IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Boost your home's immune system

How to boost your home's immune system using new products recommended by TODAY contributor Kathleen Daelemans.

Never a fan of cleaning I’m always on the lookout for products that will make the job easier and get my home cleaner, faster. A thorough search of this year’s inventory yielded a few worthwhile must-have and must-keep-in-mind-for-when-I-strike-it-rich items.

Halo Technologies Inc. Ultraviolet Vacuums

Home Germ Warfare

Carpets cover more than 70 percent of floor space in U.S. homes and are rarely, if ever disinfected. As a result, they contain the highest concentration of germs and allergens in the home, including molds, bacteria, viruses and dust mites — all of which are invisible to the eye.

Asthma rates have more than doubled since 1980 particularly among children. Currently, asthma affects 9 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of hospitalization in children.

The No. 1 allergen is the protein found in dust mite’s feces. Each dust mite can lay 50 eggs and produce 20 droppings per day. Dust mites live all year long and thrive in humidity therefore humid months spawn growth allowing dust mites’ to multiply into big numbers from March through September if you don’t thoroughly clean in early spring.

Ultraviolet light has been used for decades to sterilize the world’s cleanest environments and studies document its effectiveness at killing mold, dust mites, their eggs, bacteria and even viruses. Halo Technologies Inc. offers the first ultraviolet vacuum making it easier than ever to keep and maintain the safest home environment possible.
Halo Technologies Inc. Ultraviolet Vacuum Source:, $399 and up

Kohler Wellspring Touchless Kitchen Faucet

Touchless Hygiene, Temperature Control and Water ConservationThe benefits of touchless technology have long been established in commercial settings so it only makes sense to create products for the home using the same technology.

Kohler’s (spring-break-vacation) price tag left me with no choice but to comparison shop and I’m glad I did. The home movies of my father and sister installing and uninstalling comparison products that ended up being mediocre in materials, quality and performance are hilarious and priceless. The memories and other valuable lessons I learned along the way — hire real plumbers but if you can’t afford them it really is possible to survive a home improvement project and prevail — are too.

And no, this is not a paid advertorial or endorsement and I don’t work for Kohler or any of the products mentioned in this piece. I’m cheap and always trying to save money no matter what it costs me or my family in dollars or humility.

Add Kohler’s water filtration system (the Kohler Aquifer) to their touchless faucet and not only can you erase concerns of cross contamination off your worry you list but you can forget about hauling in cases of water all year long. The combination system makes up for its price tag in water conservation by cutting out water waste and freeing up thousands of gallons of water each year. Source:  Price: Kohler Wellspring Touchless Faucet: $775.00 Kohler Aquifier: $125.

Green Cleaning Products by Gaiam

You have seen Gaiam’s Yoga and workout DVD’s and equipment at stores like Target and Whole Foods. Despite not being able to pronounce their name for the first year of Gaiam DVD purchases I’ve been a loyal fan since day one and tell all my friends about my favorite Yoga and Pilates workout DVDs from that “G” company. Oddly, they all knew who I was talking about.  I recently learned the company's name derives from a fusion of the words /Gaia/, the ancient name for Mother Earth, and the phrase "I am" in an effort to express the interconnection between the planet and all that it  sustains. Thus, the Gaiam logo is based on an ancient symbol of the Flower of Life, a mark that has come to signify a trusted single-source brand. Gaiam: Healthy solutions for your healthy lifestyle. Nice to know. But it’s the excellent product execution, customer service and commitment to our environment that keeps me coming back. I just received my first Gaiam catalog and have tabbed almost the whole book. I haven’t placed an order yet because I’ve never even considered ordering cleaning supplies online. But after much consideration — my purchase buys me a healthier home, a safer world for my nieces to play in and more free time.  I don’t have to gas up my car and head out to a brick and mortar store to pick up cleaning supplies. I can click, pay and then go play. The unexpected free time is enough to soothe the pain of paying shipping on cleaning products I can get cheaper near home. And nothing feels as good as knowing that my purchasing decisions will have a positive impact on the health of the world my nieces grown up in. Interesting Facts:

  • If every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 70-sheet virgin fiber paper towels with one equal roll of recycled paper, we could save 196 million gallons of water, a year's supply for 1,500 families of four.
  • If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of  48-oz. chlorine bleach with non-chlorine bleach, we could prevent 8.2 million pounds of chlorine from entering the environment.
  • If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 100-oz. ultra petroleum based liquid laundry detergent with our 100-oz. vegetable based product, we could save 560,000 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 32,000 U.S. homes for one year.
  • If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 28-oz. petroleum based dishwashing liquid with out vegetable based product, we would save 118,700 barrels of oil.
  • 118,700 barrels of oil is enough to heat and cool 6,800 U.S. homes for one year.

