to make. Mix a quarter cup of baking soda with ½ cup white vinegar and hot tap water. Pour into a spray bottle and add a few small drops of natural liquid dish soap. This is a great all-around surface cleaner. For mirrors and glass surfaces, mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with a quart of cool tap water. For a streak-free shine, add 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch. Mix well and pour into a clean spray bottle. White vinegar mixed with tap water will also remove odors from carpeting. Just mix equal parts vinegar to water. For carpet stains, mix a quart of white vinegar to a quart of alcohol (cheap vodka will do). Sponge on the stain and rinse lightly with cool water. Vacuum once it’s dry.
3) Use “Unscented” Laundry Detergents
Dyes and perfumes added to laundry detergents may make your fabrics smell fresh and clean, but the resulting chemical residue is not something you should be wearing. Unscented, dye free, chemical free detergent is the best option to limit chemical exposure. When you sweat, your pores open and you could be introducing those chemicals into your bloodstream. Not a good idea! There are also natural ways to remove stains and odors. Add a Tablespoon of baking soda to your laundry to freshen stubborn odors. You can also use lemons to remove stains. For stubborn stains, soak the fabric in fresh-squeezed lemon juice until the stain breaks apart. Then just toss it in the laundry and wash as usual with a natural detergent. To avoid using chemical ridden dryer sheets, simply add up to a quarter cup of white vinegar into the wash cycle.
4) Avoid BPA Products
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a very dangerous chemical which has been found to cause considerable health issues. BPA is a chemical used for coating register receipts and lining canned goods. It’s also used as a flame retardant in certain plastic items. An easy way to avoid it is to not take your register receipt. Or, take a photo of it and put the receipt in the recycle bin. Also, avoid canned goods and opt for fresh or frozen ingredients. BPA disrupts metabolic hormones in both genders, and has been found to contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The laws regarding BPA are lacking when it comes to requiring industry to disclose the use of it. The best way to keep safe is to avoid where it is used all together by not using cheap plastics, canned goods, or exposing yourself to register receipts.
5) Say “No” to Non-stick Teflon Cookware
It may seem convenient, but non-stick cookware is adding harmful chemicals to your indoor air and your food. Non-stick cookware begins to emit a toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is known to be carcinogenic. It only takes 5-minutes of cooking for harmful toxins to begin emitting from your non-stick pan. It’s much safer and smarter to choose alternate’s such as ceramic, stainless steel or glass cookware and bakeware. There are some very good and much safer options on the market today. If you’re uncertain what to use, an easy way to learn is to watch a cooking show on television to see what the professional chefs are using. You won’t see them using Teflon, that’s for sure. You’re better off to use a healthy cooking oil to coat the pan, than to expose your household to the toxic chemicals of non-stick pans.
6) Choose Alternate Food Storage Containers
It may be convenient to grab that plastic container, but in the long-run it will do more harm than good. There are so many harmful chemicals in plastics today, you have no idea which ones are being used. That’s because the regulations on plastics are very vague. Add to that, you may not know what country they are produced in – and it may very well be one with no regulations for health and safety! For food storage, it’s always best to use glass jars or ceramic containers, where possible. If you do need to use plastic, be sure to buy containers that are clearly marked “BPA Free.” There are some very viable alternatives on the market today. Mason jars are a great way to store and preserve food. Silicon is a newer alternative, and there are some you can even bake in.
7) Vacuum with a HEPA Filter
You might be amazed how many chemicals and toxins can come in on the bottom of your shoes. If you think about every place you walk during the day, and things you step on, you should be aware that you are bringing them home with you. Whether it be motor oil on the pavement, or chemicals on park grass, you will certainly have a residue of those and more toxins if you don’t remove your shoes when you get home. Experts advise you should vacuum your home with a good quality machine that has a HEPA filter. HEPA means high-efficiency particulate air. The filter will keep any harmful particle contaminants on the floor from becoming airborne, and therefore entering your breathing space. This is especially important for those who may have allergies or respiratory issues or sensitivities.
8) Avoid Anti-Bacterial Products
It’s a common misnomer that using anti-bacterial soap products are good for you. Quite the opposite is true. Firstly, they do indeed kill harmful bacteria on your skin, but they also kill the germ-fighting bacteria with it. Secondly, anti-bacterial soaps and hand-wipes contain a harmful chemical called Triclosan. This toxic chemical can also be found in many common household cleaners. Although the FDA has banned the use of this chemical from many household products, it is not completely banned. It can still be found in some products, as well as commercial industries such as food establishments and hospital settings. Many health experts agree good old-fashioned soap and water is the best way to fight germs and keep yourself and the environment safe. Be sure to check the label of other common products as well. Triclosan has been known to be used in deodorants and toothpaste too.
9) Avoid Synthetic Pesticides
Certain forms of cancer have been directly linked to chemical pesticides. They’ve also been found to cause brain damage in children. If you want to have a pest-free home and yard, do not do so at the expense of your family’s health. There are many natural alternatives. It may take a little research and a bit of a learning curve, but you’ve got the whole world wide web at your fingertips, so get reading! Using organic and natural products is not as difficult as you think, once you learn the basics. If you have children, you can also include them in the process. This can be both fun and educational for them and you’ll be creating a solid foundation for their own chemical-free future. After all, if you don’t want pesticides and chemicals on the foods you eat, you won’t want them in your home or garden either.
10) Use Natural Lawn & Garden Fertilizers
Following the same rule as pesticides, using toxic lawn and garden fertilizer is equally as harmful to the environment and health of your family and pets. Roundup and similar toxic products are the biggest culprit in this category. Studies have revealed the toxic chemicals in these products disrupt the defensive enzymes in our bodies, which keep us healthy. Traditional, chemical-laden, lawn and garden care products use synthetic fertilizers and chemicals that certainly pose a health and safety risk. There are many organic products on the market that will do the job just as well, without posing the harmful risks. Using these toxic chemicals to have a green lawn and pretty flowers also poses a direct threat to the eco-system and environment where you live. Runoff from these chemicals will enter the environment and cause long-lasting damage.
11) Go Old-School Across the Board
If you think of how your grandparent’s or great grandparent’s must have lived, they all got along just fine using natural remedies and home-made products. They also knew things we don’t know today, because we have ready-made products to do the job for us without even thinking of what it’s made of and why it works. Going old-school is the way to go when it comes to keeping your home free from harmful chemicals. There are some common household products you can use, such as vinegar, baking soda, table salt, lemons, and more. The web is filled with sites offering simple recipes for home-made products that are safe for your family and the environment. It’s certainly worth a try. In the long-run, you’ll be keeping harmful toxins out of your living space, saving money, and resting in the confidence that you are living in a toxin-free home.