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Taking your work home with you is a surefire way to clobber your work-life balance, but could it be doing environmental harm too? Our Healthy Homes series has some suggestions for you.

Workplaces are seldom optimal for our health. Even “safe” environments can have us standing or sitting all day, wreaking havoc on necks and backs. Beyond the body-toll, some jobs have environmental conditions that are best left at work. Some byproducts you don’t want to be bringing home.

From blue-collar janitorial work to brick-laying, butchery, working with gas and oil, gardening, and more, there are so many elements of work you don’t want to expose to loved ones. If your clothes are covered in dust and bacteria-filled grime, or odors from work products like chemical paint thinners, gas, and more, they might be having a nasty environmental impact on your home.

Luckily, a little planning and forethought can minimize what impact your job has at home. Here are a few steps to take.

Make a commitment

Commit to a dedicated entranceway when you come home. Ideally, you’d like a garage or space that’s closed off from your living area. This is your doorway, your domain. If your work leaves you carrying things like dust, plaster, and others that can spread easily, but you don’t have a closed-off entrance, be mindful of undressing slowly and smoothly, so you move around as little as possible, and don’t shake or flap your clothes so the dust doesn’t get airborne.

mudroom slate floors

The mudroom. It’s a popular space to minimize outdoor (and workplace) materials in your home. Note the tile floors. Porcelain flooring is a popular option to resist moisture, and remaining easy to clean. Natural stone, like slate for instance, can also serve this purpose.

Storage Center

In some jobs, it makes sense to wear the same dirty clothes again, so if you’re the wear-it-twice-or-more type, you’ll need to get creative with either a vented box, garment bag, even a dedicated out-of-the-way hook with a drycleaner’s plastic bag hung over your clothes. This can reduce transference, but hopefully keep the clothes breathing a bit so they don’t get all funky on you. (If you’re wearing them two or three times, your body odor is probably not a big concern, though.)

If, however, you only wear your clothes once, it’s best to wash your work clothes separate from the family, and having a closed-lid hamper near the entrance is a way to get rid of the offending items. More on this shortly.

Keep ‘Em Separated

As mentioned above, a dedicated workclothes hamper isn’t optional. If you’re working in clothes that take a beating from dust, chemicals, or anything else that isn’t something others are usually exposed to, then it’s imperative you wash these items separate from the rest of the laundry. No one wants April-fresh sheets if they’ve been washed in chemical soup. The best solution is a box-type hamper with a lid, so it keeps everything contained — including the stink.

These Boots are Made for Stopping

Never wear work footwear inside your home. Even street shoes should be left in the closet, not worn indoors. But when it comes to work, maybe you work in a hospital and step in pretty nasty things. Maybe you run construction sites and forever track through mud, adhesives, and more. Whatever your work is, whatever your lifestyle is, even if you’re just a dog-walker, your shoes attract a lot of filth wherever they go, and it all gets mashed into the ground with every succeeding step. To keep your home looking its best, have a place outside or by an exit where you can first clean your footwear on a mat then take it off right away. A great way to make sure you stick to this plan is to have a seating area (like a simple chair or bench) right at the door so you don’t get inconvenienced when untying eleventy-billion laces. Have a tray that your shoes/boots sit on so you have more success keeping that particular dirt contained.

That’s All, Folks

In the end, it’s all about making sure you’re not trekking through your place with your work clothes on. Every step, things shake out and get into your cozy, happy home. By limiting how far into your home you get with all your gear on, before hopping in the shower, you’ll at least leave your work where it belongs while keeping your home healthy and happy.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.