Meet Wellness Collective, our immersive curriculum with Athleta that hooks you up with actionable advice from the smartest experts and brand founders in wellness right now. Get the goods at our monthly event series in New York City, plus our online one-month wellness plans. Here, Well+Good Council member and founder of Ruan Living Sophia Gushée shares her four-week plan for detoxing your home.
True or false: Outdoor air is more polluted than indoor air. The answer? Not quite. Sure, you can physically see exhaust fumes coming out of trucks while you walk down the street with your matcha—but the EPA reports that some concentrations of pollutants are actually two to five times higher indoors than out.
“Indoor pollution is easy to overlook since it’s invisible, which makes it harder to recognize that these invisible exposures influence our biology—but they do,” says Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures and creator of the Ruan Detox Immersion.
And some of the biggest contributors to the not-so-good-for-you air quality come from the products you use in order to keep your space clean, says the EPA. (Oh, the irony.) “Most people assume that products sold on American store shelves are safe,” Gushée says. “It’s only through proactively reading more about indoor pollution that you can learn that most things in our homes contaminate air.”
Plus, by cleaning up the environment inside your home, you can help clean up the environment in general. “Ingredients have been found in wildlife and our greater ecosystem,” says Gushée of the potentially toxic additives found in many common household products.
But before you start holding your breath every time you log some hours in front of the TV or stop your weekly cleaning habit entirely, there are things you can do to detox your space and help out the planet at the same time. And considering that you do spend 90 percent of your time indoors, that’s a win/win.
Keep scrolling to see how you can detox your home from indoor air pollution in four weeks, from Gushée herself.
Her first tip is an easy one: Open your windows. When outdoor air quality is good (you can check this handy map to be sure), more ventilation will create better circulation throughout your space. When doing so, says Gushée, just “Consider outdoor allergens, traffic, pesticides (if you live near agriculture), and mosquitos.”
If you’re in the clear, an occasional breeze can be welcome year-round—especially if live in a pad where your landlord cranks up the heat to tropical temps in the winter.
If you’ve ever looked around at your (impressive) candle collection and thought, “Too much?” The answer might be maybe. “Toxic compounds can be created from combustion activities, like burning candles, fireplaces, cooking, and, of course, smoking,” says Gushée.
And while lighting your candles or cooking over a gas stove might not cause any serious health issues directly, Gushée recommends erring on the side of caution. “Toxic exposures do not necessarily cause long-term harm but they increase the likelihood of something going awry,” she says.
On week three, be ready to put your foot down (literally). When you’re having friends over for wine nights, politely ask your guests to remove their shoes. It’s an easy action that’ll result in fewer pollutants finding their way into your house.
“The bottom of our shoes can track in toxic chemicals and heavy metals, like coal tar, lead, pesticides, and more,” Gushée says. Because they’re invisible, these are things you can’t just Rumba away (and you’ll also be saving your vacuum the effort from sucking up all the IRL dirt, too).
For your final week of detoxing your home, you’ll need to take a closer look at all of your household products including ones that feature vinyl and other plastics.
“Buying fewer vinyl products is best for your home, body, and the environment because vinyl contaminates its environment from its manufacturing, during its use, and even after it sits in landfills, is incinerated, and floats in our oceans,” Gushée says. So it might be time to donate that vinyl arm chair—but who doesn’t love an excuse to redecorate?
The same goes for cleaning supplies. Try reducing your use of bleach by opting for hydrogen peroxide, and swap your standard all-purpose cleaner for a simple mixture of liquid castile soap and essential oils (whatever scent floats your fancy), recommends Gushée. Bonus: Store them in reusable glass containers, and you’ll also be reducing your plastic consumption at the same time.
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