A fresh breeze without Febreze

There are very good reasons why you should ditch that stuff along with most of the chemicals we commonly keep in our homes these days. We tend not to think that much about breathing as it comes so automatically to us. And yet, it is such a vital and basic function of our body which is why it is also so effective as a meditation practice – as many a yogi will probably tell you. It also features in short literary pieces such as Samuel Beckett’s “Breath” and is the first thing we actively do after we are born and the last thing before we pass away.

So what about the air we breathe? How does it affect us and what can we do to improve it? This is just a short post to share a few ideas with you.

While we all have to work together in order to ensure the good air quality in our villages and towns (let’s get on to VW!), there are at least some very simple steps you can take in order to increase the air quality in your home.


#1 Open your windows regularly.


Sounds simple! And despite statistics showing the air quality outside has quite literally gone out the window, it is a very good idea to do so. Thinking about it, the Victorians probably had a point in some ways to keep theirs shut in their day. Think of all the coal they used to burn in those days. We are however a long way away from their stuffy curtains and carpets. Circulating the air is the best way to prevent the build-up of mould in bathrooms and lingering smells like stale cooking odours (not to mention other things) in your home. There is perhaps even an issue with insulation, although the benefits far outweigh the problems as it is very probably the most energy-efficient way.

#2 Frequent hoovering – sorry, but that is a must (I hate it, too and therefore my husband very kindly does it). That way, you can get rid of dust mites most effectively – and not just on carpets and rugs – do this with your mattress every once in a while. It is a good idea to treat all of the above with bicarbonate of soda, leave it on for several hours, then hoover it up.


#3 Use natural cleaning products (and have a look at my Resources) –  perhaps not surprisingly, products such as Vanish, chlorine bleach and the lot should not be part of your household cleaners or at least be used very sparingly, especially when you are pregnant and have a baby. Their frequent use is linked to respiratory diseases such as asthma.

#4 Grow a variety of houseplants – although thoughts vary on this, there is good evidence and proof that at least it improves the general ambience of your home. I outlined this in some detail in one of my previous posts. Living walls, however, be counterproductive if not maintained properly.


#5 Make natural air fresheners and absolutely ditch the air spray and anything you will have to plug in. The latter also comes in ridiculous amounts of packaging and contain VOC‘s. Products such as Febreze were evaluated in 2009 by the EWG (Environmental Working Group). Results showed that the product (Hawaiian Aloha option) released 89 air contaminants, including one carcinogen. On the label, a vague number of ingredients is listed: odour eliminator, water, fragrance, non-flammable natural propellant, and quality control ingredients.

The EWG looked into it and found:

  1. Acetaldehyde (California’s Prop 65 list for cancer and reproductive toxicity)
  2. Ethyl Acetate (a chemical toxic to the brain and nervous system)
  3. BHT (linked with neurotoxicity, hormone disruption, allergies, and irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs)
  4. Propylene glycol (linked with allergies and skin and eye irritation)
  5. 1,3-dichloro-2-propanol, which is also used in flame retardants, resins, plastics, and rubber. It has been linked with cancer in animal studies, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency.

After the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) had tested 14 different air fresheners in 2007, including Febreze, they were able to find that they contained phthalates, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals and have been linked with childhood asthma.

#6 Make your own potpourris according to the season. Lavender sachets in summer. Fill them with fresh lavender and place them around the house. Orange and cloves for Christmas. Tie a nice ribbon around the orange and cross it over once and bring it back, so that you can see four quarters of orange peel. Stick a whole bunch of cloves into it, perhaps make a pattern and display it in your living room.


#7 You might want to invest in a  dehumidifier with an ionizer. While the dehumidifying aspect seems pretty self-explanatory the ionizing side doesn’t seem as straightforward. The thought is that negative ions (funnily enough) have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. At the moment, however, the biological plausibility of this cannot entirely be proven.

#8 You might want to invest in an air freshener/purifier. There are a variety of models on the market. These types have been tested and thoroughly reviewed on reviews.com.

#9 Get rid of carpeting and linoleum flooring and choose paints and varnishing for your floors that are certified, i. e. have an EU Eco-label (we’ll see what happens to this after Brexit). A major source of man-made VOCs is in coatings, especially paints and protective coatings. Typical solvents are aliphatic hydrocarbonsethyl acetate, glycol ethers, and acetone. Motivated by cost, environmental concerns, and regulation, the paint and coating industries are increasingly shifting toward aqueous solvents.

#10 I forget to mention one thing: don’t smoke. Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have forgotten to do this but the anti-smoking campaign has been one of the most successful campaigns in recent history. Let’s hope the same is going to happen to plastics!!


Please share some of your thoughts and thanks for reading

Josephine xx


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