How to Seal a Whole House with Foil

My last post was about The Many Varied and Delightful Uses for Foil. One of the listicle points was about sealing the floor and fittings with aluminium foil to make the place liveable. For example: The sea-side rental property I live in has foil over the floors in every useable room. The two bedrooms that I can’t use, due to fragrance chemical residue in one of them and a brand new wall-unit of chipboard cupboards in the other, have both room’s doors sealed shut with painter’s masking tape and massive sheets of foil to stop any fumes outgassing into my sleeping area.

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It’s not exactly Home Vouge, now is it?

My sleeping area is in the open-plan-lounge-kitchen-dining area, which besides the bathroom, is the only room I can be in without getting very sick. Also in this area: there’s my home gym (treadmill, weight bench, yoga mat and pilates ropes), my cane dining table, kitchen, my bed and my dog’s bed, my wardrobes and my home office. It’s pretty crowded in here. Most days I try to feel grateful that I have a safe-ish home to live in. Many days, lately, when I’m not sick, I’m blissfully happy in my little cottage by the sea. I know of many people who have to sleep outside in tents, caravans and on balconies, or in homes that are totally unsuited to people who’re sensitive to chemicals. Plus there is another room where I store all my boxes of stuff; that room has foil on the floors also.

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So yeah, I’m lucky I have this rental property to stay in while we build an actual safe home; however, there are other days where I’m not sure how to cope with getting so damn sick. Sick from foods, sure, I can cope with that because I have an element of control over what I eat, but getting chronically ill from neighbours and their woodsmoke, the outdoor moulds and, inside, a lack of ventilation because I can’t open the house and air it as often as I need to, is hard to cope with. The floors still outgass terpenes from the pine boards; but worse than the pine fumes are the lemon-scented cleaning chemical fumes that emit when the house heats up or is closed for too long a time. I need to be able to air my home everyday. During spring and summer, I can have the house open most days, only going into lockdown on weekends when our seaside town is overrun by terrorists tourists, BBQs, lawnmowers, backyard burns (illegal but people still do it) and nearby smoke from bushfires and burn offs.

If my neighbours hang their washing out, or wash their concrete with disinfectant (yeah, in the ‘interest’ of young children, that’s what they do.) or they mow lawns without sending me a warning text (one neighbour finds it just too inconvenient to help me), and my windows are open, I get horribly ill. So I only open my windows when I can stay vigilant about the state of the outside air.

On many days, my house is kept dark with the blinds pulled down to keep it from outgassing. To be comfortable, breathing wise, I need the air-conditioner to be running if the sun is out. But for now, as it’s so damn cold, I choose to sit here cloistered in darkness. Yeah, that impacts on my mental and emotional well-being; not to mention my mood. Consequently, I don’t feel very positive when I have to live like that.

Things will change for me when I’m in a safe house; I know that. But for now, the soundtrack to my life is the hum of an InovaAir filter and a AusClimate dehumidifier working to control my indoor air environment; and the best chance I can give my health has been to try and put a halt to the chemicals that outgass in this house. Enter my trusty rolls of foil!

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Thankfully, there are some things that are within my control:

There are six layers of foil on the floor of my living space. At first we only had three layers but as time has wound on and I’ve been living here since 2013, nearly three years now while attempting to start our build, we’ve had to add extra layers because of the top layer getting ripped by my dog, Bella, my furniture, our foot traffic and the wheels on my air purifier as I move it around to clean the air. Pain in the arse, yes, but this foil trick works. (We wear socks a lot in here.)

I’ve used foil for many things, as most of my readers already know, but sealing a whole house has been a challenge. I hear some of you ask: well. why live in a property that’s not suitable; one that impacts on your health?  The answer to that is: I spent eighteen months looking for a rental property near the Surf Coast of Victoria where we are going to build, and most properties where totally unsuitable and I didn’t even venture past the front door because of the cleaners/moulds/fragrances/paints that were in them. This property is pretty good—when other people are not destroying the outdoor air—when I can keep the house open for a few hours a day. It looks a bit weird, having all this foil on the floors; and my teenage daughter was mortified when she lived here for a while. However, if you can breathe without being in pain, the space-ship, futuristic silver look takes on an attractive sheen! Trust me on that…

So this is how, and what we did to seal a whole house with foil:

First, we told the real estate agent we were doing it; and we had to agree to pay for any damage that this might cause (it won’t. Just wait until you see our technique!);

I had to source the foil. In another article on How to Seal a Room with Foil we used Kingspan Insulbreak, which is a vapour barrier and a thermal break used to insulate and wrap buildings in. It’s about $300 a roll and pretty expensive for this type of job. All the other foils that I found either had paint on one side (builder’s foil) or had a fire retardant blanket attached to it. I managed to contact a company that makes the fire-retardent coated foil and bought some rolls of foil before they were glued to the blanket. So what I have here is just foil.

