Spring Clean Your Air: 5 Tips to Reduce Allergens & Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home Part 1

Springtime with its fresh blooms and high pollen counts, is typically the time when the allergy-prone suffer most. Most of us dismiss our sneezing, wheezing, drippy noses and goopy eyes as the inevitable result of this sequence of events and pop a few antihistamines or cold tablets to manage the symptoms without a second thought. But what if the cause of your allergy misery was the result of something else?

The simple truth is, there are numerous hidden health threats in your home that can cause allergies and other health problems year-round. If you suffer from chronic allergies, there are ways to reduce or eliminate your exposure to these hazards if you know where to look for them.

Here are two of the five hidden (and not-so-hidden) hazards in your home that may be contributing to your misery and what you can do to eliminate them:

    1. Common Household Cleaning and Laundry Products to Die For

      Many of the everyday house hold cleaning products we use are loaded with ammonia, bleach, and a host of dangerous chemicals that can burn your lungs, eyes, nose, and skin –if not used with great caution. Most laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and even dishwashing liquid are made with synthetic fragrances containing phthalates — chemicals used by industry to soften plastics that have been shown to be endocrine disruptors.All those noxious smells can be extremely irritating and harmful especially when you come in frequent or constant contact with them. The good news is there are a growing selection of plant-based, chlorine-, ammonia- and phosphate-free detergents and multi-purpose cleaners to choose from. Or you can make your own safe, highly effective and “green” cleaning products from ingredients like baking soda, washing soda, borax, white vinegar, castile soap, and essential oils.

 

  1. Synthetic Air Fresheners & Scented Candles with Leaded Wicks

    According to one Consumer Product Safety Commission study, as many as 40% of candles on the market still contained lead wires inside their wicks. A candle with a lead-core wick has been shown to release five times the amount of lead considered hazardous for childrenand exceeds EPA pollution standards for outdoor air.It’s now believed that frequent candle burning –especially synthetically scented candles– is a major source of soot and toxic exposure because the chemicals (i.e. phthalates) used in “fragrance” oils tend to soften the wax, increasing the need to add metals to the wicks to stiffen them. Though candle soot is primarily composed of elemental carbon, it can include phthalates, lead, and other toxic ingredients such as benzene and tuolene.

    Scented aerosol sprays, gels, and plug-in air fresheners contain harmful chemicals linked to breathing difficulties, developmental problems in babies, and cancer in laboratory animals.

    Using essential oils in a diffuser or in a water-based aromatherapy spray is a perfectly safe and healthy way to scent your home. And certain essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and lavender, can assist with sinus congestion associated with allergies, reduce stress, and enhance wellbeing. Always use candles made from 100% vegetable (soy) wax or beeswax with coreless cotton wicks, and scented with essential oils only.

Aromatherapy Tips for Using Essential Oils to Cure Insomnia

Now that you know which essential oils are best for helping you get to sleep and stay asleep, the next question is what’s the best way to use these oils? Well there are a couple of ways you can do this. As with any type of aromatherapy, the two primary ways to use essential oils are via direct inhalation and topical application (usually massage).

When it comes to using aromatherapy for stress and sleeplessness, the most effective way to use the essential oils is via inhalation using some kind of diffuser. Place 5-15 drops of your preferred essential oil or “sleep” blend in a diffuser and run it in your bedroom for 15 minutes before retiring. If you have a nebulizing diffuser with a built-in timer you can set it to run for 5 minutes every hour through the night but the drawback of this type of diffuser is it can be noisy which is not conducive to helping you get to sleep!

Another type of diffuser is the fan-based type like our SpaScenter Diffuser, which is a low-noise unit with variable settings that can be hooked up to a timer. Or for a totally silent diffuser, you can use a low-heat plug-in like our ScentBall Plug-in Diffuser that can be safely left on all night.

You can also add a few drops of an essential oil or your “sleep” blend to a cup of Epsom salts or baking soda and add to a hot bath before bed. In the absence of an aromatherapy massage, a hot bath with Epsom Salts is recommended because it relieves muscle tension that can otherwise lead to a lot of tossing and turning during the night. With the essential oils added to the mix you can get the same inhalation benefit you’d get from a diffuser without the hassle and potential noise of running one through out the night.

