People come up with lots of ways to make living at home more convenient. Automatic thermostats, smart home appliances, and even residential garage door openers all help make life at home easier. But it’s less often that people think of ways to make your home healthier.
Whether you’re concerned about your impact on the environment, or you want the very best for your children’s health, or you just want to take better care of yourself, there are lots of ways you can make your home healthier. From watching out for common child safety hazards to making more environmentally-friendly choices, keep reading to learn how to make your home healthier, safer, and more eco-friendly.
Check for Roof Damage and Leaks
Checking for leaks and water damage is a more unexpected way to make your home healthier. Mold can develop in just 24 hours following a flood, but it can develop slowly over time too if there are water leaks in the house. You might feel like water couldn’t possibly hurt anything if it’s not clearly getting in the way, but when it’s hidden behind walls and ceilings it can actually be the most insidious: since the leaks are out of sight you likely won’t notice them and if the water isn’t dried up right away it can result in a serious mold problem for your home. In turn, having mold growing in your home can cause your family to experience respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, cough, and sinus conditions, or even worse.
Since water damage can significantly affect your family’s health, you’ll want to find out right away if there are any problems with your plumbing or roofing. The position of your house can also subject it to water damage. For example, if it sits at the bottom of a hill, rainwater is more likely to pool around the foundation and seep through the walls.
While you really need a professional contractor or home inspector to catch everything, you can find any obvious signs of water damage yourself. Starting outside your home, check for signs of water runoff from any hills leading to your house. Look at your rain gutters, and make sure they’re leak-free and built to carry water well away from the house. Otherwise, it could seep down into the ground and compromise your walls or foundation. You may need to wait for a rainy day to get an accurate idea of how water behaves around your home.
While you’re outside, take a look at your external window and door frames. If there’s any separation between the windows or doors and the frames around them, or any soft spots in the material, it could be a sign of window leaks. Even a small leak could result in higher humidity indoors, which could lead to mold growth.
Finally, you should look for signs of water damage inside your home. These can include brownish water rings in the walls or ceilings, which could be a sign of leaking pipes behind them or a leaking roof above; soft or sinking floors, especially near tubs, sinks, and appliances like dishwashers; and cracking or warping in wood, laminate, or tile flooring, which could mean water is seeping from somewhere into the floors.
Next take a look inside your attic for any of the aforementioned signs of water damage. You may even find water dripping down from the roof or pooling on the floor, especially if you check for leaks during a storm. You should also check your basement, where you should easily be able to notice any leaking pipes. If your basement is unfinished, signs of rainwater damage could be small pools of water near the walls, or water residue running down the walls themselves.
Finally, you may notice a wet, musty smell just from walking around your home. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you have water damage and you should consider hiring a water damage restoration expert to make your home healthier.
Drink Clean, Filtered Water
While we’re on the subject of how water can make your home healthier (or less so), let’s talk about the water that you drink. You probably already know how important it is for your health to drink plenty of water, but have you thought about the water you’re drinking? Bottled water may be purified, but the bottles it comes in are terrible for the environment and often manufactured with BPA, which can cause reproductive and neurological disorders. Meanwhile, city water supplies are often treated with fluoride and even chlorine, which may not be the best thing for your family’s health. And if your home has a well for its water supply, you probably shouldn’t be drinking from it, at least unless you’ve had the water tested.
The best way to get clean, healthy water right when you need it is to use a water treatment system that purifies it for drinking. Some treatment systems only remove physical particles, like sediments, from water, but others can remove practically all chemical and mineral substances, resulting in clear, pure water. Reverse osmosis filters are a good example of this. You might want to have a professional test your home’s tap water to determine what type of filtration system is appropriate.
Having plenty of drinking water available is critical for keeping yourself and your family properly hydrated, but if your water itself isn’t clean, you could literally be poisoning yourselves. Take the steps necessary to ensure your drinking water is safe and healthy.
Use Low-VOC Paint
Just as integral as proper hydration is proper breathing — in fact, breathable air is the one thing we need most in order to survive. But how’s the quality of air in your house?
People who live in big cities or areas with a lot of industry often have to put up with intense air pollution. In fact, some experts speculate that living in a major city might even take years off your lifespan, just for the pollution in the air. Fortunately, most people spend more time indoors than outside, where the air quality is a little easier to control. However, given the state of the air outside in some urban areas, it’s especially important that you avoid bringing anything indoors that could diminish the quality of your family’s breathing air.
That’s where low- and no-VOC paints come in. VOC are organic chemical compounds with significant vapor pressures, which adversely affect the environment and human health. They’re also used in most consumer paints, which is why a freshly-painted room will often have that overpowering chemical smell. When you use paints with little to no VOC, you’ll immediately notice the difference because it gives off almost no odor while drying.
