18 Easy Ways to Create a Healthier Home Amid the Pandemic

Healthy Home


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Healthy Home

Go Green While Saving Money

Maintaining a healthy home sounds like a good idea, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, but it's hard to know where to start and how to avoid spending a ton on expensive products. From using safer cleaning supplies to reducing stress and improving sleep, there are plenty of ways to create a healthy environment for your family. Better yet, most of them are easy, quick, and inexpensive. 

Related: How to Disinfect Without Harming Your Stuff (or Yourself)

Wash Your Hands
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Encourage Frequent Hand Washing

Washing your hands may not be the most innovative way to create a healthier home, but it can make a huge difference. Hand washing is particularly important during cold and flu season and even more so now amid the current pandemic, but it's a good practice all the time — especially for young children. Little hands can easily pick up toxic contaminants from the ground, including fire retardants in house dust, that can then be ingested unless they're washed off first.

Make Cleaning Supplies At Home

Switch to Green Cleaning Supplies

One of the first — and easiest — steps toward a healthier home is to replace harsh cleaning products with safe, eco-friendly cleaners. Using green cleaning supplies can remove bacteria and grime while eliminating harmful and irritating chemicals from your home. Plenty of effective green cleaners can be found at the store these days, or you can save money by making your own green cleaning supplies.

Use Low-VOC Paint on Your Walls
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Use Low-VOC Paint on the Walls

If you're thinking of painting a room in your home, or even the whole house, consider using low- or no-VOC paint. VOCs are volatile organic compounds — chemicals that are emitted as gases and can have harmful effects in the short and long term, including nausea, eye and skin irritation, and possibly even damage to the central nervous system or cancer. The concentration of VOCs can be 10 times higher when used indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Low- or no-VOC paints are widely available at most home improvement and hardware stores.

Wash Your Towels More Frequently

Wash Towels More Frequently

Many people regularly wash their clothes but neglect to launder towels and other bathroom linens often enough. Bath towels are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi, thanks to moisture, warmth, and dead skin cells and other detritus. It's recommended that you wash your towel after three uses — assuming it dries completely between uses. And avoid sharing towels to reduce exposure to microbes that your body isn't used to.

Bed Sheets

Change the Sheets More Often

You're also probably not changing and washing your bedsheets as often as you should for a healthier home. It's estimated that around 70% of laundry soil is invisible, and when it comes to sheets, that includes dead skin cells, natural body oils, sweat, and more. All that can irritate your skin and be a breeding ground for dust mites, which are especially bad for those with allergies. It's recommended that you change your sheets weekly — more often if you've been sick — and wash them in hot water.

Keep Electronics out of the Bedroom

Keep Electronics Out of the Bedroom

People often bring smartphones, tablets, and laptops into the bedroom these days. Blue light wavelengths emitted by those devices disrupt the body's circadian rhythms — or biological clock — which can not only negatively affect sleep but may be linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, according to a Harvard University study. It's recommended to stop using electronic devices 2 to 3 hours before bed and charge them outside of the bedroom at night.

Turn Down the Thermostat
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Turn Down the Thermostat

While many people crank up the heat to get cozy at night, in reality it's healthier to turn down the thermostat. A recent study suggests that keeping your bedroom at a cooler temperature, around 66 degrees, can help stimulate brown fat — considered "good fat" — which can, in turn, reduce the risk of diabetes and other metabolic problems. Plus, you'll save money on your energy bill at the same time.

Open Window

Improve Ventilation for Cleaner Air

According to the EPA, air inside your home can sometimes be even more polluted than outdoor air. Everything from combustion pollutants (particles from stoves, dryers, and fireplaces) to VOCs from furniture and paint to allergens such as mold, dust mites, and pollen can get trapped inside the home without proper ventilation. Opening windows and doors, even for just a little while each day, can help reduce your family's exposure. You may also want to consider adding an air conditioning or heating system that includes an outdoor air intake.

Add Houseplants to Improve Indoor Air

Add Houseplants to Improve the Air

Another easy — and inexpensive — way to improve the quality of the air you and your family breathe is by bringing houseplants into your home. Not only do they brighten and beautify the space, but they can also help filter harmful chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. English ivy, spider plants, and Boston ferns are just a few of the household plants recommended by NASA to improve indoor air quality.

