Tag Archives: indoor air quality

How Can You Control Indoor Air Pollution In Your Home?

How Can You Control Indoor Air Pollution In Your Home?

Indoor air pollution has long been considered a problem by some people; completely disregarded by others. Many try to control the smells in their home with various air fresheners, but the chemicals used in these can cause reactions in some people, and may not necessarily actually clean the air. It’s better to look at other ways to control indoor air pollution in your home.

What Causes Home Indoor Air Pollution?

Air pollution inside your home comes from many sources. There can be VOCs from a wide variety of sources, allergens from pets, plants or insects, and much more. You can learn more about indoor air pollutants from Indoor Air Pollution: A Public Health Perspective (pdf). It’s a bit of an old report (1983), but I would still consider it relevant. It’s not like the sources of pollutants has changed that much.

What Can You Do About Indoor Air Pollution?

The first thing to do about indoor air pollution is to minimize it in the first place. Use the least toxic options when possible in your home, especially when cleaning. That’s why I love cleaning with baking soda and vinegar; I trust those to be safe. Many common cleaners used in the home are fairly toxic on their own, and may have added scents to make their use more pleasant, even though those scents may themselves be unhealthy.

You can have less carpeting in your home too. Carpets hold a lot of dirt, dust, pollen, mold spores and so forth. There can also be issues with the materials the carpet is made of as well as how it is installed and the padding used.

Avoiding products with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is important as well. There are now paints available with low or no VOCs, but other times they may be more difficult to avoid. Water based products are generally lower in VOCs than oil based products.

Any gas powered appliances, such as your stove/oven, furnace, hot water heater or clothes dryer can contribute to indoor air pollution. They may emit carbon monoxide, for example. You should have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home; in fact California now requires them (pdf) in any home with an attached garage or any fossil fuel source.

Your next step is to deal with the air pollution already in your home. Opening your windows can help to blow pollutants out, although you may get some more dust, pollen and such coming from outdoors, depending on the conditions outside. Still, your air will smell much better and the air outside is often cleaner than what’s inside.

Houseplants can also improve your indoor air quality. Some types, such as aloe vera (which is useful other ways too), spider plant and peace lilies are particularly suited to removing air pollutants. You can see more good choices at 15 houseplants for improving indoor air quality. Certain orchids can clean air as well, and they’re a favorite of mine.

However, it should be noted that houseplants may not remove a lot of pollution, and may encourage the growth of microorganisms if they’re overwatered. I still consider them worth it. They’re pretty!

You can also buy electric air purifiers. Make sure you pick the most effective one for your budget and situation – they can be bought for individual rooms or the entire home. Amazon.com carries all kinds of room air purifiers.

12 Ways to Naturally Keep Your Home’s Air Cleaner

I posted the other day about how to keep the air in your home smelling better naturally. Controlling the smell is only a part of the battle. You want to keep the air in your home clean and healthy. These are some steps you can take to help the air inside your home stay cleaner.

1. Take off your shoes when you come inside.

Shoes track in a lot of dirt when you come into the house. That’s anything you walked on that was outside. Even if you don’t use them yourself, others in your neighborhood probably use pesticides and fertilizers, which make their way into the dust and dirt around everyone’s homes. Your shoes track these and other dirt into your home.

Keep a mat outside every door for people to wipe their feet before coming inside.

Fortunately, going barefoot is pretty good for feet. It gives them a break from being confined inside your shoes. If you really don’t like going barefoot, buy some slippers or other comfortable house shoes to wear only indoors.

2. Have hardwood, tile or other hard floor materials.

Hard floor surfaces are much easier to keep clean than carpets. You can keep your carpets looking clean, but they trap a lot of dust and dirt that make it into the air of your home.

You’ll probably still put in some area rugs, so pick ones that have low piles or can easily be taken outside to be cleaned.

For the carpets you can’t take out, use a vacuum with HEPA filters or use microfiltration vacuum bags to keep better control of the dust stirred up by vacuuming.

3. Use natural cleaners around the house.

The more chemicals you use to clean your home, the more chemicals will build up in the air inside your home. Natural cleaners may still contaminate the air in their way, but their ingredients should be safer for your lungs..

4. Open the windows.

Outdoor air in most places is cleaner than indoor air. Let the air flow through when weather permits.

