5 steps to a green bathroom

  • Article by: KATHERINE BUTLER , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: December 15, 2012 - 2:56 PM

Cutting down on toxic chemicals and wasteful habits can save you money, too.

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This bathroom in a Windermere, Fla., home won Emerald Certification from the National Association of Home Builders for a "green" renovation.

Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda, MCT

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For many, the path to an eco-friendly home starts in the bathroom. This is where water flows freely, paper products run wild and tile cleaners contain toxins. Try these suggestions to turn it into the cleanest, greenest room in your home.

1. Clear the air: Excess humidity causes mold, which can spur allergies, asthma and other breathing troubles. Cooking, cleaning, showering and even exhaling can raise your home's humidity -- and since the bathroom is usually the most humid room, it's a good idea to ventilate it. Open your windows. Install exhaust vents. Bring in a fan. By moving air out of the bathroom, you'll remove the moisture that mold needs to grow. And if there's no toxic mold, there's no need to use bleach or other harmful chemicals.

Another way to clean the air is to place oxygen-producing plants in the bathroom. They'll not only reduce humidity, but will also absorb a variety of indoor air pollutants. The spider plant is a great option since it doesn't need direct sunlight and likes light watering.

2. Conserve water: Conserving water is perhaps the simplest, most cost-effective and eco-friendliest way to green your bathroom. Just turning off the water while you brush your teeth, for example, can save you up to 240 gallons a month.

You can also cut back by taking showers instead of baths -- a 5-minute shower can use as little as 14 percent of the water used during a bath. Don't forget to install a low-flow shower head, too, which can reduce your water consumption by up to 50 percent.

And make sure to fix all your leaky faucets: A leak that drips once per second can rob you of 3,000 gallons a year.

3. Replace or retrofit your toilet: According to the EPA, a high-efficiency toilet can save a typical family of four $90 a year. Look for low-flow toilets that use less than 1.3 gallons per flush; older models use at least 3.5, and some use twice that.

Don't want to invest in a whole new commode? You can also retrofit your existing one by installing a controllable flush handle. Put a sealed soda bottle or pebbles in your tank to instantly reduce water consumption.

If you really want to go the extra green mile, get a composting toilet.

4. Pick green products: Don't forget to invest in recycled toilet paper. Consider investing in a green shower curtain, too. It may be hard to imagine using anything but vinyl, since it's about the only material that doesn't mold, but vinyl shower curtains can release more than 100 different toxic chemicals into the air, including at least two -- toluene and ethylbenzene -- that cause cancer, according to a 2008 report by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

Consider trading your toxic bleach cleaning products for vinegar, too.

5. Use ceramic tiling: Ceramic tiling is not easily damaged by moisture, and some can be made in a low-impact manufacturing process.

From Mother Nature Network, www.mnn.com.

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