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How to Detox Your House

The Biggest Problems continued...

Chemical fumes emitted by certain cleaning products can also cause health problems: Exposure to elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in some sprays can result in eye, nose, and throat irritation. (Research shows that another VOC, used in solid deodorizers like air fresheners, may lead to lung damage.)

Your Detox Duties

Check your burners: If flames are yellow-tipped, that may mean your stove is releasing too much CO. If you see yellow consistently, call your manufacturer to find out if your burners should be readjusted.

If you don't have one already, install an exhaust hood vented to the outdoors. You can buy a good unit for as little as $200 and have it put in for a few hundred dollars.

If you do have an exhaust fan, clean it. A filthy unit won't remove as much smoke and grease as it should. Start by soaking the mesh filter in a sink of hot soapy water (use an all-purpose household cleaner or dishwashing liquid), say GHRI cleaning pros. Then rinse and let dry. Or place the filter in the upper rack of the dishwasher and run it through a normal cycle (check your user's manual to make sure this won't damage the part). You should also get grime off the fan blades with a clean, damp cloth.

To reduce exposure to irritating fumes, cut back on your use of cleaning products. When you do use strong-smelling chemicals, do so in a well-ventilated area, as the label instructs. Or use an all-purpose product that's fume-free, such as one from the green brand Seventh Generation.

The Biggest Problem

In your bathroom and basement:
The thought of spores colonizing anywhere is gross, but especially in your home. Besides being ultra-ugly and smelly, mold can trigger allergic reactions (watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, and headaches). And research shows that some strains may be toxic.

Mold can be found anyplace that's excessively moist. Typically, that means bathrooms and basements, where humidity levels tend to be high. So concentrate on those rooms — but also give your entire house a once-over to make sure there's no peeling paint, rotting windowsills, or other signs of water damage and mold.

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