Hardwood Floors: A Green Choice

Hardwood flooring is not only lovely and easy to clean, it’s one of the safest choices when choosing flooring for your home. Low in emission of formaldehyde, it has virtually no chemical elements of concern; the biggest challenge is having thousands of options when you’re trying to choose which one is the most affordable and durable for your particular home. To ease the stress and confusion, here are some key things to consider:

  • If going green is a priority, bamboo is one of the strongest flooring materials … AND a greener option!
  • Is refinishing your floor someday a task you’re willing to tackle? If you don’t see yourself sanding and staining fifteen years from now, then choose a cheaper option without all the layers to sand down.
  • Avoid glue, and instead choose options that involve floating, applying screws, or nailing down—this will eliminate the possibility for toxic fumes. If you have no choice but to use adhesive, we encourage you to seek out a toxic-free one.
  • Opting for hardwood that’s finished (sealed) is your best bet. Finishing the wood yourself can lead to exposure to toxic fumes, which is never recommended (remember this when considering refinishing them as well).
  • Consider the type of finish you want with regard to cleaning your hardwood floors. Having a finish that you can easily sweep and damp mop is nice for us “clean freaks.” And don’t forget steam cleaners work great too!
  • To ensure you’re getting a non-toxic wood, ask for the amount of formaldehyde emissions. The World Health Organization recommends lower than 0.042 ppm, so if the person you ask isn’t sure, ask for their Material Safety Data Sheet where that information should be listed.

Remember that when doing any type of remodeling, you should always consider the effects on you and your children. Dust and debris can cause respiratory issues, so always allow good ventilation and keep the kids out for a day until air is clean and clear again when possible.

Ceramic Tile: A Super Green Option

In choosing flooring for your new or existing home, ceramic tile is a safe, non-toxic option.

Not only is it free of chemicals found in most other synthetic flooring (such as laminate, vinyl and carpet), but it’s also easy to clean, allowing you to wash away any unwanted outside chemicals that come into your home. Ceramic tile itself is non-toxic, and often the installation is a non-toxic process as well.

Here are a few questions we recommend you ask your installer:

  • What type of sub-flooring are you putting in? (we recommend Wonder Board)
  • Is a latex adhesive being used? (though this may have some toxic fumes, they should subside within a day after tile cures)
  • What type of grout is being used? (using one that has a sealant in it may have some fumes (again only until it dries), but the benefits over the years may be worth it. Just ventilate!)
  • Do you have ventilation fans available to help keep dust and debris from spreading through the house? (this is especially important if removal of old flooring is necessary) Please note that it’s not common for most installers to provide this benefit; therefore, you may wish to at least run an air purifier during the installation process)

Remember that when doing any type of remodeling, you should always consider the effects on you and your children. Dust and debris can cause respiratory issues, so always allow good ventilation and keep the kids out for a day until air is clean and clear again when possible.

Buying Cleaning Products

Old fashioned vinegar and baking soda is not for everyone.  If you are someone who likes to grab a spray bottle and go, then here are a few suggestions for choosing safe cleaning products.  Always look for “toxic free” on the front of the bottle.  This is the most obvious and easiest way to know it is safe.   I suggest products made by companies like Sun & Earth, 7thGeneration, and Eco Store who made a commitment to going toxic free, and use natural ingredients for cleaning solutions.  They cover a wide variety of products including kitchen & bathroom.  Make sure that the ingredients are listed on the label.  Products that do not list this information are definitely a red flag.  Also being able to understand what is in the product without having a degree in chemistry is helpful.  Look for products that are derived from natural ingredients.  Here is a label from Sun & Earth’s All Purpose Spray Cleaner.

Ingredients:  Natural surfactants (made from coconut and vegetable oil), orange oil, preservative, water.

A label I can read and understand!  I also suggest making a list of what you want to switch out (tub cleaners, glass cleaners etc. all your toxic stuff!) and then choose a line of natural products like Sun & Earth or Eco Store and make the switch!  One bathroom and one kitchen cleaner is all you should need, but chances are there is allot more than that under your kitchen sink right now!

Here’s a list of some of the chemicals you DO NOT want to see in your cleaning products because they are toxic and harmful!

  • Kerosene
  • Phenol
  • Cresol
  • Lye
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Sulfamic acid
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Ammonia
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Butyl cellosolve
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Formaldehyde
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Morpholine

Carpet: A Toxic Wasteland?

While most people have carpet in their home, they may not realize the toxicity inherent in the materials, especially when it’s new. If you’ve ever had new carpet installed and experienced headaches, you may not be surprised to learn that most new carpets contain carcinogens— or environmental toxins—as well as formaldehyde, which is found in almost all flooring.

These toxins can cause a number of problems from asthma to cancer, and though the fumes will dissipate over time (months–years), it may be too late for your family’s health once that occurs.

Today there are healthier choices—such as organic wool—if you cannot live without your wall-to-wall carpeting. But be aware that just because you install non-toxic carpet doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Shoes, for one, act as a host for many chemicals to make their way onto carpet. (For important reading on this topic, see our post: Take Off Those Shoes!)

When choosing to carpet a room, here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • Carpets can hold eight times their weight in toxin-filled trapped dirt that is well hidden in the fibers and underneath the carpet.
  • The EPA has stated that 80% of human exposure to pesticides occurs indoors. Every time you spray for bugs or use a fogger, the chemicals settle in your carpet and remain there for years.
  • If you paint your room or put in new wood or laminate flooring in any part of your house, the carpet is very efficient at holding those toxins for you to inhale long after the work has been completed.

