The average American spends 90% of the time indoors. Pollutants that are indoors are sometimes two to five times as concentrated as they are outdoors. That means you could be breathing in a lot more pollutants than you realize when you’re inside your home.
Air quality is important because it can directly affect your health. Indoor air pollutants can cause mildly annoying symptoms, such as irritation and headaches. But it can also cause serious health problems, such as cancer and respiratory diseases.
Taking steps to improve the air quality in your home can cut those risks.
Keep reading to learn 14 ways to improve indoor air quality in your home.
1. Deep Clean Your Home
The quality of your home’s air relates directly to the overall cleanliness. Picking up is only part of cleaning. Deep cleaning all of the surfaces inside your home helps you get rid of dust, pollen, and other allergens that collect inside.
Focus on areas that you might not usually clean. This includes baseboards, door and window frames, drawers, shelves, kitchen appliances, and closets.
Look for mold and mildew growth, which often happens in the bathroom, basement, and other areas that tend to get damp. Remove the mold or contact a mold removal company to handle the cleaning process for you.
At least two deep cleanings per year can reduce overall air contamination. Continue with normal cleanings regularly to keep lots of debris from building up again.
2. Choose Non-Toxic Cleaners
While cleaning, choose non-toxic cleaners to keep your air quality high. Many cleaners are full of toxic chemicals and synthetic fragrances. They might make your home smell clean and fresh, but the chemicals can cause irritation, allergic reactions, and health problems.
Use natural cleaners without harsh chemicals to reduce contaminants in the air. Vinegar is an effective natural cleaner that you probably already have available. You can also use baking soda mixed with a little water to create a gentle scouring product if you need extra scrubbing power.
3. Dust and Vacuum Regularly
Furniture, carpets, and rugs collect lots of dirt, dust, pollen, pet dander, and other contaminants. Dusting and vacuuming those areas at least once or twice per week helps keep those allergens under control. A vacuum with a HEPA filter can capture smaller particles than other vacuums, making your home’s air even cleaner.
On hard surface floors, use a vacuum or broom to regularly remove debris. Use a mop for additional cleaning.
You can reduce how many contaminants come into your home by putting mats by your front door. The mats help collect dirt, chemicals, and other contaminants on your shoes.
Place a shoe rack or tray near the door to hold shoes. Have everyone take their shoes off when they enter the home to prevent junk from spreading.
4. Get Air Ducts Cleaned
If you haven’t had your air ducts cleaned recently, consider scheduling an appointment. The ductwork constantly carries air throughout your home, whether you’re in a heating or cooling season. Lots of pollutants and debris can build up in the ducts, including dust, dirt, mold, and pet dander.
When you are running the HVAC system, those contaminants get carried throughout your home. They can blow into your living spaces through your vents, which affects the indoor air quality.
5. Change HVAC Filters Frequently
All HVAC systems use air filters to pull out pet hair, dust, and other tiny pollutants. They help improve your home’s air quality and keep those contaminants out of the HVAC system.
You’ll need to change or clean the air filters frequently to make them effective. When the filters get clogged with debris, they can’t effectively filter anything else out. Clogged filters also add too much strain to your HVAC system, which can make it difficult to keep your home a comfortable temperature.
Checking your HVAC filter once per month lets you spot signs that you need to change it, including lots of dirt clogging the filter, signs of mold, damage, and dampness. You’ll need to change the filter more frequently based on certain conditions, including having pets, smoking inside, living in an area with lots of allergens or pollutants, and having a large family. The filter also needs to be changed more frequently if you run your HVAC system most of the time.
6. Install an Air Purifier
Air purifiers can remove some of the allergens from your home to make the air cleaner and better for you to breathe. A whole-house air purifier attached to your HVAC system can help remove pet dander, dust, mold, bacteria, pollen, and other air contaminants.
You can also buy smaller portable air purifiers to use throughout your home. Use them in areas with higher contaminants, such as your kitchen or areas where pets spend a lot of time.
7. Control Humidity
You know how uncomfortable your home can feel when the humidity isn’t right. But humidity can also affect the air quality in your home.
The common recommendation for indoor relative humidity is between 30% and 50%. You can measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer. If the humidity is higher or lower than the recommended range, it can make your home uncomfortable and cause air quality problems.
High humidity that’s above 50% can increase the risk of mold and condensation. It can also cause some materials to start deteriorating. Mold in the air can be particularly dangerous if you breathe it.
Dehumidifiers can reduce the humidity in your home to decrease the risk of mold.
Low humidity can also be uncomfortable and harmful to your health. Low humidity means the air is too dry because there isn’t enough moisture in it.
The linings in your nose, mouth, and throat rely on moisture and mucus to keep you healthy. When the humidity in your home is low, it can cause those linings to feel dry. A dry mouth, nose, and throat can leave you feeling irritated, cause nosebleeds, make you cough, and make it more difficult to keep germs out of your body.
