Simple Steps to Create a Healthier Waterloo Region Home
Your Waterloo Region home looks clean, but is it really healthy? Sick home syndrome is a real thing, and it is not something you want your home to ‘catch’. Whether you are planning on moving, have just moved in, or simply want to make sure that your living spaces are as healthy as possible, here are some room by room tips to help you ensure that it is.
Creating Healthy Bedrooms
How often do you get up in the morning with a stuffy nose, or find yourself sneezing for no particular reason? The culprit could be dust mites, as these microscopic creatures love nothing better than a nice warm bed.
To minimize the problem you should wash everyone’s bedclothes at least once a week and if you have younger kids freeze their non-washable stuffed toys for an hour or so occasionally to get rid of any dust mites that might be lurking there.
If you are shopping for new bedding, you might want to consider purchasing bamboo sheets (yes you really can make anything out of bamboo!) Bamboo is naturally resistant to both bugs and germs, and those properties still exist when the grass is woven into cloth. They also wick away moisture very well, 3 or 4 times better than cotton does, so they are very cool for summer sleeping.
You should also consider taking laundry baskets out of bedrooms unless they have lids, as they can make brilliant playgrounds for all kinds of germs. Keep wardrobes and closets as tidy as possible too, not only to help keep dust mites at bay but to help make everyone’s mornings easier as well. If you have pets in home, banning them from the bedroom might seem a bit cruel but the lack of dander on your bed will help you sleep a lot better!
If you have carpeted bedrooms, vacuuming is very important of course. If possible, choose a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter and strong suction so that dirt and dust that you pick up with it will not be thrown right back into the room.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are given off by both paint, various flooring types and some furniture (MDF is a big culprit) can be a problem anywhere in the home, but especially in the bedroom. VOCs can cause all kinds of nasty diseases over time but the most noticeable short term effect of breathing them in are headaches so VOCs in the bedroom are a real pain (pardon the pun) If you intend to repaint a bedroom look for low VOC paints and consider opting for real wooden furniture finished with a low VOC varnish.
Creating a Healthy Living Room
The living room is more than just a place to gather and watch TV these days. Most of us eat there (at least occasionally) play video games, do homework and a dozen other things. The living room is often also the family pets’ playground and oh yes, most homeowners use the room to entertain guests as well.
That such a busy room gets messy and dirty quickly is no big surprise and although you may think your living room looks nice and tidy, there are an unexpected number of germs lurking as well.
Carpeted living rooms harbour the most dust and grime and really do need to be vacuumed on a regular basis with a good HEPA filter equipped vacuum. Soft furnishings (the sofa, chairs) should be given the once over once a week as well, more often if you have pets, even if they are banned from sitting on them!
Poor air quality can be a problem in any home and especially in a room where everyone gathers, like the living room. Whether its summer and the air conditioning is on or winter and the heat is pumping, we all tend to close our homes up very tightly to stop the heat (or the cool) escaping. That is great for your wallet, but not so great for your health. Study after study has shown that in many cases, the quality of the air people breathe in their homes is worse than the stuff they gulp in outside, even in the city.
While throwing your windows open to let some fresh air in may not always be practical, clean air is. Invest in a good air purifier. Companies like Sharp make some excellent ones and although you are looking at a $100-$200 investment they really do work well and most people notice a real difference in terms of less sniffling and snuffling, fewer headaches and just a fresher smelling room.
VOCs can be a real problem in the living room as well, as they tend to have the most furniture of any room in the house. The air purifier will help, but stick to low VOC paints if you are redecorating and furniture made from as many natural materials as possible.
Creating a Healthier Bathroom
Bathrooms are, as you might expect, quite the germ magnets. There is plenty you can do to make them safer, healthier and more pleasant, though.
The biggest key to a healthy bathroom is adequate ventilation. Most people think of bathroom ventilation in terms of odor control, which is of course quite important, but it is about a lot more than that.
Without adequate bathroom ventilation, all the moisture in the room has very few places to go and mold, mildew and an “all over” damp can quickly become a real problem. If you are currently relying on opening a window after a shower to air the place out, it’s time to call in professional help to have a proper ventilation system installed.
A good contractor will be able to advise you about just what kind of system will be right for your home. The traditional exhaust fan in the ceiling is slowly being replaced in many homes with a ducted system that removes all the moisture from the air and sends it outside through a roof canal or wall vent as they are far more efficient and will not send moisture into your roof in the way that an exhaust fan will, potentially doing permanent damage to the timbers.
Another way to keep the air quality in your bathroom good even when your fan is not running is by adding a pot plant or two into your décor scheme. According to no less than the US space agency NASA the best air cleaning plants are snake plants, rubber plants and English ivy.
Your bathroom accessories may be causing problems as well. Shower curtains tend to develop mold you do not always see over time, so should be washed on a regular basis or periodically replaced if you prefer the PVC kind. You should also regularly wash or replace bathroom rugs and all the towels the family uses as well.
Creating a Healthier Kitchen
We would all like to think because it is the place where we prepare things that we will actually put in our mouths and eat, that our kitchens are the healthiest room in the house. However, even if you clean every day, that is not always the case.
For instance, when was the last time you looked behind the fridge? Not only may there be all kinds of junk back there, but there is probably also an awful lot of rather nasty dirt and dust and not only is that probably making you sneeze, it is also reducing the efficiency of the appliance itself.
Because the coils in a fridge attract dust like a magnet you should get into the habit of vacuuming them, and the back of your fridge in general at once every couple of weeks.
Garbage disposals can get pretty nasty and stinky as well. One tried and tested method that is safe and cheap (no nasty chemicals) is to drop a few lemon peels right into it once a week and then run it, you’ll be surprised by just how well this one simple little trick works, it actually usually gives the whole kitchen a nice lemony fresh for an hour or so too.
If you are planning a kitchen renovation project, you may be wondering if certain materials for flooring, cupboards and work benches are “healthier” than others. The answer is not really, as long as you make sure that any new cupboards or counters are finished with low VOC glues and varnishes, with the exception of the floor.
There are many experts who feel that a cork floor is the best flooring for the kitchen for a whole host of reasons. The first is that it is actually easier on your back and feet as cork has a spongy give that makes standing slaving away over a hot stove for an hour a little easier. The second is that cork has natural antibacterial, antifungal and even anti insect properties that remain once it is crafted into floor tiles, all great things if you really want to create a healthier kitchen!
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