Toxins enter the body through what we eat, drink, breathe in, and process in any way. Once inside, toxins overtax our immune system and detoxification system and leave us more vulnerable to illness — not ideal during cold and flu season, and especially not this year during a pandemic — and make us age a little faster, too.
Fortunately, there are a lot of simple things you can do from the comfort of your own home to keep toxins out of your body, flush them out of your system faster, and boost your immunity all at the same time, says Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of Vital Plan. He shares his top 10 strategies below.
1. Source Your Food Wisely
Try to stay away from packaged and processed foods that contain ingredients you can't pronounce, and instead reach for fresh food from natural sources. Aim to make vegetables more than 50% of your daily diet — their fiber is a great natural binder, and they're full of beneficial phytochemicals — and minimize your red meat consumption.
Also, whenever practical, choose organic over conventional products. That said, we know organic prices and accessibility can be an issue, so for help making strategic decisions, refer to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists:
The Dirty Dozen:
(*While raisins aren't technically a fresh food, the EWG found that they are "one of the dirtiest produce commodities on the market — and even some organic raisins are contaminated.")
The Clean Fifteen
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
2. Consider Detoxifying and Immune-Boosting Herbs
There are a number of herbs and natural ingredients that can help support detoxification and immune health. Here are the ones at the top of Dr. Rawls' list:
Chlorella: This nutrient-rich freshwater algae binds to toxins so they can be eliminated from your body more efficiently. Chlorella works particularly well for withdrawing heavy metals. Pure chlorella can be purchased in the form of bulk powder, tablets, or capsules.
Milk Thistle: It's been used for thousands of years to support a healthy liver, the primary organ responsible for detoxification.
Dandelion: Known to help support liver function, research suggests dandelion helps promote the body's natural detoxification and elimination processes.
Bitters: Bitter flavors are important to digestion — they stimulate the release of the saliva, enzymes, and bile that help break down your food. Include bitter herbs and foods in each meal, or take a botanical extract that blends bitter herbs like dandelion root, burdock root, orange peel, and gentian root
Reishi mushroom: An extensively studied adaptogenic mushroom, reishi has exceptional immunomodulating and antiviral properties. It helps normalize inflammatory cytokines and promotes healthy immune response against threatening microbes.
Rhodiola: Another adaptogen, rhodiola improves stress tolerance by reducing fatigue, supporting energy levels, and improving tissue oxygenation.
Turmeric: This popular spice is well loved for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Shilajit: An herbo-mineral adaptogen, shilajit has a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine for longevity and strength. It's also an immunomodulator with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
Gotu Kola: Best known for improving memory and mood, gotu kola is also great for promoting a normal response to inflammation, balancing stress hormones, and supporting circulation.
Vital Plan is a certified B Corporation — one of only eight supplement companies recognized for achieving the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. If you make a purchase using the link above, EcoWatch may earn a commission.
3. Filter Your Water
Much of America's tap water has been shown to contain pollutants, so filtering what comes out of your kitchen sink is smart. To be sure you're using a filter that does the trick, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Look for a filter certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association.
- Choose one that removes the contaminants in your water (check your local drinking water quality report to see what's present).
- Change your water filters on time.
4. Choose Safe and Effective Cleaning Supplies
When buying household cleaning products, don't bring home chemicals that could harm your health more than some of the microbes you're trying to get rid of. Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market that work safely; here are some ways to shop wisely:
- Look for the Green Seal, Ecologo, or Safer Choice (EPA) seals.
- Opt for fragrance-free options.
- Avoid triclosan and quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats." (One tactic is to choose products that don't advertise as "antibacterial.")
- Consult the EWG's list of safe and effective products for guarding against coronavirus.
5. Opt for Non-Toxic Beauty and Personal Care Products
There are a lot of claims made on beauty and self-care products these days, but words alone, like "natural," "organic," "non-toxic," "clean," "green," and "eco-friendly," don't mean a thing — they aren't backed by any sort of regulatory or certification processes. Instead, to find non-toxic products you trust, you have to do a little research.
- USDA Organic
- EWG Verified
- Made Safe
- NSF/ANSI 305
- Natural Products Association Certified
- Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care
6. Get Outside
One more reason to get outdoors beyond combatting cabin fever: The air in natural environments is generally much cleaner than indoor air. For one, outdoor air contains ⅔ less carbon dioxide, high levels of which negatively affect our productivity, sleep, and more.
Forest air in particular contains phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by trees and plants that have been shown to boost our immune system function, plus plants in general help neutralize toxic substances in the air. Forests, open spaces, and open water are also rich in negative ions, which reduce inflammation.
