Open Wide

Open Wide

What do we have more of in our houses – solid surfaces or air? We spend all this time talking about safe ways to clean the surfaces in our houses, but the dirtiest element of all, the element that makes us sick the most, the element that we have the most of, is the air itself. The most polluted air most of us will ever breathe is the air inside our houses. Think of all the exhalations from every person and every animal happening every minute in your house. Think of all the cooking fumes, the bathroom fumes, the sneaker fumes, the outgassing of your furniture, carpet, new Tupperware. Think of every sneeze, every cough, every burp, and toot. This all needs to get out!

Houses have become very airtight – which is good for the efficiency of our air conditioning and heating systems. However, this is horrible for the cleanliness of the air. The filters on our ducts can clean out the particulates in the air, but they can’t accomplish everything. Neither are candles the solution. I like candles – they are helpful in reducing cooking smells and are just plain cozy. But they’re also burning the oxygen in the air, and depending on the candles, can be releasing all manner of strange waxy chemicals into the air as they burn. Ever think about what makes them “dripless” and where does that wax go?

Changing the air in your house is one of the key initial steps to improving the health of your household. Even if you are using less toxic cleaners and you haven’t bought new carpet recently, the mere living that all your household’s residents are doing is polluting the air. The outside air in the most urban of areas is usually cleaner than the air inside our houses.

Have you stopped to think about why people get sicker in the winter? It’s been well established that the weather doesn’t make us sick. We don’t get sick because it’s cold outside. We get sicker in the winter because we stay inside, with the windows closed, and breathe on each other all day. Even at school (which is really ridiculous here in San Diego), there are days when the schools decide it’s “too cold” to play outside. Too cold for what? What are we protecting our children from? They’ll be healthier running around in cold, fresh air, than staying cooped up in their classrooms inhaling each other’s germs.

Now I say this from the comfort of my complete ignorance of what true cold is really like. The furthest north I’ve lived is Raleigh, NC, and San Diego just had one of the coldest nights in recent history – we might have hit 29 F. However, the need still remains.

I take advantage of those little window locks that let me keep my windows open about two inches. I don’t feel that it is as much of a security risk. If it really is cold outside (and yes, I know my definition of “really cold” is very naïve), I open the bedroom windows and shut the bedroom doors during the day so that the room can air out without freezing the whole house. Even if the windows are only open for an hour – even 10 minutes – a lot of good will be done. At least the cold air is clean air.

So, open up!

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Katie Loxtercamp says:

I love that you understand your limit to understanding “true cold”. Being a true Minnesotan I can tell you about cold, and those in Wyoming will probably be able to educate me. 🙂 Right now Alaska is over 40° warmer then MN; yet I do believe in allowing the fresh air in. Even if you can’t speak elequently on what cold is, I can. Although each body acclimated to “their cold” so as long as everyone is smart and keeps themselves warm that’s what’s important; I would never expect my Kenyan friends to wear shorts in 55°, but I allow my boys to because our bodies have acclimated to it. Also don’t stick me in 90° temps & expect me not to have a heat stroke! 🙂 Currently it is -12° without the windchill figured in, with windchill it’s a frigid -27°. Hard to fathom for those who put coats on at 60°; hey that’s summer for us! 🙂 I love what you’re saying & more people need the education, most can’t afford an air exchange unit with hepa filter & even if they can, not all are installed properly. I have always slept with my bedroom window open, as did my parents, and grandmother. As long as we keep ourselves from fatigue the cold won’t hurt us; it’s when we wear our bodies out that the cold can affect us because our immune systems are down & we are bombarded with viruses so our body just can not handle being assulted on another front. Keep teaching! I love what your company stands for and wish more people would become educated. Thanks for all you do!

Maria says:

I just found this blog and love it, as well as my Dr. Bronner products! Thank you for all of this helpful information. In addition to opening our windows once in a while and using green products, I also recently bought an essential oil diffuser. It seems to help with air purification.

Lisa Bronner says:

@Michelle – Sounds like you’re doing the best things already. Another thing to consider, though, is that if you bring something into the house that’s going to outgas – new furniture, carpet – or have newly painted surfaces, or have freshly dry cleaned clothes, allow extra time for airing out the house. Basically, if you can smell it, it needs to get out. With dry cleaned clothes, I take the plastic off, and leave the clothes in a well ventilated area for a day or two. Those chemicals are really potent.


michelle says:

do you have other suggestions on how to keep the air in our homes clean?
I do open windows every day for at least 5 minutes, use only vinegar to clean my floors, keep the heat down etc.
i want to do more to help us live healthy!
Thanks for your tips! and keep em coming!

Andie says:

absolutely Lisa – such great, common sense advice as usual, thanks for the reminder.

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

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