This is my first post and it's not particularly cushion-centric, but I just wanted to explain a little bit about what lead up to my decision to start Kitty Holmes and why making a non-toxic product became important to me.
A lot of friends have recently asked why I started my business and there are a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that I like pretty adornments for my house and my person. Shoes, cushions, lamps, handbags, sunglasses etc. - these smaller things change the way an outfit or room looks and I’ve always had a thing for them! It might be trivial but I don’t care and...I don’t think I’m alone. I'll talk about that another time! The second reason is that we went through a really bad stretch with Alex’s asthma in the winter of 2017. One episode in particular, was very scary. I was very keen to make our home healthy for Alex and the change that made the biggest immediate difference was thinking a bit more about what other chemicals might be lurking around at home. I was looking at Alex on the sofa one afternoon and was thinking that it might be almost impossible to get rid of all irritants at home, but that the cushion he’s resting his head on is a good place to start! And that’s how I started thinking about my business - I wanted to create cushion covers that were non-toxic, that I could easily wash (to keep the dust mites away), were made ethically and looked good.
There are obviously lots of ways you can reduce allergens in your home, but these are the things that I did that made a positive difference. Everyone has different sensitivities but I can't imagine these ideas are going to make things worse for anyone and they don't cost a thing.
- Change your cleaning products
The biggest breakthrough we had in improving Alex's asthma was getting rid of a lot of the cleaning products we used and replacing them with more natural alternatives.
Firstly, I swapped our laundry detergent which was very easy to incorporate into my weekly shop – I found brands like Attitude and Ecover to be particularly good and readily available. Yes, it is more expensive but I've always bought it on offer and then it isn't that much more expensive from the previous brands I was buying.
I also stopped buying fabric softener and instead started using wool drying balls which not only soften your clothes but have the added benefit of shortening the drying time.
Lastly and I cannot believe I have not done this years ago but....MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS!!! Things like glass cleaner, all purpose spray, liquid hand soap. It is incredibly easy, cheap and so much better for you. I will try to do a separate post on my favourite recipes but google it and start experimenting. Buy reusable glass spray bottles that will last you for years.
These things save a) your time b) your health c) your money and d) the environment.
- Get rid of 95% of the soft toys around the bed.
Sorry. This is so unpopular with kids but again, doing this made a big difference and was the one things (aside from getting rid of our cats) that the two different respiratory specialists we see agreed on.
With Alex, we asked him to choose three favourite soft toys to have in his bed as any given time. We made sure that these had been washed and tumble dried at 60 degrees celsius at least, before going in his bed. The rest of them (and actually this is a good time to cull any toys that need to be re-homed) we stick in those vacuum storage bags you can get from Amazon. That way he can rotate the toys when he wants but we avoid the problem of too many fluffy toys in his bed.
A friend of mine sticks all the toys in her freezer, but alas, this is not an option for me as our London freezer is too small. However, this is a valid way to kill dust mites if you've got a freezer big enough to put your soft toys in with your frozen peas, ice cream and leg of lamb.
- Keep your home at a constant temperature.
Before we had all the asthma drama and in an effort to be more environmentally conscious, I always tried to use our smart thermostat to not heat our house when we weren't home e.g. whenever it could see I was more than half a mile away from home the heating switched off. I always felt super virtuous when the email came at the end of the month saying "Your home was .8c lower than other homes in your area"
Turns out, maintaining a constant temperature in your home is important for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, people with asthma need to avoid sudden changes in temperature. Keeping a good foundation level of warmth means less stress for the lungs those with asthma, particularly those like Alex who seem particularly sensitive to cold air.
Secondly, keeping your home adequately heated and keeping the temperature constant means it is less likely to produce condensation. Condensation invites moisture and moisture invites mould. Mould isn't good for anyone's lungs so don't be tempted to turn that thermostat on and off all the time!
- Think about how you launder all your bedding
I know, I know, we are all busy and don't need to change our sheets every week, right?
In addition to all the fun bacteria and other stuff that come from your sweat, skin cells, and other excretions (BLERRRGH), you also share your bed with animal dander, pollen, soil, lint, dust mite debris and faeces, and whatever else you pick up during the course of your day, or alternatively settles on your bed simply by gravity!
These build up within a week, people. Wash your sheets every week.
And when you wash, if you really want to get rid of dust mites, you need to think about washing your sheets at 60c at least. Korean research found that 30 or 40c washes only killed 6% of house dust mites compared with 100% at 60c.
And then tumble drying your bedding, in a hot tumble dryer for at least 20 minutes to really double check that all dust mites have not survived!
One last tip about bedding that I recently learnt about is to consider hanging your duvet over a chair or drying rack during the day. Apparently, dust mites thrive in warm environments with less air circulation so by hanging your duvet out and letting it air. This can also be an argument that children/sluggards make for the unmade bed but I think it's probably better to give your bedding a good shake out and make the bed!
- Have a huge declutter and maintain it.
It is not at all what I thought about when Alex had his first serious attack, but the more I got to know about reducing household asthma triggers, the more I realised the significance of reducing our overfull closets.
The more stuff you have in your closets/wardrobes/cupboards, the less air can circulate throughout your home. That means more moisture which leads to more mould and dust mites.
Rethink your wardrobe or at the very least, store your out of season clothes in vacuum storage bags in a loft or other storage place.
Toys and clothes (yes, I’m speaking to you, messy teenage daughter!!) cannot be left on the floor as they will a) attract dust and b) obviously make it more difficult for you to vacuum.
Not only will your physical health improve as a result of streamlining all your belongings, but you'll feel much calmer. You'll enjoy the things that you've kept so much more too.
So, after having done all that and having a son who was returned to pretty good health, the huge difference that reducing household chemicals made really had me thinking about how to incorporate these ideas into a business based on my more trivial interests, the pretty stuff. And there you have it, folks, Kitty Holmes was born.