The Best Healthy Home Products of 2021

Even if you don’t consider yourself a homebody (the past year excluded), according to the EPA, we’re indoors about 90 percent of the time. This means that what we’re using, touching, and doing at home matters. And there are many steps we can take to boost our well-being inside. “You can start small, and every little swap you make can make a big difference,” says Heather Patisaul, PhD, an associate professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University. To help point you in the right direction, we’ve highlighted five areas of the home to be mindful of, along with suggestions for how to make these spaces as healthy as possible.
By Maggie Puniewska
March 10, 2021
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Cleaning

Ah, the sight of a clean space: laundry put away, shelves dusted, rugs pristine, and a sink without a single dish. You can already feel a sense of calm coming over you, right? Research shows that an orderly space can zap stress and boost focus and positive emotions. And that's on top of banishing allergens and dust that may carry pollutants. 

While you're wiping and scrubbing, be mindful of what you're using. Some cleaning agents can irritate your eyes, nose, lungs, and skin, and even lead to headaches, says Patisaul. But there are plenty of nontoxic, healthy products on the market that can help you wipe up life's messes. In fact, many mainstream brands are moving away from hazardous chemicals and reformulating their products with ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide, says Samara Geller, senior research and database analyst at the Environmental Working Group in San Francisco. 

"Truthfully, plain soap and water can help you tackle most cleaning projects," says Val Oliveira, founder of Val's Services, a cleaning and organizing company based in Chicago. While you're scrubbing and shining, opt for reusable wipes (Oliveira likes microfiber) and plastic-free sponges and brushes. 

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  • HoMedics Ozone Water Spray Bottle

    The device turns ordinary tap water into a household cleaner, deodorizer, and sanitizing spray through a chemical reaction that separates oxygen atoms, pulling the "O" out of H2O and forming O3 (ozone). The technology sounds innovative but has been used for decades in industrial and commercial settings and is proven to kill 99.99 percent of germs.

    $73.00
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    Amazon
  • E-Cloth Home Cleaning 8-Piece Set

    This microfiber set (a reusable alternative to paper towels) covers every surface you'll ever clean—glass, countertops, stainless steel, tile, and wood—removing 98 percent of bacteria just by dampening with water.

    $32.00
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    Amazon
  • EcoVacs Deebot Ozmo U2 Pro

    This bot vacuums and mops, with a water tank that will clean more than 2,000 square feet and powerful suction that makes fast work of dust bunnies and dirt, all without you having to lift a finger.

    $350.00
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    Amazon
  • Shark Vertex Upright Vacuum

    Get a serious clean with power fins that dig deep into carpets (grabbing every last pet hair!) and a self-cleaning brush roll—all with an anti-allergen seal of approval and a 99.9 percent HEPA filter.

    $450.00
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • The Maker's Mop by Maker's Clean

    The unique curve in this mop easily tackles hard-to-reach nooks and crannies while the washable microfiber pads are perfect for both wet and dry use.

    $49.00
    SHOP IT
    makersclean.com
  • Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Non-Scratch Scour Pad

    You want to get that baked-on gunk off your pots and pans, and this eco-friendly pad lets you do so with 100 percent recycled materials instead of plastic or scratchy metal.

    $5.00
    SHOP IT
    Amazon

The Scrub Squad

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Working

Not going into an office has its perks—but some of the habits we've picked up while telecommuting are not so good for us. In fact, in 2020, researchers at the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli in Naples, Italy, found that 70 percent of those surveyed complained of back, hand, wrist, and shoulder pain as a result of working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. 

So it makes sense that sitting tall and committing to healthy office habits (like getting up every 60 minutes) can keep musculoskeletal pains at bay. And healthy behaviors can set you up for a more productive workday, too, says Alan Hedge, PhD, a professor in the department of design and environmental analysis and ergonomics researcher at Cornell University. Good posture improves oxygen intake and blood flow, which in turn keeps your energy levels and focus high. Having sufficient lighting can reduce hunching and eyestrain, which can translate into fewer (literal) headaches. (And all of this applies to kids who are remote learning too!) 

