It’s easy for home-care routines to focus on what is visible and what smells good—clean floors, air fresheners, but the intersection between home-care and self-care means paying attention to indoor pollutants, which are harmful to our health.
The Ahimsa (non-harming) Home Care
Constant and long term exposure to household cleaning chemicals such as glass cleaners, air fresheners, and bleach decrease lung capacity. The fumes damage the mucous membranes lining our airways. Harsh cleaning products can also make existing asthma more severe.
Women are the ones most likely to be affected by the health hazards of cleaning products, since women still do most of the housework.
- Know when to use disinfectant or plain water and cloth.
- Ventilate rooms to let in air and natural light when you have to use cleaning products.
- Choose natural cleaning products and unscented whenever possible.
Reduce VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
VOCs are gasses emitted from solids or liquids. There are a variety of VOCs, but the most common one is formaldehyde. From paints, furniture, pesticide, air fresheners, the general rule is to limit VOCs in products you choose.
Grilling and Frying also release VOCs, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful particulates in the air.
- Choose low or zero VOC house paint.
- Wipe clean and air out new furniture or if possible, buy used.
- Look for upholstery without added flame retardant.
- Choose FSC certified wood.
- Choose Greenguard or SCS Global Services certification. West Elm has a Greenguard Gold Certified section.
- Ventilate when cooking, painting, or working with materials that emit VOCs. And if possible, use an air purifier.
There’s wisdom in taking off our shoes in a yoga studio. Researchers found that shoe soles are covered with 421,000 bacteria on average and 90% of those bacteria transfer directly to our floors.
- Don’t use outdoor shoes indoors, and use house slippers.
- Clean soles of shoes with water and detergent if you decide to wear them indoors.
Decorate with Plants
The claim that plants reduce cancer-causing VOCs in the air came from a 1989 NASA study. A 2004 research also shows that the microorganisms in potted indoor plants can clean indoor air.
It’s unclear from the research, however, how many plants you need per square feet to improve air quality indoors. Moreover, studies were conducted in a controlled setting, which fails to take into account other environmental factors.
However, decorating with plants is a greener choice compared to buying decorative furniture with VOCs. Moreover, plants can boost mood and also lead to a healthier and longer life.