Home Detox 101 - Ditch VOCs

Hello A Fiery Peace readers!

Jenna kindly invited me to guest blog about how I’ve been working to detox my home furnishings. I care deeply about the subject of detoxing my environment as I’ve had numerous health issues tied to hormonal imbalances. While I make no medical claims, I can say that I began to find balance in my health with the joining of medical treatments and detoxing my home. However, a part of me still wishes to be blissfully ignorant of the toxins lurking around every corner. Home detoxing requires a commitment to look and respond to your actual needs versus wants, having a supportive partner who understands and is willing to change their habits, and it’s a financial commitment. It’s not easy, but I believe it’s worth it.

Sister Editorial Comment: I invited Kristie to write this blog after an all-day text onslaught of messages about environmentally friendly beanbag chairs. It seemed wise to channel her passion into something more productive than buying dorm room furniture.

It’s an unfortunate reality that most modern furniture contains harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These become airborne and negatively affect the air quality in our homes These chemicals are most commonly found in flame retardants, stain-resistant fabric coatings, particle board or pressed wood, and the paints, glues, and solvents used to treat furniture.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) classified formaldehyde a carcinogen (meaning it can cause cancer). We’re exposed to this harmful chemical through inhalation, ingestion, and/or contact. We may even feel immediate health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nasal passages, and throat which can develop into a cough or wheezing.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) VOCs can have numerous negative health effects such as headaches, nausea, and damage to organs or the central nervous system. Based on the information gathered by the National Center for Biotechnology, the VOCs released from paints, glues, solvents, and flame retardants are significantly negatively impacting our indoor air quality.

Now that you’re thoroughly terrified, here are some ways I reduce exposure to harmful chemicals in my home that are easy to adopt for your home too.

  1. When cleaning, avoid sweeping and dry dusting. This further kicks up all those nasty chemicals. Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe down furniture and a vacuum or mop to clean the floors.

  2. The more airflow you can get the better! When possible keep windows open and allow cross breezes to ventilate and thereby dilute the concentration of airborne pollutants.

  3. When conducting any home improvement projects ask for VOC free paints and glues and read the labels to determine what is in the product before bringing it into your home.

  4. If you’re planning on making your own furniture make sure you buy real wood, most of the wood purchased at hardwood stores are pressed boards which contain toxic glues.

Sister Editorial Comment: IF you’re planning on making your own furniture...ok Kristie.

A future, dream big, let’s do it goal of mine is to update all of my home furnishings. This is an extremely expensive route. To manage costs, I slowly cull particle board furniture and flame retardant mattresses, and couches. I started by identifying where I spend the most time, in bed, and updated accordingly.

Many great manufacturers now offer organic cotton and latex mattress which are flame retardant free and avoid pesticides found in traditionally sourced cotton. I bought a Saatva mattress and I would definitely recommend it. I also switched to a metal bed frame and organic cotton bed sheets, blankets, and comforter. Here are some places to shop:

  1. Boll and Branch

  2. Coyuchi

  3. Crate and Barrel

Sister Editorial Comment: Kristie wants you to know she’s not getting a kickback on these referrals. I want you to know not enough people read this blog for anyone to land paid endorsements.

Most other furniture becomes more difficult to replace since the price exponentially increases as you move away from mass-produced items. Because of this, I’ve decided that vintage (read “gently used”) furniture is my go to. Furniture built before the 1960s tends to be made of solid wood which is naturally toxin-free, aside from the finish. With 60 years past the date of production, the chemicals should minimally off-gas at worst.

While there may be a certain “how do I know this doesn’t have bed bugs” factor to buying a vintage chair, these chairs can be reupholstered using organic cotton or hemp ordered online.

While this process is more expensive than heading to IKEA, I balance the cost by purchasing less. When I chose to purchase furniture for my home I really ask myself, is this necessary?

While my inclination is to want an HGTV showcase home, I’m slowing down to ensure the purchases I make are not negatively impacting the health of the environment, my furry and nonfurry family, and myself. Yes, I’m asking all family members to make sacrifices (say goodbye to sleeping on the furniture dear dogs). I ultimately believe that preserving our health is more important than the small inconveniences of not having the perfect reading chair, board game table, or being banished to an organic cotton latex dog bed.

Additional resources can be found at:

-Kristie, the environmental and health concerned sister to the blogger