Tia cleans with a non-toxic household cleaner and keeps a careful eye on anything new coming in the door. Her son Eli is recovering from severe eczema and is highly sensitive to many foods and environmental chemicals.
Now her family was ready to buy a house, and it was recently remodeled. Tia was worried about how being in a new environment might impact Eli’s skin and food tolerances. What materials had been used to refurbish it?
She asked me for suggestions on how to reduce toxins in your home when redecorating or moving into a new house.
This is a common concern for people who have very sensitive immune systems, skin conditions, and other chronic illnesses. If you or one of your kids is particularly ill, avoid redecorating until you’ve seen big improvements in healing.
Five ways to reduce toxins in your home when redecorating or moving
1. Air it out
One of the simplest things you can do to reduce your toxin exposure is to open up all the windows and doors to let in fresh air. Unless you’re in an area highly contaminated by air pollution, outside air is almost always cleaner than the inside air. Modern houses are particularly tightly sealed. This means the fumes from adhesives, laminate flooring, paints, stains, and other materials that are off-gassing don’t have an easy escape to the outside.
The same goes for new furniture, carpets, and mattresses that you bring into your home. If you are un-packaging something new it’s best to leave it outside in the sun, in the garage, or another place that it can ‘breathe’ for a couple days before it gets installed in your home.
2. Wash it down
A cleaning crew may have come through the home that you’re moving into, but were they using non-toxic cleaners? Unless you’ve evaluated the products they’ve used, it’s better to give everything a quick wash down.
Many cleaners, particularly those that have ‘fresh and clean’ scents, are really just a mix of toxic chemicals leaving a residue on everything in your home. Put in the effort to wash down the walls, floors, and fixtures, and clean out the cabinets to remove these residues before your family moves in.
3. Have house plants
Plants are nature’s air purifier, so use them liberally. My go-to reference for house plant varieties is this list from NASA, detailing the plants they’ve tested to keep the air clean in the space station. My favorite choices are those that are hard to kill, because I don’t exactly have a green thumb. Plants that require watering once or twice a month are right up my alley. Distribute plants throughout your home, including in the bedrooms. Not only are the useful, but they’re pretty and decorative.
4. Get an air purifier
Newer furnaces and new homes often have whole house air cleaning systems. If your home has an advanced system like that, upgrade it to the highest quality filter option, set you fan to run at a low level all the time, and check the filter frequently.
Another option is a high-quality air purifier that you can use in the areas where you spend the most time – particularly in the bedroom at night. If anyone in your household has asthma, eczema, cognitive issues, or extreme sensitivities to chemicals or foods, these can make a surprising difference in their overall reactivity, making an air purifier a worthwhile investment.
5. Choose non-toxic building materials and furnishings
When you’re making decorating or remodeling choices for your home, research the latest non-toxic options for paint, flooring, furnishings, and installation techniques. Pay particular attention to glues and stains.
Sleep is also a crucial time for our detoxification, so look carefully at mattress and bedding options.
Less toxic building materials and furnishings are generally more costly, but they are often much better quality, and will need to be replaced less often. I choose to get by with the old furnishings that have already off-gassed while I save up for the new non-toxic replacement.
Do you have tips to share about moving or green redecorating? What’s your favorite company to buy non-toxic furnishings from? I love getting suggestions from readers, so leave a comment below!