Your home is a safe haven, your protection against the outside world. But you may be living among invisible threats; namely, indoor air pollution which can cause poor health in our homes.
Some pollutants include carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, pet dander, tobacco smoke, among others. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has a multiplier effect on health issues so it can amplify problems like heart disease or respiratory issues.
To ensure you live in a clean and comfortable environment, here are a few ways you can improve indoor air quality.
1. Use Natural Air Fresheners
Chemical air fresheners may smell nice, but they can also contain harmful pollutants that can compromise indoor air quality. According to an article published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a survey of “scented consumer goods” contained over 100 different Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). Many of the VOCs that were present in the survey are considered toxic by federal law. It might shock you to learn that many of the products tested were marketed as “green,” “organic,” or “natural.” The researchers did not study the effects of these chemicals, but the article notes they received input from people who reported “a variety of respiratory, dermatological, and neurological problems.”
The safest bet is to go with natural scented items (not aerosol spray “fresheners”) or simmer a pot of cinnamon or cloves on the stove. You can also implement air purifying plants or diffusers, which use essential oils. Some of the fragrant herbal extracts may even have medicinal value, making your home smell nice and possibly improving your overall health as well.
2. Get an Air Purifier
An air purifier is the most direct and reliable solution to your air purification issues. In most cases, a HEPA air purifier will provide the cleaning you need for healthy, fresh air. Purifiers that use activated charcoal or UV lights can enhance the effectiveness of air purifiers. However, any purifiers that creates ozone, especially ozone generators and ionizers, are not recommended for indoor use.
3. Reduce Moisture in Your Home
The presence of moisture promotes growth of mold, mildew, and dust mites, and can even increase the chances of cockroaches. You need to keep your home not only clean, but also dry, in order to prevent all these contaminants and pests that may adversely affect the indoor air quality. If moisture has caused mold in your home, an air purifier for mold can help reduce the problem.
If you’re not sure about the humidity level in your home, you can purchase instruments that scan the air and provide moisture information. According to Jeff Howell of the The Telegraph, the ideal humidity level is around 50% to 55%.
A commonly-used tool for preventing wet conditions in the air is a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers reduce moisture in the air by trapping it in a small container that needs to be emptied on a regular basis. Damp areas, such as basements, bathrooms, or houses in high-humidity areas can benefit from a dehumidifier, but these appliances do not purify the air, they simply remove moisture.
Ventilation and air movement can also help with home humidity, especially if the humidity is coming from an inside source like a steamy shower or ineffective dryer vents. (As opposed to outdoor sources like humid weather.) If the moisture is from an indoor source, open windows and use fans to dry the air.
Using pot lids and exhaust fans when boiling water can also reduce the moisture in your air. Other tactics include using a clothesline instead of a dryer and taking steps to prevent basement seepage.
4. Limit Indoor Smoke
In the kitchen, you may generate smoke from overheated oil or burned food, so keep a well-maintained overhead ventilation system above the stove. One of the most important tasks is to clean the overhead filter on a regular basis. Cambria Bold of The Kitchen offers some good advice for cleaning the filter that involves soaking, scrubbing, baking soda, dish soap, and hot water. Just be prepared for a dirty yet easy job.
Throughout the home, use unscented, natural, non-toxic candles, and if you use a fireplace, use cured or dried wood and make sure the chimney is ventilating properly. It goes without saying that smoking indoors is a strict “no-no”. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes a wide range of health issues and affect organs from the brain to the bladder. Secondhand smoke can be just as deadly, so take your cigarettes outside, or better yet, drop the habit completely.
5. Shoes Outside, Please!
Shoes can be a major source of dirt and germs. Every time someone steps into the house with their shoes on, millions of germs enter as well, through the mud and dust that sticks to our shoes. Keep a separate set of shoes or slippers to wear while inside the house. You will be surprised how much this can reduce dust accumulation.
Keep a space in the garage, in a separate entry way, or outside (weather permitting, of course) to keep shoes out of your main living spaces. This will not only reduce the amount of germs in the home, it will reduce dust and other particulate matter.
6. The Doggies’ Contribution
Another important factor to consider about indoor air quality is the presence of allergens. Having pets, especially if you have cats or dogs, there are innumerable allergens present in their fur. This is especially preva-lent in the winter months, when the house is closed up to keep the cold out. The best solution is to bathe and groom your dog regularly in warm water, and try keeping him out of the bedrooms, if possible.
7. The Fabric Factor
Fabrics are collectors of dust mites and a host of other allergens. The presence of these contaminants can seriously hamper the indoor air quality. In order to keep them at bay, you need to clean all fabrics such as curtains and sofa and chair covers as well as carpets and rugs. While laundering curtains or furniture covers, ensure that you use hot water, as hot as possible, at temperatures above 130°F. Also wash new fabrics well before use, to remove traces of chemicals used to manufacture them. Washing away these chemicals may also extend the life of the fabric.
Now that you have read these handy tips, start trying them out. Even if you are only able to follow half these points, you should be well on your way to having a clean home with good indoor air quality.