You might not have to do a total overhaul to give your home office some ergonomic upgrades. "Start by adjusting what you already have," says Hedge, whether that's putting a laptop or monitor on a stack of books or ditching that yoga ball (sorry, they're not meant to be desk chairs) for a sturdier seat. "But if you can't adjust it, you'll want to replace it," Hedge says. 

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  • Logitech K380 Keyboard for Mac and M350 Pebble Mouse

    When your keyboard and mouse can be moved closer to your body, there's less reaching and muscle strain, and you can maintain better posture.

    $40.00
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    Amazon
  • Waldo Blue Light Gl

    Blue light can cause eyestrain and headaches, and negatively impact sleep. These block almost all those harmful rays, and provide 100 percent protection against indoor UVA and UVB rays, too. 

    $75.00
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    hiwaldo.com
  • CoreChair CorePerch

    This adjustable active sitting stool has a sculpted seat cushion that promotes good posture. It rocks and swivels, engaging your back, legs, and core while you work.

    $295.00
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    officedepot.com
  • Puro Sound Labs BT2200s Bluetooth Headphones With Built-In Microphone

    Help kids focus on their schoolwork with these high-tech headphones featuring background-noise isolation for less distraction, a limited volume range to protect their hearing, and a built-in microphone that ensures they'll always be heard. 

    $90.00
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    Amazon
  • Backjoy SitSmart Core Traction

    Pop it on your chair, take a seat, and it automatically engages your core and positions your spine correctly. Bye-bye, backaches!

    $50.00
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    target.com
  • Minder by ObVus Solutions Laptop Tower Stand

    This adjustable laptop stand allows for proper eye-level positioning, which minimizes eyestrain and keeps the neck stacked straight on top of the spine. 

    $75.00
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  • Intension Design Tripod Standing Desk

    Perfect for tight spaces, this collapsible, adjustable desk gets you off the couch and onto your feet while working on your laptop. It even comes with an over-the-shoulder carrying case for the tripod so you can take it on the go. 

    $180.00
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    intension-design.com
  • Dyson Lightcycle Morph Desk Light

    This lamp is pricey because it's exceptionally "smart." It automatically adjusts to background light, which keeps the brightness in your workspace consistent. It also tracks the color "temperature" of daylight where you live, delivering the right quality of light for the time of day.

    $650.00
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    bestbuy.com
  • EyeBuyDirect Totes Blue Light Blocking Glasses

    These kid-size specs make virtual classrooms more comfortable; the colorful frames make them fun to wear. 

    $29.00
    SHOP IT
    eyebuydirect.com
  • Versa Desk Ultra-Thin Smart Folding Treadmill

    Almost every health-related research study says we need to be moving more every day—so take a step in the right direction! Use this treadmill with your standing desk for "active" work; later, it folds up to fit under your bed.

    $599.00
    SHOP IT
    versadesk.com
  • Flexispot Electric Height Adjustable Standing Desk

    Standing for some of your work hours promotes muscle activity, better circulation,and flexibility in the hip and knee joints. Your body will thank you for this large, versatile workspace that can rise into a standing height with the touch of a button.

    $250.00
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    Amazon
  • Simplay3 Wiggle Chairs

    Active sitting isn't just for adults. These core-strengthening and posture-enhancing chairs help energetic kids focus.

    $60.00
    SHOP IT
    Amazon

Breathing

We take about 20,000 breaths per day. But have you ever thought about what's traveling up your nose and into your lungs during each one? "Because the average American spends nine hours inside for every hour spent outdoors, we wind up inhaling up to five times more potentially harmful particles when we're inside our homes versus outside," says Richard Corsi, PhD, an indoor air quality researcher and dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University. What's polluting the air? There are fumes from ovens (gas produces particulate matter and carbon dioxide while electric ovens can produce formaldehyde) and cleaning products, as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from furniture, carpet, and walls. And there are also particles coming from the outdoors: pollen, exhaust, and pesticides. Air pollutants can trigger symptoms like coughing and eye or nose irritation. They can also lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and even heart disease and cancer after prolonged or repeated exposures.

