Healthy Home Checklist

Healthy Home Checklist: A Toxin-Reducing Guide from Me & EWG!


Hi Sweet Friends,

Can you believe it? We’re already halfway through Prevention Month. Time flies when you’re kickin’ butt and gettin’ healthy! We started our journey with insights from some crazy sexy thought leaders and change makers. Next stop, an in-depth look at organic farming. And today we’re bringing prevention straight to your doorstep—literally.

Here’s something you might not know about me: I love horror movies. Love ‘em, the scarier the better. I’m a sucker for the building of suspense and the gasp when someone sinister looms in the doorway. My blood pumps, my heart leaps, it’s a ride. You know when the college co-ed realizes that the call is coming from inside the house? Eeeek!

So, how does my love of spooky movies translate into prevention? Just like in the movies, sometimes the toxins that do us damage are coming from right inside our own homes! From chemical-laden mattresses to noxious household cleaners to the water coming out of our taps, there are about a million possible sources of scary chemicals in homes.

Don’t worry, even the smallest baby step toward a more natural home helps—you don’t need to throw everything you own away and only buy things made of hemp. Let’s talk about what these chemicals do to your bod, where they might be hiding and how we can avoid them (with a handy, downloadable PDF to take through your casa!).

What are some of the most common household chemicals?

  • Formaldehyde. This known carcinogen is in products from particle board to nail polish. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the acceptable levels of formaldehyde for workplaces, but there aren’t any standards for levels in homes.
  • Benzene. Found in paint, fuel, and tobacco smoke, this Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs are gases that products release over time) has been linked to leukemia.
  • Chlorine Bleach. Nearly ubiquitous in cleaning products (toilet scrubbers, tile cleaners, laundry detergents and straight up bleach itself), this guy causes eye, throat and lung irritation, and if mixed with ammonia, bleach creates poisonous gasses.
  • Phthalates. These sneaky buggers are in everything from plastic food containers to shampoo. They can throw your endocrine system way outta wack.
  • PCBs. Even though the production of PCBs was outlawed in the States in 1979, these chemicals are still in circulation and are considered a likely carcingoen. Most of our exposure comes from the air (when these particles are released through decomposition of older products), and through food. Fish are particularly likely to carry PCBs in their bodies, since the chemicals have seeped into the water supply.

How can we start to get these harmful chemicals out of our homes?

Environmental Working Group is a leader in up-to-the-minute research on toxins, and their experts examine every facet of our lives, looking for the troublemakers. Together, we created this Healthy Home Checklist, which you can download here, print out, stick on your fridge and check off to help cut down on the toxic load your home carries.

You probably do already know how much I love looking under the hood, poking around for the not-so-obvious roots of a problem, and that’s just what this checklist will help you do. Oh, and the toxins in your laundry room are slightly less immediately scary than a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Promise. Let’s get snooping!

The Healthy Home Checklist

  1. Filter your tap water. Check EWG’s online tap water quality database for local contaminants and a filter that removes them, if needed. Look up your water.
  2. Kick the bottled water habit. For water on-the-go, get a reusable water bottle, like stainless steel (not plastic or aluminum lined with plastic). Learn more.
  3. Eat organic. Remember our little chat last week? Check EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce to be sure you buy organic when pesticide residues are highest.
  4. Say no to fragrance. We don’t know what’s in “fragrance,” so it’s safer to choose all fragrance-free personal care products. Always check ingredient lists to be sure. Learn more. Switch to essential oils for all your good-smelling needs.
  5. Check your toothpaste. Choose fluoride-free for kids younger than 2 and teach older kids to rinse and spit; fluoride is toxic if swallowed. Also, pick a paste without triclosan—you’ll see it on the ingredient list. Learn more about fluoride and triclosan.
  6. Ditch extra products. Less is more. Skipping cosmetics like hair spray and detangler (tip: don’t wash out all your conditioner), air fresheners is less toxic—and cheaper! Learn more at EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.
  7. Use greener cleaners. It’s hard to know without a full ingredient list, which most products don’t have. Find greener cleaners at EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
  8. Ditch compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They contain mercury and should be handled and disposed of with care. Use them where there’s no danger of breaking near children; clean up broken bulbs quickly and safely. Learn more.
  9. Are your furnishings frightening? Learn more about what chemicals might be hiding in your sofa or mattress here.
  10. Listen to your doctor. Dr. Frank Lipman shared the 20 ways he keeps his home from becoming a hotbed of toxins.

