Healthy Living

Spring Clean Your Closet From Toxic Chemicals

peace lily against black backgroundIs your closet in need of a good spring cleaning? You might want to weed out more than your winter sweaters: You could be harboring hidden toxic chemicals that are dangerous to your health. Here are a few to watch out for, plus some easy strategies to spring clean them out!

Spring cleaning? You could be harboring hidden toxic chemicals that are dangerous to your health. Here are some to weed out, along with the winter sweaters. MOTHBALLS

Classified as a “possible human carcinogen,” by the EPA, naphthalene is a key ingredient in mothballs. Studies have shown links between this toxic chemicals and neurological and liver damage, among other problems.

A great, natural way to deter moths during spring cleaning is to place cedar blocks in the corners of your closet, using one for every 10 to 20 square feet. You can also fill cloth bags with cedar shavings—available at any pet store—or fragrant soap, which moths will avoid.


Most cleaners depend on trichloroethylene andperchloroethylene (also known as “perc,” or tetrachloroethylene) to dry clean clothes. But this toxic chemical—identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen, and as a “hazardous air contaminant” by the EPA—can contaminate drinking water when it gets into the water table. Not to mention a nasty rash.

Spring clean your clothes by hand washing in cold water and letting them air dry. If you have to go dry, look for “environmentally friendly” cleaners that use non-toxic soaps instead of chemicals to clean clothes; this process is sometimes known as “wet” or “steam” cleaning.

If you’re using a traditional dry cleaner, at the very least opt out of the plastic bag and let the clothes air out before placing them in your closet.


In general, since closets tend to be enclosed spaces without windows, toxic chemicals can concentrate there. Many of these toxic chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds, and they’re linked to asthma and allergies.

A great way to filter out VOCs and spring clean your closet’s indoor air is to bring in plants. In the 1980s, NASA partnered with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America to study how plants filter out VOCs—even in space!

Because it removes all three of the most common VOCs—formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene—the Peace lily was NASA’s top pick for air filtering plants. Spider plants are not only resilient, they filter out formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide and xylene, a solvent used to make leather. If you have a window in your closet, fill it with Gerber daisies. They like light, and they also like removing trichloroethylene from dry cleaned clothes. Because it stays green even when kept in the dark and filters out formaldehyde, Golden pothos is a great hanging vine to install in your closet.

Photo by Usha J on Creative Commons.


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