An easy way to clean up the air: Cracking a window, especially if you're cooking, can help remove or dilute indoor air pollutants. And no matter where you live, a quality HEPA purifier can clear the air. Just make sure it's the right size for your space (and skip anything that bills itself as an "ionizer"; these products produce ozone, which is actually another irritating pollutant).

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  • Coway Airmega 150

    A purifier that uses three stages of filters—a prefilter, a deodorization filter, and a Coway Green True HEPA filter—to reduce contamination in the air. And it doesn't hurt that the design is clean too!

    $140.00
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • 3M Filtrete Smart Air Purifier Console

    This new purifier monitors and reacts to the specific amount of particulate matter—dust, dander, mold spores, and other allergens—in a (150-square-foot) room. Filtration speeds up or slows down depending on the air quality.

    $275.00
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    filtrete.com
  • Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool Cryptomic

    The three-in-one rotating cooling fan, purifier, and humidifier is worth the price tag: It destroys formaldehyde and circulates clean vapor air throughout your home with smart technology.

    $950.00
    SHOP IT
    walmart.com
  • Canopy Humidifier

    A small but mighty nightstand-friendly humidifier that releases filtered, evaporative air instead of a visible mist. It has anti-mold technology, UV lights to kill bacteria, and smart sensors that know when to increase or decrease power.

    $150.00
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    getcanopy.co
  • July Air Conditioner

    Most ACs just cool the air; this one cleans it, too, when you use the air-purifying filter that catches pollen, pet dander, and other pollutants. You can control the unit through Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

    $375.00
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    july.ac

Cooking

What we eat matters, and being in control of what we put on our plates is empowering, says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor. "The food you choose impacts every part of your life—your energy levels, digestive health, sleep quality, immunity, and, of course, disease risk." 

The easiest way to make sure you're getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need is to prepare your own meals as much as you can. "When you cook at home, you have so much more control over what goes into your food," says Marisa Moore, RDN, a licensed dietitian in Atlanta. "And research shows that when people dine in, they tend to eat fewer calories, eat more diverse foods, and can better choose the foods that fit their needs." Don't let the elaborate meal-prep setups on Instagram make you think healthy cooking is too complicated or that you don't have time. "It's really only as hard as you make it," says Moore, adding that just a few tools can set you up for dozens of different meals. 

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  • Cuisinart AirFryer Toaster Oven

    A toaster oven is already a busy woman's best friend, and this one does double duty as an air fryer too, using ultrahot air to cook your fried favorites (hello, chicken wings!) instead of oil.

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  • Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo Thermometer

    Take the guesswork out of cooking times and temps with this workhorse thermometer—especially important for roasts and other meats. The 4.5-inch probe can reach the center of large cuts, and a 2-inch display screen means no squinting!

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  • Great Jones Large Fry

    Meet your new go-to: a safe, ovenproof nonstick pan. A ceramic coating replaces Teflon, and no interior rivets means there's nothing for food to cling to. It's scratch-resistant, dishwasher-safe, and good-looking, too!

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    greatjonesgoods.com
  • OXO 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer

    You'll never perform the high-risk feat of taking a knife to an avocado again after using this gadget that splits, pits, and slices.

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  • Hydros 64-Ounce Pitcher

    This pitcher filters your water in just one minute (about five times faster than most pitchers!), reduces chlorine by over 90 percent, and removes 85 percent of sediment particles 0.05 microns or larger.

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  • Woll Concept Plus Silicone Insert

    Struggle with those metal steamer baskets no more! This multifunction, collapsible insert is easy to handle even when hot—and acts as a colander and splatter guard too.