Here’s our handy, printable, downloadable, short ‘n’ sweet version!

Healthy Home Checklist

There’s your homework, folks. It’s certainly frightening to think that there are items in our homes—our refuges from the onslaught of the outside world—that can harm us. The good news is that there are simple, straightforward ways to switch out these nasties for products that are gentle on our bodies and our planet. Download our simple checklist here and start poking around.

So, how did your home check out? Tell me the most surprising thing you found in your home in the comments below.

Peace & healthy homes,

Kris Carr

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39 responses to Healthy Home Checklist: A Toxin-Reducing Guide from Me & EWG!
  1. What an amazing resource, thanks so much Kris & EWG! I know what I’m doing tonight! 😉 xox

  2. Are there any drugstore brands of nail polish which do not contain Formaldehyde.?

  3. love the tip for using essential oils for fragrance! I use them for green cleaning too… what’s your favorite essential oil?

  4. My favorite household cleaner: vinegar/water and essential oils like: tea tree/peppermint/eucalyptus/rosemary/lemon. They all smell great (unlike vinegar!) and have their own fabulous anti-microbial properties!! Although, not being a chemist, I wonder if the vinegar breaks down the oils and changes their effectiveness? Anyone know?

    • Love, love love tea-tree oil!! It’s natural properties make it useful all around the house–antiseptic and natural solvent as well as the greatest disinfectant.

  5. Great article. Really looking for a whole house water filter. Any suggestions?

  6. Every day you learn something new! Point #9 and your article about chemicals in our furnishings is very insightful. We just take things for granted and assume that what we bring into our homes is safe. Beware of that “new piece smell”; it may be housing lots of toxic chemicals inside! Thanks Kris.

  7. What type of soap for the shower is a safe one?

  8. This is a great article, Kris! It is scary, and some people exposed to these chemicals for too long can experience extreme sensitivities.

    Thank you for the info and guidance!

    Alexis Meads

  9. Does anyone have any tips/resources for safe ways to fragrance your home? I’m used to having air fresheners (plug-ins,ect.) and recently stopped using them because of the toxic chemicals that they release. I’m missing a nice subtle fragrance though! Any ideas?

    • I melt beeswax, coconut oil & essential oil in my Scentsy warmer and it smells wonderful!

    • I recently purchased a Hubmar Ultrasonic Nebulizer Naturamist for my home from Puritan’s Pride. One of the recipes I am using right now called for one drop tea tree oil, 2 drops lemon essential oil and 3 drops geranium essential oil in one ounce of water. The diffuser holds more than one ounce of water so # of drops is increased accordingly. Love the way it scents my home and it has an automatic cut off which is most convenient.

    • I made a spray with water and essential oil (has antiseptic value too). I got my recipe off of Thrifty Fun, where there are many more great ideas for helping your home smell fresh without toxic chemicals.

  10. Great post. Thanks, Kris!

    I love Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and use it for everything from washing the floor, clothes, toilets, etc.

    I also have been trying baking soda “shampoo” with apple cider vinegar rinse. My hair loves it, but I strongly dislike the smell of my hair over time. Anyone else do this type of hair care and have some tips for me?

  11. Great list Kris! Thanks for these great tips! I want to share awareness about another healthy home tip that I just discovered regarding EMF (electromagnetic field) output. I was feeling a drained and unfocused after working 30″ or more at a time. My personal healer came by did a simple measurement (with a little EMF meter that can be purchased at most hardware stores) of the frequencies near my desk. We found the refrigerator and our indoor fuse box EMF’s were off the charts (both are near my desk). I moved my desk and feel loads better. Additionally, I will be replacing both of these with safer EMFs as soon as I can.
    Best regards!

    • Wow, that’s incredibly interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    • I have heard of quartz plugs you can put into your home electrical system that neutralizes EMFs as well. Has anyone seen them? Do they work?

      Also do those stickers that you put on your phone work? The ones that supposedly reduce radiation?

