Isn't it about time you jumped on the "going green" bandwagon? An eco-conscious frame of mind minimizes your impact on the environment. It also means better health and a cleaner home for your family. From mold prevention to HEPA filters and composting, your to-do list of environmental improvements should focus on the air you breathe, the land you own, and the way you clean. Where to start? Two top environmental experts offer 12 easy tips for going green and getting healthier.
Carpet bomb. Talk about unwanted guests: More than 30 spore-forming molds call your carpet home. But chemicals need not apply. An easy, nontoxic way to rid your plush rugs of disgusting dirt, grime, and mold is to get a vacuum fitted with the right filter -- and use it correctly, says Eugene Cole, DrPH, professor of environmental health sciences at Brigham Young University. Look for a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which captures and traps particles like mold and dust. A good trick of the trade: Every push and pull should last about 20 seconds -- 10 seconds up and 10 seconds back -- to ensure you're pulling the gunk out of your rug rather than just picking up crumbs.
Launder liabilities. Yes, dry cleaning means your shirts and pants are neatly pressed. It also means giving chemicals a free ride into your home. According to Cole, dry-cleaned clothes are immersed in chemicals that can cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and more. Worse, they stay put for up to four days after you bring your clothes home -- longer if you leave them in the bag. You have a few options. If you can't give up those freshly pressed shirts, air clothes out in the basement or garage for a few days before you wear them. Choice two for your dry-clean-only clothes: Try professional wet cleaning, which uses a chemical-free formula. Where you can, save some money and do your own laundry and ironing.
Vinegar victory. All-natural vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent without the toxic trouble of many products. Jason Marshall, ScD, lab director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, explains that vinegar from your grocer's shelf destroys dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, knocking their numbers down from 1 million to a mere and lonely one. Simply spray undiluted vinegar on a surface, leave it for 30 seconds, then wipe clean. Voila! You've achieved a nearly 100% reduction in bacteria.
Elbow grease. For tougher jobs, mechanical cleaning (that is, good old-fashioned scrubbing) alone can remove almost 100% of bacteria, says Marshall. Hot water and soap on a clean microfiber towel will remove 99.9% of the germs you're trying to get rid of. If you're gung-ho for that extra 0.1%, use an earth-friendly, chemical-conscious cleaner that's been vetted by a green group such as the Environmental Protection Agency and marked with a seal, such as the DfE (Design for the Environment) label or the Green Good Housekeeping Seal.