Your house is keeping a dirty secret from you: It’s polluted. In fact, the air quality inside our homes is estimated to be two to five times worse than it is outside­—due, in part, to the toxic chemicals found in everyday cleaning solutions and household products. One study found that more than 450 chemicals were emitted into the air from just 21 common cleaning products.

But you don’t have to accept this nasty truth. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to start making your home as healthy as it is beautiful. Kara Armstrong, founder and owner of the Conscious Merchant—a new, eco-conscious home-goods store with locations at downtown’s Dairy Block and in Louisville—suggests starting your greening journey with three simple steps:

Kara Armstrong
Kara Armstrong. Photo by Jimena Peck

1. Read the labels.
Note which of your products contain toxic ingredients including phosphates, parabens, synthetic fragrance, or hydrochloric acid.

2. Clean up your most-used items first.
If you light candles every night, switch to natural soy candles; if you’re constantly wiping down the kitchen counter, consider an all-purpose cleaner that’s Made Safe–certified or that scored well with the Environmental Working Group.

3. Make one swap at a time.
This keeps the process manageable and economical— and, yes, fun. “Our mantra is progress, not perfection,” says Armstrong, who has a master’s degree in public health.

The Conscious Merchant helps take the guesswork out of this process with its stock of cleaning products, personal care items, and reusable home items that have been vetted for their ingredients and sustainability. Better yet, Denver metro-area residents can stock up on shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent sans packaging— and without leaving the house—by scheduling a personal stop from Armstrong’s travelling refill bar (in the back of her SUV). Considering all of Armstong’s green-living guidance, there’s no excuse for not cleaning up your home’s act.

Clean Swap

Five nontoxic trades to make in your home.

Bye: Tide Pods
Hello: Laundry powder from Evergreen’s Humble Suds
Because: It’s effective, and none of its six ingredients are known to cause skin irritation or disrupt the body’s endocrine system.

Eco Roots rose-gold razor. Photo by Jimena Peck

Bye: Disposable razor
Hello: Eco Roots rose-gold razor
Because: Made of zinc alloy and stainless steel, this safety razor is totally plastic-free and the blades are recyclable.

Bye: Plastic food storage
Hello: Wean Green glass containers
Because: Plastic can contain BPA, an industrial chemical that can leach into your food and cause health problems.

cloth bowl covers
Cloth bowl covers. Photo by Jimena Peck

Bye: Plastic wrap and aluminum foil
Hello: Cloth bowl covers
Because: They’re reusable (simply wash in the sink or toss in the washing machine).

Bye: Single-use soap dispensers
Hello: Refillable containers (like a glass mason jar with a soap dispenser lid)
Because: About 1 million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute. Refillable alternatives cut down on pollution and waste—plus, buying cleaning supplies in bulk saves money over the long term.