There are two types: Foil coated brown paper, which the guy at the fire-retardant place gave me for free; and the roll of heavy-duty foil, which cost me $400. Cash. We used the brown paper foil to protect the floorboards underneath. In my experience, aluminium foil can rub of a silver stain onto areas; especially if friction is applied. Also it can flake off. I wasn’t sure if this would happen so I used layered the brown paper side down over the floorboards to protect them (and my bond money!).

 

And for some jobs we actually used kitchen foil:

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This gas heater was a mahoosive problem, and it was one of the first areas we sealed. Not only were the previous tenants smokers but they also burned a heap of nasty smelling incense (it smells like cat pee, I swear). For some reason most of the scents were emanating from here so I covered and sealed it straight up. I don’t muck around. It’s not like I’d want to try and clean stuff like that off; and I’ve lived with this condition long enough to know: you can’t scrub off fragrance because it’s designed to stick around. This job completely used a few small rolls of kitchen aluminium foil, which I then sealed with heavy duty aluminium foil tape.

For the first layer of floor’s foil we used heavy-duty foil tape to seal the edges. But for around the edges of the room we chose painter’s masking tape so that we didn’t damage the skirting boards. Any area of the house where foil is stuck down with tape adhering to surfaces, such as wood or paint, we’ve made sure that it’s only painter’s tape that’s stuck down to it. This way it will not leave any gummy, sticky residue there. (Someone pointed out that if there is gunky glue left over when it’s time to move out, I could clean it off using some olive oil and a hair dryer. Clever, I know!)

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Another layer of foil just added

Each time it gets ripped [I’m looking at my Boxer Dog!] we have to put a piece of tape over the rip. It looks ugly after a while; and it’s not exactly clean because I can’t wash the floor like I could if it were tile or boards, so we have to replace it. Also, during hot weather, the fragrance and solvents used in the residues from previously used cleaners come through the foil, so again, this needs replacing. Do we do that though? No, we just vacuum then put another couple of layers over the top. Kind of like floor lasagne.

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Before the Latest Layer of Foil. A little gross, I know!

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The Edges are Joined with Tape

Vacuuming can be a challenge. Not that I can vacuum myself because dust gets stirred up giving me a headache, and it’s painful to breathe for a couple of hours or until the next day. So when it’s time to vacuum, I can be found holed up in the bathroom while my boyfriend, Dan, vacuums the house while all the windows are open and the fans are running. Thankfully, spring has arrived and I can now stay outside while he does this. The other issue with vacuuming is that it weakens the foil’s structure and causes it to rip in places. But what can we do? If the house is left dusty, this can supply food for mould to grow. So I choose a little bit of pain while we run the vacuum over a lot of pain if this house gets mouldy!

Also to avoid mould growth and damaging this property if water is spilled, we chose to leave under the kitchen sink area unsealed. It’s only about 1 x 3 metres wide, and, yes, it does release fumes when the house heats up but still, it’s better than mould growing under the layers of foil if they were to get wet.

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Since the above photo was taken we’ve put tiles down over the area to stop some of the outgassing but they are not sealed around the edges or with grout or anything, but they still do the job. I didn’t want to make a bigger problem by getting water or mould growth under the foil so chose not to seal around here. It’s a small area as you can see. (I can’t use the kitchen oven because it runs on gas and probably has been cleaned with oven cleaner. I plan to do a future post on how I tackle cooking just in case someone else needs help with that.)

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The kitchen bench top is made from pine and it’s been sealed or cleaned with some type of polish or wood cleaner. The fumes on a hot day smell like Estapol and cause a headache like a tight band around my head. Guess how I solved that problem? Yes, aluminium foil. This time I used heavy duty foil to cover it. I have to be careful with food and always have a plate or glass chopping board underneath at all times because the aluminium rubs off onto my hands; I wouldn’t want that to happen to my food. The edges are sealed with painter’s masking tape so as to not cause any damage to the cabinetry.

So this how I sealed a whole house with foil!

Uber positives:
  • This foil is slippery when wearing socks and it makes a great dance floor.
  • The foil over the floorboards serves a dual advantage: it stops woodsmoke coming through any cracks!
  • Teenagers are too embarrassed to live here :)
  • It makes my house liveable.

Have you ever sealed off an area with foil?

