Toxins and allergens lurk in our food and water, homes and offices. They turn up in the cleaning aisles in our supermarkets, the printers in our offices, and the trucks on our streets. Bold and brazen, these troublemakers hide in plain sight more often than not. Sometimes, it can feel like they are an accepted part of daily living and there's nothing we can do about them. But that's just not true.
If there is one place where you do have control over toxins, it's in your home. Here are a few cleaning products and gadgets I use to stem the looming tide of toxins in mine:
1. HEPA filter
You biggest ally in your journey toward a healthier home is your air filter. After all, indoor air pollution is the big elephant in the room when it comes to toxins and allergens. Chemicals, toxins, dust, pollen, and mold can easily accumulate in your air, especially if your home lacks good ventilation.
A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can help trap irritating particles by forcing air through an ultrafine mesh filter, ridding it of certain pollutants. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found that these air filters may reduce symptoms of allergy and asthma. And a Canadian study observed that HEPA air filters in the home can cut down on particulates, or soot, by up to 60 percent, thus reducing the occupants' risk of inflammation.
I use a portable room air purifier with a HEPA filter, but if you have a forced-air heating and cooling system in your home, you might try using a HEPA filter instead of your regular AC filter. Whichever option you choose, remember to change your filter regularly!
Decorating with houseplants is an easy and affordable way to clean the air in your home. Researchers in Portugal have found that plants not only remove carbon dioxide from the air, but they can also filter out allergy aggravators like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene. Try picking up a Boston fern, snake plant, aloe vera, peace lily, or spider plant (one of the easiest plants to care for!).
3. HEPA filter vacuum cleaner
To reduce dust buildup at home, you need to vacuum (and dust) frequently. Invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, as they're designed to trap contaminants, dust, and allergens better than a regular vacuum. And as with any filter, be sure to change it often.
4. Water filters
While tap water might look clear and clean, it could be hiding more than 300 pollutants, according to my good friends at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Water filters can help to remove chlorine and other contaminants like lead from your water. There are many options, from simple, inexpensive pitcher systems to under-the-counter filters and countertop filters to whole-house systems. They use different filtration methods such as carbon, reverse osmosis and deionization. Check out the EWG's water filter buying guide to find the right filter for you.
And don't forget to get a filter for your shower too! Your shower and bathwater can contain the same chemicals as your drinking water, along with other micro critters that live in the showerhead.
5. Glass containers
You've probably heard this numerous times, but if you really care about keeping your home toxin-free, you need to chuck the plastic (unless it's BPA-free). Plastic can leach potentially harmful chemicals into your food and water, so wave goodbye to your leftover containers, water bottles, and plastic wraps and look for glass or stainless-steel alternatives instead.
6. Cast-iron pans
We know that nonstick cookware is convenient (eggs that slide right off! perfect stir-fry!), but it's time to break up with them. To become less sticky, these pots and pans are treated with chemicals that can be released when heated at high temperatures.
Go with cast-iron pans. While you do have to season the pan first, it's worth the extra effort. Not only do well-seasoned cast-iron pans work just as well as your favorite nonstick ones, but you'll also get an extra dose of iron in your food.