Do you ever feel like you can’t catch your breath in your own home? Or that you’re always getting sick? If so, it might be time to improve your indoor air quality.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is because indoor air is often trapped and circulated, which allows pollutants to build up.
Many people spend nearly 90% of their lives indoors. While you’re there, do you want to breathe in air that’s just as dirty as the outside air? Of course not! It’s your home; it’s your air quality; it’s your lungs.
Poor indoor air quality can cause a variety of health problems, including respiratory problems, allergies, and headaches. It can also make it difficult to concentrate and sleep.
The good news is that you can do several simple things to improve your indoor air quality. Here are a few tips:
Know Your Invisible Enemies
The first step to improving the air quality in your home is to determine what pollutants are causing potentially serious damage to your health. The Environmental Protection Agency says these indoor pollutants can be classified into three categories:
- Combustion Pollutants: Common combustion pollutants include carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. These colorless and odorless gases originate from burning objects that are incorrectly vented or not vented at all. The type and amount of pollutants created depend on the appliance’s installation, maintenance, and ventilation and the type of fuel it utilizes.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC): These organic chemicals disseminate as gases that come from particular solid or liquid materials, most likely the household products you often use.
- Triggers to Asthma and Other Allergies: You may not know it, but your home may be host to a culture of dust mites on your blankets, pillows, or stuffed toys, mold on shower curtains, and cat or dog hair all over floors or upholstery which can trigger nasty allergy or complications due to asthma.
Limit Your Exposure
Now that you know your invisible enemies, it is time that you drastically cut down your exposure to it.
- Let fresh air come inside and ventilate your home by opening your windows as often as possible.
- Change or clean air filters regularly – especially the ones from your air purifier, furnace, or heater, vacuum, and air conditioner.
- Humidity levels are important in controlling the growth of mold and mildew. Set up your home’s humidity level to an ideal 45%. A humidity level below 30% is too dry, while over 50% can make your home too moist, making it an open breeding ground for molds. You may want to use a humidifier or a room vaporizer to increase the humidity in your home. To decrease it, open your windows, and use your fan, dehumidifier, or air conditioner.
- Go natural with DIY air fresheners and avoid synthetic ones that emit damaging chemicals or hormone disruptors.
- Use a HEPA air purifier that doesn’t generate ozone and eliminates VOCs from furniture, paint, or cleaning materials.
- Go green by planting green plants in your home, particularly those from a list supplied by your friends at NASA. These can help lessen VOCs and enhance the air quality of your home.
- Set a regular grooming schedule for your pets.
- When painting your home, only use the kind that has low or no VOC, and always pick non-toxic adhesive, finishes, and varnishes as much as possible.
Be Clean, Be Smart.
To improve the air quality in your home, how you clean and what you use to clean really matters.
Use Homemade, Environmentally-Friendly Cleaning Products
Cleaners and detergents that contain harmful chemicals can pose a threat of causing irritation to the skin, eyes, throat, and lungs in both people and pets and can be harmful to the environment.
Think about where cleaning products go when you rinse them away – down the drain. They are processed with other sewage and dumped.
Most cleaners will break down into substances that are no longer harmful, although many detergents that claim to have the “best” cleaning power contain a chemical that could infect the water supply and harm the animal habitat where the sewage is dumped.
By using your own homemade cleaning products, you can keep these chemicals from contaminating the air in your home as well as the environment around you.
They are incredibly simple to make yourself, plus they’re cheaper to make than they are to buy pre-made! And you’re saving yourself from using an unnecessary plastic bottle, too.
A simple solution of white vinegar and water shaken and sprayed onto a messy surface will do the trick for getting it clean. Check out these recipes for simple homemade cleaning solutions.
For more recipes, check out our post, How to Make Your Own Natural Household Cleaners.
Reduce Dust and Pollutants
A high-performance vacuum with powerful suction, HEPA filters, and rotating brushes can be a very good investment as it catches tiny particles that regular vacuums often miss. Do this once a week, and make sure to regularly wash or change your vacuum filter. If you don’t have time for regular vacuuming, consider an automatic vacuum that does the job for you.
Use a damp cloth to wipe the tops of window frames, doors, and sills, and wash your curtains often. You may buy a reusable microfiber dust mop to reach nooks and crannies that a vacuum could not.
Use quality mattresses, pillows, and box spring covers that are dust-mite-proof.
And to prevent the growth of mold, of which spores can be toxic, use environmentally-friendly materials when cleaning your shower and regrout your tiles if needed.
Stop Using Aerosols
The use of aerosols has long been believed to harm the environment, as well, and it does. Most fragranced products are derived from petroleum products which are non-renewable, polluting resources.
Products such as air freshener, deodorant spray, furniture polish, hair spray, and carpet cleaner all contain artificial fragrances that often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are considered toxic or hazardous.
And all the product label has to state is that the product contains “fragrances,” so you’ll never know when a deadly chemical is hidden in there.
Releasing them into the air causes an irreversible negative effect on the environment.
So what can you do? Stop using aerosol products. Opt, again, for homemade products to replace them using all-natural ingredients, or choose fragrance-free products.
Let the Outdoors In
Open a window in your house! Letting in some fresh air will not only combat the potentially deadly pollutants that have been emitted into the air in your home unknowingly, but it can also be a natural way to cool your home during warmer months.
Depending on where you live (cities and highly populated areas tend to have poorer air quality than the suburbs and open country spaces), the air quality outside may actually be better than that inside your home. The fresh air can help clear out the polluted air that you’re breathing indoors.
And if it tends to heat up quickly in your home, instead of turning on the air conditioning immediately when it warms up outside, try opening the windows for a natural breeze to flow throughout your home to cool it off. You’ll save tons of energy this way, and it’s really an effective cooling technique (assuming you get a good airflow).
Decorate With Plants
Just as plants outside filter the air that we breathe, indoor plants can help improve indoor air quality within your home, as well.
Decorate using strategically placed air-filtering house plants throughout your home. They have the capability of filtering out any pollutants that may be in the air in your home and return to you clean, breathable air.
Find out what plants are best in our post, 3 Plants Can Make You Breathe Easier Indoors.
House plants are also said to have an effect on mood and the general feeling of overall well-being. The bottom line: plants are good for you and good for the environment on all levels, so adding them to your home will only help improve your life and the air that you breathe!
Control Asbestos in Your Home
Asbestos is a tiny particle that floats through the air, too small to be seen by the human eye or even by a standard microscope, that is toxic to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that a lifetime of exposure to small amounts of inhaled asbestos can pose a serious and potentially deadly health threat.
However, any larger amounts of asbestos inhalation have been proven to lead to cases of lung cancer and other lung diseases, so it’s a good idea to keep asbestos levels in your home controlled or eliminate them entirely.
Since asbestos is such a small mineral fiber, it goes airborne effortlessly, and although it is a naturally occurring mineral in the earth, it tends to sit on top of the soil when it hits the ground, so it’s shifted around easily.
This means that it’s easy for asbestos to contaminate the air, water, and soil that surround us. So do your family and your neighbors a favor and reduce the amount of asbestos in your home as best you can.
For your home to be a safe haven for your family and to ensure their health, you must improve indoor air quality! Hopefully, these tips will put you on the track to a greener, healthier home.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.