6 Ways To Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

When the world was hit with COVID back in 2020, we learned this virus is almost exclusively transmitted through the air indoors. Cleaner indoor air has other benefits besides reducing COVID risk. Influenza and other respiratory viruses also spread through the air and cause a huge amount of illness. Plus, studies have shown that poor ventilation has all kinds of other health effects, like “sick building syndrome”.

We spend 90 percent of our lives indoors, and we rarely think about air quality in our homes. It’s fall in North America and Europe. For energy conservation, most of us have made improvements to prevent air leaks in our homes this winter.  Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, and cleaning products in homes and offices can emit a variety of toxic compounds. While you can take steps to minimize them, one of  the most prevalent chemicals in your home isn’t easy to get rid of. Formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound that’s emitted in low levels by a variety of household building products and furniture, may cause cancer in humans and has been known to trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions when present in high levels.   Indoor air pollution can also be caused by pollen, bacteria, and molds, as well as outdoor air contaminants like car exhaust . All of these are made worse in small or poorly ventilated spaces. What are the things that we need to do to improve the air quality in our homes?

Proper Ventilation

Ventilation and air exchange are a key part of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, called HVAC, that help maintain clean air. You should monitor your home’s ventilation. Make sure outside vents are open. The vents inside your home are also important to your home’s air quality. The large vents on your wall are called return air vents, and they pull your indoor air back to your heating and cooling system for ventilation and heating or cooling. Keep these vents clean of dust and don’t block them.‌ Buy a better grade filter for your HVAC to filter many air pollutants and change the filter regularly. I use HEPA filters to filter nearly all air pollutants, and it makes a real difference for me.

Many people enjoy opening the windows for fresh air. My sister has always done this in the spring and in the fall. If a family member suffers from seasonal allergies, agricultural micro dust, or you live in high air pollution areas, you need to reconsider opening all the windows. You can forgo leaving windows open, or you can purchase window air filters to protect your family from pollutants. Regular screens may keep out bugs but the mesh holes are too large to filter pollen. I’ve seen small screens that fit open double hung windows. It fits between the window and windowsill to allow the entry of fresh air into the home, while trapping 96% of pollen. Read the information on micro filtering for the product you consider. Another type of screen material is available in a do-it-yourself kit to rescreen existing window screens with a nano particular filtration screen that captures 99% of pollens.

Invest in an Air Purifier

Consider buying a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter, which captures and removes tiny particles from air such as pollen, smoke, germs, mold and dust. Air cleaners vary widely in price, but some units costing around $100 can effectively clean a room. Major companies like Hunter Pure Air offer a variety of air purifiers. Air purifiers can get rid of almost 100% of any dirty air. 

Purchasing Second-Hand Furniture

I’ve lived with multiple allergies the majority of my life. You may think that new is the best way to go to keep air clean in your home, but that’s not true. Most new furniture uses materials that are secretly releasing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs.) Depending on the chemicals used, furniture may not stop emitting the fumes for years. When I am buying a wooden item of furniture, I look for vintage solid wood chairs and tables. I then clean them with a mix of white vinegar and olive oil*. If you buy new furniture with fabric, place it close to an air purifier. The foams in upholstery and the dyes in fabrics can outgas or emit chemicals in the air. These VOCs are activated by sunlight, which over time can irritate our lungs. 

*(Deep Clean Solid Vintage Wood: Mix together half a cup of olive oil and half a cup of white vinegar. You can leave it in a bowl and just dip a soft cloth into it, or you can put it in a spray bottle and shake it up. Once you have a damp cloth, you wipe down your furniture with the mixture, let it sit for a few minutes, then come back around with a soft dry cloth to wipe off any extra. You’ll leave behind clean, beautifully gleaming wood. I must admit when I got a mid-century modern dresser several months ago, I let the oil sit on the wood for an hour to soak in. Then I removed the excess and the dresser seemed to smile with a renewed shiny face. I think it had been decades since it was really cleaned.)

Do Not Use Sprays

Back in 2021, University of York released a statement on aerosol sprays:

Household aerosols now release more harmful smog chemicals than all UK vehicles.

A new study by the University of York and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science reveals that the picture is damaging globally with the world’s population now using huge numbers of disposable aerosols – more than 25 billion cans per year. This is estimated to lead to the release of more than 1.3 million tons of VOC air pollution each year, and could rise to 2.2 million tons by 2050.

You need to opt for solutions in cleaning and personal care that don’t release VOCs. You can buy green products or try homemade cleaning solutions that you place in a pump spray bottle. Check out DIY Fresh Citrus Cleanser.

Prevent Too Much Moisture

Too much moisture in your home leads to mold, mildew, bugs, and bacteria. This can be caused by moist vapor like steam, water-damaged areas, or standing water.‌ Condensation thrives in colder environments, which is why you need to keep your home at an optimum temperature. You’ve got to make sure that your home is warm, but also fix any leaks, as preventing humidity is critical for the quality of our air. 

Add Plants

If you are looking to bring nature into your home, you can benefit from having more plants. Back in 1989, NASA released a report on improving indoor air quality with plants. Amazingly, plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. But that’s not all—microorganisms associated with the plants are present in the potting soil, and these microbes are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect.

Plants not only purify the air, but also improve mental well-being. And, physical benefits aside, they look amazing. Plants clean the air, add oxygen, and aid mental health. Nothing beats incorporating nature into your home. See my post, Air Cleaning Plants For The Home for more information.

This is a collaborative post but all opinions are my own.

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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

5 thoughts to “6 Ways To Improve Your Home’s Air Quality”

  1. I had no idea about new furniture releasing harmful toxins. So many great ideas for improving air quality in the home. I clicked over to read about the list of plants that are good for cleaning the air because I’m keen to add a few more plants around my house.

    1. Wood furniture often has MDF in some component which outgases. Dyes and foam also contain VOC’s. If your coach has a stain-resistant fabric it also has chemicals. If a rug is stain resistant – that is chemicals. Add pillows, curtains, etc. Modern living just overloads us with not nice VOCs.

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