So take your pick of natural environs, and get out there as often as possible — while still maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, of course.
7. Bring Nature Indoors
Plants are natural air purifiers, so bringing some plants indoors can help clear the air in your home. Here's a list of the top 10 air-purifying plants to consider:
- Areca palm
- Lady palm
- Bamboo palm
- Rubber plant
- English ivy
- Dwarf date palm
- Boston fern
- Peace lily
8. Drive Less, Move More
Staying off the roads decreases air pollution, and the fact that many of us are driving less these days is noticeably improving air quality. If your commute is on hold, try to translate some of your usual travel time into getting more physical activity, or sneak in more movement between other normal routines.
Exercise improves circulation, oxygenates your tissues, and enhances the work of the lymphatic system through muscle contractions — all of which make it easier to move toxins out of your body.
9. Practice Forgiveness
Through the practice of gratitude, we stay centered and in the present moment. This allows us to move through situations from our heart. Take time to forgive someone or yourself for things in the past. When we forgive, we expand and open up to endless possibilities.
10. Quit a Bad Habit
Are you a smoker? Pack rat? Chronically sleep-deprived? In a bad relationship? Toxins come into our lives in many forms. Consider if you're participating in any unhealthy patterns or holding onto anything that no longer serves you, and then find a way to limit those things in your life.
Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
Reposted with permission from Vital Plan.
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Solar panels can provide electricity for decades, and they have few maintenance needs compared with other energy generation systems. However, regular solar panel cleaning is important to ensure they remain productive. When dust and debris accumulate on the surface of photovoltaic cells, they block sunlight, and less electricity is produced.
The best solar panels come with a power production warranty of 25 to 30 years. Like any device, they lose performance capacity over time. High-quality modules will only lose around 0.5% of their capacity each year, but this is only true for solar panels that are cleaned regularly. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, soiling can reduce panels' annual electricity output by up to 7% in some parts of the U.S.
Rain can naturally wash away dirt and particles from the surface of solar panels, especially if they are tilted. So if you live in a place with regular rainfall, your panels will be less affected by soiling. However, solar panel cleaning services are still recommended two to four times per year to make sure your system stays productive.
Recommended Solar Panel Cleaning Schedule
Solar panels are exposed to dust, dirt and bird droppings all year long. Depending on where you live, there may also be seasonal issues that affect panels, and you must make sure these are handled properly. Below are our solar panel cleaning tips for each part of the year.
As you might guess, a large amount of falling leaves can block a lot of sunlight if you let them accumulate on your solar panels. However, even a small number of leaves can have a major impact on power generation, due to how solar panels work:
- The photovoltaic cells that make up a panel are wired in series. When even one cell is covered completely by a leaf, the entire panel becomes less productive.
- Consider that the solar panels themselves are also wired together in strings (series circuits) and connected to an inverter. If one panel in the circuit has issues, all others will be affected.
- As a result, a single large leaf can affect an entire row of panels if it fully covers one solar cell. As more leaves accumulate, the electricity output continues to drop.
You can clean the leaves on your own, but you should get a rake that is specifically designed for solar panels. Otherwise, you can damage the surface of the solar panels, and your manufacturer warranty may be voided due to rough handling.
Snow and ice become the main issue for solar panels when the winter arrives. Most high-quality modules have low temperature ratings and will not be damaged by cold weather, but a thick layer of snow can block sunlight and stop electricity production.
- Snow should be cleaned from solar panels and other roof surfaces as soon as possible.
- Otherwise, the snow can melt and freeze back into ice, which is more difficult to remove.
The sun can help you by melting some of the snow and ice on your roof, but solar panel cleaning might still be necessary after a heavy snowfall. Again, you will need a specialized solar panel snow rake. Avoid ice scrapers and any other tools that may scratch or damage solar cells.
There is plenty of pollen in the air during spring, and it can accumulate on solar panels and lower energy production. Regular washing is recommended during this season to prevent pollen buildup. If you're not sure how much pollen you're expected to get, many weather forecasts provide information on pollen levels, and there are also online resources where you can check pollen counts for your zip code.
Pollen allergies are very common, and they tend to worsen during spring. If you or someone else in your home is sensitive to pollen, you might prefer to hire a solar panel cleaning service to avoid direct exposure.
During summer, the cleaning needs of solar panels will depend on your climate and weather conditions:
- In regions that get plenty of rain during summer (hurricane season), there is little need to clean your panels because the weather will do the job for you.
