You might think that the air outside is harmful, but did you know that your indoor air is often more polluted? Pollutants are brought in—through vents and windows, in cleaners and air fresheners, and on clothing—and can stick around when there’s no place for them to go. The chemicals found on new carpet and furniture and a fresh coat of paint on the walls contribute to indoor air pollution. Formaldehyde is used in a wide range of products, from pressed boards to drapery fabric. Any area with standing water—like a leak under a sink or a damp basement—creates an environment for mold and mildew to grow.
Children, elderly, or people with asthma are particularly sensitive to allergens and pollutants. Make the air safer to breathe. Here’s how to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
- Invest in a good vacuum cleaner. Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter, rotating brushes, and strong suction to get rid of pollen, dust mites, pet dander, lead, and even toxins like fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs). At least twice a week, vacuum the floors—including edges—baseboard, trim around doors and windows, upholstery, and walls. Clean the HEPA filter frequently.
- Mop after vacuuming. It sounds like double-duty, but a good mop can pick up a lot of dirt and dust that your vacuum misses. Dampen the mop with water only—not cleaners.
- Put a mat at every entry. Wherever people are coming into your home, be sure you have a sturdy floor mat to catch some of the dirt and pollutants on their shoes.
- Leave shoes at the door. Leave a place by the door for people to take off their shoes, so you can minimize anything they could track into your home.
- Manage the humidity. Mold, bacteria, and dust mites thrive in a moist environment. Use a dehumidifier to remove dampness from the air, and empty the drip pan frequently. You can also reduce humidity by running the exhaust fan in the kitchen when you’re cooking, and in the bathroom during and after each shower. Vent your dryer to the outside, fix plumbing leaks, and avoid giving your indoor plants too much water. Aim for a humidity level below 50% in your home.
- Avoid artificial fragrances. Everything from air fresheners to launder detergent and household cleaners includes synthetic fragrances that emit chemicals and gasses into the air. Instead of air fresheners, use sliced lemons and baking soda to add a pleasant scent to the air.
- Bring in purifying houseplants. Certain plants actually remove indoor air pollutants, like formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. Bring in aloe vera, azalea, Boston fern, Chinese evergreen, dracaena, English ivy, ficus (weeping fig), Gerbera daisy, heart leaf philodendron, mother-in-law’s tongue (also known as snake plant), peace lily, rubber plant, and a spider plant. If you have children or pets, check to make sure the plant is safe for them.
- Open your windows. Welcome fresh air into your home and let the bad air out. When weather permits, open your windows for at least 20 minutes a day.