The next time you hire house painters to repaint your home, make sure to purchase environmentally-friendly paint that’s listed as being low-VOC or no-VOC. It’s especially important if you have young children, as kids tend to breathe more air than adults and chemicals can wreak havoc on a developing brain and body.
Along those same lines, if your house doesn’t have a high-quality air filter installed in it, you should seriously consider investing in one, especially if you live in a city or highly industrialized area. It’s one thing to be out and about in polluted air during the day, but you want the air you breathe at home and during the night to be clean and healthy.
Install Safer Amenities
It probably isn’t necessary to have a house that’s wheelchair-accessible to make your home healthier, but certain ways your house may be set up could pose a health or safety hazard to your family. For example, anyone can slip and fall in the shower, regardless of their age. Having appropriately-placed handles and grip supports can help your family avoid slips and falls, even if the only real risk is a few bruises.
If you have small children, even a generally safe house can be full of risks. When toddlers are first learning to run, they don’t have the awareness to avoid bumping into things. Worse, things like table corners and even wall ornaments are often situated at eye level for little kids. Applying foam corners to sharp angles like these can substantially reduce your child’s risk of getting hurt while playing.
If you live in a multi-story home, stairs represent a constant threat for everyone’s wellbeing. Even if you’re perfectly healthy and strong, it’s important for staircases to have sturdy rails or bannisters to hold while you go down the steps. The steps themselves should be covered in a material that’s at least somewhat slip-resistant, especially if there are children or elderly people in your home.
If you have an older relative living with you, or if you’re getting up in years yourself, residential lifts can help keep everyone from getting hurt on stairs. They are even quite useful for pregnant mothers as a way to prevent slips and falls as you go from one floor to the next.
If you’ll take a walk around your home and yard, you’ll quickly pick up on things that could be minor health hazards, just because they’re set up in sub-optimal ways. Using a below-ground sprinkler system can reduce the need for long, wiry hoses, which can be tripping hazards. Proper shelving and storage can help discourage family members from leaving tools and clothes on the floor, which might also cause others to trip. Even home security systems and automation devices can help by deterring break-ins and keeping everyone secure. While you may not have a ton of money to invest in home infrastructure like this, it’s still something worth thinking about.
While you’re outside, look out for things like storm damage on your house or nearby trees. A thunderstorm can cause tree branches and parts of your roof or siding to weaken, eventually resulting in falling debris that can seriously injure anyone walking underneath. Looking for signs of damage ahead of time can literally save a life.
Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
Much like the different kinds of paint, home cleaning products can do a lot to make your home healthier — or they can have the opposite effect. Since cleaning products are found in the home goods section of any retailer, with a neat-looking logo from a big brand name and no obvious warning labels, it’s easy to assume they’re harmless. However, although these products wouldn’t necessarily kill you if used carefully, depending on how picky you are, they’re not always healthy choices.
Consumer cleaning products typically use a ton of chemicals to get jobs done, from synthetic detergents to harsh bleaches. If you look closely, you’ll often find discreet warning labels on the back with rather horrifying side effects from misuse. And if you have young children, you know how adventurous they can be. Catching them with their hands in the cookie jar is one thing, but finding them with a face full of chemicals because you forgot to lock a cabinet door is something no parent wants to experience. And if those products are bad for humans, imagine what they do to the environment when they get flushed down the drain, eventually ending up in rivers and lakes.
Fortunately, there are alternative options that can make your home healthier, and the alternatives work just as effectively as traditional chemical cleaners. Brands like Seventh Generation and Ecover do an excellent job manufacturing cleaning products that work, while minimizing their environmental impact and producing a healthier product. From drain cleaning to window washing, strive to use low-chemical, low-risk cleaning products around your house.
Watch Out for Developing Allergies
One thing you have to watch out for to make your home healthier is developing allergies. While allergies can’t usually be cured or necessarily prevented, it’s important to notice them if they arise so you can keep family members away from things that trigger allergic reactions.
Allergens around the home are most likely to trigger inhalant allergies, as opposed to food or singing insect allergies. Symptoms that may indicate an allergic reaction include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and itching of the nose. Medications can help manage these symptoms and there may be shots available to address their cause, however it’s usually possible to address the source of the allergen. Dust mites, mold, and fur and dander from pets can trigger allergic reactions in some children, as well as cigarette smoke and some perfumes. Hypoallergenic sheets and bedding can increase quality of sleep for a person with allergies, because they’re made from a material that’s resistant to common allergens.
From water purification to eco-friendly cleaning products, these are all some significant ways you can make your home healthier for your family.