More

How to seal chipboard in the Kitchen

How to seal a room with foil

10 uses for foil

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

10 Uses for Foil

During Creative Nonfiction class at Victoria University (VU) with the wonderfully inclusive teacher and writer, Michelle Fincke, one of our assignments was to write for something for Weekend Notes. We learnt about writing listicles and blog posts (Like, short articles, which, for a verbose writer, and rarely a concise one, was a challenge!) and we practised writing news articles. One of the examples up on the board was a Weekend Notes article called:’Six Uses for Aluminium Foil’; now as my readers know, I can tell you a lot about uses for aluminium foil! However, on that day in the classroom, the air being uncontaminated by fragrance, petrochemical and solvents from personal care products, the HEPA air filter supplied by Vic Uni’s Disability Services was blowing filtered air, and I, without the mask impeding on conversation, put up my hand to say, “I could write that article even better; I have a heap of uses for aluminium foil.”. I wasn’t joking, for I was sitting on a piece that had been carefully laid across my chair before sitting down for class.

My Trusty Heavy Duty Foil used to protect my clothes from fragrance chemical residue and/or fabric softeners

My Trusty Heavy Duty Foil Over a Chair Trick!

I’d already let it slip, during a previous conversation with my teacher, that I live in a house where the floor is covered in aluminium foil and we all need to wear socks so as to delay ripping it and having to change it so often, so I knew she was in on my self-depreciating joke trying to burst the bubble on my illness. We then spoke about how, yes, indeed I did have a lot of inside knowledge on the use of foil, but if I were to write about it in listicle form, then the uses would need to be audience appropriate. (The example used that day was about uses for the average consumer not yet effected by chemicals.) So, without further ado, here are my top ten uses for foil for the average chemically sensitive consumer:

  1. Chairs: Not only can it be used on public chairs (like the one above) that are ordinarily, but also wrongly, sat on by people wearing clothes washed, dried or sprayed with products containing fragrance, solvents and petrochemicals, but it can also be used over car seats to protect your clothes from petrochemical fumes embedded in the fabric/leather (How many times have you got out of a car, gone inside to shower and change clothes, then came back to your clothes later and found your clothes reek of engine oil/fragrance chemicals? How long did it take for you to recover this time after going out? Try the foil trick, you may recover faster next time and save yourself a set of clothing.) And you could also use it to cover a dentist’s chair.
    ~
  2. Floors: Have you seen those newspaper articles where they wonderfully sensationalise the stories of people who are chemically sensitive? You know the ones where they show everything wrapped in foil including the area that houses the kitchen sink? Hey, it’s not so sensationalistic. Wake up, come to my house; it’s reality: my whole floor is covered in heavy duty aluminium foil (I have more photos, and I’ll post about my new improved floor-covering technique next). My rental property has pine floors, and even though they are really old (surely old enough to have outgassed?), they release fumes that impact on my health. On days were the weather is warm, it’s blatantly obvious that the previous tenants were smokers and that the floor’s been cleaned with fragrance-based cleaners and it releases terpenes from the pine floorboards. My eyes sting and burn and I get a headache. As soon as the temperature goes over 22 Celsius I have to put the air-conditioning on so as to calm my symptoms or avoid them all together. But it’s the foil that’s really helped. This is a quick-fix solution for a rental property. (The ideal remedy, but often not possible, would be to have tiles laid; or concrete polished with low VOC sealers.) (Additionally, if you have carpet to deal with, due to the amount of VOCs emitted by the materials and glues, and possibly by any cleaning agents used, this may not work at keeping in the VOCs for very long.)

