How a Boston Fern Can Improve Your Health

Learn How a Boston Fern Can Clean Up Your Indoor Air

You may be surprised to learn that your indoor air is dirtier than outdoor air, and you may be wondering how this could possibly be.

It’s pretty simple. It’s because just about everything you bring into your house off-gasses creating Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs for short. And then to make matters worse, most of the time your windows are closed which traps all sorts of pollutants inside.

So, what is to blame for all of the VOCs in your place?

Here’s a partial list: carpets, paint, wall coverings, fabrics, cleaning products, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, pressed wood furniture, polyurethane foam furniture, adhesives, stains, and cooking. Another source of VOCs is laminate wood flooring which you’ve probably heard quite a bit about with the recent allegations against Lumber Liquidators and formaldehyde-releasing flooring.

The most prevalent VOC in homes is formaldehyde and it’s in just about everything. According to the EPA, at certain exposures, formaldehyde can cause a variety of adverse health effects, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as other respiratory symptoms. The National Toxicology Program recently classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

So, it’s generally not good news for you, although fortunately formaldehyde does dissipate over time.

How long does it take for formaldehyde to disappear? It really isn’t clear–testing is difficult for many reasons. The EPA simply says that “formaldehyde emissions are highest when products are new and diminish over time so the longer a product has been in place, the lower the levels of formaldehyde likely to be emitted.”

Boston Ferns Absorb Formaldehyde

The good news is that Boston Ferns are proven to reduce formaldehyde. And so, living with plants specifically the ones that work to lower VOCs can improve your health. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs.

You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. For more information check out his book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”. Many studies support the ability of plants to reduce VOCs. In addition to Boston Ferns, English Ivy, Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Spider plants also reduce formaldehyde.

Here’s the list:

  • Boston Fern
    • One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
    • Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
    • Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
  • English Ivy
    • Thrives in low sunlight
    • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture and adhesives)
  • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
    • Thrives in low light
    • Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
  • Spider Plant
    • Easy to grow
    • Reduces formaldehyde and benzene

How do you keep your indoor air clean? Have you tried using plants?

Find other ways to reduce formaldehyde and other VOCs to clean up your indoor air. And, check out The Zen of Pure Living for helpful ways to keep from inadvertently bringing harmful chemicals into your home.

The Minimalist Guide to Water Filters

The Minimalist Guide to Water Filters

Find the Best Water Purifier

You’d like to buy the best water filter, but you’re concerned that you may buy the wrong product, it may cost too much or it will take a lot of time for you to figure out.

You have a lot of questions like:

Which type of filter should you choose? And, once you’ve chosen the type, which water filter brand performs the best?

These questions are answered in this Minimalist Guide to Filtered Water because it shouldn’t be hard to find the best water filter.

How to Pick the Right One

It’s easy. All you have to do is:

  • Read a few paragraphs (two down, only a couple more to go)
  • Answer a few simple questions
  • Make your product selection


1.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you want a portable or installed water filter?
  • Do you have a standard, non-pull out faucet in the room where you want your water filter?
  • Do you need instant gratification or are you OK waiting for a gravity filter?
  • Are you OK with installing under your sink? You’ll need space under your sink and maybe a plumber.
  • Do you want to remove the most contaminants possible including Arsenic, Fluoride, Nitrate and Nitrite, Barium, Selenium, and Radium? The contaminants listed are typically the hardest to remove so that’s why we’re calling them out here.


2.  Next, follow the Minimalist Flow Chart to find which type of water filter is right for you.

How to Find the Best Water Filter

Done? Great, now you know which type of filter you need. 

3.  Finally, Choose Your Brand – Click to see which brands are recommended and buy one.


Have questions? Contact us. You may want to discuss options or questions which is great because we’d love to help.

Know somebody who you could help by sharing?

The Truth About Vinyl Flooring: Four Ways to Protect Yourself

The Truth About Vinyl Flooring Safety

Are you concerned about the safety of your vinyl floor? You’ve heard the news about unsafe wood laminate flooring, and now you’re hearing that there is trouble with some vinyl floor brands. You wonder if any company can be trusted, and whether you have toxic flooring in your home.

You can relax a bit because you can protect yourself and your family by learning the facts.

Vinyl Flooring & Phthalates

In April 2015, a study was released about vinyl flooring and toxic phthalates. Flooring samples sold by five major home improvement stores were tested and of the 65 vinyl flooring tiles tested, 58% contained phthalates. The study was part of ongoing research at

What is the Concern About Phthalates?

Phthalates have been linked to serious health issues in animals and human studies. According to Washington Toxics Coalition, in animal studies, phthalates cause an array of reproductive problems in male offspring. In a study on people, boys born to mothers with greater exposure had altered genital development. In addition, phthalates have been linked to asthma.

Although phthalates do not accumulate in your body which is a good thing, you are constantly being exposed.

How are you exposed to phthalates? Phthalates migrate into your air and settle into household dust. And, phthalates are in many of your consumer products like personal care products, vinyl shower curtains, children’s toys and basically anything made with PVC.

There is hope though to reduce your exposure.

The Worst and Best

According to the study, Lumber Liquidators and Ace Hardware had phthalates in 100% of the flooring sampled. Check out Healthy Stuff Vinyl Flooring Report to see if your flooring was part of the study.

The good news is that among the brands, Armstrong and Designer’s Image flooring had no phthalates detected, so if you purchased these brands, you’re in good shape.

In 2016, any vinyl flooring sold by Home Depot will be safe because Home Depot has pledged to stop selling flooring with phthalates by the end of 2015. This is little consolation to any of you who already purchased.

