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Natural Awakenings Rhode Island

Five Steps to a Healthier Home

Mar 30, 2020 01:30PM ● By Erica LePore

Spring is the time of year when we often feel a renewed focus on clean eating and clean living. With the warming days, the eagerness to declutter our homes is also an opportunity to improve the health of our living spaces. If our homes are healthier, our bodies will be too. When looking to discard some clutter, these items should be at the top of the list:


Just because it smells good, doesn’t mean it’s good to smell. Many air fresheners contain artificial fragrance that is used to mask odors, not destroy them. Clean doesn’t have a scent. For a truly “clean” smell, open a window and let the fresh air in.

Discard/donate: Scented candles, air fresheners (car and home), deodorizers (plug-ins and sprays), potpourri, scented bath products, scented laundry products including fabric softener and dryer sheets, moth balls and scented cleaning supplies.

Healthy alternative: Choose fragrance-free alternatives. Some unscented products use masking fragrance to cover up the original fragrance, making it even more toxic. Look for fragrance-free for the cleanest products.


According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), ingredients in cleaning supplies are chosen by companies without government review or approval. Because many of the ingredients in these products haven’t been tested for safety or toxicity, they can harm people’s health and are best avoided.

Responsibly discard: Cleaning products with an EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning rating of C or worse. ( Drop off at a hazardous waste location; do not dump unwanted cleaning supplies down the toilet or the drain.

Healthy alternative: Replace with EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning products rated A or B, or use simple homemade solutions including white vinegar, castile soap, baking soda and/or hydrogen peroxide.                 


Household dust contains hormone disrupting flame retardants, pthalates and pesticides, and sits atop knick knacks and coats floors, furniture and children’s toys. Wearing outside shoes in the house tracks contaminants into the home. According to experts, lead, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chemicals can adhere to dust particles that enter homes on the bottoms of shoes. Studies have found residues of 45 toxic and potentially harmful chemicals in household carpet dust.

Discard: Furniture that is heavily contaminated with flame retardants or any furniture that has been sprayed with toxic and potentially carcinogenic stain protectants. Outdoor lawn and garden pesticides and herbicides that make up many of the chemicals tracked into the home.

Healthy alternative: Regularly wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth, wet mop floors, vacuum with a machine with a HEPA filter and regularly change air filters on a forced heating and cooling system. Choose organic lawn care and garden options, and leave shoes at the door.


Particle board, pressed board, carpeting, new cabinetry, paints, adhesive and upholstery can all emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, and decrease air quality and increase one’s risk for acute and chronic disease.

          Discard/replace: More toxic building materials with less toxic ones.

          Healthy alternative: Use no or low VOC paints, adhesives and 100 percent wood products, hard wood floors and products labeled formaldehyde-free.



Indoor air has been found to be more toxic than outdoor air, even in the most polluted cities. Contributors to poor air quality include all of the items listed above plus tobacco smoke, attached garages, fireplaces and wood stoves, and gas appliances.

Avoid: Second hand smoke of all types, and get appliances and fireplaces checked regularly for efficiency.

Healthy alternative: Open the windows for 10 to 15 minutes a day year round (even in winter) to improve indoor air quality. Fill the home with houseplants; they are natural air purifiers and have been shown to decrease VOCs such as formaldehyde in the air. The best choices are: English ivy, bamboo plant, peace lily, lady palm, rubber plant, spider plant, gerbera daisy, heartleaf philodendron, Chinese evergreen, elephant ear philodendron, snake plant and pot mum. Purify with two plants in 10- to 12-inch pots per 100 feet of living space or15 to 20 plants for a 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot home. 

Erica LePore, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has led thousands to optimum health through her 21-Day Detoxification Program and Elimination Diet. For more information, book an appointment at or email at [email protected].