 

Remember that when doing any type of remodeling you should always consider the effects on you and your children. Dust and debris can cause respiratory issues, so always allow good ventilation and keep the kids out for a day until air is clean and clear again if possible.

Vinyl: A Safe Flooring Choice?

As you ponder purchasing flooring for your home, it’s vital you know that vinyl flooring is made of PVC. What’s the problem with that?

As the ingredient used to give flexibility to vinyl, PVC is a dangerous chemical that causes what’s known as “gassing” in your home—which is incredibly toxic. Rolls of vinyl are more toxic than vinyl tiles, so it’s safe to say that the softer the vinyl, the more toxic it is.

There have been suggestions that if you purchase vinyl and let it “gas out” in a safe place—possibly a garage—you can let the worst of the fumes out before installation. But let’s face it: your garage—or any area you would consider safe—is still gaining exposure. Other than leaving the material outside for weeks (which isn’t good for the environment either), there is really no safe place to gas it out.

Not only is the vinyl itself toxic, but the adhesive you use to install it is going to be too. Most adhesives contain formaldehyde, which is also toxic. While we understand that not everyone can afford hardwood or ceramic tile flooring, any alternative to vinyl is a better solution.

For alerts to other potentially harmful floor coverings, see the following posts: Laminate Flooring: A Carpet Alternative or Home Hazard? and Carpet: A Toxic Wasteland?

Remember that when doing any type of remodeling, you should always consider the effects on you and your children. Dust and debris can cause respiratory issues, so always allow good ventilation and keep the kids out for a day until the air is clean and clear again.

 

Swimming Pools

Are you a lucky homeowner with a pool? Or do you have regular access to one where you live?

If so, you may love the ease of which you can take a swim or splash around with your children on hot days. But you may also be surprised by how dangerous it can be—and we don’t mean for the obvious reasons of safety; rather our concern here lies in how they’re maintained.

The common way to keep swimming pools clean is to use chlorine. We’ve done it for years, so why is bathing in chlorine so dangerous?

Though you may not realize it, breathing the toxic fumes from chlorine is poisonous. Because chlorine is a pesticide whose sole purpose is to kill living organisms (not to mention it’s a carcinogen, which by now we all know is a cancer-causing toxin), chlorine exposure to your skin and lungs can be hazardous your family’s health.

But before you think this means giving up the family pool, we want you to know that there are options to keeping your pool clean and safe at the same time!

  • Consider using a chemical-free system. 

While the initial cost is an investment, they’re less expensive to maintain, more energy efficient, and there are savings over the long run, not to mention the added benefit of keeping your family safe and toxic-free.

How does it work? By using oxygen electrodes to deliver a non-chemical shock to your pool water with copper, which is a great algaecide and is deadly to viruses.

  • Bromine and salt systems are a safer alternative to chlorine.

While this is true, you must remember that these systems also pose possible hazards to your health.

A salt system’s main function is to create chlorine from salt and bromine. Although considered less toxic than chlorine, it is, sadly, still toxic! And while both alternatives reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals, they can still produce the effects of chlorine.

The bottom line is that chlorine, bromine, and salt systems all pose hazards to your health. The only way to be truly safe and enjoy swimming with your kids is to use a non-salt, non-chlorine, chemical-free system in your pool.

Steam Cleaners….my bff

Looking for a safe and effective way to clean without chemicals or vinegar, try steam cleaning. Now out on the market at a reasonable price is both portable and floor steam cleaners. I have to admit I have been using the floor cleaner for about a year and love it. I still like to use vinegar water every once in awhile for a bit of added shine, but for my weekly cleaning I use my steam mop. Just add water and go to town. The steam mop heats the water to create a steam that sanitizes and releases dirt at the same time. It comes with a pad for the bottom that wipes away that grime. When you are finished just toss the pad in the wash and finished! I like that it gets me off my hands and knees, on tile that gets kind of painful!

The portable steamer is my recent purchased and I am just starting to use this item. I have tile showers and wanted a way to really get the grout cleaned from time to time in the hard to reach spots. I will continue to use my vinegar water for daily cleaning, but this little steamer is awesome and powerful! It also can be used for removing wrinkles out of clothes, getting your glass stove top spotless and keeping your countertops beautiful! Again it is a definite compliment in the cleaning toxic free industry. Both items are a medium price, but I feel are worth the money. If you have tile floors the mop is a must have purchase in my book!

Take Off Those Shoes!

You may be surprised to learn that one of the simplest and most effective ways of going toxic-free is taking off your shoes before or upon entering your home. By adopting this one easy habit, you will virtually leave thousands of potentially harmful (not to mention disgusting!) chemicals at the door.

Ever wonder what all we step on each day? Do you know what exactly is on the bottom of your shoes? Chances are you don’t want to know, but if you’re dragging it around your floors and into your carpet, you are—without a doubt—potentially contaminating your whole family.

Picture this:

You stop to fill up your gas tank on your way home from work. You step out and stand where John Doe just dripped gasoline before you pulled up, then you head home and walk through your living room to pick up little Suzy and give her a kiss. Suzy sits back down on the floor to pick up her puzzle pieces, then decides she wants some cheerios and grabs a handful and shoves them in her mouth.

Are you with us here?

Little Suzy just put John Doe’s gas in her mouth because you didn’t take off your shoes.

If you give even brief consideration to how many chemicals and items of pure disgust you walk through each day with your shoes, it won’t be a difficult decision to start removing them at home. You’ll do your family a world of good … and there’s possibly nothing simpler than this one intelligent change in your daily routine.