5. Use low VOC paints when repainting.

If you’re painting inside your home, choose low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. They don’t smell as bad and release fewer compounds into the air of your home. Varnish and carpets also contain VOCs, so pay attention when buying any of these.

6. Check your air filters.

If you have a heater or air conditioner, check the filters regularly. Some filters can be cleaned and put back in, while others will need to be replaced when they get dirty.

7. Don’t allow smoking indoors.

If you, anyone in your family or anyone who visits you smokes, ask that it be kept outside. The rest of the people in your home don’t need to breathe those chemicals.

8. Don’t let the car idle in the garage.

Air from the garage gets into the rest of your home. You know how bad car exhaust smells and that it’s unhealthy for you. Why would you want that inside your home? Be ready to pull the car out of the garage shortly after starting it to minimize the pollution it add to your home.

9. Keep the humidity down.

Daily life inside a home can increase the humidity of a home. Just think how humid the bathroom is after a shower. Humid air makes for good conditions for mold to grow. Run bathroom fans or open the window after showering or bathing to let the humid air out.

10. Don’t use pesticides indoors.

It’s tough finding out you have bugs in the house, especially hard to control ones. If you can at all help it, don’t use pesticides inside your home, as they will contaminate the air as well as the areas you sprayed them.

Prevention is best to keep the bugs away. If you’re starting to see them, figure out what they’re after. If you can clean it up, they aren’t going to be as interested, although you may need to take more steps to get rid of them.

Some pests can be gotten rid of more easily than others. You can get rid of some kinds of ants with a mixture of borax and corn syrup, for example. Others you will need to set bait traps.

11. Rethink your personal care supplies.

Some of the supplies you use in your daily personal care routine aren’t too good for your indoor air quality. This is especially true of anything you spray, such as perfumes and hair sprays. Look for options that you still like but don’t have as many VOCs.

12. Grow houseplants.

Houseplants look nice, can smell nice and they clean the air of your home naturally. I know I mentioned them in the previous post, but they bear repeating.

How Do You Make Your Home Smell Fresh Without Using Air Fresheners?

If there’s one home care product that falls consistently on my least favorite list, it has to be air fresheners. Most do nothing more than add a scent to the air, usually created by some chemicals that if you really thought about it, you wouldn’t be spraying in the air you breathe.

They’re usually unhealthy, minimally to poorly effective, and frankly there are better ways to handle the smells that build up inside a home. For people with conditions such as asthma, it can be vital to avoid many of the usual commercial air fresheners.

Remove the Source

You won’t always be able to do this, but if you can get the source of the smell out of your home, that’s the best way to get the smell to dissipate. That could be taking out the trash, cleaning the cat litter, and so forth.

Open the Windows

Weather permitting, opening the windows is the simplest way to make a home smell fresh. It lets the air circulate. The smells floating in the air in your home have a way to get out rather than continuing to build up.

It’s important to open your windows in your home when you can. Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air, especially if you use a lot of conventional cleaning supplies.

Use Natural Air Fresheners

Natural air fresheners may not work as quickly as the ones you buy at the store and spray around, but they’re better for you and I think they smell better.

Baking soda is a classic odor absorber. Place bowls of it out where smells are an issue. Sprinkle it on carpets that are having odor problems and let it sit for a little or even overnight before vacuuming it up. It doesn’t have a pretty scent, but that’s not the point of using baking soda.

Vinegar isn’t a favorite scent for most people, but it does help to control odors. Put a bowl of it out or spray it into the air. As it dissipates, the vinegar smell and the problem smell will go away. Add in a drop or two of a favorite essential oil if you want to cover the vinegar smell right from the start.

Different herbs can help make a room smell nice too. Sprigs of rosemary or lavender are good choices, especially if you grow them fresh yourself. If not, dried versions smell good as well.

Boiling herbs and spices works also. Many people like the scent of cinnamon boiled in water. Boiling a sliced lemon or lemon juice is another good smell. Vanilla, orange, peppermint, cloves and nutmeg also smell good when boiled.

Your favorite essential oils can be used on their own to make a room smell good. Drop a little on a cotton ball and place it in the room. You can use a drop each from a couple different types of essential oils if you like.

Growing plants indoors also helps with air quality. Different plants clean air in different ways, but they’re generally good at what they do. Don’t overwater any plants or you may have scent issues relating to standing water or overly wet soil.