Americans spend the vast majority of their time inside their homes sleeping, eating and enjoying their family. That basically means that the home is the center point of breathing. Considering how much time is spent inside the home, the air quality inside your home can greatly impact your health – and so it’s essential to start cleaning up the air inside your home.
Unfortunately, the air quality inside your home is worse than outside, regardless of where you live. Microbial pollutants like mold, pet dander, pollen and the natural ozone can combine with dangerous chemicals like radon and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to create a pretty toxic environment in your home. In fact, some estimates say that your indoor air quality is about ten times worse than outside. And since we spend about 90% of our time indoors, it makes sense to make cleaning the air a daily priority.
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Why is indoor air polluted? A guide to cleaning up the air inside your home
Off-gassing from furniture and fire retardants, perfumes and chemicals in cleaners and air fresheners, and even chemicals from clothes from the dry-cleaners can have adverse effects in the home triggering asthma symptoms, eye and throat irritation, and in some cases, cancer. And on top of that, the air is stagnant which means it’s not going anywhere. Outside, the wind naturally blows these things away, but inside is a different story altogether. You can’t run away from a problem like the indoor pollution in your home, but you can clean the air easily and make changes to keep it cleaner, healthier, and safer for your family. And we want to help!
So here are the 5 steps to cleaning up the air inside your home.
1. Leave it at the door
Think of all the things you walk in, on, and over throughout the course of a day. Parking lots, pesticide-sprayed grass, and dirty lots can contain lead or other industrial contaminants. The very first step you can take to clean up the air inside your home is by leaving your shoes at the door. This helps by containing pollutants to the outside of your home without tracking them inside all over your floors. Designate a spot at the door for shoes or carry them to your closet.
In the past, they added lead to all sorts of things we would track inside our homes, like gasoline and paint. Today, even though adding lead to consumer products isn’t as common, lead is still found in the dirt outside everywhere. It comes from flaking paint, spilling of gasoline, other industrial contaminants, air pollution which settles into the soil, parking lots and industrial parks among other things. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, lead in soil can be ingested as a result of hand-to-mouth activity and that is common for young children. If they are crawling on the floor and you tracked lead in with your shoes, they now have it in their mouths. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no safe level of lead for children. So all the more reason to remove your shoes at the door, and leave them there.
If you are the kind of person that likes to walk around with something on your feet, consider purchasing shoes that you only use inside the home as an alternative, and rest assured that they mean you have taken great strides in cleaning up the air inside your home.
2. Avoid Volatile Organic Compounds OR VOCs
Got a can of Febreeze, Glade or another air freshener? Toss it.
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals emitted as gasses from certain solids and liquids and have short-term, or long-term adverse effects. They are widely used in household cleaning products, paints, perfumes, cosmetic items and home air fresheners. VOCs mix with the ozone inside your home to create….smog. Yes, smog. The EPA found that VOC concentrations in homes are 2 to 5 times higher than outside, regardless of what kind of area you live in. And these bad boys can do more than irritate your eyes or nose – some VOCs are known to cause cancer. Cutting down on VOCs is paramount to cleaning up your indoor air quality. And if you would like help monitoring the inside of your home for toxic VOCs you can get a little gadget to monitor your air quality that hooks up to your mobile device. Easy peasy.
What to avoid: Avoid any cleaning products with a big WARNING label sign on the back because that warning sign is very telling of what they contain that can pollute the air inside your home. Also, avoid Glade plug-ins, bathroom deodorizers, scented Yankee candles, Febreeze, perfumes, OR anything that will put a synthetic perfume smell inside your home.
What to do: Choosing more natural cleaning products will do wonders on cutting down on toxic VOC exposure inside your home. Homemade cleaners like vinegar, baking soda and essential oils can clean most things. Leaving a bowl of vinegar out overnight or essential oils can help with smells you don’t want inside your home. (But please avoid cinnamon essential oil around children.)
3. Open the Window
This one is easy – and is the most natural way to start cleaning up the air inside your home. Opening the window and allowing the air to circulate is key in cleaning up the inside of your home. One of the reasons why the air inside your home is so much more polluted than the outside is the air doesn’t have anywhere to go. It gets stale and all the toxins stay. Outside there is wind that naturally blows things away. If you open up the window and create circulation, you are cutting down on toxicity right away. Regardless of the weather, open the windows every day to clean our the air. It will clear the air of all smells, circulate, and freshen the air inside and also cool off your home naturally.
If you need additional scents, seasonal scents are best. Bring in some flowers in the spring, crisp fall leaves, and the warm grasses of summer into your home.
Bonus points – sunlight’s ultraviolet rays can kill germs, so direct sunlight will deep clean surfaces it touches!
4. Clean It Up
Chemicals can accumulate in dust, which can also harbor dander, hairs, fine particles, lead dust, and pollutants which can trigger allergies, irritate eyes and throats, and cause illness.
Make sure to sweep and dust regularly, including places like ceiling fan blades, and electronic equipment. Wet mop floors to pick up more dust, since dry sweeping alone can cause some dust to resettle.
Invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter which traps pollutants, dust, dander, and more helping to clean up the air inside your home. Also make sure you’re changing up the filters in your air conditioning, ventilation, or furnace filters with HEPA filters as well at least every few months or more often depending on your usage.
5. House Plants
NASA’s study of beneficial plants for your indoor air quality includes spider plant and Gerbera daisies that can take out chemicals like formaldehyde, and bring oxygen and beauty into the home – they literally start cleaning up the air inside your home for you!
And don’t worry if you have a black thumb – some of these plants are hard to kill! I had a snake plant (or “mother-in-law’s tongue” if that has a little more meaning for you!) that I completely forgot about for months and it was STILL beautiful and green.
The study recommends 15 plants in a 2,000 square foot home, and most of them can be found easily at a plant nursery or through a florist.
Now that you know the five major steps to cleaning up the air inside your home. How many of these steps have you taken already? Did you notice a difference? Share below.
All images via Giphy.