3 Sneaky Ways Your Bathroom Is Hurting the Earth

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You use organic cleaners to scrub the tub, buy all-natural shampoo and always recycle your lotion bottles, but you may still have some environmental dangers lurking in your bathroom. Here’s what to be on the lookout for:

1. Low-Quality Materials

A healthier bathroom starts with construction. When attempting budget renovations, many landlords and homeowners use low-quality materials rife with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are found in paint, caulk, sealants and carpeting, among other materials. They have a negative effect on air quality and may pose other health risks, especially if there are small children in the home.

Protect yourself and your family by choosing low-VOC or VOC-free products for your bathroom. It can be difficult to find these products — bamboo flooring, for example, would seem like a natural option, but some is manufactured with a VOC-containing adhesive. Fortunately, a knowledgeable contractor should be able to point you in the right direction.

2. Water Damage

Water damage — especially any resulting mold — can pose a serious health risk, and bathrooms are, of course, more prone to water damage than most rooms in your home. One of the most common reasons that bathrooms suffer water damage is due to flooding. From clogged toilets to overflowing sinks, bathroom floods are something most people have experienced at one time or another.

While proper maintenance can reduce the risk of flooding, some instances may be unavoidable. If and when it happens, it’s important to treat water damage right away. Drainage vacuums can suck up water, and flooded areas should be continuously ventilated until fully dry. Even trace amounts of water, especially in enclosed areas, can foster mold growth, which you may need to hire a professional to eliminate.

It’s also important to be aware of more-passive sources of water damage that develop over time. This can occur due to water sources outside your bathroom, such as a leaky roof or a pipe problem inside the walls. If you notice ceiling or wall discoloration, peeling paint or wallpaper, or unexplained flooring damage, there may be a leak hidden somewhere in your bathroom. A professional plumber can help you identify the source.

3. Antibacterial Soaps

The products we use in our bathrooms on a day-to-day basis matter immensely from an environmental perspective. One of the worst offenders is antibacterial soap. The chemicals in these popular soaps, which many parents swear by, help to breed superbugs — antibiotic-resistant bacteria — and can wipe out important bacteria in waterways and soil. Some studies suggest that these soaps may even have long-term effects on heart function. In general, we’re better off without them.

Replace your antibacterial soaps with more-sustainable, biodegradable options, preferably ones you can buy in bulk. Bar soaps are ideal because these eliminate the plastic containers that liquid hand soaps come in. If you’re going to use liquid hand soap, invest in a reusable pump and buy the soap in bulk — and don’t forget to recycle the soap containers. Between hand soap, shower gels and shampoo, bathrooms are responsible for piles of plastic containers and we’re responsible for keeping them out of the landfill.

The ways we can reduce waste in our bathrooms is virtually endless — from low-flow faucets and toilets to natural cleaning products and recycled toilet paper — so this list is just a start. Still, by addressing common bathroom products that are a threat both to the environment and to our individual health, we form the foundation for healthier lives. Choose carefully what products come into your bathroom, and the subsequent behavioral steps will come easily.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
Finding the Time to Recycle in the Bathroom
7 Things to Consider for an Eco-Friendly Bathroom Remodel
Medicine Cabinet Makeover: 7 Ingredients to Avoid

Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.