Make your happy home a healthy one

Even before you retire, you spend more than half your life here.

Sure, you may have spent hours at your workplace, but that’s only one third of your day (if you’re lucky). The rest of the time you spend at home.

Asleep or awake, you’ll probably spend around two thirds of your life at home. So, it should come as no surprise that there is a solid connection between your home and your health.

Without realising it, you could actually be harming your health or even shortening your life by not having a healthy home. So, to make your most valuable asset mean more to you than money, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to make your home healthier.

Health hazards
Common household health hazards include:

    • lead-based paint or presence of asbestos (if your house was built before the 80s)
    • rodent and insect infestation
    • mould
    • dangerous chemicals around the house
    • gas, carbon monoxide and water leaks
    • structural problems
    • ineffective or broken smoke alarms
    • clutter making walkways, stairs and passages dangerous
    • faulty electrical wiring
    • slippery surfaces.

The first thing you should do is walk around your home and yard, and identify any of these hazards. The next step is to address them.

Bedrooms, living and family rooms
Ensure you have smoke alarms outside of every room, or at least in hallways outside grouped rooms, and make sure that the batteries are working with twice-yearly tests. If you have gas heating, including furnaces and water heaters, install carbon monoxide alarms. Clean up clutter and move as much away from walls as possible. Cluttered areas make suitable homes or access points for rodents, dust mites and other insects. Keep your floor clear of electrical cords and other clutter, such as shoes, pots and other bits and bobs.

If your home was built in the 80s or earlier, check for lead paint on interior walls and furnishings. In its dried form, lead paint is not dangerous, but once it chips or breaks apart, as with asbestos, lead can be ingested or inhaled making it harmful to your health. You can check for lead paint yourself or have a professional painter do it for you. The latter could be helpful if you need to get quotes for repairs, remodelling or repainting.

As gas is cheaper than electricity, some age pensioners may resort to using their gas oven or stovetop for heating. This can be dangerous, even fatal. Even when cooking for long periods, gas stovetops and ovens can leak carbon monoxide into the air. If you have gas cookers, you should have a rangehood or exhaust fan installed, or at least an open window in the kitchen to allow harmful gas to escape. The kitchen is the prime place to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed.

Use safe cleaning products, such as citrus-based cleaners or vinegar. Wipe up any food or liquid spills, to avoid slips, mould and pest invasion.

While cooking, you should avoid wearing loose sleeves, and never leave food unattended on a stove.

The main offenders in bathrooms are water and dampness. So, during a shower, open your window and leave it open as long as possible. Or, if it’s chilly, turn on your exhaust fan and leave it on until your mirrors defog. You could keep a microfibre cloth handy to wipe down tiles and screens after a shower – that way you’ll save on power and keep your bathroom dry.

Keep an eye out for mould in tile grout and in bathtubs and showers. Always use a bathmat on tiled surfaces and wipe up any water after showering or bathing. Also, try to keep any bars and mobility aids dry at all times.

Attics and roof spaces
If you have an old house, you may have loose asbestos insulation so, to be safe, wear a high-quality face mask before putting your head through a manhole. If you have asbestos insulation, call a professional for a risk assessment and possible removal. Check out for advice on identifying and dealing with asbestos around the home.

Check for any evidence of water leaks, either from your roof or guttering. Look also for evidence of rodents. Seal any gaps through which rodents and insects could access.

Utility and laundry areas
Check your hot water service and set the water temperature to 50°C to prevent burns. Also check any heating, cooling or air filters and change them if necessary. Anywhere near an indoor hot water service or near external central heating is a good place to install a carbon monoxide alarm. If you have a dryer inside, the laundry may need an exhaust fan to vent hot, moist air outside. Ensure that any cleaning products, such as bleach and borax are sealed and not leaking. And if you store car maintenance or gardening products inside, ensure they are sealed and locked away.

Stairs and passages
Keep hallways, stairways and steps well lit and clear of clutter. Check handrails for stability, and ensure that any surfaces, such as the boards of steps or carpet on steps are secure. If your stairs are slippery, fix non-slip treads or carpet to the steps. Affix reflective non-slip tread to prevent slipping on outside stairs in unlit or poorly lit areas.

Yard areas
Keep your bins clean and, to prevent pest invasion, make sure lids are closed. Eliminate places where water can stand. Clean your gutter regularly to prevent moisture and mould inside the home. If you have a septic tank, keep it well maintained to prevent illness.

Check for loose branches, and trim plants or trees that prevent free passage around your yards or sideways.

Cleaning tips
Dusting is no one’s favourite task, but it’s a necessary evil if you want to be allergy-free. Check any filters in your whitegoods and appliances – this includes heaters, air conditioners, kettles and exhaust fans.

Apart from the bathroom cleaning tips mentioned above, check your medicine cabinet for old medication and discard them. Also look for leaky bottles and loose sharp implements, such as razors and cutters.

Look around the house for any toxic chemicals or products and seal them up or discard them. If you have old paint, oil, chemicals or thinners, take them down to your local tip or call your council and ask them for help with disposal.

If you have a fireplace, have your chimney cleaned to reduce the chance of fire or exposure to carbon monoxide.

Check under rugs for mould and dust, also under any furniture, behind cabinets or atop picture frames and other wall hangings. While you’re checking your rugs, attach anti-skid mats or patches.

Mould is one of the biggest carriers of sickness, so wherever you have mould hotspots, keep them well ventilated or try mould-resistant paints and other products.

Your home is your haven, so help it become a place of health and wellbeing by adopting as many of these tips as possible. Remember: a healthy home is a happy home!

Do you have any healthy home tips for our members?

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