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How to Improve Air Quality at Home (8 Proven Methods)

Do you live in a big city? Do you spend a lot of time at home? If you answered yes to both of these questions, you’re likely breathing air far below the recommended health standard set by WHO. And even if you answered no, with ever-increasing pollution and environmental concerns, it’s crucial to ensure that you have clean and fresh air within your living space. Even more so if you have children. 

In this article, we’ll give you some practical tips on how to improve air quality at home so that you can have a healthier lifestyle. 

So, let’s take a deep breath and find out more about this global problem and all the small steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Why Is Indoor Air Pollution a Problem?

When we think of air pollution, we usually imagine factories and cities full of smog. But the air at home can be just as harmful — if not more so. 

In 2019, indoor air pollution was the cause of 3.2 million premature deaths. Invisible particles and chemical pollutants can linger inside your living space, posing significant risks to your health. 

One reason behind this is the way our homes are constructed. Modern homes are better isolated, which is great during winter, but it traps more pollutants inside and prevents natural ventilation. In time, pollutants accumulate and create an environment with 2 to 5 times worse air quality compared to the outside.

The sources of indoor pollutants are many, so let’s take a closer look at them in the next section.

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Both indoor and outdoor factors can influence the air quality in your home. If you want to prevent and reduce their influence on your health, it’s crucial to know the most common ones:

  • Tobacco Smoke: No surprise here. We all know that smoking is bad, and it’s even worse when you do it at home. Smoking releases harmful chemicals and carcinogens that pollute the air indoors.
  • Combustion Appliances: Think gas stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces. If these aren’t functioning properly, or if they aren’t well-ventilated, they can release all sorts of pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
  • Building Materials: Asbestos, paint with lead, and products with formaldehyde emit harmful indoor air contaminants.
  • Cleaning Products: If you’re not using natural cleaning products, it’s a good time to start. The most common cleaning products contain various chemicals that release bad chemicals in your living space. Examples include ammonia and chlorine. If you’re cleaning regularly with such products without ventilating your home properly, you’re only making the air worse.
  • Mold and Mildew: Too much moisture indoors leads to mold and mildew, which release spores and mycotoxins into the air. Regularly inhaling these pollutants leads to an increased risk of allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
  • Dust and Pet Dander: While we all love our four-legged companions, pet dander isn’t the best for indoor air quality. Combine that with dust mites, and you can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. 
  • Household Activities: Love burning candles and using air fresheners? I have some bad news for you. Both of these activities can contribute to air pollution at home. Also, you should always cook with proper ventilation.

These are the most common sources of indoor air pollution, but this is not a complete list. You know your home best, so think hard about other factors that can worsen your air quality. 

And if you’re still not convinced that bad indoor air is a problem, read the next section.

man sneezing

Health Effects of Poor Air Quality at Home

It turns out that working from home can come back to bite us in more ways than one. Spending so much time indoors can mean prolonged exposure to bad indoor air, which poses a risk to our focus, productivity, and health. 

That’s why indoor air quality control should be a crucial part of work-life balance. You must ensure that your workspace is good for your well-being. 

Here are some of the risks that come with prolonged exposure to indoor air pollution:

  • Respiratory Issues: Pollutants in the air can irritate the respiratory system, leading to coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. And if you have a condition like asthma, prolonged exposure can worsen the symptoms.
  • Allergies: Mold, dust, and pet dander can trigger allergic symptoms. If you’re sensitive to these, you may experience sneezing, runny or congested nose, watery eyes, and skin rashes.
  • Infections: If you have poor air circulation in-house for long periods, you weaken your organism’s defenses against infections like colds, flu, and pneumonia.
  • Cardiovascular Issues: Fine particles and some gases can enter the bloodstream via the respiratory system. Prolonged exposure leads to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Brain Fog: If you’re forgetful and have a short attention span, your extensive use of social media might not be the problem. Studies show that poor indoor air quality can affect your cognitive abilities, and children are even more at risk.
  • General Discomfort and Fatigue: Bad indoor air can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and irritability. If you notice a decline in your productivity and well-being when working from home, this might be the cause.

Note that these health effects can vary depending on your organism, the period of exposure, and the type of indoor air contaminants you’re exposed to. Most vulnerable are children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Improving air quality at home means protecting your health and well-being. But how do you know if the air you breathe is harmful? 

