Ah dorm-life … an exciting, and sometimes complex, combination of independent and communal living. For most of us, this is the first time we’re essentially in charge of taking care of ourselves, creating our own routines and embracing new habits. So why not make these habits healthy — not only for you, but for your dormmates too?! Here are some tips to keep in mind that will help you reduce exposure to harmful chemicals in your new home away from home!
Detox Your Dorm Tips and Tricks:
Focus on fragrance-free products
- Fragrance is everywhere! From scented tampons and toilet paper, to in-wash scent boosters, our mind sometimes associates smelling “good” with being clean. This is not always the case. There are a ton of red flags when it comes to fragrance safety, regulation, and disclosure, yet it’s entirely too easy to find “fragrance” in nearly any everyday product. When shopping, look for alternatives that are fragrance free, and do not have “fragrance” or “parfum” on the ingredient label.
- In a dorm setting, it’s also important to remember that some of your floor mates may have chemical sensitivities or respiratory issues that can be aggravated by fragranced products. If your space needs some freshening up, open the window, or add some fresh or dried flowers.
Avoid air fresheners
- On the topic of fragrance free, we highly recommend avoiding conventional air fresheners. Instead of coating the air with chemicals that can harm your skin, eyes and respiratory system, open windows in your dorm and bathroom to increase ventilation and reduce humidity. For odors that may stem from something a bit more moldy, baking soda and vinegar are always fantastic staples to have on hand.
- Pick a detergent with simple ingredients. Detergent is about getting the grit and grime out of clothes — not masking odor and stains with synthetic fragrance and artificial brighteners. If you want to save some money and have some fun, making your own laundry detergent is surprisingly simple. Grab a few friends, go in on some materials, and make your own, personalized detergent.
- Ditch the dryer sheets and in-wash scent boosters. Advertised as a must-have for move-in day, you will actually save a lot of money, and unnecessary chemicals, by saying NO to these laundry accessories. Make the switch to wool dryer balls, or opt for dryer sheets that are fragrance free, disclose ingredients, and are made out of biodegradable materials whenever possible.
Be wary of disinfectants and antibacterials
- Disinfectants and antibacterial ingredients are found in everything from cleaning products to athletic socks (yes, seriously, athletic socks), and are, unfortunately, included as a necessity on many back to school shopping lists. In recent years, people are starting to find that our affinity for destroying germs may actually be doing more harm than good. A lot of the time, messes (whether on something, or on yourself) can be cleaned up with every day items that are exponentially better for your health.
- Avoid harsh disinfectant cleaning products and antibacterial personal products by avoiding ingredients like bleach, ammonia, triclosan and any product specifically marketed as “antibacterial” — or by making non-toxic DIY cleaning products.
Say no to dust
No, your mom didn’t call me to suggest this tip … It turns out that a dust-free living space is actually a much healthier living space. Studies show that household dust can actually be toxic — playing host to dangerous chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants, and fluorinated chemicals. Try adding vacuuming into your routine every week to avoid build-up.
Meeting new people in your dorm can sometimes be challenging. Talk to your RA and see if you can plan a dorm DIY night to make fun and easy non-toxic cleaning or personal care products. (May we suggest treating yourself to a fab DIY sugar scrub?) Grab some snacks, pump the tunes, meet new people, and make some recipes that are fun, easy to create, and healthy to use around the dorm.
Depending how passionate you are about this issue, it’s always possible to take it to the next level. Write a blurb for your campus newspaper on why safe dorm life is important to you; plan a green cleaning party for another dorm on campus; or check out ways to take action from your dorm by signing pledges and letting companies know you care about a safe, toxic-free lifestyle. And don’t forget to sign-up to stay in the loop with the goings-on at Women’s Voices for the Earth!