The following strategies are used by those sensitive to chemicals to sequester, encase and block offgassing. They are more or less in order from the least effective to the most effective, though it depends on the thickness of some of the products.
You can use them to seal up an item that is offgassing VOCs, a bed and other furniture that are fragranced or sprayed with pesticides, and smaller items that are contaminated or toxic.
You could also use them for the opposite purpose, to keep items clean from contamination from chemicals that bother you.
I have also used them to sequester moldy items, the same rules would apply.
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1. Plastic Sheeting
I have used different types and thicknesses of plastic (polyethylene) sheeting to block offgassing.
The thinnest type that could be used for this application is 3 mil poly.
A handy form of 3 mil poly is Uhaul covers. These are made in various shapes to cover couches, mattresses, and other furniture like chairs, making them very convenient. You can double them up. I have found that these are unscented when I bought them from Uhaul stores.
TuTuff is a popular plastic VOC barrier for chemically sensitive folks. This is a 4 mil plastic.
I also use 6 mil plastic in many situations, to cover and block offgassing from beds for instance, I have purchased it in rolls from Amazon and from the hardware store.
If you don’t do well with polyethylene you could try using an EVA plastic shower liner.
2. Activated Carbon Fabric
Activated charcoal fabric or blankets are made from fabric infused with charcoal, this helps absorb odors when you encase something that is offgassing.
This is the only item on this list that I haven’t tried myself but many folks have reported it working well.
It would be good for folks who can’t or don’t want to use plastic. You could also use this in areas where plastic or foil would not work, like to cover a carpet that is scented or offgassing.
You could double this up, putting this layer down first and then using plastic over it, or the other way around.
Activated Charcoal.com sells charcoal fabric and has been very popular with chemically sensitive folks.
3. Mylar (Foil and Plastic)
I have used these 5-gallon Mylar/foil bags to contain many smaller items that were contaminated or to prevent cross-contamination.
It would also be possible to cut them open and tape them onto larger objects to sequester offgassing if you didn’t have the other options around.
I found they worked quite well to sequester smaller items. I used to throw my clothes in them when coming home, before washing them. I also used them when traveling to pack items before putting them in my suitcase.
4. Aluminized Tarps
This is the exact tarp that I have used many many times. I have used it to sequester offgassing (mostly in beds and camping mats).
I often travel with these and if I encounter a bed that is too toxic for me I have these ready. I have also used it on brand new beds that have polyurethane foam that is offgassing too much for me.
You could also use this on sofas, wood furniture, and many other medium to large sized items.
These are not odorless right from the get-go. They have a plasticky odor and so the extremely sensitive may need to offgas them first or may not be able to use them.
The aluminum does rub off if you are applying pressure or moving it a lot (like when it’s used on a mattress that you are sleeping on). They are also thick and therefore make a crinkly noise when you sleep on them.
5. Radiant Barrier Foil
Radiant Barrier foil is the thickest product on this list and is the best block of VOCs, fragrance, pesticides, and other toxins.
It is a foil that is much thicker than Mylar, aluminized tarps or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
I do use heavy-duty aluminum foil for small items, but it rips easily so it would be hard to use that on anything large or soft. You can wrap hard or boxed items in heavy-duty aluminum foil, you can also paste foil to walls with gum arabic as a “foil wallpaper block”.
If radiant barrier is used in construction in your area then you can likely buy this locally.
You might have to do a bit of digging to find one that is nor perforated. It’s often backed with plastic. I used this plastic backed foil from Amazon.ca.
Sometimes it’s backed in Kraft paper like the brand Denny Foil which has long been popular amongst the chemically sensitive.
Mitigating Offgassing Post – for sealants to seal in offgassing and for other ways (apart from sealing/sequestering) to mitigate and speed up offgassing.
Mitigating Fragrance and Smoke Post – for ways to remove and mitigate fragrance and smoke contamination on items and in homes.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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