Install an Air Filter
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Install an Air Filter

Adding an air filter to your home is another way to greatly reduce the amount of dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander that can cause problems if your family has allergies or asthma. Look for a high-efficiency particulate air filter. You can find a portable air purifier with a HEPA filter starting at less than $100, depending on how much of the house you're looking to cover.

Tap Water

Filter Your Drinking Water

A water filter can reduce the amount of contaminants such as lead, chlorine, and ammonia in drinking water. While whole-house filters and reverse-osmosis systems (which filter arsenic and perchlorate) can be expensive, there are plenty of inexpensive and effective water filters. Use the Environmental Working Group's tap water guide to find out what pollutants could be in your local water. And skip bottled water, as it isn't necessarily safer than tap; plus it costs more, both for you and for the planet.

Consider Planting Trees For Free Air-Conditioning

Switch to Organic Lawn and Garden Care

Don't forget about the outside of your home. Consider switching to organic lawn and garden care. By eliminating chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, you can ensure that your lawn is a safe, non-toxic place for your family and pets to play, and that any fruits and vegetables you grow are safe to eat. Plants and trees around your house will also help filter air pollutants and help cut energy costs by creating shade. 

Related: 12 Reasons to Get Rid of Your Lawn

Cancel Out Noise Pollution
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Cancel Out Noise Pollution

Although you might not even consider it, noise pollution can have a major impact on health and well-being. Traffic sounds, passing aircraft, loud music, and other noise can not only contribute to hearing loss but also disturb sleep and create stress. Consider closing windows during noisy times, using a white-noise machine at night, or wearing earplugs when you sleep. Fences and hedges also can help block excess noise.

Use Doormats to Keep Dirt Out
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Use Doormats to Keep Dirt Out

Shoes can track dirt, pollen, lead dust, fungal spores, and more into the house, even if you don't always notice it. Cut down on those contaminants at home by using heavy-duty doormats and shoe scrapers, and use indoor mats in heavy traffic areas like doorways, hallways, and the kitchen. Doormats are not only useful, they can add flair to your home. Don't forget to shake out the mats periodically to ensure that they're still able to trap dirt.

Institute a No-Shoe Policy and Pet Checkpoint
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Institute a No-Shoe Policy and Pet Checkpoint

Further reduce the contaminants tracked into your house by making it a shoe-free zone. Kindly ask family members, friends, and guests to take off their shoes as they come in and provide a convenient shelf or basket where shoes can be stored. If you have pets, keep a towel in the same area to wipe off mud and dirt before they enter the home and keep a flea comb nearby to catch fleas before they get tracked inside.

Upgrade Vacuum

Upgrade Your Vacuum

Regularly using a vacuum cleaner can help remove dust, pet hair, and other contaminants that can trigger allergies and asthma. If your vacuum doesn't seem as powerful as it once was, try giving it a thorough cleaning, replace filters, and eliminate obstructions. And if it's time for an upgrade, look for a new vacuum that has a HEPA filter, which traps 99.97% of pollen, dust, bacteria, and other unwanted pollutants.

Dust Hard-To-Reach Places and Corners
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Clean Hard-to-Reach Places and Corners

When you're dusting, it's easy to skip those difficult-to-reach spots on top of tall furniture or out-of-the-way corners. But for a healthier home, it's important to take the extra time to cut down on dust and pollutants. Ditch the feather duster — which just moves dust around — and get an inexpensive microfiber or electrostatic duster or a hand-held vacuum. Use a wet mop or duster to collect even more contaminants.

Install Carbon Monoxide and Radon Detectors

Install Carbon Monoxide and Radon Detectors

Carbon monoxide is known as a "silent killer." The toxic gas is odorless and tasteless, and it be poisonous if inhaled in high concentrations, or when levels build up over time. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near home appliances such as water heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and furnaces, at knee level. Radon is another odorless and tasteless gas that can cause cancer, so it's also a good idea to install radon detectors.