People often assume that their homes offer a sanctuary from pollutants outside, but this is not always the case. Indoor air quality problems are often overlooked and can lead to a host of health issues.
The cheapest and easiest way to improve air quality is through ventilation. This means opening windows whenever possible (even in winter) and running fans to blow out potentially contaminated air and bring in fresh air.
1. Test Your Air
You can improve your home’s air quality by eliminating the contaminants that are causing it. However, you first need to know which pollutants are present. Testing your indoor air can give you that information.
Tests can uncover many sources of bad air: radon, chemical fumes from cleaning products and new construction materials, carbon monoxide, dust, mold, pet dander, and even volatile organic compounds (VOC) like formaldehyde, xylene, benzene and chloroform, that off-gas from household items.
Most of these irritants are not visible, but they can cause a variety of symptoms including watery or itchy eyes, nose and throat irritation and shortness of breath. In addition, a long-term exposure can lead to liver damage and cancer. For these reasons, tests should be done often. Luckily, there are several at-home air test kits for different pollutants that can be easily used.
2. Clean Your Furnace
Most people know that air pollution can be a health issue, but not everyone realizes how much it can affect household comfort. Having dirt, pet dander, allergens and virus particles circulate freely in your home can cause discomfort, interfere with HVAC equipment and pose a real health risk for family members who suffer from allergies or respiratory conditions. Having a household appliance warranty can help ensure that if appliances get damaged, they can easily be replaced or repaired.
To improve your indoor air quality, it is important to clean or replace your furnace filter regularly. Generally, this is easy to do and only requires you to find the access door on your furnace, remove the filter and use non-toxic soap and water to thoroughly clean it. Once it is completely dry, put the filter back into place and close the access door or front panel.
3. Clean Your Vents
The air in your home is as important as the water, food and energy you consume. In fact, it may be even more important because indoor air pollution can cause or exacerbate a host of ailments from respiratory problems to skin issues. Poor indoor air quality can also increase the occurrence of allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes and nasal congestion.
Many common household items contribute to bad indoor air, including gas stoves and ovens, cleaning products, furniture and carpets, candles and incense, spraying air fresheners and more. In addition, household activities like cooking and bathing can emit vapors into the air that negatively affect air quality. The best way to improve the air in your home is through ventilation and filtration. This includes opening windows whenever it is safe to do so and using bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans.
4. Buy Indoor Plants
Many people believe that indoor plants can help to improve air quality at home by absorbing harmful VOCs from the environment. However, this belief is highly inaccurate and misleading. According to a 2019 study published in the journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, you would have to stuff a room with between 10 and 1,000 plants for them to remove any VOCs.
In addition, plants may produce spores and biopartical emissions, which can actually counteract any IAQ benefits they might have. Furthermore, a plant’s cellulose is made entirely of carbon, and 44% of that carbon came from air CO2.
Despite this, Kavita Kumari, associate director at Cundall, recommends adding hearty, low-maintenance plants like snake plants or pothos to your home. These plants are able to reduce some VOCs and increase humidity levels through photosynthesis and evapotranspiration.
5. Keep Your Rugs and Carpets Clean
While we often hear about outdoor air pollution and its effects on health, the quality of the air within our homes is equally important. According to some studies, indoor air pollutants are actually up to 100 times more dangerous than outdoor ones.
Keeping your carpets and rugs clean is one of the best ways to keep the air in your home fresh. This reduces biological pollutants like animal dander and mold, and it also prevents dirt from entering your home from the outside.
You can help to reduce the amount of dirt that enters your home by placing a rug in front of your door. This rug will capture most of the dust and moisture on shoes, before it reaches your living spaces. For rugs and carpets that aren’t vacuumed regularly, clip rather than pull snags and sprouts to avoid damaging them.