Winter means spending more time indoors. And that means breathing a lot more of that indoor air which, believe it or not, may not be as clean as outdoor air. That’s because your indoor air is comprised of outdoor air, plus all the pollutants, allergens, etc. that inhabit your house. So here are some tips on improving indoor air quality.
- The first tip is the most obvious one – open the windows for five to 10 minutes every day to let fresh air in and lower the concentrations of toxic chemicals and carbon dioxide. A more energy efficient option is installing a heat recovery ventilator.
- Make your house a no-smoking zone. Cigarette smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals. None are good for you.
- Minimize dust. Use a doormat to prevent dirt from entering your home, and/or have people remove their shoes at the door. Also, vacuum and mop the floors at least once a week. The vacuum cleaner should have strong suction, rotating brushes and a HEPA filter.
- Keep humidity between 30% and 50%. This will limit mold growth and dust mites. The presence of mold specifically can have adverse health effects including runny noses, eye and skin irritation, and asthma attacks. Ways to regulate humidity include:
a. Using a dehumidifier
b. Opening the window or using an exhaust fan when cooking, bathing or running the dishwasher
c. Venting the clothes dryer to the outside
d. Making sure there are no water leaks in your home
e. Emptying the drip pans in your window air conditioner and dehumidifier
f. Not overwatering plants (including those mentioned below)
- Avoid synthetic fragrances. Many air fresheners, laundry products, perfumes and hand soaps containing synthetic fragrances emit harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs cause eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system. So rather than using these products, try the following:
a. Freshen the air by arranging lemon slices on a plate
b. Eliminate odors by putting baking soda in a small bowl
c. Choose products without synthetic fragrances
d. Avoid aerosol spray products
- Deploy house plants. Some everyday house plants can eliminate toxins such as benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. They can also absorb some VOCs. Recommended plants include English ivy, a variegated snake plant, a Peace lily or a Florist’s chrysanthemum.