As we spend more and more time indoors, the quality of the air we breathe is becoming an increasingly common concern, especially considering that poor indoor air quality can lead to a range of short- and long-term health problems.
Sources of indoor air pollution that affect indoor air quality include but are not limited to:
- Pollen and other common allergens
- Dust (which can be composed of skin cells, pet debris, and bug droppings among other things)
- Carpeting and furniture
- Cleaning chemicals
- Air freshening products
- Personal care products
- Gas stoves
Whether you live in an apartment or own a home, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to improve your existing indoor air quality and help ensure that it remains as uncontaminated as possible.
1. Start fresh
It is entirely likely that your home is already full of indoor air pollution sources and contaminants. The best way to start fresh is with a thorough deep clean. Begin with the basics like vacuuming carpets and hard floors, mopping where possible, and dusting easily accessible surfaces.
Upholstered surfaces like mattresses, bedding, sofas, as well as curtains and other cloth accents are commonly overlooked but can be loaded with contaminants. Launder what is possible and take a vacuum and attachments to larger, permanent surfaces. The Mini-motorized tool is compatible with a range of Dyson cordless vacuums and is ideal for deep cleaning couch cushions, mattresses, and pillows.
Remember to clean underneath and behind furniture as dust can accumulate in these spaces as well. If you have got the time, it is helpful to remove items from shelves and other decorative objects and clean those as well.
2. Keep outdoor pollutants outdoors
Many common indoor air pollutants can be attributed to outdoor sources. These include allergens like pollen and mold spores that can travel through the air. The best way to eliminate them is by not letting them in to begin with.
Properly sealing doors and windows will not only help create a barrier between these outdoor pollutants and your home's interior, but it can help regulate temperature and humidity. Home supply stores sell inexpensive solutions for sealing cracks and gaps in window and door frames.
Outdoor pollutants can also be carried indoors on clothing and shoes. Create a space in your entryways to clean or remove footwear and store outer layers before proceeding into your home. This can be accomplished by adding a doormat, coat hangers, and accessory storage close to the doorway.
3. Control indoor humidity and temperature
Mold and bacteria love warm, dark, damp environments. And if you provide one for them, they will happily occupy your home. While it is ideal to strategize for proper humidity and temperature control during the planning and construction phases when building a new home, there are many ways to improve your home's existing environment to limit mold and bacteria growth.
Like we mentioned earlier, sealing doors and windows not only helps keep out many common pollutants, but it can also help maintain your preferred heat and humidity levels. While you will want to have some sort of ventilation in spaces that can become wet, like bathrooms, the kitchen, and the basement, generally speaking a properly sealed living space is ideal.
Supplement your home environment with a humidifier or dehumidifier depending on the climate where you live and your preferences to maintain an indoor humidity level of between 30 and 50 percent, but no higher than 60 percent. While too much humidity can be a source of indoor air pollution, too little humidity can dry out your skin, irritate your nose and throat, and even result in respiratory issues. Also keep in mind that warmer temperatures can exacerbate mold and bacteria growth.
4. Switch to natural alternatives
Home cleaning agents as well as personal care products can be loaded with harmful chemicals that can continue releasing toxins into the air long after they have been used. This is especially true of aromatic compounds such as candles, incense, perfumes, and air fresheners. Combustible materials especially are known to emit carbon monoxide and other volatile organic compounds.
Even cleaning and self care chemicals that do not obviously emit particles into the air can still have an effect on indoor air quality. Scented products are notorious for containing and emitting higher quantities of volatile organic compounds.
While there are more and more of these products marketed as 'natural', it is important to remember that marketing terms are subjective and what is natural to one manufacturer may be something you consider to be toxic. Whenever possible, clean using plain water and just as much basic soap as needed.
5. A breath of fresh air
With all the ways we have discussed to control indoor air quality and eliminate indoor air pollution sources, the most common sense solution can sometimes be to simply open your windows. Fresh air can help remove existing pollutants and circulate uncontaminated air throughout your home. Improving ventilation in bathrooms and the kitchen using an exhaust fan can also be helpful.
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