  12. Hi Kris, Just yesterday I attended a Norwex party. Norwex is a line of cleaning products that are designed for you to uses only water with the majority of the cleaning materials. They are made in Norway in response to all the toxins use in our cleaning products, as well as the wasteful nature of the plastics and money used to buy them. I ordered a few of the products, and I’m anxious to see how they work. They have washcloths that one woman said she uses without any cleanser for her face! I can’t imagine. I haven’t looked at the website yet, but I thought I’d share what I just learned! Keep up the great work you’re doing!

  13. I appreciate the effort to make this information easy to follow but I can’t help feeling so overwhelmed. As a mother of 3 little kids, I get so worried and stressed that everything around them can harm them. I guess, baby steps and take a look at one thing at time will eventually lead to a healthier home environment. Thank you for your blog and information!

  14. Formaldehyde: the word itself is disgusting LOL

    My home checks out pretty well but then again I did not build it and I would be really curious to see if the insulation is eco friendly… you know, that pink fuzzy stuff they spray between the walls?

    Next step for me is to build my dream home which will be 100% eco friendly, stylish + luxurious & off the grid !

  15. My home was quite good but I have used Neways products for years now. The one that surprised me was the compact fluoroescent lightbulbs! I had no idea they contained mercury….. Off to the shops for alternatives today!

  16. Great article! Thanks for the really down and dirty specifics, and the facts that back it up. As usual Kris, you supply your readers with timely information that they can get started on the very next day. I have been on EWG email list for a while now, and they are a great resource for living green and for alerting the public to the dangers that we are exposed to on a daily basis. So helpful!

  17. Thank you Kris! I caught part of this on FB this morning and happened to have a minute to check out the actual article tonight. These are some great tips! I was wondering about the light bulbs and now I have my answer. Now I “liked” EWG on FB too!

  18. great post Kris! let’s also not forget EMF exposure in the home – from tv cable and satellite boxes, to Smartmeters (which have replaced the analog electricity meters). google “emf pollution” and it brings up a lot of interesting facts to learn about that you wouldn’t even think of!!

  19. Thanks Kris for the heads up. Started cleaning out the toxic cleaning supplies. Thought I was finished and I looked down at my cute painted toe nails. Is this a no-no too? Might have to add a footnote :)

  20. Great article, Kris! I’m with you!! I’ve actually been really careful about my cleaners, shampoos, makeup, water bottles, toothpaste, pretty much all of your suggestions for quite a while. It’s REALLY horrifying how these toxic products are legal to be sold in North America!! We absolutely need to spread the word!!

    Love you!!!
    Mary Jane xoxo :)

  21. Several years ago, I purchased a shelving unit from a large home improvement chain store. The unit came in a box and required assembly. I took the metal parts out and put them together. Then I pulled the shelves out of the box. They are made of particle board and they had an overwhelming stench to them. I put them in the shelving unit which was in a closet. The smell gave me a headache and made me sick to my stomach. I opened all the doors and windows in my tiny condo. Eventually, I had to close the windows and doors to go to sleep. I put a large bowl of charcoal on the shelving unit and closed the closet doors hoping that the charcoal would absorb the odor. The smell lingered for days. I hate to think of the damage that was done to my body. I’m wondering if the particle board continues to give off chemicals at a lower level even now- a year and a half later. I really should write to the manufacturer and the store that sells the shelving. Should I replace the shelves now or are they safe at this point? Any thoughts?

  22. Hi Kris,

    Got your blog by chance. I am also a 4th stage cancer survivor (as they say it) in my battle. I am still unable to know what is your state of health right now. I like to ask because i want to share what I have learnt, although you seems to be way ahead of anyone, and is very impressive. Also tell me what are you doing to detox your body in addition to the nutrients and other things you are supplying to it and curtailing the toxin exposure.

    I have been able to stop the growth of my cancer for the last 5 months and am hopeful, as I am learning and sharing. I like to share with you my experience once I have your reply.

    Thanks and regards


  23. I am currently using Ology cleaning products from Walgreens. I live in P.R. now and don’t they sell Mrs. Meyers or Method lavender my ultimate favorites. However, these are the ingredients that I read.
    Agua (water) Coco-Clucodie, Laureth-7, Natural fragrance and sodium propionate. Your thoughts on ingredients.

  24. Thank you very much for these helpful tips. Some of them I already started doing, but you’ve shown some new ideas to me that I need to start implementing.