Spring Clean Your Home for Better Health
Spring’s arrival brings with it feelings of freshness and renewal. While spring cleaning is a seasonal tradition to refresh and renew our home, it’s also a great time to identify and eradicate potential home hazards that compromise you and your family’s health.
Experts say doing a thorough spring-cleaning of your home offers many health benefits. A clean home can strengthen your immune system and help you and your family to avoid illnesses through spread of bacteria and viruses.
What’s more, studies show there’s a correlation between keeping a clean home and being active and choosing healthier food options. Other studies have found a relaxing and clutter-free home has a positive effect on people’s daily mood and ability to focus. A decluttered house can also reduce stress and depression plus help you and your family members avoid injuries.
Your Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals shares important information about identifying home health hazards and risks, home safety issues and tips on keeping hazardous items out of reach of kids and pets, valuable guidelines on proper disposal of potentially harmful items, plus important home health hazard resource information to help you optimize you and your family members’ health.
Before you begin spring cleaning, read these important tips to help identify potential health hazards:
- Check expiration dates on all over the counter and prescription medications for each family member. Medications lose their efficacy and won’t manage conditions or symptoms properly if they’re expired. Take expired or unwanted prescription drugs to a DEA-authorized collection site. Visit the DEA’s website to find a site in your area. Check out the Medication Disposal Q&A for more information. Learn how to properly dispose of old, unused, unwanted, or expired medicine.
- Examine your refrigerator’s thermostat to ensure foods are stored at appropriate temperatures to slow bacteria growth. Set refrigerator temperature to 40¬∞F and freezer to 0¬∞F. Do a weekly purge of leftovers or foods that are no longer fresh. The Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart includes safe storage times for many widely-used foods.
- Store cosmetics properly to avoid bacteria growth and contamination. Most facial products including makeup, skincare and beauty products don’t break down as readily if stored away from moisture and humidity, 2 conditions likely in your bathroom. Follow manufacturer guidelines for product expiration and label products with date opened to minimize potential infection risks. Check the Shelf Life of Cosmetics Q&A link for details about cosmetic longevity and safety.
- Read cleaning product labels before using. Those labels indicating “danger,” “poison,” “toxic,” and “warning,” indicate dangers if these items are ingested or swallowed. Follow recommended safety precautions, including wearing goggles, safety gloves, respirator masks or other protective measures. Avoid mixing cleaning chemicals, as dangerous gases may result. Properly ventilate rooms to avoid high concentration of chemicals, especially when using products containing bleach or ammonia, while cleaning sink drains, home plumbing, toilets and bathtubs. You can also use “green cleaning” products that eliminate toxic ingredients or even create your own.
Taking these measures can help you determine what you need to eliminate so you can make your home a safer, healthier haven for you and your family.
Other Home Health Hazards
While items found within the home (and garage) are potential health hazards, it’s important to survey your home for those quietly lurking beneath its surface, including:
- Black mold. People with asthma, allergies, or immune system conditions may have immune reactions to mold, regardless of its color. It’s possible to prevent mold overgrowth by keeping indoor humidity low and living spaces clean. Watch for small growths and eradicate them before they spread. If you think your health is affected by mold exposure, discuss your symptoms with your practitioner.
- Mildew. The most common type of mold within homes is mildew. Mildew is a surface mold that grows in warm, damp places like bathrooms and on fabrics plus books stored in damp basements. Mildew begins as a gray or white powdery colony, often looking like soil accumulation, that turns black or brown if not removed promptly. Click here to read about mildew removal.
- Radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. Radon is odorless and colorless and testing is the only way to identify and confirm its presence or possible personal exposure. Radon can have a big impact on your home’s indoor air quality. For more information, click this link for radon resources.
- Rodents. Inside, rodents tend to sneak in near cabinets, appliances, closets, fireplaces, doors, pipes, vents, basements, attics, crawl spaces and drains. Rodents damage insulation, electrical wires, wood and pantry items. Rodent droppings and urine are the sources of many diseases. Additionally, rodents may bring ticks, fleas and mites into homes. Avoid clutter, leaving uncovered food in the open and amassing unwashed food preparation items to discourage infestation.