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  1. Steering Wheels: Yes, I used foil tape (over other materials to protect the leather from the adhesive) on my car’s steering wheel because of the fragrance left over from the previous owner. (Foil can be reflective so if it’s put near the sun it needs to be covered with something else to protect your eyes from the harsh glare.) My only other choice to fix the fragrance-emanating-from-the-steering-wheel problem was to buy a new one; and, due to the cost, it just wasn’t an option.
    ~
  2. Money: I keep foil in my purse so I can wrap money in it. I don’t even sniff it, or get anyone else to sniff for me anymore, I just assume it has fragrance on it and fold it between the foil so that it doesn’t embed in my purse. I learned this trick from other people who have this same problem. (Don’t leave home without it!)
    ~
  3. Shopping: My partner does all our shopping but if I’m in the car we always keep a roll of foil spare so we can wrap or cover anything that’s come from a shop that sells fragranced-based cleaning products. This way fumes are not released into the cabin space; it doesn’t take long for a warm car to become extremely uncomfortable for someone sensitive to chemical irritants. (Again, don’t leave home without it.)
    ~
  4. Incremental Uses: Foil can be great to use in an emergency for when you just don’t have a solution to chemicals outgassing into your immediate breathing space. My treadmill has plastic housing over the motor. I’m not usually sensitive to plastics but lately (like, three months now), these particular plastic fumes cause a sharp headache around the sinus area in my forehead during or after my workout. Solution: I’ve laid a piece of foil over the vent, taping it down only on the side that points in my (jogging/walking) direction. My theory: the fumes are released in the other direction and soaked up by my Austin Air Purifier. (Tip: Buy foil in bulk.)
  1. Food: Yes, conventional use, I know. However, convention also suggests we use plastic cling wrap to seal in freshness. In chemically sensitive circles, due to phthalates in plastics, it’s de’ rigueur to use foil! (Get with the status quo.)
    ~
  2. Kitchen Cabinets: Again, we’re back to the “sensationalistic ‘Chemically Sensitive Person Must Cover Whole Kitchen in Foil Just to Make a Sandwich’ theme” again. I am being hyperbolic about it: it wasn’t the whole damn kitchen, it was just the unsealed particle board underneath the brand new kitchen cabinets that belonged to the house I rented four houses ago. (Do not try this yourself at home; get someone not—or at least less—chemically sensitive to do it for you.)
    ~
  3. Camping or staying in alternative accommodation: a layer of foil is the perfect—if not noisy—way to protect your clothing and bedding from a mattress that may be embedded with fragrance-chemical irritants. It can also be used to block dampness rising from the soil, if you’re sleeping outdoors.
    ~
  4. Building or Caravan Wrap: Yes, another conventional use, however, I must list it as a building wrap because as far as ‘renovating’ goes, I pray this will be the last use I have for using foil for any large scale projects, all just so that I can have a safe living space. Building foil (so long as you get one without paint or fire retardants on it) is a great product to use to seal in heat, lock out the cold and make your home more energy efficient. During our build (coming up), wrapping the house in foil is one of the jobs I’m scheduled to work on. And I’m actually very excited about that! (We are using Kingspan.)

Do you have conventional (in chemically sensitive circles) uses for foil?

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Seal in Fragrance on a Steering Wheel

My Awesome Steering Wheel Cover. Home Made by Maw!

My Awesome Steering Wheel Cover. Home Crafted by a Friend of Mine!

I know the title of this post reads funny, but stay with me here. Seven years ago, two years after being diagnosed as sensitive to chemicals, I found myself in the position of needing to purchase a car. The car I was driving—although it was a swank model, had leather seats, and a rockin’ stereo—was making me intensely ill, and it wasn’t until I moved to live near the ocean, and recovered somewhat, that I could actually notice how strong the fumes were, how much they were effecting my upper respiratory system, and eyes, and how better I was when not driving it.

Buying a new car was unattainable, due to finances, but just as much so, due to the new materials of plastics, carpets and all the other materials that would have needed to be outgassed. So, I asked around within our local Chemical Sensitivity/MCS organisation, AESSRA and its members, and found a person who’d had success with a second-hand Outback Subaru. Success in that, the materials were less toxic to her; and success in that, the car managed to filter the outside air very well—a bonus, because that’s what I wanted. (Now, I know everybody’s level of sensitivities can be vastly different; and I know that a chemical or natural substance that doesn’t effect one person’s health could turn into a nemesis for another’s. But I figured that the what-type-of-car-do-you-drive? kind of research, I did amongst other people who were sensitive to chemicals, was an awesomely good place to start!)

So that was how I decided on what type of car to buy—the only problem left was: how to find one that didn’t have air-freshener, or overt cleaning chemical residues in it? It took me six months of serious looking before I found the right car. I found most car yards to be useless because of the amount of fragrances in the cars (If the sun was out, I became effected just opening the car door, not even getting in for a test drive breathe.); however, I did manage to strike an agreement with a few dealers that if the car that I was looking for came in, then they’d call me before cleaning it, making it ready for sale. Lovely car salesmen! But still, as it often happens when people bend over to touch their toes to help the chemically sensitive: it didn’t turn out.

The 1998 Subaru that I eventually found was owned privately: a woman who I found through a cousin of a friend’s sister-in-law was thinking of selling but hadn’t gone to a dealership, or advertised as yet. She hadn’t cleaned the car for years, apart from vacuuming it; however, she did wear perfume, but it was of the dab on oil variety—not a spray. It was ‘White Musk’ from the Body Shop, and it was all she used. However, it was right throughout the car, and it took a bit of time to get ready, but eventually, I was able to drive it without wearing a mask. I wrote a photographic article, ‘How to Have a Low Chemical Car’, about the process, and had it published in Sensitivity Matters in 2007. It was one of my first articles to ever get published, and if I can find a copy, I’ll post and link to it from here. But for now, this car article is just about the steering wheel (because I’ve had to redo it. Read on… ).

