By Shana Aborn
You already know that to stay well, you need to eat healthy foods, exercise and get plenty of sleep. But you need to keep your home healthy too! Your house's air quality and the products you use every day can all have an effect on your health and that of your family.
Here's how to make your home a safer and healthier place to live:
Get rid of mold.
"Mold is a very important public health problem," says award-winning epidemiologist Dr. Devra Davis, co-founder of the Environmental Health Trust. The black yucky stuff can make allergy symptoms worse and even contribute to breathing problems. To keep mold at bay, inspect your home for leaks and condensation and keep rooms as dry as possible. If you find mold, Davis recommends scrubbing it with a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. But if the problem is widespread, call your local public health department to take care of it.
Consider natural cleaning solutions.
Some commercial household cleaners contain ingredients that can be harmful or even fatal if inhaled or swallowed (e.g., bleach or petrochemicals). For many cleaning jobs, though, you can use products with plant-based ingredients. Or you can do your DIY cleaning with baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar, which are all natural cleaners and disinfectants.
Use reusable microfiber rags and mops.
Reusable dust rags save you money and help the environment. And reusable mops use less water and, says Davis, "you can remove and switch the head of the mop so when you go from room to room, you can reduce the chance of spreading infection."
Take your shoes off in the house.
Dirt, germs and chemicals -- particularly lawn pesticides -- cling to the soles of your shoes and get tracked through your home. Making a no-shoes rule will keep dirt and germs at bay while also reducing the frequency with which you need to clean.
Test your home for radon.
This odorless gas comes from the earth under your house, and long-term exposure can lead to cancer. You can pick up an inexpensive testing kit at most hardware stores.
Clean your shower curtain regularly.
The combination of constant moisture, dirt and soap scum makes your shower curtain a haven for bacteria. Machine-wash it along with a cup of vinegar, and then hang it up to dry.
Put the lid down every time.
If your kids often forget to put the toilet lid down before they flush, remind them of this simple (and gross!) fact: When you flush with the lid open, the whole bathroom can get covered with a fine spray of fecal bacteria. Not something you want near your toothbrush!
Stay on top of dust.
Dust doesn't just aggravate allergies; it also contains the household chemicals that linger in your home. Dust regularly with reusable cloths. Also consider removing any wall-to-wall carpets, which tend to collect dust and dirt.