When we spend such a large chunk of our time at home, creating an environment that supports wellness is a worthwhile investment.
Article: Homes to Love
Scary fact: pollution levels inside our homes can be up to five times higher than those outdoors, thanks to a combination of household chemicals, cooking odours, mould and allergens all congregating together in one confined space. So at a time when we’re more health-conscious and eco-conscious than ever, it pays to give careful thought to the products that we use to build, furnish and clean our homes and how we can minimise our exposure to toxins.
Whether you suffer from allergies or asthma, or just want to limit your exposure to unnecessary chemicals, here are some simple and effective changes you can make today to create a healthy home.
DEAL WITH DUST
Most of the dust in our homes comes from outside (dirt, pollen, smoke particles), while the rest is made up of indoor matter like carpet fluff, clothing fibres and pet hair. Dust mites are little critters invisible to the eye that feed on this dust. They can aggravate allergies, asthma and eczema. Get rid of the dust and you’ll get rid of the mites. Here’s how:
1. WIPE YOUR FEET
You can prevent pollutants being tracked into your home by simply encouraging people to wipe their shoes on a doormat – place one at every entrance as a reminder – or go one better and ask them to remove their footwear before they enter.
2. FRESHEN UP YOUR BED
If you think you have a dust mite problem, wash all your bedding in hot water and leave it to dry in the sun – you can drag your mattress and pillows out to air on a hot day, too. Vacuum your mattress thoroughly, then cover it with “a good-quality, washable mattress protector and correctly fitting sheets to keep it fresh and free of stains,” says John Cassisi, general manager of product for Snooze. As a guide, aim to wash your sheets weekly, replace old pillows every two years and buy a new mattress every seven to eight years.
3. VACUUM PROPERLY
Look for a bagless vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which traps fine dust particles and stops them from being released back into the air. Attachments for cleaning furniture, curtains, ceilings and skirting boards are also a plus. As a general rule, aim to vacuum carpets and rugs twice a week, or more often if you have pets.
Mould is a type of fungi that grows in damp and poorly ventilated areas – in particular, bathrooms, kitchens and laundries. Inhaling mould spores can trigger nasal congestion and cause wheezing, coughing and throat irritation. To eliminate mould growth, you need to control the source of the moisture.
4. REDUCE DAMPNESS
Wipe up spills when they occur and ensure rugs and carpets can adequately dry. Hang up wet towels, squeegee or towel-dry tiles and floors immediately after showering, and make an effort to regularly clean bathroom scum, which mould feeds on.
5. FIX LEAKS AND SPILLS
Dripping taps aren’t just annoying to listen to – over time, they can become a breeding ground for mould spores. The same goes for leaking pipes and toilets.
6. VENTILATE, VENTILATE!
When the weather permits, open up your doors and windows to create good airflow. And don’t forget to switch on extraction fans when cooking, showering or using the clothes dryer.
CLEAR THE AIR
We spend a good portion of our lives indoors, where household fumes can accumulate. Poor indoor air quality can cause mild headaches or tiredness, along with more severe asthmatic and allergic reactions. Take these steps to improve the air you breathe.
7. INVEST IN AN AIR PURIFIER
As the name suggests, these portable devices extract odours, chemical vapours and pollutants from the air in our homes. Some also help keep germs at bay! Halim Saliman, general manager for marketing at Sharp Australia, explains, “The Plasmacluster technology in our Sharp KCF30JW purifier helps suppress airborne viruses, while the humidifier makes it difficult for the germs to grow and spread.”
8. ELIMINATE CHEMICALS
Cleaning with chemicals presents a whole host of problems. They can emit hazardous odours, leave a residue behind on food-prep surfaces, plus there is the risk of having dangerous products around young children and pets. Instead, consider natural, plant-based products, or try the ENJO range of cloths and gloves. “Rather than killing bacteria with chemicals, the fibre technology in our products lifts, traps and removes dirt and bacteria from your home’s surfaces,” says ENJO Australia’s CEO Barb de Corti.
9. BE WARY OF VOCS
Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in many household products including paint, carpet, flooring and furniture. When released into the air, they can cause headaches, dizziness and may lead to chronic health problems. “The most well-known VOC is formaldehyde, which is found in natural wood, along with glues, lacquers, even some foods,” explains Kendall Waller, national product manager for Quick-Step. As such, it’s important to assess the chemical emissions of products when renovating and decorating. Rubber, laminate and cork are all low-VOC flooring choices, while many paint companies have low-VOC ranges, which are low-odour, allergy friendly and environmentally friendly.
Avoid soft furnishings that are labelled “stain-resistant”, “UV-resistant” or “flame-retardant” – instead, Cam Warwick from Warwick Fabrics recommends looking for the Oeko-Tex logo, which indicates that fabrics are free of harmful substances.
10. BE CAREFUL WITH CANDLES
While lighting a scented candle has practically become a global pastime (thank you, hygge), not all candles are created equal. “Parafin wax emits toxic fumes and can have adverse health effects if inhaled on a regular basis,” says Claire Barnes, general manager from ECOYA. Thankfully, there are some great natural wax