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How to Detox Your House

The Biggest Problems continued...

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:
Mold.
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.

To put a stop to growth, you have to control the moisture level in your home. Indoor humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent (buy a hygrometer at your local hardware store to measure your house's level). If your home is more moist than that, buy a dehumidifier and fix leaks right away (mold grows quickly under the right conditions).

Your Detox Duties

Scrub grout with a mix of 1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach and six cups water (use a stronger solution if necessary), and rinse. Remember to wear rubber gloves and keep the room well ventilated.

Clean both sides of rubber mats with the bleach solution above, but first check the label: Some brands are machine-washable, so you can conserve your energy and save yourself precious time.

Put plastic shower curtains in the wash for five minutes on the gentle setting. If they're moldy, GHRI recommends adding 3/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach to the load.

Consider installing an exhaust fan that's vented to the outside, if you don't have one in the bathroom already. Ventilation is key to keeping this room dry and toxin-free.

Check cement walls (particularly near the floor, ceiling, and windows) and crawl spaces in the basement for mold. If you find patches, scrub them away (wearing gloves and using lots of elbow grease) with a stiff brush soaked in a solution of one cup liquid chlorine bleach and one gallon water. Do the same thing for painted walls. (Tip: If you have to repaint any areas, mix a mildew-resistant additive into the can first.)

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