Check out my favorite organic and non-toxic home essentials, including cleaning supplies, linens, air purifiers, and more.
Why Detox Your Home?
Thousands of chemicals are lurking around your home environment, brought in by everything from beauty products, dry cleaning, and scented candles, to your shoes, shower curtain, gas stove, and furniture.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor. That’s because enclosed spaces such as homes and offices allow pollutants to accumulate and concentrate.
Some of these pollutants commonly found in our homes are known hormone disruptors and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). For example, certain phthalates, a class of chemicals that makes plastic flexible, transparent, and durable, are both! They adversely affect human reproduction and development and have been linked to certain cancers, particularly, breast cancer.
You can find them in your shower curtain (that new shower curtain smell is phthalates off gassing), air-fresheners, and any plastic items – including personal care and food products.
How to Detox Your Home Environment
When you start to realize all the objects in your home that can contribute to your home pollution, it can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a healthy, non-toxic home.
Start to make upgrades as your cleaning supplies run out, things break, or as your budget allows. Remember, as in all things, baby steps lead to big results over time!
I recommend prioritizing upgrades that will have the biggest impact – such as your bed, which you sleep on for 8 hours a night, and your air, which you’re breathing in all day long!
Here are my top picks for non-toxic home essentials:
Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies
Upgrading your cleaning supplies is a low-cost way to start improving your home environment.
Most conventional cleaning products contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and phthalates. VOCs are toxic to breath in or get on your skin. Phthalates, as mentioned earlier, are endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic.
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit that focuses on research and advocacy pertaining to toxins and human health, recently evaluated over 2,000 cleaning products for their health effects. Some of their key findings include (1):
- 53 percent of cleaning products assessed by EWG contain ingredients known to harm the lungs. About 22 percent contain chemicals reported to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
- Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is sometimes used as a preservative or may be released by other preservatives in cleaning products. It may form when terpenes, found in citrus and pine oil cleaners and in some essential oils, react with ozone in the air.
- The chemical 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen, is a common contaminant of widely-used detergent chemicals.
- Chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen, sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach.
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”) like benzalkonium chloride, found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners, can cause asthma.
- Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents, enzyme stabilizers or for other functions. They can disrupt the hormone system.
- Some common and popular “green” brands are not as healthy and non-toxic as they portray themself to be, or do not fully disclose ingredients.
These are my absolute favorite non-toxic cleaning products – which includes an all-purpose spray, streak-free glass spray, bathroom spray, laundry detergent, and my absolute favorite, Oxygen Boost, which gets the gym-funk smell and stains out of your clothing. Since discovering these two years ago, they’re the only products I use.
Air quality is extremely important when it comes to our health. In fact I did an entire podcast episode on it: Why Air Quality Matters & How to Choose an Air Filter. As previously mentioned, the air in our homes is typically 2-5x more polluted than outdoor air, according to the EPA.
Many of the products invented to make our live more convenient – dry cleaning, plastic, stain-resistant fabrics, cleaning products, furniture and appliance, for example, are off-gassing chemicals and dust into our homes.
This is the most effective air filter on the market. In short, it’s 40 times more efficient than common HEPA filters. It can capture debris of a particle size as small as .007 micron (compared to .3 for a HEPA filter). It is the only air filtration system that addresses all three pollutant categories: Gas, odor, and pathogens including viruses, fungi, molds, and bacteria. Use code Happier for 10% off.
In addition to an air filter, I highly recommend brining in as many houseplants as you can keep alive.
Back in the late 80s, NASA did research on what they dubbed “sick building syndrome.” They found that poorly ventilated apartments can be full of stagnant air and pollution which can lead to a whole host of symptoms including itchy eyes, skin rashes, drowsiness, respiratory and sinus congestion, headaches, and other allergy-related symptoms. The cause? The air-tight seal of modern buildings and the use of synthetic materials in both the construction of modern homes and the furnishing inside, which are known to emit or “off-gas” volatile organic compounds (VOCs). (4)
Plants work as natural air purifiers by drawing in airborne chemicals and other harmful compounds through their leaves and depositing them in the soil where they are broken down by micro-organisms. This process effectively removes VOC toxins including nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and benzene.