Of course, if you’re prone to waking up in the middle of the night then having a diffuser running intermittently throughout the night is probably your best bet. If you don’t have a diffuser then a really easy alternative is to place a drop or two on a handkerchief or cotton pad that you place under your pillow, or dilute approximately 15 drops of essential oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil (either jojoba, olive, safflower, coconut, or even canola will work) and rub a small amount onto your chest where you’ll be able to inhale and smell the blend. Before applying essential oils to your skin, be sure to conduct a patch test first to make sure you’re not allergic to any of them.

Always remember not to overdo it with essential oils – a little goes a long way. Too much can have the opposite effect of the intended result. Refer to our Guidelines for Using Essential Oils for more on this.

How to Select the Right Type of Essential Oil Diffuser for Your Needs

Diffusers are the most effective way to experience the benefits of essential oils and essential oil blends via inhalation. A diffuser fragrances the air and is excellent for scenting a room to enhance mood, aid in respiration, or eliminate odors or airborne bacteria and viruses.

1. Light Bulb Rings

This method involves placing a few drops of essential oil on either a ceramic or metal ring that is then placed over an incandescent light bulb and uses the heat from the light bulb to activate the essential oils and release their aromas into the air. This type of diffuser is inexpensive, ranging in price from $5 – $15, but it uses direct heat which when applied to certain oils (like citrus essential oils), will burn off their more volatile components and make them evaporate quickly, requiring frequent re-application to maintain the desired scent. It also tends to diminish their therapeutic value — not to mention increase the risk of getting burned or possibly starting a fire.

2. Candle-Based Diffusers or Aroma Lamps

A candle-based diffuser like a potpourri burner or aroma lamp is another heat-based method of diffusion. They typically range in price from $10 – $25. If used in the same manner as the light bulb ring (i.e. oils are placed in the burner and exposed to direct heat) then the results are similar. You can mitigate some of these effects by adding water to the bowl or dish first, then a few drops of essential oil to the water before lighting the tea light. When the water is sufficiently heated the scent will be released through the steam rising off the top. This is a gentler way to heat essential oils without destroying some of their beneficial properties. The down side with this method is that the scent will not travel far so you need to be close to the diffuser to enjoy the scent and will need to re-apply oils frequently if using over a longer stretch of time.

3. Electric Heat-Based Diffusers

ScentBallThe most common versions of this type of diffuser are the Scent Ball and Car Scenter. Both use a small square cotton pad that is saturated with the essential oils then placed in the diffuser where it comes in direct contact with a ceramic or metal plate. The diffuser is plugged into a wall outlet or a car lighter well and uses AC to lightly heat the pad, slowly releasing the scent. These diffusers can effectively scent a small space with continuous diffusion (up to 3 hours per application). You can control the intensity by how much essential oil you apply to the pad and refresh as needed or desired. They cost between $10 and $15, but replacement pads can sometimes be difficult to find.

4. Fan-Based Electric Diffusers

Fan-based electric diffusers like the SpaScenter are an excellent way to quickly or continuously fragrance a larger space. Like the ScentBall and CarScenter, they also use cotton pads though round and larger. Essential oils are applied to the cotton pad in varying amounts depending on desired strength of the scent, but instead of using heat to release the scent, the pad is placed over a variable speed fan that blows cool air through the pad and out of the unit. These units run somewhere in the $30 to $50 range and are relatively quiet making them the perfect choice for creating a home spa environment. They can be connected to a timer for more efficient unsupervised use.

5. Nebulizing Diffusers

Nebulizing diffusers are by far the most effective and expensive diffusers you can use. They consist of a hand-blown glass nebulizer that’s attached to a motorized base which when plugged in forces the essential oils’ aromatic molecules into the air in a fine, barely discernible jet stream. Since no heat is involved in the process the aromatic components of the oils remain unaltered providing maximum therapeutic value. This type of diffuser tends to cover large areas quickly and can be a little noisy. Still they’re the best to use for eliminating airborne bacteria and viruses. They’re also highly effective for odor elimination, managing allergy symptoms like congestion, or easing insomnia and anxiety. Prices range from $50 to $150 depending on features desired.

For a list of quality diffusers please visit our diffusers page.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Donya Fahmy, is a green business owner and the creator of Dropwise Essentials’ spa-quality aromatherapy body products that help you safely relieve stress, increase vitality, improve confidence, or simply manage your emotional state any time or place without popping a pill. For more free tips and valuable information visit www.dropwise.com and subscribe to the Dropwise Health & Beauty News Ezine or blog feed.