- Regions with less rainfall tend to be hot and dry during summer (fire season), and regular maintenance may be necessary to remove extra dust, ash and other particles.
Solar panels can achieve their highest electricity savings during summer, since there are more hours of sunlight per day. However, this is only true when they are kept clean of grime. Dirty solar panels will always have a lower energy output, no matter the season.
How to Clean Solar Panels
Cleaning solar panels on your own can be dangerous — especially if they are installed on a hard-to-access roof area. In these cases, paying for a solar panel cleaning service is a safer option.
- Many of the best solar companies offer cleaning services. Some local solar installers may even offer free cleaning for a limited time after your purchase.
- You can also get in touch with professional cleaners who specialize in solar panel maintenance.
Another option to keep your solar panels clean is installing a sprinkler system like that from Heliotex. These remove dust and other particles automatically. With this type of system, solar panels can also be cleaned more frequently, as nobody needs to climb on your roof. With no chance for dust to accumulate, you generate more kilowatt-hours of energy over time and your power bill savings are higher, lowering your overall solar panel payback period.
DIY Solar Panel Cleaning
Cleaning solar panels on your own is also an option, especially if you have a ground-mounted solar system that you can reach easily. However, you must make sure the panels are not damaged while taking all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
To clean your solar panels without damaging them, take note of the following recommendations:
- Use soapy water, avoiding harsh chemicals. Something as simple as diluted biodegradable soap should do the job.
- Use a non-abrasive sponge or a soft brush and squeegee.
- Use a standard garden hose, since a pressure washer can damage your solar panels.
To keep yourself safe, be extra careful when cleaning a rooftop solar system, especially if you have a high-pitched roof. We recommend wearing personal protective equipment including a hardhat and safety harness at the bare minimum.
Also, make sure you stay hydrated while cleaning your solar panels, and avoid working in extreme heat. The risk of heatstroke should not be underestimated, and you will need emergency medical attention if it happens to you. Early morning and evening are the best times of the day for solar panel cleaning, or you can wait to wash your solar panels on a cloudy day.
Cost of Solar Panel Cleaning Services
Solar panel cleaning companies normally either charge per module or charge a flat rate for the entire array. You can expect to pay between $5 and $10 per panel, or $150 to $200 for the entire system, though prices may vary depending on location, season and other factors.
If you don't have solar panels yet, some installers may offer free cleaning for a limited time after your purchase. However, this shouldn't be the main factor when choosing your solar provider. Free cleaning is a nice perk, but make sure you're actually getting a high-quality installation.
How to Tell When Your Solar Panels Need Maintenance
As mentioned above, solar panels are very durable and 25- to-30 year warranties are standard in the industry. However, solar power systems are only productive when their surface is kept clean. Dust, particles and objects will not cause permanent damage, but their electricity output can be reduced drastically.
If your solar panels are producing less electricity than usual, even with sunny weather, they could need cleaning or maintenance. There are two main ways to detect electricity production issues:
- Many solar inverters now come with energy monitoring apps, and you can simply check the electricity production with your smartphone. If there is a significant drop in the daily kilowatt-hour output, the app will let you know.
- When your solar panels are producing less electricity, there will also be an impact on your electricity bill. You will notice that more kilowatt-hours are consumed from the grid, which means you pay a higher bill.
Checking your energy monitoring app regularly is a good habit when you have solar panels. You can detect issues faster and get them fixed, instead of waiting for the next power bill. By then, you will have already used a lot of electricity from the grid.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cleaning
Do solar panels need to be cleaned?
Yes, solar panels need regular cleaning, ideally two to four times per year. They are only productive when sunlight reaches their solar cells, and anything that blocks sunlight reduces their output. This includes dust, dirt, pollen, leaves, snow, ice, bird droppings and any other particles or objects that remain on their surface.
What should I use to clean solar panels?
To clean solar panels, you should use a cleaning method that will not damage the cells. Solar panels should be washed with soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge, or a soft brush and squeegee. If you need to remove leaves or snow, look for a specialized solar panel rake and avoid any cleaning tools that could scratch their surface. An easier and safer option is hiring a professional solar panel cleaning company.
Does cleaning your solar panels make a difference?
Yes, cleaning your solar panels has a major impact on panel productivity. According to NREL, soiling can reduce the annual output of your solar panels by up to 7%.
How much does it cost to hire someone to clean solar panels?
When hiring a solar panel cleaning service for your home energy system, you can expect to pay around $5 to $10 per panel or a flat fee of $150 to $200.
Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015.