To improve indoor air quality, the results of the NASA study suggest using one to three houseplants for every 100 square feet of living space, though your results will vary greatly depending on the types of plants you are growing, their size and their health. I still recommend a high quality air filter in addition to plants, as there are many thousands of different chemicals in our homes, and the NASA research looked at only on 3 types of VOCs.
These plants are best known for their air-cleaning capabilities (I bolded the ones that were the most effective at cleaning the air, according to the NASA study):
- Aloe vera
- Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglonema modestum)
- English ivy (Hedera helix)
- Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
- Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
- Golden pothos (Scindapsus aureus)
- Green spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum)
- Heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium)
- Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis)
- Lacy tree philodendron (Philodendron selloum)
- Marginata (Dracaena marginata)
- Mother-in-law’s tongue / Snake Plant (Sansevieria laurentii)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)
- Pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
- Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis)
A green mattress is an investment but one worth making.
For a decade, I slept on a memory foam mattress, which I absolutely loved. In fact, it was my first “big” purchase after getting my first paycheck post-college. Little did I know back then, that foam mattresses had been found to off-gas VOCs like formaldehyde and multiple lawsuits were being filed by people who had noticed adverse health effects after purchasing a memory foam mattress. Traditional MD turned Functional Medicine Doctor Ann Shippy even talked about the link between memory foam products and auto-immune disease on this podcast episode on reducing Everyday Toxicity.
Even the materials used in traditional mattresses may be problematic. As of 2007, all mattresses are required to contain enough Fire Retardant Chemicals to withstand a 2-foot wide blowtorch open flame for 70 seconds. (5) While some brands may use certain fabrics to make their products flame retardant, most brands, especially the more affordable ones, use chemical flame retardants, as they are a cheap option. This article gives an overview of some of the most common chemical flame retardants used and their impact.
Because we’re sleeping on our mattress around 8 hours a day, every day, this is a non-toxic home upgrade to prioritize when your budget allows.
The Green Science Policy Institute put together a list of manufacturers which make mattresses and furniture without flame retardant chemicals. Instead, they use naturally flame-retardant fabrics (such as wool), fillings, or non-toxic alternatives.
Materials to look for include GOTS organic certified wool and cotton, and GOLS organic certified Latex. You can also look for a Greenguard Gold certification, which means they’re tested for prolonged exposure in environmental chambers to meet rigorous emissions standards for chemical exposure and pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and phthalates.
Personally, I have a John Lewis mattress made from wool, cotton, and hemp, without glue or chemical flame retardants. It’s the most natural mattress I could find in Dubai.
In the US, you have more options, but I find there is a lot of “greenwashing” – companies make you think the product is more healthy and eco than it actually is. After doing quite a bit of research, this is the organic and natural mattress I would have chose. It is made from GOTS organic certified wool and cotton and GOLS organic certified latex, and is Greenguard Gold Certified. They have a one year return policy and a whopping 25-year warranty. Plus, it’s actually affordable compared to other natural mattresses, and yet they seem to have used the highest quality ingredients and utmost precautions! The price of a queen is about $1,400.
For comparison, here is another non-toxic mattress (made by the same company that makes my favorite organic sheets). It comes with a 10-year warranty and a 100-day money back guarantee. However, they are using regular wool and latex, instead of certified organic. The price of a queen is about $2,500.
Organic Bed Sheets & Linens
Cotton is one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops, and farmers tend to use some of the most hazardous chemicals including organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, monocrotophos, and profenophos. (6) Many organophosphates have neurotoxic effects (7), even from low levels of exposure.
Research suggests our skin does absorb chemicals when in contact with fabric.(8) Seeing as we’re pressed between the sheets for 8 hours and organic clothing still has a long way to come in terms of style, availability, and affordability, organic bedding (or pajamas!) are a good idea.
Personally, there is nothing I love more than a bed fitted with fresh stark white sheets.
This is another favorite, more affordable organic sheet set option. I have 3 sets of these, plus their organic duvet cover.