- Pet and outdoor animal droppings/urine. Thoroughly clean interior pet litter pans and designated areas daily, using protective gloves and recommended pet-safe cleaners. If your pets head to the yard to do their business, be sure to clean up feces, especially if you have kids who play outdoors. Be vigilant for roaming cats using your gardens as outdoor litter areas and clean those areas of feces using protective gloves. If you have pocket pets (turtles, reptiles, and small rodents, like domestic mice, rats, ferrets, hamsters and gerbils), wash you and your kids’ hands thoroughly after every time you or your family play with (or hold) them. For more details on communicable diseases pets and animals can pass along to you and your family, click here.
- Pet hair and dander. Vacuum and sweep floors regularly, especially if your pet plays outdoors and/or sheds plentiful fur and dander, both of which can irritate those in your household who suffer from allergies, asthma or other respiratory issues. Clean vacuum filters as well to optimize hair and dander collection and removal.
- Insects. Ants, cockroaches, wasps, flies and dreaded bed bugs can plague anyone’s home. Fully seal all noted cracks and openings. Investigate all screens, windows and doors. If you discover any cracks or holes, caulk or repair them to avoid further infestation. Hints to avoid future unwanted 6-legged guests: keep debris away from your home, maintain a clean kitchen, dry your home’s continually damp areas, clean and sweep on a regular basis, kill bugs you see and create a physical barrier to keep them from entering your home.
It’s also important to get rid of all broken and/or damaged items like old toys, kitchen tools, small appliances or outdoor yard tools, all of which are tempting to curious youngsters and pets alike and may cause undue injury to household grownups. When something is broken or damaged, toss it immediately to avoid all unnecessary injuries.
Avoiding Home Health Hazards
Other areas of importance include monitoring the proper function, maintenance and repair of all your home’s systems, including its heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and water drainage. Additionally, a thorough check of your home’s appliances should occur regularly to confirm all are functioning properly. Some health hazards like mold and mildew growth, plus increased risks of potential fire, directly result from improperly functioning appliances. Pay extra attention to:
- blocked heating ducts/vents in appliances (particularly clothes dryers.)
- install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and check batteries every time you adjust your clock for daylight savings or standard time. If all alarms are hardwired to your home’s electrical system, be sure to also install battery powered ones in event of power outage.
- vacuum or dust your refrigerator’s condenser coil.
- monitor your refrigerator’s drip pan to make sure extensive moisture doesn’t occur.
- clean and/or replace both air-conditioner and furnace filters regularly.
- have recommended professional chimney sweeping if your home has a fireplace.
- replace filters and check brushes in vacuum cleaners.
- monitor your clothes washer for retained water or leaks after usage.
- keep up with all home interior and exterior maintenance.
- thoroughly clean microwave and conventional ovens to eliminate food accumulation.
- safeguard against structural exposure to excessive damp and moisture by checking outdoor down spouts, drains and rain gutters for accumulated leaves and debris causing blockage.
- caulk your tub and shower, replace any broken bathroom tiles and clean bathroom fan filter to eliminate excessive moisture buildup.
- cover slippery surfaces and install stabilizing handrails both in the shower and bathtub.
- avoid overloading electrical outlets and unplug small appliances like toasters when not in use.
- examine electrical outlets and wiring for potential hazards like heated outlet cover surfaces or frayed wires and replace them as necessary.
- and cover and protect basement windows from the elements with clear fitted plastic shields to fend off excessive wetness and moisture that can seep into basements.
Furniture and rug placement plus toy clutter also offer potential health hazards, especially to the elderly or those with mobility issues. Keep pathways clear throughout your home, eliminate all clutter, corral toys and avoid small rugs without non-skid backings to eliminate tripping or falling hazards. Stabilize handrails on stairs to avoid falls. Also, be sure to keep all doorways, particularly those used to access the inside of your home, clear and clutter-free in event of an emergency such as a fire or gas leak.
