Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in a large number of chemicals used in household products, such as paint, furniture and some store-bought cleaning supplies. Some VOCs have been linked to asthma, cancer and other health issues. By making a few simple changes around your home, you can significantly reduce the amount of VOCs in your house!
Use green cleaning products. One of the most common sources of VOCs are store-bought cleaning supplies that contain chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. However, it’s easy to keep these out of your home! When you’re shopping for cleaning products, look for brands that don’t include VOCs in their products (Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day are two popular green cleaning companies). It’s always a good idea to check labels and avoid products that contain ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, sodium laurel sulfate, bleach or lye.
Make all-natural air fresheners. Store-bought aerosol fresheners often contain two big VOC producers: benzene and formaldehyde. When you use them, you’re spraying those chemicals directly into your home’s air! By making your own air fresheners, you’ll avoid these harmful chemicals and the health problems associated with them. For five fresh-smelling ideas, read: Make All-Natural Air Fresheners.
Buy chemicals in manageable quantities. Chemicals that contain VOCs emit them continuously, so a lot of VOC exposure comes from chemical products that are stored for extended periods of time. By only buying small amounts, you’ll use what you need quickly and avoid prolonged storage. Some common chemicals that contain VOCs are gasoline, nail polish remover and degreasers. For a more detailed list, visit the Department of Health’s website. Tip: If you use products that contains high VOC levels on a consistent basis – such as furniture polish or gasoline – it’s best to store them away from the house in a detached shed or garage that you don’t spend a lot of time inside of.
Use zero-VOC paint. There are a number of chemicals used in paint that help increase the “spreadability” of paint, but these chemicals also emit VOCs. Emission levels are especially high while paint is drying (and rooms are filled with that fresh paint smell). So, the next time you decide to repaint a room, look for zero-VOC options. A lot of big brand paint companies carry them, including the Sherwin Williams’ “Harmony” and Benjamin Moore’s “Natura” series. We also like YOLO Colorhouse paints because all of their products are made without carcinogens, VOCs, formaldehyde or phthalates. Note: Low-VOC paint options are also available. The difference between the two is that low-VOC paint must have fewer than 250g/L, and zero-VOC paint must have fewer than 5g/L.
Purchase low-toxicity furniture. Furniture is often treated with flame-retardant chemicals and formaldehyde to help protect it, but that means your sofa or armchair may be emitting VOCs! When you’re shopping for furniture, look for pieces that are either untreated or have been treated with all-natural substances. Tip: An easy way to identify safe furniture is by looking for the Greenguard certification.