How to Check for Indoor Air Pollution

Checking for indoor air pollution is an important step in assessing the problem for your home and solving it. And there are a few simple steps you can take to get a sense of your indoor air quality:

  • Observe and Identify Potential Sources: Look for signs of mold or mildew, check for leaks or water damage, and get to know the ingredients of the cleaning products you use.
  • Check the Ventilation: Take air pollution preventive measures by ensuring that your air vents are clean and that you have exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom that work well.
  • Pay Attention to the Symptoms: Make note if you or your family members experience any symptoms related to respiratory issues, allergies, or headaches. If the symptoms improve when outdoors and worsen indoors, you may have a problem with indoor air pollution.
  • Borrow an Air Purifier From a Friend: If you don’t have an air purifier and aren’t sure whether you should invest in it or not, you can borrow one from a friend to assess your indoor air quality.

These simple checks can provide a general assessment of the air you breathe indoors. If you want more comprehensive results, it’s best to seek professional help. 

8 Ways to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

There are numerous solutions to ensure clean air in your home. While some can be expensive, like investing in an air purifier, others are down to your habits and cleaning methods. Here’s our list of everything you can do now to breathe better tomorrow:

dog staring out of open window

Open Windows and Doors Often

That’s the easiest method of reducing air pollution and getting some fresh air inside. If you don’t open your windows regularly, you risk accumulating contaminants. As a rule, we try to open our windows every morning to get rid of the stagnant air that appears overnight. Plus, it helps to remove bad odors and reduces moisture that can lead to mold.

But before you hurry up to open your windows, consider the air quality outside. If the area where you live is known for air pollution, you should be aware of the time periods when that pollution is dangerous. Open your windows only if the air quality outside is decent. That’s usually in the early morning or late evening.

Get an Air Purifier

If you live in a big city, that’s one of the most common and effective indoor air pollution solutions. But it doesn’t come cheap.

Air purifiers prevent pollution and improve the air you breathe. They can help filter all sorts of pollutants, including dust, allergens, pet dander, and smoke. Also, they’re effective at reducing the spread of bacteria and viruses. 

If you want a healthier living environment, an air purifier is the best tool. Still, consider your needs carefully before getting one — how big your space is, what sorts of contaminants you want to get rid of, and, of course, your budget. Don’t forget that these wonderful devices need regular maintenance which also adds up to the cost. But it is worth it.

Use Natural Cleaning Products

Traditional cleaning products contain many harsh chemicals that can affect your home’s air quality and your health. And that’s just one of their many disadvantages. In contrast, natural cleaning products are generally cheaper, biodegradable, and eco-friendly. If you’re wondering how to prevent air pollution, exchanging one for the other is a good way to start. You can try the Method all-purpose cleaner spray that has an entirely biodegradable formula and comes in 6 scents. I like the lime and sea salt one.

You can make your own natural cleaning products with simple ingredients you already have like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. You’d be surprised to see that they’re just as effective as commercial cleaning products. Plus, it’s a great step to an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Regular Cleaning and Dusting

Cleaning and dusting are definitely not among my favorite household chores, but they’re essential to good indoor air. As a general rule, doing it once a week should be enough, but it all depends on your home size, pets, and the way you live.

And when we’re talking about regular cleaning that includes:

  • Dusting — The crucial areas that contribute to domestic air pollution include shelves, electronics, window sills, and souvenirs.
  • Vacuuming — You can easily do it every day with a robot vacuum. And it’s a must if you have pets. 
  • Floor Cleaning — Vacuuming is all well and good, but your floor also needs mopping at least once a week. 
  • Bedsheets — It’s best to change them weekly to remove allergens, bad odors, and skin cells. 
  • Kitchen and Bathroom — These rooms usually collect more moisture so they need weekly cleaning to prevent mold growth.

If you do one of these a day, you’ll have a clean home and less air pollution every week.

Control Moisture and Mold

Excessive moisture at home can lead to mold growth and mildew, which can affect your indoor air quality. Ensure proper ventilation in critical areas like the bathroom and the kitchen. And if you have a bad case of moisture all around, you can get a dehumidifier. If you’re not ready to spend money on one yet, make sure to clean regularly and introduce other methods to reduce air pollution. 

