28 Detox Your Home Office and Art Studio


This section is adapted from my upcoming book, Home Detox (Storey, 2023)

Art Supplies

Home office spaces often do double duty for work and art. Art materials may contain heavy metals or solvents. Any art supplies with a strong smell, like felt-tip pens, paint thinners, or glues, carry some risk due to VOCs and solvents. If you can detect an odor, know that you are inhaling the chemicals that create that odor into your lungs. Solvents should not be inhaled or allowed to touch the skin because they will be absorbed into the bloodstream. 

Oil-based paints are nontoxic when made from linseed, safflower, poppy, or walnut oil, but the pigments can still be toxic. Solvent-free gel medium and water-soluble oil paints are a few alternatives to traditional oil paints and solvents.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

EMFs arise from radio waves, television signals, microwaves, cordless telephones, cell phone towers, two-way radios, radar, Bluetooth devices, computers, tablets, cell phones, modems, and routers. Exposure to EMFs has been linked to headaches, anxiety, and even tumor growth. It’s also thought to cause fetal development damage, which has spurred many countries to warn pregnant women to wear a shield around their bellies when using personal electronic devices.

Electronic technology has developed rapidly and is now ubiquitous, so at this time we may not be able to completely avoid EMFs, but we can reduce our exposure. Alternative: We can tap into the internet through a fiber-optic connection, which uses light rather than electricity. We can use a cable to connect a computer to a modem, rather than using Wi-Fi. We can turn off the modem and all other electronics at night to shut down all exposure for those hours while we sleep. We can create distance between our bodies and our devices by using the speaker function on our cell phones, rather than holding them to our ears, and carrying them in a purse or backpack rather than keeping them close to our bodies. And we can use a desktop computer rather than a laptop, so our bodies are physically distanced by those extra inches of space.


Office desks, cabinets, and bookshelves are often made from composite materials that contain wood particles, plastics, and glues. 

If you already have composite-material furniture and you suspect that you’re reacting to it, try ventilating the room with fans or by opening windows and doors to reduce your exposure. If you are immune-compromised or chemically sensitive, you may need to switch out the offending items and replace them with more inert (metal or wood) furniture. If you want to replace items, look for solid wood, metal, bamboo, upcycled items from thrift stores, hand-me-downs, or antiques. 


Upholstered furniture like cushy desk chairs, sofas, and ottomans usually contain polyurethane foam. These materials all create toxic dust. If the foam-filled furniture and fabric-covered items in your office are treated with stain-resistant coatings, they carry the additional risk of PFAS that emit VOCs into the room for years.

Solid wood and metal chairs with a wool seat cushion are nontoxic options. 


Collectively, the level of VOCs from furniture, pens, printers, and upholstery can be significant in our home offices, especially if fragrances, synthetic carpets and rugs, sofas, candles, or incense are also in this space. Our office spaces are typically small and often lack cross-ventilation because we close the doors for quiet and privacy as we work. 

Consider the concentration of fragrances and airborne toxins in your office and start to detoxify this room with ventilation. Crack open windows and turn on a fan, and then reduce the chemical load by removing and replacing items to eliminate the source.

Detox Your Home Office and Art Studio Summary Checklist

O Review your art and office supplies and toss old materials that are no longer usable.

O Make notes about items that need to be replaced. 

O Shop for nontoxic items.

O Deep clean to remove dust and chemical residue