Two of the items that had the most fragrance on them, were the seat belts, and the steering wheel. These were almost impossible to clean (but I certainly mastered some fantastic techniques in the process), and the steering wheel turned out to be totally impossible, so a friend helped me seal it. We tried to find a steering wheel cover but they were all vinyl or some other unsuitable material. (There are always sheepskin covers. But for me, sheepskin is mighty fine for a pair of (outgassed) ugg-boots (Hey, I live in the Western Suburbs!) but not fine for breathing in the oils of lanolin, and whatever the manufactures use to ‘cure’ or ‘preserve’ it, in a confined space, like a car’s.) A new steering wheel cost over $800, so sealing it was the only option. But how to do it without it looking hobo or shabby chic? Or damaging the resale value? Well, I’m about to show you—in detail…

But first you need to know: I recovered a few years back, and I took off this ingenious contraption because the perfume that was on it was no longer a problem. It was just a light musky scent, and nothing else. No pain breathing it through my nose; no stinging nostrils; no burning my eyes. And the smell of ‘White Musk’ was barely detectable. Interesting, no? (Later on this year, I really want to do a post on the subject of un-heightened sense of smell and recovery, because I want other sensitive people to know how it was for me.) But because my health is back to where it was then, the steering wheel became a literal headache once again. Driving in the heat, with the windows up (like I have a choice about the windows, yeh?), even with the Foust Air Purifier running and the air conditioning on, my eyes and breathing were effected. And if diesel fumes had made their invasive-health-effecting way into my system, then breathing in the perfume fumes were so much more painful. And not only that, the perfume was sticking to my hands and that was a problem if I touched my face or eye area (not to mention if I—accidentally—picked my nose. :) Oops ).

Covering it back up was the only option.

(It’s a statement about the nature of chemical sensitivities/MCS that a person can recover enough to tolerate something, and then return back to that state where it’s a problem once again.)

So here it is. How to make your own steering wheel cover!

(Click on an image for a slide show. Oh, and note: my own personal ‘Auto Inspector’ at the end of the series.)

 Notes

  • The Chux SuperWipes came from a supermarket (these are cleaning cloths, unscented, of course). (You could also use old fabric, or rags torn into strips.) The reason for their use is so that the steering wheel is protected from the foil tape’s adhesive residue; therefore, protecting the car’s resale value. The Chux wipes may need to be washed before use; however, I just unwrapped mine from the plastic, leaving them outside in the summer sun for three weeks. (If you are not sensitive to chemicals and you are reading this thinking, “Why would she leave them outside for three weeks?” The answer is this: The cleaning items, fragranced personal care, and laundry products shelved inside supermarkets, out-gass chemicals into the air that permeate into mostly everything else, therefore, all products that come from there need to be aired outside before use, and especially, before coming into my home. (And… you don’t want to know what a loaf of bread smells of… Yep, you guessed it. Cleaning chemicals… ))

    ~

  • The elastic came from a local haberdashery shop, Spotlight, and cost around $8 a metre. The first batch I bought, which was ribbed elastic, reeked of petrochemicals, and that, on inhalation, caused a headache, stung my eyes, and burned my nose, just after one wash, so I gave up on it (and left it outside, hoping it will air out for another project, otherwise, like most things that don’t air out, I’ll give it away.) and, now I’ve bought another batch, which is not ribbed, it’s smoother, and much thiner; and after one wash, it didn’t cause symptoms. And it didn’t have that synthetic rubber smell, and after three weeks in the sun, it was ready for use.  (I’ve found the sun to do a much better job at removing chemicals than washing can. Usually, I’ll give something one to two washes, and then leave it outside for as long as I can. This way, I’m not wasting water.) I imagine you could also use calico? Or organic cotton but I think this might slip off after a few drives, so it’s important to use something that will grip the wheel.

    ~

  • After completing a smooth wrap with the elastic, the end part needs to be sewn with a curved needle and some strong darning cotton. Just sew it flat where it finishes up.

    ~

Now can my readers see how foil can be my BFF (besides that spunky looking Boxer Dog, and the man fixing my car)?

 

More articles

 

AESSRA: Chemical Sensitivity and MCS

Linda Sepp: MCS Car Repair Safety Precautions

Cellomomcars: New car smell, good, bad or ugly

Claudia S Miller: Diesel Exhaust Amplifies Allergies

Foust Car Purifiers: Report on harmful chemicals in your car

Cellomomcars: Cars for People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (and everyone else)

 

 

 

 

 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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