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Our furniture and the products we use to clean it may make our homes more comfortable, but they contribute largely to the presence of toxins in the air. Carpeting, wood flooring, computers, and televisions, over time, can introduce some potentially harmful chemicals into the home—you just can’t always see them. For example, formaldehyde can be found in dyes, cleaners, toiletries, and many wood products, and in large amounts can cause irritation of the eyes, respiratory system, and a sick nauseas feeling overall. Exposure to benzene, which can dry the skin, upset the stomach, and cause dizziness, can occur in the home due to paint, wax, and gas stoves. Acetone, xylene, and ammonia can all be found in small amounts in the home, and while small amounts might not enough to make you sick, it is probably for the best if we try to limit them as much as we can.
Luckily, house plants can help us make our homes cleaner and healthier by filtering toxins, specifically those mentioned, out of the air. Several of these house plants are staples in the home—you may not realize it, but many of the plants in your house are working hard to improve your air quality by absorbing pollutants through their leaves. Some of these common plants include:
Bath and Beauty
Many people swear by store-bought hot oil treatments to nourish and condition dull dry hair, but with oil, herbs, and fruit on hand, you can make your own conditioning treatments that will work just as well and without the cost. Many of the oils you might have in the pantry will add shine, moisture, and nutrients to your hair: olive oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, among others, work incredibly well. Herbs from the garden may be infused into this oil to add color enhancement qualities to the conditioner, like hibiscus and cinnamon for redheads, chamomile for blondes, and rosemary and clove for brunettes. These herbs will also work to cleanse your hair, and leave you with a fresh scent. Place desired amount of oil and herbs into a bowl, and place that bowl into a pot of water over low heat (if you have one, use a double boiler). Let the herbs and oil “cook” for about an hour, and strain the herbs from the oil. This oil can be used right away (if not too hot—be careful) or stored in a jar for several months. When applying to your hair after shampooing, try to coat your hair as much as possible without using so much that it drips. Concentrate on the roots and ends of your hair that tend to see the most damage. You can place a shower cap around your hair to prevent getting the oil everywhere. Leave it in for about as long as you would leave in a commercial hot oil treatment or longer for particularly dry and damaged hair.
One of the simplest things you can do to make yourself feel refreshed and revitalized is to clean your mouth and breath, but not everyone can stand using mouthwash that can burn and irritate. Luckily, a little herb snack during the day could help you fight unpleasant breath. Chlorophyll has been found to be an effective weapon against bad breath bacteria, so chewing on herbs rich in chlorophyll like parsley, basil, and cilantro can help your mouth feel cleaner during the day. You can also chew on peppermint, an excellent antiseptic, that will not only give you a jolt of minty flavor that will uplift and energize you, but also rid your mouth of microbes.
Add fresh or dried herbs to your bath water after a long day to help you relax or help you decongest if you’re feeling under the weather. Try adding peppermint, rosemary, lavender, sage, chamomile, fennel, thyme, or basil to your bath. Place your herbs in a cotton bag to prevent debris from clogging the drain or sticking to your body, and submerge it into your bath.
An excellent way to freshen small rooms and spaces is to bring your fresh herbs indoors. Dry herbs like lavender by hanging them or laying them flat on newspaper in a dry place. Once dried, collect the buds in cotton bags and place them anywhere you’d like a fresh scent. These little sachets work great when placed in dresser or vanity drawers or closets.
If you are interested in cleaning or freshening your home with essential oils, but are put out by the high cost, it is possible to make your own if you have a slow cooker or crock-pot. Jojoba, vegetable, and olive oils can all be infused with the scent of herbs and flowers growing in your garden to create an “essential oil.” Add the desired amount of oil to your slow cooker, a liberal amount of your favorite fragrant flowers, whole spices, and herbs, and cook on low heat for around eight hours. After straining the debris from the oil, you can jar and store this oil for use for several months. Keep in mind—this is not true essential oil. Essential oil produced commercially is created from an elaborate distillation process that yields a very strong and pure oil from the plant. Stovetop essential oil is an infusion that makes an excellent addition to homemade cleaning solutions and reed diffusers, but should not be used medicinally, cosmetically, or eaten.
For odor-free and fresh-smelling carpets, you can mix many fragrant herbs with baking soda, a natural deodorant, to create a carpet powder. Mix equal parts of baking soda, and crumbled or ground herbs like mint, rosemary, or lavender in a container that can be sealed and placed into the refrigerator when not in use. You may choose to leave the herb and baking soda mix in the refrigerator overnight to intensify the scent or you can use your carpet freshener immediately. Sprinkle the mixture over any rug or carpet (you may want to spot test a small area first—just to be on the safe side), let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum it up. Not only will your carpets smell great, but anywhere you run your vacuum, you’ll get a burst of fresh scent.
To keep help keep bugs out of your home, try bringing some of your plants indoors. If you have the sunlight, bring your rosemary, peppermint, and catnip inside in containers. Many insects, mosquitoes included, find these and similar strong-scented plants repulsive. If you can’t grow herbs indoors, simply bring fresh cuttings from your plants inside to rest on window sills or near entrances and replace them when they’ve become dry. You can also use citrus peels in this way to repel pests.
Speaking of citrus peels, grind dried grapefruit, lemon, or orange peels into a powder and mix one part peel, one part borax, and two parts baking soda to make an all natural and deodorizing scouring powder that is incredible for cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, and floors.
Vinegar is one of the most miraculous and useful cleaning fluids in the entire world. People have been using vinegar to clean counters, floors, fixtures, appliances, and almost everything else for years due to its amazing disinfecting and deodorizing properties. It’s also earth-friendly and cost-effective. Unfortunately, before vinegar dries completely, it can make you and your house smell like a marinade. You can add delicious scents to your vinegar and amplify the cleaning abilities of your cleaning vinegar by infusing it with fruit, spices, and herbs from your pantry and garden. Add citrus peels, rosemary, mint, thyme, basil, cinnamon, cloves, and lavender to your vinegar, and store it in airtight containers for several weeks to infuse your vinegar with a fresh scent and the antiseptic or antifungal properties some of these ingredients may contain.