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The best ever home cleaning tips!

Source: Wonder Women. In, Date: , 2013

Your home is your refuge-or is it? Dig a little deeper and you may be surprised at what you find. Here's what to do when you spring clean.

Poor indoor air quality can trigger allergies, irritate your lungs-and even cause cancer. Here, four new ways of improving air quality.

You know greenery is good for the air; now research reveals that some specific plant species that may rid your home of various toxins. One study found that weeping figs (ficus) efficiently remove formaldehyde gas-released from some carpets and curtains. Other studies have shown that purple ivies eliminate VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like those in paint fumes, Devil's ivy (money plant) removes ozone, a respiratory irritant present in auto emissions (so place where you park your car), and Gerbera reduces levels of benzene, a solvent used for dry cleaning.

Phthalates, a class of plasticising chemicals often used in synthetically fragranced products, fuel cancer growth in some of the most hardto-treat types of breast cancer, says a new study published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Nix artificially scented toxic air freshener sprays and perfumed candles. Opt for essential oils instead. And if pollen allergy is not a problem for the family, use fresh flowers like tuberose and rose for a natural aroma.

The dry-cleaner may have removed the stains from your fave dress, but he's left it covered in toxic chemicals like perchloroethylene or kerosene. These release VOCs linked with kidney and liver damage, nervous system problems-and even cancer. Do not put dry-cleaned clothes in your cupboard right away. Take the plastic bags off and let the clothes air out for a day or two, till the smell is gone


 Imagine ceramics having a positive impact on indoor air quality. So claims the ISO-certified Active Clean Air & Antibacterial Ceramic tile company. The tile they manufacture contains titanium dioxide micrometric particles which help to break down pollutants under the action of light and oxygen. So nitrogen dioxide and VOCs are converted into innocuous compounds which improves the air quality of air you breathe. In fact the University of Milan study claims that 100 square metre of Active tiles reduce toxic nitrogen oxides like 30 trees (22 square metre of leafage) would. The chemical reaction also decomposes harmful bacteria like E. coli, staphylococcus aureus and klebsiella pneumonia. Titanium dioxide also stops dirt and dust from attaching itself to surfaces, making them easier to clean. Try Somany's Dirt Free "Green" tile that has the Active technology.

Secure your home
Do ensure basics like adequate lighting both in and around the house, resilient grills on widows (the kind that cannot be unscrewed), solid doors with hinges on the inside and quality locks. Trim hedges and shrubs so they can't be used as hideouts by intruders. The Crime Investigation Department, West Bengal, advises installing an alarm system especially if you are away from home for long hours. Find out about security solutions that suit your lifestyle from reputed brands like Godrej, Zicom and Eureka Forbes.

Clean with a Conscience

The chemicals you use to clean surfaces and clothes may be causing large-scale ecological damage. "Phenyl and popular washing detergents contain toxic chemicals that eventually find their way to water bodies-drains, streams, rivers, oceans- and kill everything they come in contact with, especially fish," says Goa-based Claude Alvares, director of The Organic Farming Association of India, and editor, Organic Farming Sourcebook. "Switch to EM (effective microorganisms) cleaners to scrub your floors, sinks and toilet bowls, as well as to launder your clothes. You could also use detergents without phosphates (Henko is one such brand) to wash your clothes, or traditional cleaning agents like soapnut," he adds. Contact Maple Orgtech India Limited (09051498600) for EM distributors in your city.

Use Safer Paints
Lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure at home. Various studies by Toxics Link, Centre for Science and Environment and Quality Council of India have found that popular brands of household paints contain lead that is higher than the 1,000 ppm (parts per million) limit specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Why is that important? Because, lead is a dangerous metal that harms every organ in your body, causing the most damage to the brain and the nervous system. "It can affect everyone, but kids below 6 are most vulnerable, mainly because they have developing brains and nervous systems. It leads to lower intelligence, cognitive disabilities, hearing problems and behavioural disorders in them," says Ravi Agarwal, founder-director, Toxics Link, New Delhi. Switch to lead-free paints for your walls. Asian Paints, Nerolac and Dulux are some options. Leadbased paint is a hazard when it chips, peels or cracks. "So when you repaint, make sure that you keep the kids away when the wall is being scraped. Cover your mouth (ask the painter to cover his too), to avoid ingesting the paint dust. Carefully clean the floor, window sills and nooks and crannies, to ensure there's no paint dust left," says Agarwal. "Since paints and varnishes contain other VOCs and harmful chemicals, keep doors and windows open to allow circulation of air," he adds.

Rethink Containers to Lose Weight
Look around: is your kitchen making you fat? Big plates, wide glasses, transparent cookie jars could sabotage your weight-loss mission. Because most of us have a habit of filling our plates and finishing what's on them, using a smallerthan-dinner-plate size can help you eat less. Swap your old plates for portion plates if you are on a weight-loss mission. Else, 10-inch diameter dinner plates are a good option. Similarly, rethink your glasses. People serve themselves more cola and juice when they pour it out in short, wide glasses than tall, slim ones, according to recent research. "That's because we focus on the height of beverages when pouring a potion. Switch to skinny glasses for sweet drinks and fill wider ones with water and other calorie-free quenchers," says Mumbaibased nutritionist Naini Setalvad. Also, just looking at tempting foods makes people feel hungrier. Plus, it triggers the release of feel-good chemical dopamine that may intensify a particular craving. Use opaque containers to store tempting snacks (cookies, matthi, bhujia) and stash them in an inconvenient spot to make them difficult to reach.

Sleep Better Than Ever
Your bed may be harbouring dirty little secrets. Dust mites, dander and pollen that thrive on pillows and mattresses not only worsen allergy and asthma symptoms but also aggravate skin conditions like eczema, says a study from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Stay safe by using fresh sheets and pillow covers every alternate day. Wash dirty ones in hot water and dry in the sun," says New Delhibased Dr Narendra Saini, the India representative, Global Hygiene Council. And for extra protection, invest in mattress and pillow protectors. These water-proof encasements create a barrier to prevent dust and germs from sinking into mattresses, pillows and quilts. Try the ones from Protect-a-Bed and Hush Sleep Studio.