It is fairly well-known that diet and exercise can have an impact on your general well-being. But just as important is the strong connection between home and health.
Something that may seem insignificant, like owning an older home that has peeling paint, can be a huge health hazard (lead poisoning). If you have water leaks or poor ventilation, the moisture and mold that may be introduced into your environment can lead to asthma and respiratory troubles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define the healthy home as one that prevents injury and disease. The CDC describes a healthy home as having good indoor air, being smoke and CO free and having good ventilation. Homes also should have smooth floor surfaces, stair handrails, adequate lighting and safety devices.
The CDC advises all homeowners (and renters) to install smoke alarms on every floor and near all bedrooms, test them monthly and change batteries annually. Additionally, the CDC recommends installing carbon monoxide alarms near bedrooms. Tip: Test your alarms each year when the clocks spring forward and fall back.
Following are additional tips from local moms on how they keep their homes (and families) healthy.
“I am probably like a lot of people who struggle with trying to find a balance between cleaning and not poisoning my house,” says Erica Whiteman. She advises parents to choose cleaning products wisely and always use as directed. Be aware that some cleaners can be dangerous if a child ingests them even in a small amount.
Whiteman is particularly passionate about Norwex products, describing them as magical. “You wet the cloth, wipe your counter and it is like a vacuum where anything on the counter pulls into the cloth and the cloth continues to disinfect the bacteria,” she says. Other Norwex products, like dryer balls and clean paste, are available. “If you drew a marker on a tile it will not come off. But if you just put the paste on, and it is completely nontoxic, the same cloths are multipurpose. You can use them on the counter or to wipe the window,” Whiteman says.
Many moms attempt to make their own products. “I tried cleaning with water and vinegar and tried to put some lemon and dabs of natural oils to make it smell good,” Whiteman notes.
A lot of moms begin by creating laundry detergents and floor cleaners. “The first thing I ever did was make my own floor cleaner about 14 years ago with lemon juice, vinegar and water. Because my son was crawling around on the floor, I decided I did not want to put chemicals on it,” says Patricia Larbalestrier.
Today, you can find more organic cleaning products. “You should keep spray bottles under your sink with lemon oil, orange oil, vinegar, lemon, water and baking soda for heavy stains because you can just mix it up,” Larbalestrier says.
If you are not convinced about a product, compare your experiences with other moms. “I had a party with my sister where we rubbed butter on the windows and she used Windex and I used cloth and they both got it off. A lot of the time with Windex you still see lint on the window,” Whiteman says.
It is about finding what works for you and perhaps keeping supplies in the appropriate rooms. “Have one cloth for the bathroom, one for the kitchen and a travel one for your purse,” Whiteman says. You may find that when something smells good you feel better. “Dryer balls are like actual wool and you can put little drops of essential oil lavender and throw the balls in the dryer to give you a natural scent,” Whiteman says.
Healthy homes include healthy foods and you can get great ideas by networking with other moms.
“When I was pregnant, I joined a co-op and they give you what is in season and try to keep it local to the Florida area,” Larbalestrier says. Larbalestrier is a member of two co-ops, one is privately run and the other is publicly run and anyone can join to get beef, pork, chicken and seafood.
“My son never ate baby food. I always made it like people did years ago,” Larbalestrier says. You may be surprised to see that your child actually takes an interest in healthy eating. “I involved my son with watching documentaries about where food comes from and how it is raised differently on commercial farms versus small organic farms. He has been on board with eating well because of that,” Larbalestrier says.
“When you go to the grocery store, it is wise to stay on the perimeter and avoid the middle aisles,” Larbalestrier says. The perimeter will have the fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat. “We cut down on chemical exposure by doing no soda or sugary drinks,” Larbalestrier says.
Cutting high fructose corn syrup and aspartame out of the diet can help. “If you cannot pronounce it, do not eat it,” Larbalestrier advises. “Spend some of your time on the weekend making food for the entire week (steam apples and make your own applesauce or cook and puree your own fruits and vegetables, pour it in ice cube trays and freeze them until you need them),” Larbalestrier adds.
If you have residue on your dishes, a little vinegar can go a long way in your dishwasher. “It acts as a natural way to remove scale and reduce the foggy film on your dishes,” Whiteman says.
Of course there are a lot of products out there and it can be easy to get confused. “You can go to the Environmental Working Group’s website. They even have an app where you can check your products, whether you are buying suntan lotion or something for the house,” Whiteman says.
Some beauty products are more environmentally friendly than others. “Find shampoo that feels like it is cleaning your hair but does not have sulfates,” Whiteman says.
Just as important as personal care products are fruits and vegetables. The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce helps consumers shop smart, highlighting the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables.
Larbalestrier even makes her own medicinal remedies. “I think about what I put into my body. Aspirin and pain relievers are heavy on the liver so I try to be as natural as possible,” Larbalestrier says.
Everyone has a unique reason for wanting to create a healthy home.
“I had a child and started thinking about how to raise my baby in a healthy environment and noticed more and more kids and adults are having allergies that were not as prevalent when I was a kid,” Whiteman says. She advises taking your time to start. “Do it step by step. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to overhaul your whole home or life. Look at a product here and there.”
Larbalestrier advises getting your entire family involved, whether it is growing vegetables outside or gardening. “Most kids will love to help you cook and make cleaning products because it is fun.”