Clean indoor air is so important since most of us spend an average of 90% of our time inside (yikes!). Whether you think about it or not, indoor air quality is actually directly correlated to your health. Indoor air pollutants range from dust and mold to pesticide and asbestos, and more and can cause a host of health problems. Symptoms of poor indoor air quality can include headaches, sinus congestion, and even shortness of breath in serious situations. Many of the most common indoor air pollutants—dust mites, mold, pet dander, and tobacco smoke–can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions as well. Knowing about and understanding how to improve indoor air quality is an important step to improving many health issues.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
It depends on a lot of factors, but the good news is much of the indoor air quality is under our control. Some common sources of air pollution inside include:
- Outdoor air pollution leaking in
- VOCs off-gassing from paint, furniture, flooring, etc.
- Pet dander
- Conventional cleaners, air fresheners
- Gas stoves and other appliances (especially older ones)
- Dampness and mold growth
- Carpet, drapes, and other furnishings that collect dust and dirt
1. Vacuum Away Air Pollution
Invest in a good vacuum and use it regularly. Many experts recommend HEPA filters, though it isn’t always necessary. Carpets hide away pollution and allergens (even when vacuumed), minimizing the amount of carpet in the house will help. Just one square yard of carpet can house 100,000 dust mites!
If you do keep carpet and rugs around, deep cleaning them on occasion will further help purify indoor air.
Here’s more on how to keep allergens and pollution to a minimum with regular cleaning:
- Keep up on dusting and cleaning (taking out trash, wiping down surfaces, etc.)
- Clean drapes, blinds, and bedding regularly
- Leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking pollen and muck into the home
2. Control Animal Dander
As much as we love our furry friends, pets are another common source of indoor air pollution. Pets should be regularly bathed and groomed, especially if they have access to outdoors. This will help cut down on dander, pet hair, and dirt in the home.
3. Beeswax Candles
Candles are cozy and have an inviting smell, but they’re not all created equal. Paraffin and soy wax candles pollute the air, but beeswax does the opposite.
Beeswax candles clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air which bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.
4. Check the HVAC System
Good air conditioning and heating systems are a must for cleaner air. For those who live in more polluted areas, an AC system helps to filter incoming air. If you live in an area where outdoor isn’t much of a concern, then opening up the windows and airing out the house is a good idea.
It’s also important to change HVAC filters regularly. You can even add a few drops of a purifying essential oil to disposable filters. Lemon, lime, orange, lemongrass, and clove are some of my favorites to purify indoor air.
5. Avoid Mold and Mycotoxins
According to the EPA, about 30-50% of buildings have damp conditions prime for mold growth. Mold and the mycotoxins it produces can cause a myriad of health problems such as brain fog, fatigue, immune suppression and much more. For cleaner indoor air, remove any sources of moisture and promptly fix leaks.
You can also test humidity levels in the home inexpensively and determine if you should run a dehumidifier. It’s best for humidity levels to be under 50% in the home.
6. Choose Low VOC Furnishings
Certain fabrics and housing materials emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to indoor air pollution. Flooring, paint, drywall, room sprays, and many cleaners are common sources of VOCs.
According to the EPA, VOCs are known to cause a variety of health issues including headaches, dizziness, and cancer.
Choose low VOC building materials and furnishings when buying new. New furniture can also spend a few weeks in the garage to off-gas before bringing it into the home. Opting for natural cleaners and skipping synthetic air fresheners will also reduce VOCs in the home.
7. Get More Plants!
While the plant’s ability to take up VOCs is well documented in laboratory studies, the effect of plants on indoor air in complex environments like offices and homes requires further investigations to clarify the full capacity of plants in real-life settings. Studies have shown the larger the leaves the more purifying the capabilities.
You can read more here about which plants I’ve tested over the years and found to be the best indoor plants for air purification.
8. Use Salt Lamps
Salt lamps are another natural way to clean indoor air. These are made from Himalayan salt crystals and just like the beeswax candles, they release negative ions. Although the amount of negative ions may not be enough to clean air that well, salt lamps may help clean the air in other ways. A bonus is the natural orange glow makes a great night light and doesn’t disrupt sleep hormones like fluorescent or blue lights do and I find it very relaxing.
9. Put Bamboo Charcoal Around the House
Another natural air cleaning option is bamboo charcoal.
Activated charcoal is a chemical adsorbent, meaning it binds to toxins and chemicals and neutralizes them. Charcoal can have the same toxin-removing effect on the air. Bamboo charcoal in burlap bags spread around the housework wonders for odor removal and removing toxins from the air. You can also use a charcoal block water filter to remove toxins from water.
10. Invest in Air Filters
At its most basic function, an air filter removes impurities such as dust, pet dander or even bacteria from the air flowing through the system. Not only does this improve the air quality within your home, but it also protects your HVAC system from damage.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are one of the most efficient HVAC filter types. They can remove up to 99.97% of the air-borne pollutants and allergens present in your home, including dust, mold, pollen, pet dander, viruses, smoke particles, and bacteria. You can learn more about the quality of home air filters and which are best suited to keep you air clean here.
How to test indoor air quality
- Purchase an indoor air quality monitor.
- Evaluate health symptoms.
- Monitor carbon monoxide and radon levels.
- Get an air purifier.
- Call an air quality professional.
Bottom line is we spend a lot if time in our homes, especially going into the winter months. The air quality can negatively affect our heath and the health of our family. Taking the necessary steps to clen your homes air should be a priority.