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  • Williams Sonoma Grill Prep Trays

    When you're heading out to the grill, raw meat goes on the red tray, with the black tray nested underneath. When you're done grilling, put the black tray on top—cooked meat goes there, avoiding cross contamination.

    $30.00
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    williams-sonoma.com

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  • Global Vegetable Peeler With Interchangeable Blades

    Three different razor-sharp blades make fast work of peeling even the toughest-skinned vegetables (butternut squash, we're looking at you).

    $55.00
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  • Vitamix 48-Ounce Stainless-Steel Container

    You love your Vitamix because it can achieve any texture you want for smoothies or soups. This add-on container makes superfast work of particularly tough veggies, nuts, and seeds, and keeps your blends steaming hot or icy cold.

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  • Pyrex Simply Store 10-Piece Meal Prep Rectangular Glass Storage Set

    In the world of food storage, glass trumps plastic every time. These are dishwasher-, freezer-, microwave-, and oven-safe, and the lids are BPA-free.

    $30.00
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  • Forge to Table 8" Gyuto (Japanese-Style) Chef Knife

    Make prep faster and easier with a great knife. This one is balanced in weight, ergonomically designed for comfort, and can cut through anything with exquisite precision—all at a reasonable price.

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    forgetotable.com
  • Oxo Good Grips 11 lb. Stainless Steel Food Scale With Pull Out Display

    When you're focusing on portion size, accuracy counts! Thanks to the pullout design of this scale, large plates or bowls won't block the readout panel.

    $50.00
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  • Five Two Silicone Spoons

    Plastic spoons and spatulas melt under heat; wooden spoons can be difficult to clean. Upgrade to these BPA-free, heat-safe, dishwasher-friendly versions.

    $50.00
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    food52.com

Living

Our homes have definitely changed in the past decades. In both furniture and building materials, natural materials like wood, cotton, and stone are often replaced with petroleum-based products, including polyurethane foams and polyesters. While that's made some products cheaper, it's also introduced more chemicals into our homes that can make their way into our bodies, says Heather Stapleton, PhD, an environmental sciences professor at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. Research has found that some of the biggest offenders come from features that are meant to protect us or make life more convenient: Flame retardants in upholstered sofas and chairs may be carcinogenic; the stain-repellent properties of rugs or fabrics can have chemicals that are linked to thyroid disease or immune issues. 

In January 2020, California enacted a ban on the use of many flame retardants in mattresses and upholstered furniture. Since lots of brands sell nationwide, they've adopted the same standards for all applicable furniture, not just what's California-bound. So the next time you shop for furniture or flooring, read the labels! Buy products certified by Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS (proving the textile is made from organic materials); Oeko-Tex (the textile is free of substances known to be harmful to human health); or GreenGuard (the product won't negatively impact air quality). 

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  • Medley Mota Sofa

    Medley is all about making quality, customizable furniture—from mattresses and bed frames to dining sets and storage units—using environmentally friendly materials and leaning on local manufacturing. Its stylish sofas have both the Oeko-Tex and GOTS certifications.

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  • CaliFloor Cali Cork

    This GreenGuard-certified flooring is made of cork (which is naturally water-resistant and antimicrobial). Plus, its sponginess is gentle on your bones and joints.

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  • Parachute Braided Wool Rug

    This company is known for its high-quality bedding, but it also offers artisanal, handwoven rugs. Typical carpets and rugs can contain nasties like phthalates or stain repellents; Parachute's are certified by Oeko-Tex.

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  • Minna Angle Pillow Terracotta

    Minna partners with master weavers and artisan collectives who create ethically made products for pretty much every room in your house. Its luxurious, hand-spun pillows come in all shapes, sizes, and textures, and are naturally dyed (the color comes from plants and flowers).

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  • Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint With Air Purifying Technology

    This zero-VOC formula actually helps improve indoor air quality by reducing VOC levels from other household items like carpet or fabrics.

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This article originally appeared in the  April 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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