Ensure Child and Pet Safety
Small children (especially toddlers) and pets are curious, requiring extra safety precautions to be implemented to safeguard them, as well as older family members, from direct contact with home health hazards that include:
You and your family can establish a safer home environment implementing these helpful tips:
- Lock up all medications, cleaning agents, chemicals and paint found throughout your home and garage. Never put these hazards in different containers to avoid further curiosity and health risk.
- Keep sharp tools like knife blocks in the kitchen plus those sharp-edged hand and yard tools kept within the garage and shed out of reach of little fingers, preferably under lock and key within a toolbox, high shelf or locked cabinet. Use a covered trash can to contain garbage and other hazardous disposed items. Place sharp utensils and kitchen gadgets sharp side down when loaded into the dishwasher.
- Household cleaners and other harmful agents like chemical strippers, filled gasoline cans, insect and lawn weed sprays, paint and similar such items should be secured and placed high on a shelf and out of reach with childproof locks on cabinet doors if possible. Likewise household items like cleaners, detergents, personal care products and similar items posing health threats if ingested or swallowed.
- Avoid having long electrical cords within easy grasp as they pose a strangling risk. Avoid window blinds with long cords in your home (especially in a child’s bedroom) if you have young children as these are also a high strangulation risk.
- Use electrical plug guards if babies and toddlers are part of your household to avoid risk of electrical shock.
- Use back burners of the stove and monitor all cooking and grilling; latch and lock your dishwasher door; use fireplaces, candles and outdoor fire pits only with constant adult supervision; and avoid keeping both lit and unlit candles and lighters within reach of little fingers to avoid serious burn hazards. Use stove knob covers when its not in use. Cover and keep outdoor grills out of children’s reach and accessibility.
- Avoid running lawn mowers, snow and/or leaf blowers, weed whackers and cars within the garage, even with an open garage door, as doing so increases risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is especially important if it’s an attached garage, as carbon monoxide can easily permeate into and throughout your home.
- Monitor choking hazards: check and inspect all toys, keep choking hazards like nuts and other such items out of children’s reach, monitor playtime and cut up hazardous foods for toddlers like hot dogs, grapes and cherry tomatoes.
- On average, 66% of childhood drownings under the age of 1 year occur in a bathtub, so do your part to prevent drowning. Be vigilant for drowning hazards within the home even in colder months. Always monitor children’s tub time, keep buckets out of reach and away from water sources and keep your pool safe and secure no matter what the season. Know what drowning looks like and take a CPR course from your local Red Cross.
Dispose Household Hazards Properly
Once you locate and identify expired items, you need to properly dispose them. Here are some tips regarding disposal of expired potential health hazards:
- In general, latex paint may be discarded in the trash, but it needs to be dried out before disposal.
- Oil paint must be taken to a disposal or drop-off site ‚Äì do not place it in your household trash.
- Expired over the counter and prescription medications should be taken to a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-approved collection site. Visit the DEA’s website to find a site in your area. Many communities also host expired medication collection events.
- Used motor oils, expired cleaning agents and household chemicals (including weed and lawn treatments) may be disposed of in specific collection sites at your local landfill. Contact your community’s waste management division to determine local drop-off sites.
Home Health Hazard Resources
Post these home hazard resources and contact information on your family refrigerator should you or your family need assistance with home-related health hazards:
- Poison Control. Get help online (www.poison.org) or call 1-800-222-1222. Both options are free, expert and confidential.
- American Red Cross. Call 1-877-272-7337 for assistance or go online (www.redcross.org).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning mold within your home.
- U.S. EPA concerning radon and radon-related resources.
Your local Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals is here to answer your questions or address your concerns relating to home health hazards or any women’s health issue. Our family of caring, compassionate doctors, nurses and support staff prioritize you and your family’s health and wellbeing so you can achieve and enjoy long quality lives.