Now all that’s enough to make me place an order! No more virgin towel, chlorine, chemical petroleum anything around here anymore. At least I’ll try a  lot harder to make more responsible purchasing decisions on a continuous basis.

Source:, Prices: $5.00 on up.

Grand Epicure Pro Series Cutting Boards
Peel an apple. Slice it into eight wedges. Place each wedge on your favorite cutting board and let stand five minutes. Taste. Gag. Throw out cutting boards.

I’m a professional chef and I know how to maintain cutting board safety but I can’t keep the darn things clean enough. Every time I perform this little test despite having sanitized the board I can taste the last thing I prepared and maybe even the last several things. Cutting boards have consistently been proven to be one of the dirtiest surfaces in the home.

Grand Epicure’s new wooden boards come in lots of sizes and are super affordable making it easy to designate each board to its own specific task. I have a board for meat, a board for chicken, a board for fish and a board for everything else. I’m not saying every house needs four, I test recipes for a living but if it’s within your budget to have at least two, I highly recommend it. Most food born illnesses we cause ourselves at home.

Source:  Retail stores. Prices: range from $10 - $30

Take A Memo

When was the last time you thought about dipping your keyboard and mouse in a bucket of bleach? If that were only possible. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, counted bacteria on workplace surfaces for a study sponsored by The Clorox Co., makers of Clorox bleach. He found that office toilet seats had 49 germs per square inch and desktops had almost 21,000 germs per square inch!

More and more products are showing up labeled “Microban protected”. Microban protection provides continuous cleaning action, inhibiting the growth of damaging microbes, such as bacteria, that can cause stains and odors. Additionally, Microban has a continuous, built-in cleaning action that helps technology devices remain cleaner for the lifetime of the product. Good enough for me to seriously consider swapping out my keyboard and mouse. Product: Fellowes Microban Keyboard & Wireless Mouse

Source: Office Depot, Staples. Price: $ 119.98, Source: Office Depot, Staples

Plant Life

A joint study between NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America concluded that houseplants help to purify indoor air.

Buildings and homes are designed for function and energy efficiency. Modern construction materials produce pollutants that can remain trapped in buildings causing what’s known as Sick Building Syndrome. Eco-unfriendly cleaning products, perfumes and toxic ingredients found in other common household products further pollute our home’s air supply.

In addition to being able to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, the NASA/ALCA study showed that many houseplants also remove harmful elements such as trichloroethylene, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air.

According to the study findings the advantage that houseplants have over other plants is that they are adapted to tropical areas where they grow beneath dense tropical canopies and must survive in areas of low light. These plants are thus ultra-efficient at capturing light, which also means that they must be very efficient in processing the gasses necessary for photosynthesis. Because of this fact, they have greater potential to absorb other gases, including potentially harmful ones.

The recommended plants can be found at most local nurseries.

  1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium', heartleaf philodendron
  2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
  3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana', cornstalk dracaena
  4. Hedera helix, English ivy
  5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
  6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig', Janet Craig dracaena
  7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii', Warneck dracaena
  8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
  9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
  10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa', peace lily
  11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
  12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
  13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
  14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
  15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

For an average home of under 2,000 square feet, the study recommends using at least fifteen samples of a good variety of these common houseplants to help improve air quality. They also recommend that the plants be grown in six inch containers or larger.


PDF files of the NASA studies related to plants and air quality:

List of NASA studies related to treating a variety of air and waterborne pollutants with plants:

Kathleen Daelemans is host of Public Television's "Cooking Thin and Loving Food with Chef Kathleen."