- Your home could be making you weak. Your air quality, building materials, and location all play a part in how you feel.
- Making your own household cleaning products is one of the easiest ways to knock out a big source of toxic burden in the house.
- Below are recipes for all-purpose cleaning spray, bathroom scrub, air freshener, carpet cleaner, and furniture polish.
- Find out what changes, ranging from small and effortless to advanced, that you can make around your house to get your home a few steps closer to being toxin-free.
I’ve been battling the effects of toxins my whole life. When I started taking steps to see what was slowing me to a grinding halt and making me hang on to body fat, I found that my own home was attacking me.
Addressing mold toxicity was a huge turning point in the way my biology works. Over time, I did a lot more than that to get to where I am today. It didn’t happen overnight, and some of the changes weren’t easy. Some were a piece of (gluten-free) cake, though. Keep reading to find out what changes, ranging from small and effortless to advanced, that you can make around your house to get your home a few steps closer to being toxin-free.
Related: Download this shopping guide to detox your fridge and pantry to go along with your non-toxic home.
Making your own household cleaning products is one of the easiest ways to knock out a big source of toxic burden in the house. This is especially crucial if you have little ones crawling on the floor and sticking everything in their mouths, not to mention making frequent messes that you need to wipe up.
If you walk into a room and it smells like cleaner, you’ve inhaled chemical droplets that have an effect on your cells. Your body has to actively get rid of the chemical, plus repair the cells that it damaged along the way.
Spraying every surface in your home with noxious chemicals may seem harmless, but when you think about how often you pull out the spray bottle, it makes sense. Exposure after exposure starts to wear on your cells over time.
There are times when only the harsh solutions will do. (Does anyone else go nuclear on mouse droppings in the garage?) For everyday jobs like wiping Bulletproof Coffee dribbles from the countertops, household cleaners are overkill. Here’s what to use instead.
3-ingredient All-purpose Cleaning Spray Recipe
Fill a spray bottle with the following:
- ¼ part distilled white vinegar (you can go cheap here — you’re not eating it)
- ½ part tap water
- 15 drops essential oils (orange and lemon leave everything smelling fresh)
If you have natural stone or granite countertops, skip the vinegar. The acidity will wear away the sheen over time. It’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer of your surfaces before you use any cleaner on it.
DIY Bathroom scrub
What about bigger jobs, like bathtubs? You can make a simple paste of baking soda and water to scrub. Check with the manufacturer of your surfaces to see if baking soda will damage it, or test a small unnoticeable spot on your tub or sink to make sure the baking soda doesn’t etch the shine away. Most materials do fine with baking soda, but some can’t hold up to it.
Here’s how to make it:
- Add baking soda to a small bowl or mug
- Add water, a little at a time, until you make a paste
- Optional: add a few drops of mild essential oils for scent
Homemade furniture polish and dusting spray
Conventional dusting sprays contain silicone oil, which effectively creates a surface that dust doesn’t stick to. Silicones do not damage a natural wood surface, but you could run into problems if you ever have to refinish it. Over time, the silicone can settle into the wood grain and effect how new stain settles into the wood.
Silicone oils can cause a reaction if you’re sensitive, and furniture polish typically contains other highly volatile ingredients, like butane and propane, which are carcinogens. If you smell lemons while you’re dusting, you’re breathing all of it. The leading brands of furniture polish get a bad score for cancer and environmental measures according to the Environmental Working Group.
You can make furniture polish that won’t make you weak, no matter how much you breathe in.
Here’s how to do it:
- 1/2c olive oil (again, go cheap!)
- 10 drops pure lemon or orange essential oil
Put the mixture in a glass spray bottle (the glass is important — oils degrade some plastics). That’s it.
Optional: if you like a thinner dusting spray, add a little Brain Octane Oil to the mix. It’s a lightweight oil that thins out thicker oils.
Homemade air freshener spray
Heavily fragranced products by nature pose a huge problem.
If something smells strong, there’s a good chance it contains things like phthalates and aldehydes, solvents that make fragrances last longer and carry over distances, at the expense of your hormones and DNA integrity.
Additionally, anything that can be inhaled has small enough particles to get right from your lungs into your bloodstream and act swiftly on your tissues. That’s not a problem if you’re using safe plant extracts, but if you’re using toxic chemicals, there’s low-level damage occurring with every whiff. With regular use, it adds up.
With essential oils as widely available as they are, air freshener is one of the easiest things you can make.
