7 Ways to Minimize Chemicals in Your Home for You and Your Pets
If you’ve ever done a quick online search on common chemicals in the home, you know the list is long and depressing.
In fact, you may decide to throw up your hands in defeat and turn a blind eye to what you just read. As tempting as that may be, it’s important to remember that every little bit helps. And if you’re not able to completely overhaul your home’s interior (who is, really?), making some small adjustments will still go a long way for the sake of your health and that of your pets.
So take a deep breath of some fresh air, and let’s get started!
One simple way to keep chemicals from stagnating in your home is to ventilate by opening a window or using a ventilation fan, especially when using anything you know has chemicals or smells new. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, volatile organic compound (VOC) concentrations can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors. Common sources of VOCs include paints, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, air fresheners, dry-cleaned clothes, building materials and furniture. Health effects can include eye/nose/throat irritation, headaches, nausea, damage to the liver/kidney/central nervous system and possibly cancer, according to the EPA.
Avoid Traditional Cleaners
Most traditional household cleaners are basically chemicals. When you clean your floors, consider that your dog or cat spends large amounts of time lying on them. When you wash your pet beds with a strong chemical detergent, your pets lie on those too. As demand increases for healthier home products, there has been an increase in options of more natural cleaning products. Do your research, because the word natural on a spray bottle doesn’t mean natural in reality. And remember, there’s always vinegar, which is a great natural cleaner.
Avoid Air Fresheners
In our haste to cover up the bad smells in our home—especially those coming from adventurous dogs—we find solutions in the form of air fresheners like sprays, candles and plug-ins. Unfortunately, these are another source of potentially harmful chemicals. Instead, try some baking soda and/or fresh flowers if you smell something you don’t like. However, make sure to place these somewhere your pet can’t get to and turn into a snack.
Nature provides its own version of air cleaning through plants. Certain plants can even help with specific kinds of VOCs. Again, do your research not only for the types of VOCs you want to filter out, but as to the plants that are nontoxic to pets.
Take Inventory of Personal Care Products
When you start reading labels of common cosmetics, hair and skin products (including soap and hand sanitizer), you’ll realize they are as guilty of containing chemicals as cleaners and air fresheners. Not only will this take its toll on your skin and hair, but anyone who has a pet knows there’s a good possibility a dog or cat will end up ingesting these chemicals as soon he shows you some love by giving you a lick. Fortunately, there are more natural beauty and personal care lines available that are minimizing the chemical exposure. When in doubt, rinse off your hands with water before petting your dog or cat.
Get a Nontoxic Pet Bed
Your pet’s bed is another unfortunate source of chemicals. According to veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, pet beds are commonly sprayed with toxic flame retardants. This is why she developed a nontoxic pet bed free of flame retardants and other chemicals, made from organic cotton and silk with a nontoxic fill. Beyond finding a bed like this, you can make your own using nontoxic and organic materials.
Take Your Shoes Off
When you and your dog walk outdoors, there’s a good chance you’ve stepped on all sorts of nasty things—including pesticides, auto fluids and all those cigarette butts. Do yourself and your pets a favor and take off your shoes before entering the house. Keep them in a storage unit at the front door for easy access. Go a step further and wipe your dog’s paws with some vinegar to help clean them up a bit.
You don’t have to feel overwhelmed, but you can take some steps to minimize the chemicals in your home so that you and your pets can breathe easier.