Friday, April 2, 2010

The Smell of Clean

Newsflash: There really is no such thing as a clean smell! Sure, scents like 'fresh linens,' and 'ocean breeze,' from scented oil plug-ins and sprays smell good, and there was a time and place when people thought that if your house smells like Pledge and Pine-Sol, it was clean!
The truth is, clean does not have a smell! We have only associated certain scents to the characteristic of cleanliness, but it's all in our heads. Aerosol sprays only mask odors, it does not get rid of it. If you have rotting food in your refrigerator, the foul smell will filter in to the kitchen no matter how much Oust you spray around. These sprays only mask the bad smells with another one, one that smells 'clean.' Lysol and other bacteria-killing and odor-killing sprays are laden with very toxic chemicals, and spraying them around may kill germs, but think about the chemicals that will stay on surfaces that we touch. 

There are other foul things lurking in the air inside our homes.Synthetic building materials used in modern construction have been found to produce potential pollutants that remain trapped in these unventilated buildings. These pollutants can also trigger a host of allergies.If your home has really good, new windows, you know that they seal everything out. These can trap pollutants called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) coming from the building materials, paint and furniture, as our homes and offices are virtually sealed off from the outside environment. Ideally, new furniture (recognize the new smell?), new carpet and new paint should be allowed to off-gas, to allow for the evaporation of synthetic compounds used in the manufacturing of these products (think new car smell). Some studies have suggested that people who are exposed to formaldehyde for long periods are more likely to experience asthma-related respiratory symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing. Formaldehyde also comes from paints, varnishes, and floor finishes (fresh finishes tend to produce high formaldehyde levels), as well as fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and commonly causes burning and watering eyes, skin irritation, and rashes.

If you have new furniture, the best thing you can do is let it sit unwrapped in the garage (where you don't normally circulate) for a about a week, with a window or door cracked open. You can also request your carpet people to have the bolt your are purchasing sit in their warehouse with circulating air before they bring it into your home.

Otherwise, stick to nature. Certain houseplants not look pretty; they also convert carbon dioxide and remove harmful elements such as formaldehyde from the air. 

Here are the top ten examples, mostly available at your local nursery.

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium', heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana', cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig', Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii', Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa', peace lily 
 Plants, top to bottom: Ficus Tree, Heartleaf Philodendron, English Ivy


Next: Non-toxic household cleaners


jennifer said...

I'm such a plant killer :( The succulents have survived, though!

aura garcia said...

Well, sad to say, me too. When they die, I tell my kids they're 'annuals' hahaha. But you are right, succulents are pretty hardy.