Adding a humidifier to your home can increase the humidity if your home is too dry. There are many different humidifier types to fit your needs and make your home more comfortable.
8. Run Exhaust Fans
Exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms help remove pollutants and excess moisture from the air to improve air quality. Run your bathroom exhaust fan during showers and at least 15 minutes after you’re done to remove the extra moisture. This cuts down on the risk of mold growth.
Keep your bathroom exhaust fans running well by cleaning them regularly. Take off the cover and vacuum out the fan to keep it running well.
In the kitchen, run your exhaust fan any time you cook. The fan pulls out heat, moisture, odors, grease, and other cooking-related debris to keep the air cleaner and more comfortable.
You’ll want to clean the filter on your kitchen exhaust fan regularly. Grease and other debris can build up on the filters and decrease how well the exhaust fan works.
9. Grow Indoor Plants
Houseplants can do more than make your home look good and feel natural. They can also help get rid of some of the indoor air pollutants while adding more oxygen to your air.
Some plants are better than others at cleaning the air. Try one of these houseplants that improve air quality:
- English ivy
- Corn plant
- Gerbera daisy
- Bamboo palm
- Peace lily
- Snake plant
- Spider plant
- Broad lady palm
Take proper care of the plants to help them thrive. Plants can sometimes harbor mold and dust, so keeping them well-maintained is important.
10. Open Windows
Simply opening your windows can improve the air inside your home. An open window lets in plenty of fresh air, which can dissipate the pollutants inside your home.
This option might not be possible if you live in a large city with poor air quality. Use caution during times when pollen counts are high, or an event such as a wildfire decreases air quality. Opening windows when the outside air is polluted can decrease your air quality.
11. Keep Smoke Out of the House
Burning cigarettes result in over 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic or are known to cause cancer. If you smoke inside, all of those chemicals are trapped and dispersed into the air, where you can breathe them. Avoid letting anyone smoke inside your home to cut down on the number of chemicals in the air.
12. Test the Air
A professional indoor air test can help you identify the contaminants that are affecting your air quality. They can check for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon dioxide, mold, and allergens. If the test reveals any of these pollutants in your home, you can search for the source and eliminate it.
A radon test is another important evaluation of air quality. Radon has no odor or color, and the only way to know if it’s in your home is through a test. High levels of radon can increase your risk of lung cancer.
If a radon test shows that your home has high levels of the gas, you can install a radon mitigation system to reduce the levels and improve air quality.
13. Avoid Synthetic Air Fresheners
Many air fresheners on the market use synthetic fragrances to produce scents that imitate natural things like flowers or pine trees. Synthetic fragrances are made up of lots of different chemicals, some of which can cause irritation or harm to your health.
Fragrance products don’t have to list specific ingredients on the labels. This means you’ll likely never know which chemicals are in fragrance products you buy. Switching to more natural or fragrance-free products can cut down on how many chemicals are in your home.
Candles also pollute your indoor air. Not only do they often have synthetic fragrances, but most candles use petroleum-based paraffin. When you burn the candles, they create soot and smoke, which also hurts the air quality.
Essential oils can make your home smell fresh without anything fake. You can add drops of essential oil around your home or use an essential oil diffuser to disperse the scent better.
You can also boil water with citrus fruit and spices in it to make your kitchen smell better.
14. Wash Bedding Frequently
Bedding and other soft surfaces in your home make the perfect spot for dust mites and other allergens to hide. Your bedding collects dead skin cells, dirt, pet hair, and other debris. Those things can decrease the air quality in your home.
Toss your bedding and other washable soft materials into the washing machine regularly.
Renovate With Safe Materials
Renovating your home is a good way to cover or remove older materials that might contain potentially dangerous chemicals. However, new materials can also contain chemicals that sometimes off-gas into your home for years. Choosing safe materials, from furniture to paint, can minimize the chemicals released into the air.
When you repaint anything in your home, choose no or low-VOC paint. The paint won’t smell as bad, and it won’t emit as many chemicals as other paint products.
If you’re replacing furniture, choose more natural materials without lots of chemicals. Many furniture products contain formaldehyde, toxic glues, and other toxic ingredients. Particleboard furniture can off-gas chemicals into your home, so it’s best to avoid it.
When you get new furniture, remove any plastic and packaging. Leave the furniture out to let as many of the chemicals off-gas as possible before moving it into your home.
Before purchasing any furniture or home improvement products, look for natural materials and products that are eco-friendly. These products have fewer chemicals in them, which reduces how much off-gassing it creates.
Improve Your Home Air Quality
The air quality in your home affects your comfort and health. Take small steps to improve the air quality so you can breathe easier, feel better, and reduce health risks.
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