14 Quick Fixes to Improve the Air Quality in Your Home
Given the socially distant world many of us now live in, more time is being spent at home than ever before. It's a great time to make your house a home in whatever way you can – whether its with a new piece of vintage furniture or a splash of vibrant colour. One area of improvement we could all stand to make at home is the air quality.
If you live on a busy road or in a city, you probably accept that the air outside is quite polluted. But what about the air inside? It might not smell like a busy city road at peak hour, but it probably isn't as clean as you think.
The reality of living in a post-industrial world includes breathing polluted air. It's a sad fact that affects some more than others. The main sources of air pollutants at home include outside air pollutants (i.e. motor vehicle fumes), pets, and newly manufactured products. There are steps we can take at home, however, to improve the quality of air that we breathe. While you're settling in for another long stretch inside, consider these quick fixes to improve the air quality at home.
Here are some simple fixes you can make at home to improve the air quality, and improve your health while you're at it.
Adopt some air purifying plants
No matter the question, the answer is often plants. Indoor plants look great and help to purify the air as well. Look for varieties that are especially capable of purifying, such as calathea, tillandsia, rubber plant and devil's ivy.
Pamper your pets
Our best and furriest friends are often one of the main culprits of poor air quality at home. From debris that collects on their fur and feet when they're outside, to the fur, hair and dander (which is like dandruff), it's important we keep our pets clean and groomed. Wash and brush your dogs regularly, even if they aren't a breed that "needs" grooming. Cats are pretty good at personal maintenance, but give them an inspection every now and then.
Dry it out
Mould is found on on any substance where moisture is present. Inhaling fragments or spores of mould can cause nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and throat irritation. Long term effects of living in damp environments include reduced lung function and asthma. It's important to keep surfaces dry and reduce humidity. Use an exhaust fan when cooking, showering, and doing laundry, and crack open a window for essential airflow and natural energy-efficient drying. Hang your clothes up and let wet towels dry near an open window. Call the plumber or let your landlord know about any leaks. If your home is especially humid, consider purchasing a dehumidifier.
We would never hold you back from buying the sofa of your dreams, but did you know that many newly made products release chemicals into the air? They're called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are found in fabrics, glues, and paints. When exposed to sunlight and other chemicals in the atmosphere, they form particulates that irritate and damage our lungs.
Evict dust mites
These tiny fiends are mostly found in coastal areas and can cause skin and respiratory allergies in humans. To keep dust mites away, vacuum regularly and declutter the surfaces so there's fewer nooks and crannies for dust to settle.
Certain soaps, shampoos, cleaning sprays, deodorants, air fresheners, and glues contain VOCs, so it's worth making the switch to natural products. Watch out for "greenwashing" – just because the packaging seems eco-friendly, it doesn't mean the ingredients list is. Eco-friendly options tend to be pricier than the stuff your parents used to use, so try your hand at homemade. Lemon juice, vinegar and water to make your own DIY surface spray.
Skip the smoke
If you or someone in your home smokes tobacco products, make sure it's done outside with all windows and doors closed. Even if you don't mind the smell, any secondhand smoke contributes to poor air quality at home.
Generic air fresheners contain chemicals that pollute the air. Switch to a high quality room fragrance, like candles or incense, and only light them up in well-ventilated areas.
Reduce your gas emissions
When a material burns, it produces carbon monoxide. If your home uses fuel-burning appliances, there is likely carbon monoxide in the air. This gas has no natural odour or taste and cannot be seen. It's produced naturally and exists everywhere in small amounts, but in large amounts it can be poisonous. Manmade sources of this gas include motor vehicles, so if you live on a busy road, you might find yourself spending most of the time with the windows and doors closed. Tobacco smoke is also one of the main indoor sources of this gas. Radon is another gas that's less common in Australia, but prevalent in the US. This naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. It's odourless, so you need to test the air quality to find out your level of exposure.
A good rug adds uniqueness and warmth to any room. When it comes to air quality, however, you're better off with floorboards or concrete floors. VOCs found in new furniture are also found in carpet and rugs, so go with naked floors if you can.
Watch out for gas leaks
If your stove and oven are powered by natural gas, you're at risk of inhaling dangerous fumes –particularly in the US where there are no clear standards for indoor air quality set by regulators. Watch out for gas leaks and call a plumber if you think there is one. Use your exhaust fan and/or open a window when you do operate any appliance powered by gas. And make sure the dials on your stove are firmly in the "off" position – unless you're cooking a healthy and delicious dinner for yourself of course!
Give your walls a fresh coat of paint
Before 1970, most paints contained high levels of lead, so if your home hasn't seen a new coat of paint for a few decades it's likely there's lead in it. Also found in dust, lead can be a poisonous for people and animals alike. Vacuum regularly to remove any lead-filled dust particles and, if you are able, give your walls a fresh coat – you'll breathe cleaner air and your home will look and feel fresh.
Be asbestos aware
This naturally occurring mineral can be found in rock, sediment, and soil, and its strong, heat-resistant fibres meant for years people used it to insulate houses. If asbestos is present in your rental home, your landlord is legally obligated to disclose this to you and might even be required by law to remove it. Do your research and know your rights.
Clean your chimney
Got a working fireplace? Lucky you! Just make sure you keep the level of smoke pollution as low as possible by using plenty of paper and small, dry kindling (as well as larger pieces of wood), leaving space between each piece of wood and cleaning your chimney on a regular basis.