- Fill an 8oz glass spray bottle ¾ of the way with water
- Add 3 tablespoons of vodka
- Add 12 drops of essential oils
- Shake before each use
Here are a few of my family’s favorite essential oil combinations:
Citrus spice: 3 drops clove, 9 drops of any citrus oil
Spring breeze: 2 drops geranium, 3 drops grapefruit, 3 drops lemon, 2 drops spearmint
Calming blend: 4 drops chamomile, 4 drops cedarwood, 4 drops orange
Homemade carpet and rug cleaner
Carpet isn’t the greatest flooring choice. More on that later. For now, we’ll talk about cleaning the carpet and rugs you have.
Carpet shampoos come with all of the same problems of fragrances and solvents that the other cleaners have. There’s an additional problem with carpet scrubber solutions — wet carpet. Wet carpet stays wet below the surface far longer than the amount of time it feels wet under your feet.
Soaking your carpet is a bad idea. A better idea is a light spray that draws impurities out. Here’s a better way to keep your rugs fresh. Remember, patch test first.
- Lightly spray a solution of half and half distilled white vinegar (add a few drops of essential oils if you choose) and water over your carpet
- Add a light sprinkling of baking soda over the area you want to treat
- Brush it in with a carpet brush
- Let it completely dry, then vacuum
You can control your food and water sources. You can control what you put onto your skin. Breathing is a little harder to control, simply because you’re constantly breathing. Unless you’re a recluse, you won’t be able to control what’s around you 100% of the time. Even at home, dust particles, mold, allergens, and city exhaust can all find their way into your house.
The key is to breathe clean air as much as you can, without making yourself crazy over avoiding the elements. Just accept that clean air most of the time is good enough when it comes to air quality.
You spend ? of your life sleeping, so if it’s not practical to install air filters in your whole house, you can make a big impact on your life if you run an air filter in your bedroom while you sleep. Look for one that has an activated charcoal filter that removes indoor odors and dust, a hospital-grade HEPA filter to trap microscopic pollutants like dust mites, mold spores, and pet allergens, and a UV light to kill airborne viruses and bacteria.
Before you start ripping up your floors, remember that the road to a less toxic lifestyle is a slow one. When you’re a homeowner, you know that certain projects need to be addressed immediately, and others go on the 5-year plan. If you rent, you can either work with your landlord or take flooring into consideration when you’re choosing a place. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, or limit your choices. Go at your own pace and work with what you have.
Is laminate flooring toxic?
Any time you have a large amount of surface area made of plastic and adhesive, off-gassing is a possibility. Certain flooring merchants took heat for selling laminate flooring that emitted formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a compound that the government specifically addresses. There are other compounds that are harmful that are allowed by law. If you have to use laminate for one reason or another, look for low-VOC tiles that do not require adhesive.
Is carpet toxic?
Carpet harbors dust and even the slightest dampness makes it mold-friendly. Typically, carpeting is sprayed with flame retardants and coatings to make them water-resistant, both of which get into the air.
When it comes to the fibers, carpet comes in natural materials like wool, or synthetic materials like nylon. Synthetics will be more flammable, so you can expect these to have higher levels flame retardant coatings.
If you have to install carpet, make sure you can keep the windows open and the fans going for a few days after to sweep away initial emissions. You’ll know it’s gone down when you can no longer detect the chemical smell upon entering your house.
When possible, opt for natural wood or USA-made ceramic flooring.
For the same reasons as with flooring, choose solid wood furniture when possible to avoid off-gassing. Solid wood furniture is expensive, but it lasts a long time. So long in fact that you can easily find high-quality second-hand furniture to refinish if you don’t want to pay full-price.
Water damage and mold
Any time water comes into contact with wood and drywall, toxic molds have the opportunity to bloom. I learned how detrimental mold toxins can be after my family’s house flooded in the late 90s. Mold toxins cause symptoms ranging from fatigue, headaches, and brain fog to neurodegenerative diseases and DNA damage.
There is a company called Homebiotic that makes a beneficial environmental probiotic bacteria that eats toxic mold as a fuel source. I use it as a preventative in my home and anywhere I have a water leak. You may want to use it on damp items. (Full disclosure: I funded the company to help it get started when I discovered this was possible but do not draw any compensation from it.)
When you’re cleaning up your diet and environment, taking small steps to be better every single day is a lot easier to maintain than going in charging and burning out. Switching to natural cleaning products is a low-effort, low-cost, high-impact way to significantly reduce your body’s toxic load. Then, you can swap out other things as it makes sense. Every step you take to help your body’s natural detox processes makes a difference, but we’re not after perfection here. It takes time to change your lifestyle, and that’s okay.