According to the US Environment Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor pollution. When it’s really cold, or if it’s really hot, we spend most of our time indoors with all the doors and windows shut in an attempt to control our environment. The problem is that we’re shutting lots of toxins inside the house with us.
It’s actually pretty easy to improve your indoor air quality, and for lots of things it’s as simple as changing the way you do things, rather than spending money. In the first part of our Detox Your Home series, we’re starting with the bedroom. You spend more time in your bedroom than in any other room in the house, so if you can only do one room, detox the bedroom!
Furniture made from particle board can often be glued together with adhesives that contain formaldehyde. Other chemicals, such as butyl acetate and methyl chloride, can be found in the lacquers and paints on new furniture. If you have a sensitive nose, you may be able to smell these gasses – a bit like the new car smell. This smell is the VOCs off gassing and these gases peak within a couple of weeks of the furniture being made.
The good news is that most of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) will dissipate within 3 to 12 months after the furniture is made.
So, how to avoid VOCs in furniture?
- Try to choose real wood furniture.
- Take the new furniture out of all the packaging, and air it out for as long as you can before you put it in your bedroom.
- Look for furniture made with low emission materials.
- Avoid stain resistant treatments.
- Buy secondhand furniture.
If you’re redecorating your bedroom, here’s a few more tips to help keep the toxins down:
- Choose low or no VOC paint, or eco friendly wallpaper
- Go with wooden floors rather than carpet, which can harbour all sorts of dust, germs and toxins. Choose a natural fibre rug instead.
- Look for natural fabrics for curtains and blinds
This is where you spend most time, so it’s worth prioritising your bedding and mattress. Go with organic cotton bedding if you can. If you can’t get organic, or can’t afford it, go natural with 100% linen or cotton and make sure that you wash it a couple of times in an eco laundry powder before you sleep in it for the first time.
Change your bedding regularly. Your sheets collect dust mites, skin cells, sweat and bacteria, so it’s important that you change them at least every couple of weeks.
When you change the sheets, hang your doona and pillows outside in the sunshine to naturally bleach and disinfect. The bonus is that they smell so good when you bring them in!
Mattresses can often be the source of toxic chemicals. Finding an eco friendly mattress in Australia is tricky, but you could think about buying a wool or organic cotton mattress topper.
Dust your bedroom regularly using a damp cloth to wipe over and pick up dust. Using a dry duster just moves the dust around, but using a damp cloth picks up the dust and actually removes it.
If you’re in the market for a new vacuum cleaner, buy one with a HEPA filter. The HEPA filter traps harmful particles like pollen, dust mites, pet fur and smoke. Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to own a vacuum with a HEPA filter – you do actually have to use it!
Institute a ‘no shoes in the house’ policey. Take shoes off at the front door and get a pair of slippers that you only wear in the house. That way you won’t be tracking in all the muck and dirt from outside and in onto your floors, and then into the bedroom.
Clean with non toxic household cleaners, like the ecostore range of products.
Get some plants in your bedroom. These will clear the air and remove toxins. See article on plants in the bedroom.
Open the windows! Just 15 minutes a day is all it needs to get all those VOCs out and let the fresh air in.
Consider buying an air purifier to help clean your air.
If you burn candles in your room, make sure you choose natural candles. Look for organic palm wax, beeswax or eco soy wax, not paraffin candles. Paraffin is a petrochemical and contains all sorts of contaminants.
Don’t use toxic air fresheners. If you must scent the air (and trust me, if you open the windows for 15 minutes a day, you won’t need to!), choose organic essential oils and add them to your diffuser. You can also find natural air fresheners to spritz around the room.
Avoid dry cleaning, and if you absolutely have to dry clean, make sure you take the garment out of the plastic bag and hang it in the open air for at least four hours, preferably overnight, before you wear it or hang it in your cupboard.
Switch off electronics in your bedroom to keep your bedroom free from electromagnetic radiation. Even better, keep electronics out of the bedroom – you’ll sleep better!
Keep things like your wireless router in a different room, or at least make sure that you switch it off at night if possible.
Don’t sleep with your phone under your pillow, and do switch off broadband and Bluetooth.
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