 What to Do: Four Ways to Protect Yourself

  1. Check out the report to find and purchase flooring brands that are phthalate-free.
  2. Consider non-vinyl flooring alternatives. recommends bio-based linoleum, natural rubber and ceramic tile.
  3. Reduce your exposure to other sources of phthalates. Learn about these sources.
  4. If you have vinyl flooring, consider using an air purifier designed to remove VOCs like phthalates from your indoor air so you can breathe easier. Dust and vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter vacuum.


Three Myths About Indoor Air Busted

Three Indoor Air Myths Busted

Check out these three common beliefs about indoor air quality and get the surprising facts.

#1:  Indoor air is much cleaner than outdoor air.

Sadly, this isn’t true for the vast majority of us in the US. A recent survey found that most people believe their indoor air is cleaner than outdoor air. While it’s hard to believe, indoor air has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air. For the most part, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are to blame. These VOCs come from many sources many of which you simply wouldn’t expect like cleaning products, carpets, perfumes, air fresheners, upholstered furniture, pesticides, pressed wood furniture, paint and more. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.

See a room by room view of air contaminants to understand the sources. Learn more about the five ways to improve your indoor air quality (some are really easy). Understand which cleaning products and paints will create fewer indoor air problems for you. Sign up for The Zen of Pure Living 12 week email series on creating a healthier home the Zen Master’s way.

#2:  Dusting isn’t really that important.

I was actually pretty upset when I discovered that this isn’t true because it’s always been at the bottom of my list. Well, it may be time to pay more attention to dusting especially if you live with young children. Here’s why. Chemical flame retardants escape from many products and settle into household dust. The products with flame retardants include electronic devices (computers, TVs) and anything made with polyurethane foam (sofa cushions, mattresses, pillows, car seats), among many others. To think that all this time my cleaning has been focused on eradicating germs when I probably should have devoted just a bit more time to cleaning up toxic dust.

The flame retardant dust can be inhaled or even ingested mostly by small children who put everything into their mouths. Neither is good. The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and decaBDE are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.” Enough said.

Learn how to reduce the levels of dust without dusting (yes, it’s true, there is a way). And try to dust more often. I’m trying…really.

#3:  Cleaning products labeled as Green or All Natural are healthier and better for the environment.

Unfortunately, Green and All Natural are simply marketing terms, and no regulation exists around the use of these terms. In a 2010 study of consumer products (shampoo, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, laundry detergent, and more), 25 products were evaluated and 11 made some claim of “green” such as “organic”, “non-toxic”, or “natural” on their labeling.

Each of the “green” products emitted at least two VOCs classified as toxic or hazardous and four emitted at least one carcinogen. When the 11 so-called green products were compared to the 14 other products, no statistically significant difference was found between the number of chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous, or the number of carcinogens. Sigh.

Read more about why you cannot rely on the cleaning and laundry product labels regulated by the CPSC. Learn how to find safer, less toxic products.


Steinemann AC, et al., Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted, Environ Impact Asses Rev (2010), doi:10:1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002.

Kitchen Cleaners – Safe, Non-Toxic Ways to Clean Your Kitchen

All Natural Kitchen Cleaners

You feel pretty confident that when you buy kitchen cleaners that say “Green” or “All Natural” that you are getting a safer product.

But are you really?

The answer will surprise you and here’s why.

Green and All Natural are simply marketing terms. In other words, these words are meaningless in terms of ensuring product safety for you or the environment.

And, to make matter worse, even if you read the labels, you cannot be sure all the ingredients have been disclosed.

Why? Because the regulator of kitchen cleaning products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), does not require disclosure of all ingredients, so there’s simply no way of knowing what’s really in your kitchen cleaning products.

Kinda frustrating, right?

But, you can make your own cleaning products, without the neurotoxins, hormone disruptors and likely carcinogens.

If you’re like most people, you may think that cleaning products made with simple, non-toxic ingredients don’t work as well, but with one or two exceptions, you’ll discover some new favorites.

Here’s what you need to create your own kitchen cleaners.

  • White Vinegar (buy a large gallon size) – one word of caution: never use vinegar on marble or travertine
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Corn Starch
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemons
  • Lemon Juice
  • Spray Bottles
  • Funnel (makes it a lot easier to get the ingredients into the bottle)

Now for the recipes. You’ll love the all purpose and grout cleaners.

All Purpose Cleaner:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 10 drops tea tree oil

Mix in spray bottle. The tea tree oil improves the antimicrobial properties. Kills bacteria and mold. (Do not use on marble or travertine.)

Glass Cleaner:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 TBS corn starch

Mix in spray bottle. Alcohol and corn starch result in streak-free glass.

Silverware Cleaner for Silver and Stainless:DIY Green Kitchen Cleaners by Pure Living Space

  • Soak silverware in full strength white vinegar, rinse with water and dry

Scouring Cleanser:

  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 TBS dish soap
  • Enough white vinegar to form a paste

Great for cleaning cookware.

Wood Cutting Boards Sanitizer:

  • Wipe with full strength white vinegar OR
  • Rub with cut lemon (use leftover lemon sliced to freshen your disposal)

Disposal Freshener:

  • Cut narrow 1/2″ lemon slices and grind up in disposal

Grout Cleaner:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 7 cups water

Mix in spray bottle. Spray and let soak for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing a bit. For extra dirty grout, let soak longer and use a scrub brush with stiff bristles. It will make your grout look like new.

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