5 Ways I Avoid Chlorine In My Home

How to avoid chlorine in the home

I’ve always been sensitive to the smell of chlorine. In hotels, I could always tell as soon as the elevator door started to open if the pool was on that level of the hotel. A visit to a highly-chlorinated indoor waterpark once left me foggy for days. For this reason, I’ve always been careful to avoid chlorine while swimming, but after hearing a respected doctor talk about the connection between chlorine exposure and various health problems (including thyroid problems), I started to research chlorine in much greater detail.

What is Chlorine?

Chlorine is a common disinfectant that is a gas at room temperature, but it is often pressurized and made into a liquid for transport. Chlorine is an ingredient in many types of household bleach (though not all) and is also often used in water treatment and pool sanitation.

Chlorine is toxic even in small amounts. When chlorine gas is inhaled, it combines with moisture in the respiratory system to make hypochlorous and hydrochloric acids that can harm tissue.

What we call “bleach” is actually sodium hypochlorite, which is diluted to a small percentage for household use. This can also be toxic in small amounts and is extremely dangerous when it mixes with other chemicals, especially ammonia (if you ever do this accidentally, leave your home and call the poison control center immediately!)

Why Avoid Chlorine Exposure?

Chlorine can be extremely harmful, even in small amounts. Symptoms of exposure can begin immediately and include wheezing, difficulty breathing, eye or skin irritation, tightness in chest, lightheadedness, and other problems. Severe problems include things like build up of fluid in the lungs.

While most of us are thankfully not exposed to concentrated sources of chlorine gas, many of us do encounter chlorine on a daily basis from drinking water, swimming pools or common household cleaners.

The most common source of exposure is drinking water, as chlorine is used to disinfect water for human use. Certainly, this is an important step in creating clean drinking water, but with emerging research showing a link between chlorine exposure and dementia (amongst other problems), it seems important to take a critical look at chlorine use in drinking water (1). In fact, the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality found that overall cancer risk is 93% higher in people who drink chlorinated water.

It is definitely easier to avoid chlorine in swimming pools and other non-essential sources, but drinking water is a necessity and many municipal water supplies add chlorine. Exposure to chlorine from pools has been linked to asthma, skin/eye irritation and even erosion of tooth enamel. (2, 3, 4)

Baths and showers are another source of major chlorine exposure. It wouldn’t seem at first glance that we’d absorb as much from a bath or shower as we would from drinking water, but since chlorine vaporizes more quickly than water and can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin, we can actually absorb much more chlorine from showering than from drinking water!

Chlorine also creates byproducts when it enters water, air or our bodies, including:

  • Dichloro acidic acid (linked to liver cancer)
  • Trihalomethanes or THMs including Chloroform (increase free radical production, speed aging and linked to cancer- found in high amounts in women with breast cancer)
  • Dioxin
  • PCBs
  • Unknown mutagens

How to Avoid Chlorine in the Home

Chlorine is added to most municipal water supplies and is in the water most people have in their homes. While it serves the very important purpose of disinfecting the water (though there are other more effective and more expensive ways now), it does have some potentially serious health consequences.

Since we largely can’t control what is in the water supply, the only option I’ve found to help avoid chlorine exposure in our home is to take measures to reduce or remove the chlorine coming in so we aren’t drinking or bathing in it.

Unfortunately, these means are not inexpensive or easy, but I considered them a priority for our family since we drink so much water daily. These are the steps I took (in order) to reduce our chlorine exposure at home:

1.Using Safe Laundry Products

We have to use laundry products anyway so this was an easy switch to make (and one that saved money). We switched away from chlorine containing laundry products (like bleach) and started making our own laundry soap. With little kids, I was glad not to have the more toxic laundry products in the house, and the homemade alternatives have worked really well for us.

2. Shower Filter

Another switch that was relatively inexpensive and simple to make: using a shower filter. I prioritized this over our sink filter, since statistically, we absorb more chlorine from a warm shower than from drinking water.

After much research, I ordered this New Century Shower Filter for our shower and it only took five minutes to install (even for me!).

3 De-chlorinating Bath Ball

When I ordered the shower filter, I also ordered a chlorine-removing bath ball for use in the kids’ baths. This neutralizes chlorine, chloramines and chlorine gas in about 5 minutes. I just add the bath ball to bath water as I fill the tub and leave for about five minutes before the kids get in.

Also, check out these other tips for reducing chemicals in bath water.

4. Kitchen Sink Filter + Water Bottles

I research everything before I buy it, and the bigger the purchase, the longer the research. I researched water filters for over a year before finally deciding on one and I’m so happy with my decision. There are a lot of great water filter options available, but not all are created equal. Regular reverse osmosis removes chlorine, fluoride and other contaminants but also strips out beneficial minerals (plus, it wastes a lot of water!). Other types (like pitchers) are not completely effective and may contain plastic chemicals as well.

The two filters we have personally used in our home are:

I love the convenience of the under-the sink 14 stage filter we use now, but our Berkey served us well for years. Both remove chlorine and with the added fluoride filters, the Berkey removes fluoride as well.

Since we now have filtered water at our kitchen sink, we use plastic-free reusable water bottles when we travel, exercise, or are not home to save money (and avoid plastic use). This way, we always have filtered (chlorine-free) water with us.

5. A Whole House Filter

The gold standard of chlorine and other contaminant removal is a high-quality whole-house filter. We waited years to finally get one and now that we are living in a home that we hope to stay in for a long time, we made the jump to a whole-house filter.

This type of filter installs at the water main where water enters the house (ours is in the garage) and filters out chlorine, fluoride and dozens of other contaminants. It technically removes the need for other types of filters, like bath and shower filters, and is a very effective way to filter all water that enters the house.

If I could have afforded it at the time, I would have started with this option, but it is more expensive and difficult to install, though now that we have it, I wish I’d prioritized it years earlier.

Do you avoid chlorine? What methods do you use?

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