Smart Home

How to Green and Detox Your Bedroom

Your bedroom may look beautiful, but is it a health hazard? Find out how to sleep well without inhaling toxins.
I'll admit that I never quite thought about an eco-friendly bedroom. Green means saving money on electric and water bills in the kitchen and bath -- but bedrooms? Well, yes. Green means taking care of toxicity issues throughout your home. "The bedroom is not the place to ignore when it comes to environmentally-conscious decisions," says eco-expert Sophie Uliano, author of book and blog, Gorgeously Green. "After all, we spend half our life with our head buried in our pillow." Here, she offers tips on how to get a healthier night's sleep.
Ditch air fresheners and candles
While you shouldn't use commercial air fresheners, Uliano warns, "You can't be sure that so-called natural products don't have damaging phthalates in them, either." If we can't use air fresheners, how do we handle musty closets? By putting baking soda and borax together in a cardboard shoebox with holes punched into the top (tape the shoebox shut) and place it in a corner of the closet to get rid of the damp smell.
The best air freshener, besides fresh air, is a pure essential oil. She shares a recipe for linen spray: Put two tablespoons of vodka in a spray bottle, add distilled water, leaving one and a half inches from the top of the bottle, and then add one teaspoon of lavender and one teaspoon of lemongrass essential oils for a fresh scent. Spray over linens, and don't forget to spray the hamper every so often.
Even those candles touted as green typically contain artificial essential oils, says Uliano. "You'll know they do because essential oils have a subtle fragrance rather than one that knocks you over," she explains. Beeswax candles are healthy and economical alternatives that even those who suffer from allergies and asthma can live with.
Invest in wool bedding
The most important investments for your bedroom -- and your home -- are the mattress, pillow and comforter, says Uliano. There are fire retardants in everything, the green diva adds, but these chemicals can be dangerous. She strongly recommends organic wool bedding which naturally retards flames, dust mites and mold. Uliano shares a resource she found, Holy Lamb Organics, for organic wool bedding. "Once you buy wool bedding, you will never need to buy it again," she adds about the material's lasting quality.
We wondered if wool wouldn't be scratchy or hot for sleeping? "I have an organic wool comforter that I use in different temperatures," says Uliano. "It keeps me warm in cool weather, but it is not suffocating." To maintain a wool comforter, hang it over a clothes line or lay it flat to let the sun dry and air it out. "Do as the Europeans do and hang it over a balcony, then beat it with a broom to clean it," suggests Uliano. "Never bring it to the dry cleaners."
Choose -- then wash -- sheets wisely
According to many reports, including those from the California Energy Commission and the EPA, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It's not just found in furniture, it is added to items such as sheets, bedspreads and curtains, in order to decrease wrinkles. If you don't wash new sheets, you'll be sleeping on and inhaling formaldehyde. Your best bet? Flannel, knit and of course, organic cotton sheets. But Uliano doesn't stop there. "Stop buying white linens for the bedroom because to keep them white, you will need to use bleach or laundry detergent with phosphates," she says. "Whiteners create an optical illusion -- your whites will actually have a slightly blue tint, which gives the perception of being white." Next time you shop for sheets and towels, buy neutral colors so you won't have to rely on harsh detergents to keep them looking good.
Buy antique or real wood furniture
This is a health, not decorating issue. Uliano never buys anything made with particleboard and pressboard -- material used to construct inexpensive composite wood furniture and kitchen cabinets, which can be found on the backs of bedroom dressers, desks and closet organizers. This material can emit formaldehyde for years, and you don't want to inhale that while sleeping. Instead, she haunts thrift and antique stores, but she offers this advice: Make sure you buy real wood furniture, and nothing with a smooth plastic finish or top because that's may be a sign of lurking particleboard.
Clean up naturally
The recipes for natural cleaners can make your head spin, but Uliano has simplified it. Her suggestion: Wash interior windows with club soda and a rag. To spot clean your bedroom carpet, use inexpensive, eco-friendly borax. Her favorite cleaning trick: Blot the stain, pour a bit of ice water on it, sprinkle on borax, put a damp rag over it, massage the rag into the stain, blot with clean rags and repeat until the stain is gone. Uliano believes there's no need for harsh cleaning chemicals in the bedroom.
The bottom line? Don't panic if you have "wrinkle-free" sheets, particle-board furniture, aromatic candles, cans of air freshener and nothing wool in your room besides your winter coat. Make changes gradually, replacing your bedding and furniture as needed and cleaning with natural solutions right away, and you'll sleep and wake up to a healthier home.
Photo Credit: Flickr : Sanctu

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