Maintain Hvac System

All parts of your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system need regular maintenance to work properly and ensure clean air. Clean components like vents and air ducts to remove dust, debris, and contaminants. 

The other important maintenance you can do yourself is to change the air filters regularly. Depending on the type and usage, it’s best to change them every few months. Also, it’s good to get the whole HVAC system checked by a professional once a year.

Avoid Smoking Indoors

Goes without saying, but it deserves a place on the list of ways to reduce indoor air pollution. Smoking is way too generous on harmful chemicals and stays in the air for a long time. Also, it sets on the furniture, walls, and other surfaces, which can release toxicity long after someone has smoked in your home. 

If you want to smoke, try to do it outside. And if you’ve smoked in the past, consider cleaning the house thoroughly, including the walls, to remove any residue.

snake plant

Indoor Plants and Natural Air Purifiers

One of my favorite ways to improve the air quality at home is with plants. They can remove some pollutants and release oxygen, which has a wonderful effect on your health and well-being. 

Some of the best plants to get for your indoor space include:

  • Snake plant
  • Spider plant
  • Pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Boston fern.

Place these strategically around the rooms where you spend the most time in. Needless to say, you should also keep them alive long enough to reap the benefits. 

What Else You Can Do to Improve Air Quality at Home

If you truly want to get serious about the air quality at your home, it’s crucial to add these to the list above:

Monitor Outdoor Air Quality

The air outside directly impacts the air inside. It’s crucial to monitor it so that you can minimize pollutants and make better decisions about your indoor space. There are many online platforms that provide real-time data on air quality. Here are the ones I usually check:

They all collect data from monitoring stations and provide up-to-date information.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

That’s how you can identify potential issues and take steps to reduce air pollution quickly. Read the manuals for your systems and appliances carefully as each manufacturer has different guidelines for maintenance tasks and procedures. Alternatively, you can leave that job to professionals, especially when it comes to the complex HVAC system. 

Consulting an Expert

If you’ve done everything in your power to improve your home’s air quality, but you feel like it’s not enough or it doesn’t work well, it’s best to consult an expert. They can provide the knowledge, experience, and tools to assess your situation and find any issues. 

Research and choose a trustworthy specialist that can provide the necessary qualifications for indoor air expertise. Also, make sure to provide plenty of information on your home to help them understand the situation and what might be causing problems.

FAQ

Does AC improve air quality?

Air conditioning can improve indoor air quality to some extent, depending on the features and functions it has. Most ACs have filters that can remove particles such as dust and pet dander. They also create a drier environment, reducing the risk of mold and bacteria growth. 

How can I improve air quality without an air purifier?

The easiest ways to improve air quality without an air purifier are proper ventilation, regular cleaning, and getting more indoor plants that can filter pollutants. Also, don’t allow smoking inside your home, and make sure to keep your indoor space at an optimal moisture level (30%–50%).

What are the symptoms of bad air quality in a house?

Symptoms associated with bad air quality in a house include respiratory issues, allergic reactions, headaches, fatigue, skin irritation, poor sleep quality, and concentration issues. But these symptoms can also be attributed to other causes, so it’s best to check carefully before you come to a conclusion. 

Can indoor air quality make you sick?

Yes, poor indoor air quality can make you sick. Continuous exposure to indoor air contaminants can lead to various health issues like respiratory problems, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, fatigue, irritations, and infections. But there are many options for improving your indoor air quality and creating a healthier environment.

Can poor indoor air quality cause anxiety?

Poor indoor air quality cannot cause anxiety directly, but it can contribute to the symptoms of it you experience. Physical symptoms of respiratory issues, like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, can cause feelings of distress and anxiety. Poor indoor air quality can also affect your quality of sleep, which can lead to increased stress levels that can cause anxiety symptoms. 

Is air quality worse inside or outside?

Whether air quality is worse inside or outside would depend on your location, surrounding environment, and the pollutants in it. Generally, outdoor air has more pollutants due to emissions from vehicles and industrial activities. But indoor air can be worse depending on the existing pollutants, their sources, and inadequate ventilation.

Should I open my windows every day?

Generally, it’s a good idea to open your windows every day, but you should consider the outdoor air quality before doing so. Opening your windows can improve your indoor air quality by reducing pollutants, getting fresh air, controlling moisture, and eliminating bad odors. Still, it might not be the best idea, depending on the season and your circumstances. 

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