A while ago, I received a new rug that I had ordered for my home. When I unpacked it in the room, the chemical odor was overpowering. Luckily, the rug wasn’t for a kid’s room, but it easily could have been. Unfortunately, this is an issue that occurs so often when redecorating. Brand new items are factory fresh and often come with lots of finishing chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
One way to avoid the chance of these toxic chemicals is to buy from brands that are eco-friendly, Greenguard certified and that use non-toxic paints and finishes. Though, often even these products can come with their own set of problems. And no matter how careful or cautious you try to be, there is always going to be that one item that was purchased as a gift that completely offsets your eco-friendly vibe.
Below, I have organized some of my tips on how to help you to avoid these harmful chemicals and how to minimize any existing odors you might already have in your nursery, kid’s room, or home.
Do your research. Do your best to find out as much information about the company that you plan to purchase from. Give the company a call and ask for information regarding the types of chemicals that they use. Often times, the representative will avoid answering or will not have access to the necessary information. Companies that have nothing to hide will be open with their information and will be able to reassure you regarding the safety of their products.
Avoid VOCs in the first place. If you can, search out brands that are Greenguard certified. Just because a company uses the terms “eco-friendly” or “green” on its label does not mean that the items are all safe. Instead, find out if there is a certification involved. Although certified products are often more pricey, the payoff is well worthwhile. Pieces especially worth investing in are items that will be close to the baby’s face like the crib, mattresses, rugs and bedding.
Beware of humidity. Humidity is likely to make matters worse. For humid environments, be sure to keep windows closed and ensure the AC is running. Supplement with the addition of a dehumidifier until the odors suffice (if you have an infant, run this by your doctor first). Airflow is always good as well, so consider a ceiling fan or table fan to help circulate the air.
Air it out. Anytime you receive a new item for the nursery, even if it’s low VOC, unbox it and let it air out. If possible, place the item directly outside in the fresh air. If this is not a possibility, the garage or a room with windows that can be opened alongside the addition of a ceiling fan will also do. For rugs, be sure to vacuum them a few times when they are new. For any items that are washable, go ahead and wash them several times with a non-toxic detergent.
Sprinkle on the baking soda. If all else has failed, try out baking soda. Be sure to double check care labels and spot check before attempting full-on! For rugs, simply sprinkle on the baking powder generously, let it sit for a period of time and then vacuum it (you may have to vacuum a few times depending). For items that can be washed, sprinkle the baking soda on top and then throw it into the wash. You can also add vinegar to your wash cycle. Always be sure to check your washing machine as well to ensure that it is capable of handling this, of course. For furniture items such as dressers, sprinkle the baking soda inside the drawers, allow to sit overnight and then use a hand-vacuum to remove the excess.
When in doubt, keep any products away from your baby until the smell has dissipated. Also, pregnant women should use extra caution! Sometimes VOCs can take weeks, or even months to off-gas enough to where the smell isn’t noticeable anymore. For the above mentioned rug I bought for my house, we spread it out in the garage over some boxes (so it had airflow underneath), and it took several weeks for the smell to dissipate.
If you want more info on non-toxic nursery practices, check out this article I wrote for Mind Body Green, “7 Ideas to Create a Toxin-Free Nursery for Your Baby”.