“Getting outside for some fresh air” is more than a saying. It’s a little-known fact that the air quality in most homes is typically much poorer than that of outdoor air—100 times worse, according to the EPA, which has deemed indoor air quality one of the top five environmental risks to public health. And this is shocking, because most believe that that outdoor air is riddled with pollutants. But make no mistake, indoor air quality suffers from pollutants, too, and can affect your health: worsening allergies, causing illnesses, and damaging immune systems.
Fortunately, you’re not doomed to forever breathe bad air. Fear not, there are several ways to improve the situation and keep the air in your home clean and healthy. By following these six tips to improve and keep your household air clean and healthy, you will soon breathe easy again.
- Change Your Air Filter
It’s something seldom thought about and often overlooked—the air-conditioning system. Reliable as it may be, it doesn’t take care of itself. Air conditioning specialists (and health professionals) recommend changing the filter in your unit once every three months. And while you’re at it, if you have an old fiberglass filter, upgrade to a pleated one. Don’t think it makes a difference? A pleated filter removes smaller particles— 90% of them, in fact-—as opposed to 10 to 20% of a thin fiberglass filter. And that makes a big dent in those tiny allergens floating around the house.
- Get An Air Purifier
If a better air filter in your AC unit is the air police, think of an air purifier as the SWAT team. This is because most air purifiers contain ionizers, attracting even virus-sized pollutants like a magnet. Considering that the average adult gulps down 3,500 gallons of air every day, and an ounce of dust floating through your house likely contains around 40,000 dust mites and 700,000 flakes of human skin, there’s a lot that can be sucked down in every breath without a purifier.
- Vacuum—and often!
If you have carpets, don’t assume that just because you can’t see dirt doesn’t mean your house is clean. Make sure you vacuum frequently to pull up dust and other potential allergens. Technology has improved, so read up on vacuum cleaner reviews to make sure you get one with a good high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Give A Houseplant A Home
Not only will a houseplant liven up a room, but it can also clean up your environment. Just about any plant will clear up your output of carbon dioxide and give you back oxygen, but several plants are multitaskers, and that’s good news for you. Consider a Peace Lily in rooms that moisture accumulates in, due to its ability remove mold spores from the air. Bamboo palms are perfect for drier rooms because they are one of nature’s humidifiers, and a Gerbera daisy plant in the bedroom can improve the quality of air and sleep by putting off more oxygen at night. And with one of NASA’s favorites, the spider plant, you can purify your home and remove traces of formaldehyde, a common ingredient in the glue that holds most cabinetry together.
- Don’t Dry Dust
Sure, that Swiffer duster is convenient. But do it the old fashioned way and use furniture polish and a rag. By dry dusting, dust is swept back into the air, only to be inhaled, and what remains simply settles back down on your furniture. Getting the dust a little damp first helps it stick to the rag and remove more of it. Later, toss the rag into the wash and reuse it. You’ll be saving your lungs and the money in your pocket.
- Consider Repainting
Many houses are painted in high VOC paints, (that’s volatile organic compounds, for us laypeople) which emit noxious solvents causing everything from mild dizziness to full blown migraines over prolonged exposure. Painting your walls with a low VOC paint may just cure you of these ailments, and will definitely improve your air quality.
Millions suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and is it any wonder? We spend most of our time indoors, and breathing our indoor air doesn’t help. These simple steps should help you get fresh air, whether you’re inside and out.
About the author: Drew Miller is a San Francisco area freelance writer who covers natural living and parenting topics. Image: darkday