You work hard to stay healthy, eating the right foods and getting lots of exercise. The air you breathe also affects your health but it's harder to make sure it's clean because you can't see it or feel it. And you don't want to wait until you get sick or one of your children is diagnosed with asthma. That's why the government focus on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is so important, and why this article offers you a collection of tips on improving indoor air quality in your home.
This is a new problem as we seal gaps to tighten up the envelope wrapping our homes to conserve energy. These gaps used to allow unhealthy indoor air to be exchanged with fresh air from outside. Please don't look for an easy solution, and don't be fooled by the advertising on air filter packages that promise healthy living. It simply isn't true. (Read: How the Right Home Air Filter Can Save You)
Tips on Improving Indoor Air Quality
There's a lot of misinformation swirling around, and packaging that claims things are green or healthy, when there's no proof to substantiate the claims.
Houseplants are a great example of this. They're lovely for decoration and there are also lots of articles telling us indoor house plants help improve air quality. The truth is while laboratory tests showed excellent results removing VOC in the 1980s, subsequent testing in residential settings hasn't supported these findings. (Read: How Well Do House Plants Perform as Indoor Air Cleaners?)
So here are tips on improving indoor air quality in your home, focusing on what you bring into your home, along with things you do at home.
Stop Buying Productes that Bring Pollutants into Your Home
You probably don't realize how many different ways you introduce unhealthy pollutants into your home. So hopefully once you know, you'll do a better job of reducing or eliminating things that have a negative affect on the air you and your family breathe at home. So here are our top 10 tips on improving indoor air quality:
- Don't smoke inside your home.
- Don't use candles, or at least avoid those made with paraffin that releases chemicals. Beeswax and soy candles are good alternatives, as long as they are scented with essential oils versus synthetic fragrances. You should also trim wicks to 1/4″ to reduce the amount of soot given off.
- Buy products that don't have unhealthy chemicals like VOCs. Everyone's heard of low/no VOC paints but what about these products? For product specific pollutants, visit the National Institute of Health's Household Product Database.
- Aerosol spray products for paints, cosmetics and pesticides.
- Upholstered furniture and carpeting, plywood and pressed wood products if they contain formaldehyde.
- Appliances with refrigerant used in air conditioners, freezers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers. Freon used in older appliances is being phased out due to ozone.
- Cleaning products like air fresheners, bleach, toilet bowl cleaners, citrus or pine oil cleaners, furniture polishes and more.
- Personal care products including nail polish and remover, colognes, perfumes, rubbing alcohol and hair spray.
- Dry cleaned clothes, spot removers and cleaners used for fabric/leather.
- Home office and hobby products like inks, toners, correction fluid, glues and other adhesives, etc.
- Home maintenance products including caulk, grout, insulation, paint and stain, adhesive removers, contact and model cement, etc.
- Pet care products like litter stain/odor removers, flea and tick control products, etc.
- Lawn care products and pesticides like lawn fertilizer, pool products, herbicides, etc.
- Ozone generators which are dangerous for children, the elderly and people with breathing problems. The EPA and American Lung Association advise against these “air purifiers”.
Proactive Tips for Improving Indoor Air Quality
- Don't allow appliances to exhaust air and/or moisture inside your home. This means no ductless range hoods and bathroom/dryer vents should always be vented outside. Seriously, this was a common problem we found in my handyman business that had to be corrected.
- Make sure all fixtures that burn fuel are vented to the outside, away from windows and HVAC intake vents. These include furnaces, fireplaces, range tops, exhaust fans and similar appliances.
- Work with chemicals outside, and not in your garage. You should strip paint, solder and glue, tune up your lawn mower or snow blower outside.
- Ensure adequate ventilation for your house, changing filters on your HVAC equipment and using additional air cleaners as needed. Air cleaners should be UL 867 certified and meet California's ozone release requirements. Weather permitting, open doors and windows and use ceiling fans except when there are high levels of allergens outdoors.
- Keep your home dry, using dehumidifiers if necessary. Take immediate action to remove water and wet materials, like drywall and insulation in a flooded basement, to prevent the growth of mold.
- Take steps to keep your home clean, leaving shoes at the door, using a high efficiency (HEPA) vacuum cleaner and washing bedding to reduce exposure to allergens and dust mites.